Today’s session begins with a discussion of gameplay. There are two items on my agenda:
1. The objective – I remind the children that they are building ‘a community’ and encourage them to think about what this might mean for them.
2. Gameplay mode – last week some children requested that we play in survival rather than creative mode.
Item one produces no discussion. Number two, however, is something that they’ve all been thinking about. I propose a vote and they unanimously elect to try a session in survival mode after half term. I agree. At the end of the session, however, some of the children have changed their minds as they have enjoyed this session so much and they request another vote before the next session before we change modes.
The children also want to discuss the behavior of some others. They are not happy with some of the dominating play strategies employed by some seen in previous weeks: mass spawning of animals, invisibility potions. Rather than imposing restrictions I propose that people think about the impact of their actions and everyone appears to be ok with this.
Minecraft Edu itself seems to run without problems now that all of the laptops have the same version installed. However, the laptops themselves still present barriers. This week, many of them are not fully charged (they either haven’t been plugged in in the cabinet, or they have been used during the school day and have run down before their nightly charge). As a result I have to unthread a number of chargers from the laptop cabinet and bring them to the classroom. This means that I miss some of the first part of the session, some children enter the game later than others and children’s seating positions are again dictated by their proximity to a free plug socket (this classroom, however, is perhaps better equipped than many as there are a large number of sockets on one side of the room where there used to be a computer bench). After a few minutes another child’s battery has gone dead. I offer to grab another charger but he says he’d prefer to work on the same laptop as another child.
I have decided to spend a large proportion of this session in game, as I haven’t used this strategy much over the previous sessions. As a result, I find that I end up with much sparser fieldnotes. I’m using quicktime on my laptop to record my screen and to also record the audio in game and in the room – reviewing the footage afterwards I have a surprisingly audible audio recording, alongside my in-game view. Perhaps I need to be less concerned with accurately transcribing the most audible speech accurately in my fieldnotes in future if I continue to use this method, freeing up my notes for other purposes.
My first task is to turn off the weather cycle. Whilst I was sorting out the charger issues a number of loud requests came from across the class for me to ‘stop it raining’. I had enabled weather and day/night some time last week. The group however generally seem opposed to this change, so I relent.
‘Yes! He turned off weather!’
‘Thanks, Mr B!’
In game I try to locate some players but it takes me a while – I’m surrounded by horses and the group seem to have relocated to another part of the map, perhaps to avoid the herds of animals. I notice a number of new constructions.
B: “The sheep police are here. C? Do you have a license to do that?”
C: “Yes I do!… Can you stop trying to free the sheep?!”
‘We bought a zoo… Well, we made one!’
Discussion turns to films.
‘Has anyone seen the lego movie?’
There’s a snippet of song sung out loud:
R: ‘Sitting on the Toilet / Sitting on the Toilet’
I look up to see what might have prompted this but can’t tell. The boy who sings it is stood behind another player as his laptop has run out of battery. (I later find the origin of this song: A viral youtube video. Another example of intertextuality.)
Free the Sheep
B: ‘Isn’t that a bit tight on the green sheep, C?’
C: ‘What do you mean?’
T: ‘It’s just a game!’
C: ’They don’t have feelings, they’re artificial beings!’
M: ’Be free, my friend!’
C: ’Are you freeing a sheep?’
There’s a snatch of the William Tell Overture hummed by B –this seems to signify movement in the game, at speed. Last week it appeared when the children were riding horses, this week it seems to be also applied when moving fast towards a destination.
B: ‘Free the Sheee-eeeeep…’
Now B is singing to the tune of ‘Do they Know it’s Christmas Time’ by Band Aid. For a very brief moment I remember my dad bringing home the 7” vinyl of this song after work on day in December 1984… But back to this story…)
T: ‘And protest against C’s Sheep hotel….’
B: ‘Let them know…’ (he hesitates, trying to fund a suitable word… eventually resorting to the original) ‘it’s Christmas time!’ This incongruence seems to heighten the comedic effect and I laugh.
S: ‘What are you singing?’
B: ‘The sheep song’
T:’Free the Sheee-eeeeep…’
Four minutes later the song returns.
B: ‘Let’s protest against the Green Sheep Hotel’ (so, it’s now become a protest song?)
B: ‘Free the greeeeen sheep’
T and B together: ‘Let them know it’s Christmas time again’
T: ‘No! It’s Christmas time, not prison time!’
They test out some other words.
T and B together: ‘Let them know it’s….
B: ‘Easter again…’
T: ‘No! Let them know it’s freeing time’
B: ‘Let them know it’s freeing time’
Across the room M takes up the song on her own, but to a different tune (It might be ‘Boogie Nights’ but I might be wrong.)
S: ’Let them know it’s freeing time / Boogie’
C has had enough. C: ‘No! Can people just stop it!?’ He sound like he means it. There is a quiet pause and the song is put to rest, for now.
A couple of boys come and stand behind me. I’m looking around the map in game but they seem interested in what extra blocks I can use as a teacher. I’m surrounded – in the game I’m ‘watched’ by the static avatar ‘Famamlamlad’ whilst behind me I’m being watched by ‘Famamlamlad’ in the material world.
There’s some in-game play – ‘sonnyjimbob’ is seated in a boat at the top of the water slide. I watch as he launches himself down the slide. He lands in his boat in the pool at the bottom and slides to the end before breaking out of his boat and leaving my view.
There’s some talk about this water slide and a proposed zoo:
S: ‘It’s not, like, exotic animals… It’s lions, giraffes, kangaroos….’
And as with the previous two sessions, the server connection is lost just before packing up time. This must be something to do with the local network connection rather than the game itself as I’m still connected on my laptop. The children gather round to see their Avatars still present in the game, levitating and frozen. It’s slightly eerie.
I ask the children to pack away. I not how reluctant they seem to get moving as they seem to want to continue their conversations, but we all have homes to go to…. Next week is half term, which will give me an opportunity to look at my data so far without producing any more. And when we return I intend to look more closely at the participation of some of the less vocal members of the group as I’m conscious of often being led, so far, by the most visible events and actions.