I just finished watching The Fellowship Of The Rings last night. I think I may have watched The Two Towers when it came out in the cinemas but I definitely haven’t seen the final film in the trilogy yet – which is why I bought the triple set when it was on special at JB Hi-Fi late last year. I have a bunch of other big movie DVDs that I picked up because they were a good price and because I hadn’t ever watched them in the cinemas. Not because I am cinema-phobic. Far from it. I love watching a good movie on the big screen as much as the next person. But the family experience means that this has been a diet of animated flicks over the past decade.
The other factor stalling my consumption of quality movies and meaty television mini-series has been my infatuation with the internet over the past decade, and my all consuming entanglement with Web 2.0 / social media over the past six years as well. So there is a lot of good stuff that I haven’t watched – a sizeable backlog that I would like to enjoy as I make the time. And as I moved into my new role as an Assistant Principal, I have started to allow for time on weekends and the occasional weeknight to simply chill out in front of the TV, and let a story flow to me.
But I actually want to write about Minecraft.
The prelude of this blog post will serve a purpose as it contextualizes my current position.
I think that Minecraft is awesome. I have never come across something that has grabbed kids’ attention quite like this before, and I’ve tried to work in various ways to incorporate it as part of our school’s learning programs and choices. I have two sons who both love it and play Minecraft a lot. Both play it on their tablets and the youngest also likes to get online on the family PC or my MacBook. When I mentioned Massively Minecraft and the community opportunities on offer there, he couldn’t pester me enough to get him signed up and active.
Massively Minecraft is also awesome. What Jo and Dean (and others) have created with the kids and adults of that community is simply stunning and a tribute to true and meaningful innovation. The different options, the levelling up system, the connection to other kids and simply a space that my son feels an integral part of are all part of this. Unfortunately, Josh has been stuck with my original Minecraft account with the online name “grahamwegner” but he doesn’t really care. He has listened carefully when I’ve explained (as best I can) who set the whole thing up, and he would excitedly tell me about snippets of chat he’d had with Jokaydia (aka Jo Kay). “She’s the only person online who calls me Josh!” He also came across Dean one day who typed in something along the lines of “Why isn’t your Dad in here as well?”
It’s a good point.
See, even without actually going into Minecraft and building something for myself, and becoming part of a community, I know that it all has great worth. I’ve sat and watched my son show off his amazing creations, helped him take a screenshot that he can upload to the Massively Minecraft Forums and helped him scroll through the various options available to help with levelling up. I’ve seen that he has collaborated, and cooperated and fended for himself when dealing with others within the Minecraft world. I’ve seen him develop skills for searching, watching help videos and scanning webpages for key information that he needs.
I’ve walked around my school where I can be accosted by up to five or six different students asking me about when Minecraft will be happening in our school, whether it will be on at lunchtime that day or whether I have any spare student accounts. I will have students offer me information about crafting, and how many pieces of obsidian are required to create a new substance, speaking to me as if I’m a person who spends a reasonable amount of my free time immersed in the Minecraft universe. And it is an important point that I think that Minecraft is more of a virtual world in the gaming sense when compared to other gaming systems popular with students which depend on a linear pre-fabricated storyline where the game player role plays in someone else’s version of reality or fantasy. If I’m noticing this level of interest from my students and my own kids, then surely it follows that I too should be a Minecrafter.
But sadly, I am not.
I haven’t taken the plunge and joined Josh in the Massively Minecraft community, so I can build for myself and connect with others. I’ve stalled and I’m not entirely sure why. It does have something to do with time – not a lack of it, but a choice about what to do with it. I read everything that Dean Groom posts on his blog and I know that gaming is important and that has a role to play in learning today. But I fear my own incompetence. I worry that it will become the thing that replaces my Web 2.0 all consuming phase. And selfishly, I worry that I may never get around to watching the final Lord Of The Rings film.
But I also fear that it will be impossible to champion something without some first hand working knowledge. That would make me no better than all of those gurus who point to their Powerpoint punchline and state ” the future of learning is in gaming” but who couldn’t tell a Creeper from Herobrine.
So, slowly I am going to set aside some time to get better acquainted with Minecraft. This is my public commitment to do so. Help keep me honest.