Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning

Week one of a Minecraft MOOC (& getting to experience Microsoft Classroom as a student)

I have been playing around with Minecraft in my classroom for over a year now without ever really getting fully into it myself. I have mostly allowed students to use it as a tool for their learning if they chose, and some students did amazing things like build a chem lab or a heart, or some electrical circuits using redstone, or spawn a million chickens (currently a pair of yr 8 students are using minecraft to make a model water cycle…..). To keep up with what the students were doing I joined in occasionally, learned more than I care to admit about setting upservers while still having no idea how to set up servers, did a course at pycon on coding in Minecraft and generally had some fun without ever getting a full grasp of what was available. When MinecraftEDU was available with a microsoft Office 365 login, I wondered some more about how this would work in class. So when a MOOC course popped up for MinecraftEdu I thought ‘Ha, I should get me on to that’.

And as always, the very best learning has not been exactly what I expected. The very best thing about this course is that it is being run through microsoft classroom so I get to experience classroom as a student – which is super helpful as we are currently rolling out classroom for our whole school (I am running some whole school PD on it tomorrow!!).

To start with, the MOOC runs for 3 weeks, and involves 3 webinars. The first was a little laggy (A consequence of living on the other side of the world….) but still packed with some useful tips and tricks, and it is always nice to connect with other educators. There was some admin like getting logins sorted, a preach to the converted about why minecraft is pretty cool, some basics around moving about (it is funny how quickly the wasd key muscle memory comes back when playing minecraft), a walk through of the tutorial world and then we were off. We had an assignment and a due date and the time of our next call.

So my first error came through the assignment, I heard midnight Sunday as the due date and went sweet, that means Monday for me. Which is did, just not Monday Midnight. Hopefully they don’t mind it was late…. but he first assignment was one of three options based around putting yourself in the place of a beginner and trying a world through their eyes.

So I did the tutorial world, as part of the reason I am doing the MOOC is I don’t know what I don’t know. It was actually really good to walk my way through it, and I did make some mistakes…inlcuding breaking the lever that opens the door – luckily I could just smash through the door 🙂

But there were lots of other fun things to do, and I do think that if you have never played Minecraft before, the tutorial world via the Minecraft EDU site is a great place to start to see what it can do…..

So once I had (a bit of a rushed due to my assignment being late….) look around the world I completed my assignment (again, once I had learned how yo export the screenshots I took…. mild panic there) and uploaded them into the assignment section of microsoft classroom

my assignment.png

We also had to share our assignment on to the collaboration space of a shared notebook and comment on each others experience. This was really cool, reading about what other people had done and seeing some more experienced users than me and what they could do – definitely super awesome stuff right there….

So already it has been a really worth while course, and I am looking forward to webinar 2 this week. And I will definitely not be leaving the assignment so late this time 🙂

Posted in coding, Minecraft, Professional learning

Getting my code on at #kiwipycon

This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a session at the Pycon conference being held in Dunedin. I have been playing around with coding for a little while without ever really getting a grasp on it, and thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some time on it. Python is a language that can be used with Minecraft, the conference was in Dunedin, it didn’t require relief as it was a Saturday morning, it cost $10, perfect professional learning really. And I learned loads.

I took this photo partially to hide my confusion – it has been a while since I went to a conference where I knew NO ONE to talk to…. thankfully there was tea 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 9.50.41 .png

Firstly, I meet lots of cool people. The session was a mix of people which meant a range of skills. I was a little disappointed there were only 2 other teacher there…. but there were several programmers looking to find ways to help schools, or to help their kids learn how to code. So there was a whole lot of skill in the room.

We were working on computer that we running off a raspberry pi. I knew those we machines were grunty, but I didn’t realise how so.


To start with , we got a series of tasks to work through – it was based on this book which I have now ordered.


Doing this task I learned about the language around programming. For example, how important syntax it – I kind of new this, but a lowercase where an uppercase letter should be causes chaos in the code. But it was cool to be fluffing around and getting the hang of things. And teleporting all around the map was cool to – Sitting next to a pro programmer meant I got some additional help and got into writing some loops (this said, I was able to show him how to move around in Minecraft… was awesome). He also teleported to 0,0,0 and got stuck as he went to where the world was generated from (we think…).


We also learned how to create blocks – which was very exciting for me as I would like to make some ion blocks and use minecraft for Ionic formula. So I am going to talk this through with my Yr 10s next week and see what they can do 🙂

The second part of the task was AWESOME.We got to ‘hack’ into the raspberry pi and do a little bit of electronics stuff using a bread board.

After a couple of false starts (including putting the LED in the wrong orientation – teacher fail) We got this little puppy flashing 🙂 So very satisfying 🙂 Especially when changing the times meant the flashes slowed down or speed up 🙂


I didn’t get up to the stage of then turning the LED of and on in Minecraft as I ran out of time, but I will ask the robotics teacher at school if we can set this up so I can have another go.

So it was an amazing 90 minutes. I got to play around with some of the tech people keep talking about and actually see what it can do. How easy it could be to do the same activity in a classroom – and I am sure my kids would be way ahead of me.

So moving forward, I want to make some time to keep playing around. And for next year, re think how I teach our electronics unit for yr 10 – currently we build some circuits and solder a device that gives an electric shock. But if we can solder up an arduino and then incorporate some programming into it, it would SUPER rock.






Posted in Minecraft, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

A Sneak preview of #minechem

All of the work here is from Dave Warren and his son Angus. I think it is seriously awesome and have been having a wee play with some of the mods myself.

Also, I can’t say enough how awesome Dave (and Angus) are for sharing all of this with me and my class. We are just getting servers etc set up so we can share it with everybody, but there is a list of all the mods used at the bottom of this post if you want to have a go at setting up something similar yourself. And a big ups to all the people that made the mods too – sorry I am not sure who you are to acknowledge you.

This is the ‘decomposer’ that can break down rocks into there raw materials.

This is a tour of the world Dave and Angus created

And this is the treasure chest of goodies you can break into bits 🙂

Our next steps for this are

  1. to get this set up on a server so we can share it. To this end, Ben (a yr 10 student) has been working hard all weekend to learn how to get this to work, our trial run yesterday was super)
  2. To get some coding done and see if we can make some ionic compounds with the molecules we can break up. You would have seen you can get your sulfate ions in the decomposer videos, it would be awesome if we can use this so students can see the stoichiometry of these molecules more clearly and therefore have a way to assist students to learning ionic formula 🙂 So Dave is coming back to school in thursday with a PhD student who can do some Java and we will look into this then

Thanks again to Dave and Angus for letting me share this and test this, my students and I am loving it 🙂

If you are interested, here is the list of mods used in the set up

#minechem mods








Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Getting going with MINECRAFT

NB. A Lot of the credit for the work talked about in this post go to Dave Warren from Otago University and also to the Yr 10 boys in my Science class who are teaching me as they go. They are awesome and I am really hoping we can get this to work.

Minecraft has been making more and more noise lately for lots of good reason. Last night I connected into to the live stream from the Microsoft Educator Exchange in Budapest (You can watch the event here) and was totally inspired by the talking around makerEd and gamification and what people are now doing with there classes. I am not sure why I had not come across Stephen Reid before but I LOVED his presentation on games and how he helps teachers and students use them in a meaningful way for learning. (I stayed up way tooooo late reading his blog and will def go back to it)

I have been thinking about how I can use Minecraft in the classroom for a while now. I used the hour of code last year to kick start my own learning about it, and had some super helpful year 10’s teach me the basics of it.

I bought the game (my students laughed at me….) and started having a play. I accidentally killed a lot of chickens, figured out how to put them in a whole and feed them, then build a fence to keep them in and build a little garden (somewhat ironically my own garden got sadly neglected). I have visited some worlds and had a look around in the Molcraft world which is RAD.

At the moment I am exploring two different avenues for using minecraft

The first is my year 10 Science class.

I am really lucky to have a super awesome class of students who are willing to give things ago. To this end, 4 boys (I’m going to try and get some girls involved too but won’t push it if they don’t want to) are building a ‘body’ for the staying alive unit. Other students are making videos, putting together presentations or making some resources for students to learn about – the idea was everyone in the class should become an expert on something that helps us ‘Stay Alive’ that they could present to the class in some way at the end of the topic.

yr 10s getting their minecraft on building a body 🙂#scichatnz #MIEExpert @noisyteacher @nzannet @Doctor_Harves

— Rachel Chisnall (@ibpossum) March 1, 2016

This is the progress they have made for so far (they started with a poop machine but have moved on to what we are learning about)

2016-03-10 10.19.39

They have made a heart – the blue is deoxygenated blood, and the other side will be red. When this is live, the ‘liquid’ pulses to simulate a beating heart. They are working on connecting the heart to the lungs via the correct arteries and veins – hence they had the diagram of the heart up next to their model to check they were making it right.

2016-03-10 10.15.35Here is the lung next to the heart. The grey box is air – they couldn’t have it empty so have settled for grey but we wondered about colourless… but then how would you ‘see’ it. And wen this is running, the blood pulses through the arteries and veins. If we get time, there are plans to look at building a model alveoli too.

Because these students are keen and already have the software, setting this up was really easy for me as I didn’t have to do a thing. They have taught me a lot about mods (I still need to learn some more) and also how easy it is to set up a server in a cloud somewhere. At the moment the world lives on a memory stick and on the shared drive at school – but we spent time today talking about how we could set up a school server with the robotics teacher.

The Second is with what Dave Warren has done.

Dave has pretty much built a Chem lab in Minecraft. It is AMAZING. (I think his son helped). I know Dave both through his Chemistry outreach (which Dunedin is soo lucky to have access to) but also through Hands on Science, and we have kind of talked about this project off and on for a while, so it was really really AWESOME to see it for real today.

2016-03-10 10.33.34What he found (I’m sure others might know this but I didn’t) was if you smash up the rocks, or the dirt or whatever using a particular mod, you can break down the substance into the atoms that make it up – ie you can get silicon and oxygen from rocks, or carbon, oxygen and hydrogen from trees. Which you can then manipulate into different molecules.


So they have built this lab to do this in. There are microscopes and all sorts in there. Which you could then make up a quest book and follow some instructions to figure out some cool chemistry

2016-03-10 10.36.53Which is awesome – but so is the ability to just have a play around. We spent some time today talking to the boys about what they would like, and how we could make it manageable for teachers too (I think the students might like to just play, but teachers might like a quest to follow to give some more structure).

There also needs to be a bit of a juggling of some code to make all the molecules we want to (for example, to be able to build ionic compounds so students can ‘see’ the stoichiometyry behind the formulas and equations) – so next week Dave is going to try and get one of his students to come out and have a look with my students and see what they can come up with. Already, my students have had some solutions to a few of the issues Dave had with his set up – such as using an app to combine all the mods into one mod for a more user friendly set up on each machine. He has done all of the ground work, so I am really lucky to be able to jump in and test the proto type 🙂

So my students are going to work with Dave’s students to kick the whole thing off. We talked about servers, to which they replied, oh, that is easy, we already have one set up. But I would still like them to teach me,  hopefully I can keep up, and maybe we can make a bigger one.

So at the moment I am feeling really excited about where this might go. I am certainly not ready to roll this out to my whole class, but probably could do so by the time chemistry comes around in term 2. I will also extend the invitation to other interested students and maybe (with the awesome Kevin who teaches robotics and is WAY more skilled in this than me) set up some sort of lunch time coding club. Kevin has some arduino gear that I am really keen to get my hands on as well.

If you are interested in joining in or following our progress, or if you have some tips or ideas, please do get in touch (@ibpossum). In talking to Dave he is looking to spread it round to. I would love any feedback, willing test subjects or technical expertise

Have fun – I sure am 🙂