I don’t consider myself a gamer by today’s standards, although I have always enjoyed playing games. I bought Pong 1.0 in the seventies, transitioned to being a Dungeon Master for my friends in college, got hooked on Strat-o-matic baseball, early SimCity, and numerous role playing games in the eighties. In the nineties I discovered Myth and Diablo and the splendor of completing quests while destroying imaginative monsters. Despite the graying hair, I still play a few video games like Civilization. When I discovered Minecraft a couple of years ago I was immediately attracted to the role-playing, first person aspect of it and quickly realized the potential for classroom use.
I’m a designer. I love to put ideas to paper and try to turn them into reality. In another life I was a catering manager and was in charge of preparing for, and executing hundreds of major events that required tremendous amounts of planning. Becoming a teacher was a natural extension of that process. I don’t get flustered very often in the classroom. I also tend to overplan my lessons and as a result, I always have plans B, C, and D ready if needed. However, it can also mean that my students don’t reach expected outcomes for too many details. As I move toward embedding Minecraft throughout my curriculum this year, I need to be very careful not to let the game dynamics overwhelm lesson objectives.
I feel that I am in the same boat as other Minecraft using educators in that we are all searching for pedagogically sound models for using it in the classroom that do not ruin the experience for our students. I teach world history that covers the Dark Ages through the Renaissance in Europe, Meso-America, China, Japan, and West Africa. The rise of Islam is also incorporated throughout the curriculum. I would love Minecraft to be an available resource for every lesson, but will begin the year by introducing other technologies students will need to build the foundation of future learning upon. Minecraft will be introduced when we arrive in China, and then fully implemented when we reach Japan in November.
I’ve gathered multiple resources that I will use to develop my model. I will post the process on this blog in hopes that others may find it useful. I’ll also reflect on my experiences introducing gaming principles in my classroom. I explored the idea last year and was pleased with the outcome. In designing Minecraft-centric lessons for each unit of study, I feel that the quest model will work best for history instruction. By quest I refer to activities that require students to gather certain resources or information, develop a unique and collaborative environment, solve a problem, etc. Role-playing by students in world and out of world will be critical elements of my design as will reflection through blogging.
I’ll refer to my lessons as MineQuests, an extension with modification of the WebQuest design model. Each MineQuest will involve students learning advanced Internet research skills – more than just Googling the answer. I’ll use multiple elements of game design principles as suggested by Jesse Schell in his fabulous and instructive book, The Art of Game Design. Each quest will also address challenges of student motivation and intended outcomes will champion Blooms (updated) taxonomies for technology supported learning suggested by Kathy Schrock. Finally, I’ll use my background in instructional design to develop, implement and evaluate each lesson critically before moving on to the next unit.
In the next post I’ll reflect on the process of transforming a WebQuest into a MineQuest.