Essential Question: What are the challenges in shifting content from “what” to “where” and “how”?
To be perfectly honest, I spent a majority of my school time playing Minecraft online… oops! It was for school; I swear! But I guess that type of engagement is what we’re looking for in our students’ learning, right? When I did finally get to my reading of Thomas and Brown’s (2011) writing in A New Culture of Learning and Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, I was really hooked on where they discussed the processing of “hanging out,” “messing around,” and “geeking out.”
The concept of “hanging out” is just “learning to be.” Thomas and Brown (2011) suggest that when it comes to learning, “Hanging out  is about learning how to be with others in spaces that are mediated by technology.” I’ve been personally experiencing that with Google Hangouts, Twitter sessions, wikipages, Google docs, and now the Minecraft.edu. But even offline, we hang out based on our transportation situation; entertainment appliances; and even tools we use. What is so great about my experiences online, is that even though it’s all a new and often unknown adventure for me instead of just being the dreaded “n00b,” I actually have a sense of belonging because we’re all doing it together. It’s a time to develop that trust and create a safe learning environment together.
“Messing around” is the time to discover and explore. Thomas and Brown (2011) offer that gaps between what is imagined can be done and what can truly be done are discovered. We don’t know our boundaries until we reach them. And a concept that is so prevalent in Game-based learning is that we fail a lot, but we try again right away, because we learn more information from that failure than if it was all success. However, in this case, unless there is a truly safe learning environment established, “messing around” is often more comfortably done alone, or with someone who is equally new to the task at hand. During a Google Hangout this week, a peer shared with us how to access the Gamified server for Minecraft.edu and had us experience what the students would go through. I had played Minecraft before on the Xbox, but couldn’t get it to work previously on the PC. I found it fascinating that two others in the group were asking about literature explaining the mechanics of the game. One of them had the book, Minecraft for Dummies and the other was looking for something to read on an upcoming plane trip. It initially struck me as odd, because my immediate thought was, “Who wants to read about a videogame?” Well,… they do! And that’s a completely valid way of how people go into learning. They prepare first, and THEN dive in, and that previously built schemata comes into the play with the actual application. I’m just of the generation that prefers to learn by doing. Don’t make us read instructions—we’ll read them when we have to. We don’t want to waste time with extraneous information we don’t need. We’ll look up a wiki if we get stuck. We’re multi-tasking too much to focus so much time and effort onto one given thing. And without doing it consciously, that’s exactly how I went about learning the game. The peer who set up the session asked if I had any further questions after walking me through how to access the game. I didn’t. I just wanted the privacy of playing around with the game (or messing around) so I could figure it out and OWN it! …Which I haven’t done yet. I really want to ride one of those horses! But I digress… The point I need to remember from this is that my students may be the same way, on an even less gracious level. I need to keep in mind that their lack of wanting my instruction may not be disrespect—it’s just how they process.
Finally, we are given the concept of “Geeking out.” And honestly, this was the term that mostly caught my eye. It’s a way of defining the application of a given learned concept. The information is owned so much that it can be discussed and shared on a deep and intricate level. We can “geek out” about so many things. Sports fans do this all the time… but they’re so “manly,” it’s not considered nerdy… but it totally is! We live in the age of “geeking out,” where it’s okay to be passionate about what you love. Love stamps? Geek out! Love gardening? Geek out! Love doing laudry? Geek out!… and then come to my house! “Geeking out” is the way that we share our passions with others, and that is wonderful learning! I’m looking at starting new job tutoring students soon. It’s nearing the end of the school year, but it’s my goal to get them to “geek out” about at least one thing. When that happens, I will feel like I’ve done my job well.
Minecraft. So I was given permission to talk about my experience with Minecraft this week. Pardon me while I GEEK OUT! Wheee! So I’ve already shared an anecdote about the initial learning of the game. It took me some time to figure out how to navigate the system. But once I did, I just went for it. I was eager to test out the things that weren’t available in the Xbox version. I did NOT succeed in: making stained glass nor a saddle (those horses mock me!). I DID succeed in: making sexy, red leather boots; making carpet; breeding chickens; building my cute little cabin; and butchering all visible cows. I was very happy to receive a cow dispensary to remedy this! As we go into the construction of our serious game themed on the The Hunger Games, I’m excited to be on the team constructing the level. It’s going to be interesting to be on the creating side of the game. I foresee monsters everywhere!!! …Oh great… Now I really am starting to sound like a gamemaker from the books. I think I need to go play some freerice.com and feed some people.
Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. [Kindle edition].
Mojang. Minecraft. (2013). Accessed at https://minecraft.net/
TeacherGaming, LLC. (2014). Minecraft.edu. Accessed at http://minecraftedu.com/page/
Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle edition].
World Food Programme. (2014). Freerice.com. Accessed at http://freerice.com/#/english-vocabulary/1526