Monday, 28 October 2013

Graphing & Proxy Tests.

So my year 8 graphing lesson in Minecraft was an eye opening experience. One thing jumped out at me massively. My students had data, but could not work out how to represent that data visually, many of them struggled to see that they needed to group the data, or perform some other type of manipulation before they could make a graph of it.

To fix this issue I did a demonstration on the board of 2 different types of graphs, a pie graph and a cumulative frequency bar graph. Once students saw how I built these, and manipulated the data to do so they got up and running. Some students continued with the graphs they had begun before my demonstration, others branched out and tried to recreate a graph similar to mine.

Here are some screenshots of the graphs that we created.

I have also been madly testing the new version(s) of MinecraftEdu for proxy support, we are so close but still have a few issues that need to be addressed. The proxy support now works for updating MinecraftEdu, downloading worlds from the online template area and also for authentication to The issues are now that I cannot join an online server from behind a proxy, and nor can my internal server be an online server through a proxy (I think it cannot check with

So hopefully we can get there and then I can begin running 24/7 projects and allowing students to access these learning world from home and school.

That is it for now, thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

More Data, Graphing and 3D Models.

After running the data collection with my Year 8s last week, I sent the map to Shane so he could check it out. Of course he doesn't like my 'functionally ugly' style so he adjusted it and sent it back to me. So I used it with my Year 10s on Monday to collect another sample of data. The year 10s collected more data, and I trialled using Google Docs with them to collate the data. Shane was online and listening in on the audio of the class, and let me tell you that is an amazing experience and help. While I wandered the room checking what students were collecting, he was listening and adding those items to our list in the Google Spreadsheet.

So at the end of the 20 minute collection period the students put all their data into the spreadsheet very easily and the data was in a very useful format. While the students we adding their data Shane was sitting in the doc watching and giving advice and encouragement, which was pretty amazing for the students also. Once we had collated out data we began the next 20 minute collection and again put all that data onto the spreadsheet. So now I have a great amount of data to use with both my year 8s and year 10s.

Since after thinking about it most of the weekend I had figured out the way to set out the data we collected, and I had trialled it with my year 10s, I gave my year 8s the opportunity to transfer their data from one form to another, it went supremely smoothly. I am impressed with how Google Docs allows so many students to collaborate on the one document, and also how well my students manage themselves in there. There were only minimal issues and for the most part they sorted themselves out without a great deal of input from me.

So today we will begin looking at graphing in Minecraft. I am hoping to get some of the students that like pie charts to try to create them in Minecraft, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they go with it. The year 8 graphing class happens in a few hours, so I might take some screenshots and write a reflection afterwards if time permits.

Now as to the 3D models, I have been designing a new model in Braille, while not as 'cool' as the Periodic Table, and it is not designed in MinecraftEdu, it is still a model I am proud of and also think it is useful. It is a non-standard die, you can get 6 sided dice, not in Braille, but with the raised dots that the vision impaired can count, but you cannot get any non-standard ones. So I have designed and prototyped an 8 sided dice in Braille. It is designed and printed in such a way that it is non-biased. Unfortunately this means it needs to be printed in 8 parts and glued together, but after 1000 rolls it is looking pretty good for both fairness and overall wear and tear.

So now that I have that base model, I am now adding inset numbers on them so that sighted people can work out what number has been rolled. I also have a prototype design that I need to print for a 12 sided dice and am in the process of working out exactly how to design the 4 and 10 sided varieties also. The 4 sided one is causing me some issues because with a regular 4 sided dice it is the number that is face down that you have rolled, I want to re-design it so that it is the number that is up that you have rolled. I have ideas on how to do this, I just need to get my head around the design process to get these ideas into the 3D model. And seriously just now as I was writing this post I think I have a great idea on how to do it so that it rolls nicely and is not too large or awkward.

On that note I am done writing for now, I need to go get this idea down and sorted in my head. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below if you like.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Collecting Data and AWESOME Feedback.

My year 8s have just begun studying data. These are some of my learning intentions:

Demonstrate the ability to organise data appropriately, Grouped data, class intervals, Frequency tables
Column Graphs
Calculate the Mean, Median, Mode, Range
Investigate the effects outliers have on these Averages
Measure of Spread (Range)

So I decided to use Minecraft to collect data, I was going to use a map created by Shane where students collect wood with different levels of tool, ie wood, stone, iron..... but I felt that this was not going to provide me with enough data to play with. So I got to thinking..... and thinking...... and thinking...... but I could not think of an 'awesome' yet easy way to get some data out of Minecraft.

So I did what all good teachers do, I collaborated, I asked for another teacher opinion (it happened to be Shane was online and we were discussing whether or not to use his map) and he came up with the brilliant idea to just let the kids free, let them go collect whatever they want, in whatever numbers and at the end of a set time, either a Minecraft day, or some other time they need to collate all of their items into a table.

Then we will head to a second location, and off they will go again collecting more data. I am really looking forward to seeing the amount of data we can pull out of this activity, and really going into depth with how we can use that data to meet all of those learning intentions.

I have decided to keep this separate to Mathlandia for now, for a couple of reasons, if students get lost while caving hunting for those precious gems, or if their pick breaks, or if they run out of torches they can just hit back to spawn and fix those issues, with no input from me. If it was a MystCraft dimension in Mathlandia this would not be the case.

On the feedback side of things I requested that those students who completed the Path to Percentage Perfection to fill in a feedback survey, and what they are saying is astonishing. 5/6 have given it a rating of 8/10 or above for enjoyment. For the question what did you like the most I got the following responses.

  • The chests and how you had to actually think, really take the time to look around. 
  • the exploration of the many trials and skills it needed 
  • I like how i can explore the world and answer questions at the same time 
  • getting rewards and looking for rewards on minecraft. i think we should do more!!!!!!!!! 
  • It was like a treasure hunt and you actually had to concerntrate to find treasure and get through the right paths and finish the game. I also liked how if you got a question wrong it showed you how to work it out and gave you a similar problem. 
  • finding cool stuff doing maths
For what they disliked the most:

  • getting lost and confused 
  • not being able to do it again. to find more stuff 
  • i didn't dislike because i enjoyed doing the task
  •  SPIDERS, the SPIDERS man scared the @*$# out of me. some of the things were a bit confusing like when you got back up the Well you had to really look around for ages to find those Tower note things. 
  • I didn't like the holes in the ground that you couldn't get out of. 
  • when some doors didnt open
All of the students said that they wanted to do an activity like this again in the future. There was an extra comments section, surprisingly, even though it was not a compulsory question, the students answered it. Here is my favourite response: I really enjoyed this event, it was mind blowing at every part. :D

On that note, thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Path to Percentage Perfection.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing students go through a map that took over 20 hours to create, 15 or so of those hours were just yesterday. This was my second attempt at a treasure hunt map with inbuilt questions. If you cannot guess from the title the topic for exploration today was percentages.

So this map has been designed with the feedback I received from my year 8 students that did the integers treasure hunt at the end of last term that continued into this term incorporated. The feedback I received was fantastic, what they liked was most was that it was in Minecraft, that it required them to solve problems to advance in the map and that they received rewards for getting the correct answers.

Their main dislikes were the poor wording of some of the questions, the lack of a story line (why are we here answering these questions?) and that the travel time between points of interest was too long and made it far too easy to get lost.

So todays map had a storyline, that I don't think the year 10s actually got into at all, which is interesting, they seemed more interested in just getting the loot and rewards on offer. The travel between points of interest was drastically reduced through the use of teleport blocks and the wording of questions was carefully checked for clarity.

So how did it go? Fantastic, after the initial confusion that always arises when a new type of task is begun and students still refusing to read any instructions they are given. The main issue arose from students travelling in pairs and causing issues with the scoreboard system. For which there is a fairly simple fix, just tell students to wait for their friends away from the exit door, most will comply because it means they do not need to wait for me to check their score, find out what it needs to be and then change it. Today I just fixed it on the fly and it really was not that much of an issue.

So compared to the integers map, which had 6 (I think) single chance EduCrew answer systems in place and took the fastest students over 2 hours to complete, this percentage map had 8 two chance EduCrew answer systems in it, and the fast students took only about an hour to complete it. So it is much more streamlined. There could be other reasons why things happened quicker today, these students probably did not use their in-game journal as they should have, whereas most of the year 8s did, but I think the reduced travel time, and less chance to get lost made a massive difference to the time taken.

So what would I change for the next one? I would go back to putting the 4 possible answers into the info block so that students could choose which answer they want before going in, instead of getting into the answer room, realising their calculated answer is not an option and having to try to re-calculate, meanwhile blocking anyone else from answering. I would also add in a 'help' wall at the first question that provides students with some support in answering the question, scaffolding of some description to prevent students 'giving up' through frustration and randomly guessing.

I am going to pay students for their in-game journal too, so how well they documented their calculations will determine the added bonus pay they will receive. They will also receive a payment proportional to the number of questions they got correct. This is over and above the rewards for getting questions correct while progressing through the map, and also the treasures that were found along the way in hidden chests. This should improve the use of the in-game journal for next time as students will understand that it is the main article they they receive payment for, so should take more care to use it correctly.

I did not record any video footage today, I did however record the audio for me to listen to. I may publish parts of the audio overlayed on a flythrough of the map to my youtube channel in the future as well as tweaking some of the exploits students found today and then I will put this map up for download on the google group. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, 7 October 2013

We're Back and Running.

Here is another blog post that I am going to start by apologising for my absence, so much has been happening but not much has been shared. So I am back at school, first day back for the last term today in fact. Which means I have about 6 or 7 weeks with my Pre-CAL Numeracy class and about 8 or so with the year 8s.

I actually had both classes in MinecraftEdu today, the Pre-CAL class, unfortunately, were unable to collect their pay today and I think that made them a bit lethargic, some did worksheets instead of getting into the world. I am worried that I have gone the wrong way at some point and taken away the fun. So here are the beginnings of a reflection on the project at this stage, what I would change, what I think worked very well and what I am planning for the remainder of the year.

To give you some idea about what I would change, the main thing is the creative world for building and costing their houses, I would definitely not do that again. I would have houses in the world for them to purchase or rent depending on their financial status. The tower would be redesigned to not be a tower at all, but spread out a bit more, I think having that many item frames and villagers in the one location is causing significant lag on the school computers, unnoticeable on mine, but causing issues for the students.

I would be making sure that the main world actually is the main world, I would have vacant lots of land for sale so that students could purchase the land and then purchase the items they need to build their house and slowly build it over time, this would mean that the costing would more intuitively happen as they purchased items from the vendors and put these purchases in their budgets, rather than what the students did this time, which was build a house and then try to calculate the number of blocks in it.

I would also have suggested business ideas for students, or businesses for students to purchase and run on the server, because some these students are not avid Minecrafters outside of class they don't know what sorts of businesses they can run, and what would be good for turning a profit. I would love to be able to give students access to the server 24/7, I think that would make the project 100 times better, more real and definitely more engaging.

So there are a few changes I would make, what would I keep? The payslip and payment system I have running is pretty simple and smooth, it did take an awful lot of time to set up, but over the project it has saved me hours of time. I think the amount of cash I am giving students is about right too. The base ideas for tasks are great, but I think they need a bit more prescription or perhaps more solid instructions/proformas for students to use. I would hope that this would speed up some of the projects, I know I have complained in the past about consistency of attendance and that being a major obstacle, but I also think that clearer support may help alleviate some of that.

So there are a lot more changes than what I would keep, but realistically I am still amazed at how the overall project has gone. So what are my plans? Well the next step is to use the multiple choice answer system from the year 8 maths group to give these guys an assessment on what we have learnt so far, in the form of a treasure hunt, similar to the year 8s. I am also feel like trying to 'break' the economy, just to see what ensues when the students seem to have a lot of money, to see whether the system will rebalance itself or whether it does indeed ruin the learning experience, of course that is a problematic thing to be doing and may ruin the end of this project so I am really not sure whether I will actually do that or not.

Now, onto the year 8s. We spent another 40 minutes or so in the integers review treasure hunt. I have reflected quite a bit on what issues we have been encountering and how the design of the answer system, or the wording of my questions need to be tweaked to prevent these issues from reoccurring in future implementations (like the Pre-CAL assessment).

I think most of the technical issues are direction based and caused by redstone behaving different when it is facing different directions. Shane and I spent a couple of hours messing around last night tweaking the design and getting to a point where it is easy to implement, and also will not be affected by the direction you paste it in. We are also going to design a 'second chance' room, where if you get the question wrong, you get put in the second chance room, given some specific instruction or tips as to the mistake you made, or how to get the question correct and you get an opportunity to show your learning and answer a similar question for half the reward. This is going to be implemented in my Pre-CAL assessment so I am really looking forward to seeing how that goes.

As to the wording issues, it is definitely interesting to see how things are interpreted by students, with written tests I am not sure I get to see so clearly the misinterpretations of the questions. I will be thinking much more critically about the wording I use as I write the Pre-CAL questions and will be trying to make them as clear as possible to see if one of the issues is the game itself being a distraction or whether it is just the poor way I worded some of the questions. (Many were written very late at night after a full day at work, simply because I was in a rush to get the map ready).

Well, that was a long post. If you made it this far, thanks so much for taking the time, and I hope my reflections and plans were interesting. Of course more will be coming in the future as I finish up this Pre-CAL project as well as Mathlandia for the year. Sometimes I regret that Mathlandia did not get used as much as I hoped, my plans for opening up the world for students to play at lunch times never actually came to fruition. Again, thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.