I’m always looking for innovative ideas to engage students with digital tools. Ernie Cox and Marija Musselman are pushing the envelope on creative instructional design with their integrated social studies unit on ancient cultures at Prairie Creek. Last year was their first attempt at this type of unit. They gave the students different options to create models of the ancient architecture associated with the cultures they were studying. I thought the output was really interesting. Kids used all sorts of tools: Google SketchUp, Legos, even brownies to create these models. But, the most interest came from using MineCraft.
So, Marija and Ernie approached me about ways to make the MineCraft experience a smoother one for their students. We all did some independent research and settled on MineCraftEDU. This vendor provided a relatively inexpensive and education friendly way to give students access to MineCraft worlds. We setup our own, locally controlled MineCraft server. The only cost associated with this unit for me was purchasing the MineCraftEDU Mod licensing. We purchased 32 concurrent licenses for $18 per connection for this Mod. This means that an unlimited number students can use our server, but only 32 at a time can connect to it. We already owned all of the server operating system software and the MineCraft server software is freeware. So, this was very little cost for this project that will impact over 400 kids each year.
The unit was just launched last week. So, there’s still a lot everyone has to learn about the entire process. But, there are certainly a lot of excited students at Creek right now! Here’s a brief description of the unit from Ernie:
5th grade students have researched the architecture of ancient civilizations. These civilizations have been the focus of study in social studies. Using their research they will collaboratively build the architectural feature of their choice, including appropriate geographic features and provide signs to explain the structure (this draws on their knowledge of text features like captions to inform the written part. When these are constructed they will provide virtual tours for classmates across the building.
Again, I’m always on the lookout for innovative ideas like this one. If you have a project idea and need help to launch it, drop me a line to talk about it. Often I can provide resources to help you get a new idea underway.