Posted by & filed under classroom, games, John Seely Brown, learning, minecraft, Minecraft for Educators, school.

The course text provides an invitation to,

consider the components of good classroom management and the importance of guidelines and community as they relate to a Minecraft classroom. Record your thoughts in a way that you can retrieve them later.

I’m not a home educator, but I’m not much interested in classrooms. Here’s why. There’s a page in the course titled, “Benefits and Potential Difficulties of Gaming in the Classroom”. It begins,

There are many benefits to incorporating video games into the classroom. Among these are increased student motivation, engagement, and length of time on task. However, the use of games in the classroom might also have negative effects if you are not careful and intentional in the way the lessons are structured.

First and foremost, an effective management strategy must be in place. Without proper guidelines, procedures, and expectations, the video game environment quickly digresses into chaos and difficulty with very little educational benefit. (My emphasis)

Bleurghh. That distils one of the big problems with classrooms: the obsession with control. What does the story of the Minecraft experience and Minecraft community tell us if not that the italicised statements above are simply untrue? (Not that they are the only sources of evidence to refute those statements — Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall studies being just one other high-profile source.)

One of the main pedagogical benefits of Minecraft is surely that it liberates learning from the constraints of the classroom.

One of the touchstones for my thinking about these issues is the book, A New Culture of Learning (2011) by Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown. The book’s subtitle, Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change says more about Minecraft’s potential as a learning environment than the page in the course. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book, clipped from my Kindle. Many of them, I think you will agree, could have been written with Minecraft explicitly in mind.

Children use play and imagination as the primary mechanisms for making sense of their new, rapidly evolving world. In other words, as children encounter new places, people, things, and ideas, they use play and imagination to cope with the massive influx of information they receive.

The new culture of learning is based on three principles: (1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. (2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. (3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.

[O[ne might be tempted to ask how we might harness the power of these peer-to-peer collectives to meet some learning objective. But that would be falling into the same old twentieth-century trap. Any effort to define or direct collectives would destroy the very thing that is unique and innovative about them.

[I]n universities today, as in other educational institutions, learning is happening outside as well as inside the classroom in late-night discussions among students, in study groups, during campus events, and in student organizations. When that tacit dimension is taken into consideration, the value of a university education grows to include the learning that happens when students are immersed in an environment that values learning itself. Being surrounded by academic culture becomes valuable not only because of the vast resources available to the students but also because of the opportunity for them to make connections among all those resourcesconnections that are grounded in experience and deeply personal.

The concept is a certain familiarity that forms through the process of prolonged inquiry on particular topics or from repeated use of skills and techniques. Polanyi has referred to it as indwelling. Indwelling is a familiarity with ideas, practices, and processes that are so engrained they become second nature. Not unlike the notion of inquiry, indwelling is also an adaptive process, meaning that the practices that become second nature have flexibility; they are responsive to changes in the environment and situation.

The new culture of learning nurtures collective indwelling. Until now, we have lacked the ability, resources, and connections to make this kind of learning scalable and powerful. With access to the nearly endless supply of collectives today, however, learning that is driven by passion and play is poised to significantly alter and extend our ability to think, innovate, and discover in ways that have not previously been possible.

When we build, we do more than create content. Thanks to new technologies, we also create context by building within a particular environment, often providing links or creating connections and juxtapositions to give meaning to the content.

Through the process of making, we are also learning how to craft context so that it carries more of the message, which helps solve many of the issues of information overload. Thus, as context begins to play an increasingly important role, it becomes easier to talk about things like visual arguments; expanding the notion of literacy to include images, color, and sound; and how information is transmitted through new phenomena, such as viral distribution.

Much of what makes play powerful as a tool for learning is our ability to engage in experimentation. All systems of play are, at base, learning systems. They are ways of engaging in complicated negotiations of meaning, interaction, and competition, not only for entertainment, but also for creating meaning. Most critically, play reveals a structure of learning that is radically different from the one that most schools or other formal learning environments provide, and which is well suited to the notions of a world in constant flux.

Through play, the process of learning is no longer smooth and progressive. Instead, there is a gap between the knowledge one is given and the desired end result. The gap is apt to widen in a state of constant flux, where stable paths and linear progression are no longer viable, thus making play particularly valuable in our ever-changing world. In Huizingas view, this follows the structure of a riddle.

Hanging out is much more than creating a feeling of presence or belonging. It is the first step in the process of indwelling, which, as Polanyi explained, goes beyond the process of enculturation and an understanding of social norms, roles, and mores. The beginnings of indwelling in the digital world are rooted in the notion of being with. [Mimi] Ito’s work reveals that hanging out is more than simply gaining familiarity with the tools, spaces, and possibilities that the digital world offers. Hanging out, in her terms, is about learning how to be with others in spaces that are mediated by digital technology. Thus, it is building a foundation for learning that transcends the bounds of the virtual.

When messing around, young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.

Hanging out is about acquiring a sense of social agency. The transition to messing around, as Ito describes it, is typically personal and involves the development of a sense of personal agency: &what is characteristic of these initial forays into messing around is that youth are pursuing topics of personal interest. Young people who were active digital media creators or deeply involved in other interest-driven groups generally described a moment when they took a personal interest in a topic and pursued it in a self-directed way.

The process of knowing has moved from being instrumental to being structured by a sense of play. Through that shift, experience is transformed into a process of experimentation, play, and riddling, which reveals the resources and possibilities that are available to a person and what he can do with them.

Messing around, therefore, constitutes the second step of indwelling: embodiment. It asks the question: What am I able to explore?

[G]eeking out extends both the social agency of hanging out and the personal agency of messing around. As Ito puts it: Geeking out involves learning to navigate esoteric domains of knowledge and practice and participating in communities that traffic in these forms of expertise.… Geeking out asks the question: How can I utilize the available resources, both social and technological, for deep exploration?

The richness of experience and social agency produced by hanging out and the sense of embodiment and personal agency created by messing around, combined with the sense of making, produces what we think is the ultimate goal of indwelling: learning. Geeking out provides an experiential, embodied sense of learning within a rich social context of peer interaction, feedback, and knowledge construction enabled by a technological infrastructure that promotes intense, autonomous, interest driven learning.

In our view, mmos [Massively Multiplayer Online games] are almost perfect illustrations of a new learning environment. On one hand, games like World of Warcraft produce massive information economies, composed of thousands of message forums, wikis, databases, player guilds, and communities. In that sense, they are paragons of an almost unlimited information network. On the other hand, they constitute a bounded environment within which players have near-absolute agency, enjoying virtually unlimited experimentation and explorationmore of a petri dish.

Think back to the assertions that Huizinga put forward in Homo Ludens: (1) Play is more than something we do, it is who we are, and (2) play precedes culture. We want to add to those concepts by proposing that play fuses the two elements of learning that we have been talking about: the information network and the petri dish (or bounded environment of experimentation). That fusion is what we call the new culture of learning. The critical idea is that the two elementsof information and experimentationare being brought together in a way that transforms them both. It is that fusion that defines the new culture of learning.

Accordingly, the culture that emerges, the new culture of learning, is a culture of collective inquiry that harnesses the resources of the network and transforms them into nutrients within the petri dish environment, turning it into a space of play and experimentation. That moment of fusion between unlimited resources and a bounded environment creates a space that does not simply allow for imagination, it requires it. Only when we care about experimentation, play, and questions more than efficiency, outcomes, and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination. And where imaginations play, learning happens.

Posted by & filed under Minecraft for Educators.


Server properties file (click to enlarge)

The point here where Joel Mills talks about hosting your own server as a means to experiment with mods and plugins etc before ‘upscaling’ to something more ambitious is more exactly where I am and what I’m aiming for.

So I followed the instructions to download and setup the Minecraft server on my old MacBook. I got caught out a couple of times, but when I payed closer attention to this video, it put me right. I was then able to login from the MacBook or another

The first major problem I saw was that the game was starting in Survival mode. I read up on the codes, and changed gametype to 1. Then the server log said it was running in Creative mode — but after logging in, the experience was still Survival… Two hours of hair-pulling and one whiney post to the discussion forum later, I’m very grateful to Kathy J for stepping in with the solution: force-gamemode=true.

Below are some more screenshots to evidence my set-up and logging in (click on the thumbnail images to see full size).

My remaining frustration was that I couldn’t login to this server via Minecraft PE, which is what my (6-year-old) son mostly uses. I now understand that, in general you cannot connect Minecraft PE to MInecraft PC servers. However, at some level you can, because we can connect PE to the servers at What mods are they running to enable that, I wonder?

Localhost server set-up

Localhost basic server setup. To access via another PC, I edited the server address to be the IP address of my MacBook.

Logging in

Logging in

Minecraft and terminal window

“Playing” the game – terminal window shows my username has joined

So now I can set up and run a (boring vanilla) server. I still can’t play Minecraft for toffee. But my son can help with that bit.


Posted by & filed under Courses, Minecraft for Educators.

This is prepared for submission as part of the Minecraft for Educators course that started this week.

You are asked to identify the different platforms that you can play Minecraft on e.g. Console, Tablet, PC etc… and produce a comparison describing the differences and limitations of each…

We are looking for you to show your understanding and knowledge of the different platforms that Minecraft comes on and clearly show us what each version is capable of or its limitations.

Always a bit tricky with these exercises where someone throws some information at you and asks you to regurgitate it. How faithfully? And how much ‘inspiration’ to take from sources that everyone knows about? One solution to this is to make it personal, so here goes…

Pocket Edition

We started in our household on the iOS platform, with my son playing mostly on iPad. This is the Pocket Edition, which I understand is a slightly poor relation to the original PC edition, though I’m still finding out the differences. I note that Wikipedia reports that reviewers “were disappointed by the lack of content [in the Pocket Edition]. The inability in the game to collect resources and craft items, as well as the game’s lack of hostile mobs and limited types of blocks, were especially criticised”. What is content in this context? My son noted the presence of rabbits in the PC version yesterday, which he wasn’t used to from PE: is that content?

PC version

I have now bought and downloaded Minecraft for my old MacBook. It runs slowly (that’s because it’s written in Java, and MacOS & Java don’t play that well together, right?) and we got frustrated by trying to interact with it using a trackpad, so I’ve ordered a cheap mouse. At the moment we’re just playing the game in creative mode locally. My son is trying to map the understanding he’s developed on PE on the PC version, and I’m trying to help him in that (for example, by leading the exploration of options) and pick up some of the concepts in the process.

Pi Edition

We have a Raspberry Pi and I considered downloading the Pi Edition. But I was put off from doing this by two considerations. First, it requires a different version of the Pi OS from the one we’re using, and I can’t be doing with that amount of faffing about. Second, it appears the PI edition is based on an old (and presumably less feature-rich) version of Pocket Edition — presumably because of the Pi’s limited processing power — so there’s not much point in going to all that effort.

Console versions

My son frequently complains that his schoolmate has Minecraft on his Xbox. This is better in several ways, he tells me, particularly in being able to play in each others’ worlds. Wikipedia identifies some exclusive features, including a “newly designed crafting system, the control interface, in-game tutorials, split-screen multiplayer, and the ability to play with friends via Xbox Live“. I am not clear about the difference between Xbox Live and multiplayer mode.

We’re not going to be getting an Xbox any time soon, but we do have an Amazon Fire TV, and I’m aware that Pocket Edition is available for this (Android-based, right?) platform. If we buy the Amazon Fire Game Controller this might make Minecraft available on the living room TV at a fraction of the cost of an Xbox, but presumably without all those extra features.

Multiplayer and modifications

Another thing I am not very clear about is the Minecraft architecture. In the course video, it’s apparent that an important gateway to unlock the extended potential of Mincraft is the scope to mod(ify) it and then share your mods via multiplayer mode on your server. This seems to operate on an open source model (or is it ‘proper’ open source?), which makes ‘forks’ in the original game like MinecraftEDU possible.

These modifications must be done at server level (right?), but I am not clear whether what’s running on the server is a distinct Minecraft Server program, or whether this is just the PC software that you open up as a server — and I could not discern the answer from either Wikipedia or the video. I’m assuming this will become clear one way or the other via the section of the course on setting up a server in Week 2.


Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Hey Guys how are you all, well just as the title perceives I am now home.  Back to the lovely weather of Great Britain. I don’t regret coming home early I just knew it was time to do so. I had a good flight back wasn’t too happy that my trip from Chicago to Manchester didn’t have a private TV screen although was pleased to have two seats to myself. This trip has taught me so much about myself, the country, the culture of the United States of America. I think it has been a great journey and I have had a great time been in the USA being away for 51 days on the road and don’t regret a thing and hope to do something similar again next year.

A quick review

Best hotel: Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans)

Worst Hotel: Monticello Inn Framingham (Boston)

Best Location: Orlando Florida

Best weather: Miami

Best restaurant: Outback Steakhouse

Friendliest people: Huntsville Alabama/ Columbus Ohio

Best tourist attraction: Seaworld

Best event: Wrestlemania 30 weekend

This blog will continue on my next trip so it’s not the end of the road. Lastly I just want to thank everyone who has followed, read, commentated on this blog. I also like to thank anyone who has allowed me to follow my dreams and has believed in this journey that I have followed. Later Guys 🙂


Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Hey Guys how are you all, well just as the title perceives I am now home.  Back to the lovely weather of Great Britain. I don’t regret coming home early I just knew it was time to do so. I had a good flight back wasn’t too happy that my trip from Chicago to Manchester didn’t have a private TV screen although was pleased to have two seats to myself. This trip has taught me so much about myself, the country, the culture of the United States of America. I think it has been a great journey and I have had a great time been in the USA being away for 51 days on the road and don’t regret a thing and hope to do something similar again next year.

A quick review

Best hotel: Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans)

Worst Hotel: Monticello Inn Framingham (Boston)

Best Location: Orlando Florida

Best weather: Miami

Best restaurant: Outback Steakhouse

Friendliest people: Huntsville Alabama/ Columbus Ohio

Best tourist attraction: Seaworld

Best event: Wrestlemania 30 weekend

This blog will continue on my next trip so it’s not the end of the road. Lastly I just want to thank everyone who has followed, read, commentated on this blog. I also like to thank anyone who has allowed me to follow my dreams and has believed in this journey that I have followed. Later Guys 🙂


Posted by & filed under OLDS-MOOC.

What three words describe this week’s activities?

Practical. Articulation. Frustration (mild).

What did you like about this week?

I liked the way the taxonomies and tools give you a relatively (see below) easy to use method of articulating learning designs. Being an awkward b*gger, I am trying to use them to design a learning experience that isn’t a course, so I accept some of the difficulties that come my way in attempting this (though I also think that the C21st curriculum is going to be much less course-based).

Because of time issues (see below), I ended up doing the “short route” through this week. I hope to have time to do more on the activity design for my project in the next week or so.

I also took time out to read Conole (2007) on Describing Learning Activities. This was because I’m curious about the taxonomy of learning activities, where it comes from, what the evidence base is for it, and how ‘universal’ it is or could be in terms of contexts of application. As far as I can see (I stand to be corrected), it is not derived from evidence, but more from general experience?

I was curious about how I might apply it another project I’m working on, which (helpfully) is a course. I found that in the authoring template I wrote for that course, I’d specified

“a set of 4-8 activities that involve a combination of

  • reading, viewing, listening to absorb ideas and perspectives
  • individual reflection and relating issues to personal experience and ambitions
  • discussion with fellow participants, and collective articulation of shared understandings
  • practical activities and demonstrations
  • critiques of case studies”

… which, on reflection, seems not a million miles away from the taxonomy.

So I’m wondering whether part of this methodology is about codifying common sense, or at least codifying common current practice… Not that there’s anything wrong with that: codifying practice to make the tacit elements explicit and shareable is valuable.

Am I missing another dimension, though?

What could be improved?

I got stuck on a couple of usability/implementation problems.

  • I could easily use the Course Features Cards as I don’t have a colour printer and my b/w printer is low on toner, so not practical to print the toner-heavy design. I made my own cards, and used them, but this made the activity longer, and means that I haven’t done as many of the other activities as I might have done otherwise
  • I also tried to use the Activity Profile spreadsheet, but — hopelessly non-standard that I am — I don’t have Excel, and I lost more time trying to get the spreadsheet to work either in Google Spreadsheets or Apple Numbers, in vain.

By the way, while I’m on the subject of usability issues, it would be great if Cloudworks allowed you drag the corner of the text entry box (the one I’m writing in now) to make it bigger, as with many other forms on the web. It’s frustrating only to be able to see five lines of text…

Posted by & filed under OLDS-MOOC.

New week (new for me, even if it’s day 4 on the plan), and a new project.

My premise is that there are many things we write and design that could be learning resources but fail to meet their full potential because the producers didn’t think in terms of learning resources.

This premise could be wrong. I’m keen to hear from people who think it is.

One example I have in mind is the resources on Gold Open Access publishing that I and others are in the process of producing for this UK project. I feel we could be heading for the same ‘autopilot’ approach that I refer to above, and I’m keen to explore ways of reframing this. So, my answers to the opening questions are from the perspective of an initiative that doesn’t explicitly see itself as a learning design project:

Which part/s of the design do you usually think about first when you begin a new learning design? Do you start with — the learners, the technology, learning approach, previous designs, resource constraints, time constraints, institutional strategy, or…?

Firstly we think of content — what we want to say.

Then we think of learners, or, more commonly, readers — people whose goals we wish to support, with an emphasis on particular attitudes or behaviour we seek to influence.

Everything else is an afterthought.

Where do your ideas originate? From colleagues, from conferences or events, from student data or feedback, from personal experience, from case studies, or …?

The risk is that most ideas are constrained by habit and tacit expectations formed by past experience of similar endeavours.

Genuinely fresh ideas come from random and unpredictable sources.

The balance between the first of these (tradition) and the second (serious innovation, beyond just tinkering) is set differently according to the pressures of the context.

What difficulties do you encounter when trying to describe your design ideas to colleagues or to yourself?

When the ideas are traditional, you don’t encounter a great deal of difficulties. You can speak, write or draw in shorthand, and everyone still gets it, because they know the patterns well enough to fill in the unspoken blanks. It’s comfortable, quick and largely frictionless.

New ideas invariably raise hackles because they go against the grain of expectations.

I’ve started using the Course [sic] Features Cards and they work kind of OK, at least at the first stage.

p.s. the project title is a nod to Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things, which is a fairly canonical text of user-centred design.

Posted by & filed under OER, oldsmooc, oldsmooc-w2, resources.

Well…. I missed Week 2, pretty much completely. A combination of snow disruption, two full-day meetings (one 200 miles away) and work deadlines meant there was always something more pressing than OLDS-MOOC. Sorry, but it happens.

Past experience of MOOCs has taught me not to try and catch up by working through all of Week 2. Instead I’ve spent an hour or so skimming some of the texts on Personas and Force Fields. Fortunately, having a background in Human-Computer Interaction and User-Centred Design in the ’80s and ’90s means that I’m fairly well versed in the mindset of describing Contexts of Use (as we called them in those circles) and scenarios.

(Incidentally, the other thing that was all the rage in User-Centred Design circles 20-25 years ago was Participatory Design. No mention (that I’ve caught) of that on this course, yet, which is faintly troubling.

Meanwhile it’s clear that my dream project is destined to remain in dreamland, at least for now. Deservedly so, since it lacks focus. I’ll let it gestate on its own timetable.

Switching tack, I’m going to concentrate on an immediate pressing work issue I have, and use this as my personal project for the remainder of my work on this course. 

The project is to develop some resources to support learned societies coming to terms with “Gold” Open Access publishing. These are not billed as ‘learning resources’ as such, but it’s clear that, if they are successful, people will learn from them.

I wish we applied more learning design to everyday objects to liberate their potential for getting people to explore and rehearse new behaviours, and new ways of being.

Conversely, my experience this week reinforces my wish that we applied less learning design to courses.

If I remember correctly, there’s a passage in the first chapter of Rose Luckin’s book about lines of desire. There’s certainly one or more passages in the OLDS-MOOC public blurb that stress the potential for participants just to dip into parts of the course they find relevant and ‘remix’ it to suit individual purposes.

Thus I am baffled by what seems to me to be an over-designed specification of activities, day-by-day and almost hour-by-hour. I think this has several unfortunate design consequences:

  • firstly it’s not practical for anyone who isn’t a lady/gentleman of leisure
  • if you take it seriously, it creates stress, because I’m always a day behind by day 2 of every week; and if you don’t take is seriously, what’s the point of it
  • it sets up a rigid instructor/instructed relationship which is not the one I understand, from other sources, to be the intent of the course designers.

Slipped into a bit of a rant there — sorry.

Back to my practical project. How to take a set of 15 documents, diagrams and spreadsheets and apply learning design to them.

If I’d done Week 2, I’d have written out Personas for a bunch of characters in different learned societies, and I’d have articulated in Force Fields, perhaps, some of the pressures that are pulling them towards or pushing them away from learning more about Open Access. But I didn’t, so those remain tacit for now.

Posted by & filed under learning design, oldsmooc, oldsmooc-w1, Sugata Mitra.

I’ve spent much of the week reflecting in different ways on Yishay Mor’s comment in the opening presentation about learning materials being ‘objects with intent’. To which I asked, by email, ‘whose intent?’

From there there’s one rabbit hole you can disappear down which is the whole ‘is it learning design or is it teaching design?’ question. I avoided that, but in so doing, fell down a different hole just beside it that has snagged many before me. This is the ‘to what extent can learning be designed?’ question.

Concentrating on learning materials is one thing, because obviously there are design choices you have to make. But learning itself is something different. Designing learning is not the same as designing an MP3 player or a kitchen utensil. This is where the intent of the learner, as opposed to the teacher, comes in. To someone with the intent to learn, almost anything can be a learning experience (John Cage shows one way). The same is not true of someone with the intent to listen to recorded music or chop onions.

Learning is an emergent property of life. Sugata Mitra says some interesting things about this. At a grand, evolutionary scale, learning happens even without intent to learn: intent to survive is sufficient.

Now, I did warn you this was a rabbit hole. Anyone who’s got a class to teach at 9am tomorrow could reasonably ask WTF has this got to do with anything?!

But what I’m interested in is how to design contexts and environments to nurture, accelerate, unlock or direct this emergence, like Mitra’s design of the famous Hole in the Wall facilities and Self Organised Learning Environments. The Hole in the Wall terminals may look like they’re just plonked there, but actually feature many design characteristics that discourage, for example, adults monopolising the terminals to surf for p*rn, as explained in his e-book. Hopefully this explains my dream project, though it seems unlikely that it will fly.

So all this leads into the importance of context for learning. And I’ve, literally, just this moment seen that that’s what we’re covering in Week 2. Which is good.

[Side note: the nosy and/or observant may notice that the previous posts on this blog provide a history of previous MOOCs I’ve started and abandoned due to frustration, lack of commitment, or just life…]

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

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