Minecraft: 01 Initial Thoughts

I feel a little like I'm looking and leaping at the same time. Minecraft has been popping up in my reading, my young nephew  is an active player, YouTube videos of Minecraft scenes appear in my searches, and I've seen the reddit images of blocky halloween costumes.. Two days ago I purchased a copy and my eight-year-old is already making lists, strategizing and problem solving in his virtual world.

Immediately I could see the potential for use in my own grade 8 classroom: here's a virtual world with infinite unifix cubes., arrays, base 10 blocks, and alge tiles. None of these manipulatives will be found on the floor after class, nor can they be thrown at unsuspecting heads, and everyone will have enough to engage in the task at hand. I thought about recreating ancient sites for world history (to scale, for math), simulating geographic drainage basins for science (and contour-mapping it for social studies), modeling algebraic growth patterns in three-dimensional space, simulating scenes from a favourite story or historical events, generating structures with a specific surface area and volume, in addition to the collaborative community building and "active citizenship" required to co-create in a shared space.

My brain exploded with the possibilities of engaging students in an infinitely manipulable free and open virtual space.

Now to translate the thoughts into action. I understand that collaborative Minecraft worlds require a server to host the world, then users log in and engage from their individual machines. This is usually done over the internet. Our access to the school computer lab is limited to two periods per 6 day cycle; not enough to fully engage in all that I want to do. We did received 20 old laptops from the Computers in Schools program and I have an old wifi router and tower to serve as the Minecraft server but we are prohibited from connecting these devices to the school's network. Fortunately, it appears that there are ways of establishing an off-line, local network server within our own classroom.

So, we have all the gear we need to put this in action. Now the software: about $370 for 24 licenses and the MinecraftEDU supplement; that's $320 more than my annual class budget. The good news is that this is a one-time purchase and not an annual license so I'm hopeful that the school or division coordinator will find money for this venture.

Next step: establish this wireless LAN in the classroom with our older donated equipment.

---- Later in the day ----

Pulled out one of the old laptops, a 1.6MHz Pentium with 1GB RAM with a wifi card. First attempt at running Minecraft, it flaked out with a c++ runtime error indicating javaw.exe experienced abnormal program termination. Here is the Error Log from the attempt. Doesn't mean anything to me, but I understand some people can make sense of it and diagnose issues. I'd sure appreciate guidance!I tried lowering the screen resolution but got the same thing.  I'm hoping there's a simple solution to this and that we are able to use the technology we have to make this work.

3 Comments

  1. If I were to take a guess it would be that you might need to adjust the amount of RAM allocated to the Minecraft program. If you only have 1gb of RAM and according to the error log you only have around 400mb free, I think the default RAM allocation for MinecraftEdu is 700mb, change it in the MinecraftEdu launcher -> Settings -> Client Settings

    But be aware that it might cause some instability when dealing with large worlds, when first released the Mac version only allocated 124mb and that would crash regularly. Just my suggestion, good luck, hope it helps.

  2. Colin says:

    Hit up Redstonehost.com for a free educational server. I use them and they're great. Don't worry about accessing the Minecraft world from school, the students will do most of the work at home (you'll be flipping the classroom without realizing it!).

    I documented setting up Minecraft in our school here:http://edutechniques.com/?p=394

    Have fun!
    Colin

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