New to use Minecraft in education?
I have some experiences to share...
They need a ruler
If you think you as a teacher shouldn't be needed anymore when you add a game you're wrong. I thought so myself, but had to change my attitude after my very first 36 hours in game, the time it took for my students to build up a city and started to argue about childish things (scale of houses, amount of houses, roads and such). And we started the vanilla server on Thursday and Saturday morning I had to clear out some conflicts...
During those first 36 hours they had built what you see in the first 1:40 minutes in this clip. What comes to city building you could use this Swedish site Futurecity.nu and it's lessons plans (lektionsplaner) and use Google Translate on it, that would be enough to get inspiration.
Student democracy works to a certain limit but you as the teacher have to be the president of your new world. Students can be prime minister, minister of transport, minister of education, Minister of agriculture but you can't leave all responsibility to only students!
Your present in the classroom or the virtual classroom have never been as important as now. You need to have them focused on the target and your goals, they need your guidence.
Besides been doing a full scale practice of using a government in Minecraft (without add myself as president) I have also tried to mirror a student group as a company (nuclear power) and I got the same result / experience.
The emperor Teacher is vital in game!
Small modules rather than a large entity
What went wrong? Well, the whole (task) became too large. They didn't know where to begin and therefor they did anything (else) but what you (as a teacher) had planned or hoped for.
I once had a modded server with industrial craft, and as that mod enable you to make nuclear power and nuclear weapons I thought that was a challenge they would be interested to solve.
What I thought they should build (picture from here)
What they actually built
First when I stepped in and gave everyone a task to fulfill they started to come closer to my master plan. But I had to make them understand they needed to have builders, workers, woodcutters, guards and more. Expecially when you add a game, a chance to work in 3D, students struggle with the big picture. With that said, they have easier to understand coordinates in Minecraft (3 axes; x, y & z) than on paper (2 axes; x & y), an example here.
Before they start to build they should have a working gameplan!
The SAMR model
If your biggest challenge is that you're afraid of boring the kids when you start each lesson with "build a model of..." you don't yet have realized the full power of Minecraft.
I know SAMR model is severely criticized but when you use Minecraft in education it's a very good tool to use, I've bloged about it here.
If you only tell your students to "build a model of..." you havn't changed the task enough to achieve more learning. You're only on level two of the SAMR model: augumentation.
You have to change the task, and it's here many teachers start to criticize the SAMR model as you now have to change your course content which, of course, mean more work for you. Deeply sorry, but those teachers are not only lazy but also to blame that students of today loses interest of education.
As my school now should use the SAMR model, our teacher's usually not come any longer than step 2: augumentation and here's my favourite example. In the mother tongue course you should read a book and write an essay of it, let's check SAMR model:
Instead of write the essay on paper, students now write it with Google Docs.
Students collaborate in google docs and are also able to comment each other work.
Students read the book and build the book in Minecraft
Students roleplay the book story inside Minecraft, make a movie of it and upload it to Youtube. You have to come up with a storyline, you have to document the whole process and while do that you can prove you have understood the book in several ways than just on paper.
Now we have changed the task from only read the book and write about it to experience it and also transformed it to a complete new task.
Next thing that traditional teacher's hates: when you adopt tech in your teaching, you're also going cross curriculum. The book example above is not only language but STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
So, the good thing is, if you're colleagues are open minded, they don't have to use a game in their classes, but use the magic of it. For example, we're now have eSport as a free elective course. The best way to help our students to improve in their hobby is to help them with exercises in the gym (strength and endurance), language teacher have the course as a discussion topic, math teachers can use the topic to probability theory, the four operations, percent and statistics.
If you need inspiration what to build, use plain LEGO instructions. Together with my daughter we've built Friends Lego inside Minecraft where she had to reflect over scale, math, problemsolving and be creative.
Previous examples and experiences: