A small group of normally disengaged students were suddenly front and centre in the classroom sharing their video gaming expertise, leading the way with their considerable skill set using Minecraft. I even had one of them ask for the most challenging Greek structure to recreate because he wanted something hard to do!
A handful of the Minecraft high-flyers were frustrated at times just wanting to do it all themselves; we talked about team work, about planning up front a shared vision of the final product and determining areas of responsibility so everyone has a visible piece to the final product. Some students were happy to focus on the written elements - the research and math needed to calculate scale and proportions, and provide the historical context for these structures.
Another neat aspect of this activity is the responsibility that the students have taken for the process. More than most projects, I was the guide on the side, asking the questions, setting up classroom experts with those in need, troubleshooting technical problems, and helping teams build relationships. They know I am not the expert with this medium, content expert, perhaps, but not the communication expert. They rose to the challenge.
Having an immersive virtual space for their project makes possible vidtual field trips. I have briefly connected with a few educators on Twitter about sharing Minecraft product - video guided tours, or even live guided tours on a shared server space with a Skype connection. Our infrastructure at the moment is nowhere near where we need it to be to reach the full promise of international cooperation and engagement, but we can take what we have and make something happen.
Lastly, a couple of technical things that will save us future frustrations:
Make your bed. When you re-enter the game, or re-spawn after dying, you re-emerge at the bed location. If you build to far away from your bed site, it can be a challenge to find your structure when you re-enter the game.
Screen Shots are important. Simply press F2, it will grab a picture of whatever is on the screen and save it in the .minecraft data folder. Use it to accumulate evidence of progress, or to prove accomplishments in the event that the world is lost or destroyed.