Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Minecraft, the Golden Ratio, and a new journey

October 2, 2013

I’m baaaack…. did anyone miss me?

Laugh. Probably not. Don’t know if anyone reads these posts. I haven’t written very many yet. I hope to be better about that in the future.

So, to start with… let me tell you what I have been working on: a history cum math book which utilizes Minecraft as a tool for students to create representations of what they have learned. And in the process of researching ideas to include in the book, it occurred to me that one of the best possible mathematical topics for exploration with minecraft would be the Golden Ratio.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the idea of the Golden ratio and its use in Minecraft building  is not a new one. There are quite a few  references to the idea, including quite a few youtube videos, Here and Here for example.

There are also wikis such as: The Elites of Minecraft_The Architect which go into great detail about how to use the Golden Ratio in Minecraft building. And finally, there is the following site: The Godcraftian’s Guide to Building: How can I become a great Builder.  All of these sites offer wonderful information for the mechanics of minecraft and I urge you to explore them. They also provided me with a host of ideas and information upon which to draw in writing my own book and I will be very careful to credit them all. This is an exciting and wonderful time to be exploring the world of mathematics and history…  I hope you will join me on that journey.

 

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Creating a Minecraft server

September 15, 2013

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In the wonderful world of Minecraft, there always comes that moment when you decide that you have to create a server. When that moment comes, you dive in, never realizing just how rapidly the waters become deep, just how far in over your head you really are.

 But do not despair. Others have been there before and there are many, many places to turn to for help. Here, on this friendly little page, I have collected a few of those resources so that you won’t have to go looking:

The first of these is a blog article: How to make a Minecraft Server: A safer game experience for Kids  — I mention this article because it specifically talks about designing a server that is kid-friendly, i.e. no swearing, no griefing, with search capabilities if a child (or adult!) should lose his or her home. How I wish I had found this article when I first began building my own server!

HERE you will find a youtube video on how to create a MInecraft video for version 1.6.2. — this is for those of you who do better with a visual/audio demonstration.

On THIS PAGE you will find a collection of links about building Minecraft Servers, including one on building servers for the XBox version and a link to the Minecraft wiki page.

This is a nice, brief blog post on how to make a ‘good’ server — and the advice is good advice, though not technical in nature. It deals with other aspects of running a server that one really should consider.

Another useful blog for parents creating a server is THIS blog post entitled: The Parents’ Guide to a Minecraft Server for your Kids.

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Once you have decided to create a Minecraft server, you need to decide how many people you plan to host. If you will be hosting more than just your family, my advice would be to seriously consider using an outside Server Host. I have several reasons for this: (1) If you host the game on your computer, Minecraft and its attendant plugins/mods/maps etc will eat up space on your computer faster than you can imagine. If you are hosting a lot of people, you will quickly run out of space and the game will very quickly begin to lag for your players. (2) Hosting the game on your computer, opens your computer up to a wide range of security issues.

So… if you are planning to start a Multiplayer server — and believe me, if you have children, they will rapidly move to a level where they very much WANT to play Multiplayer — and you want to go with a remote Server, the first step is to choose the best Server Host for your needs. But which one? There are more than a few.

McProHosting is one of the best known. It is the one that hosts Hypixel‘s server. (They are one of the Demigods of Minecraft. You may not know the name but believe me, your children will recognize it.) It is the one my son uses for his server. But is it the best one for you? Well, in order to give you some options, I have searched out reviews of the top Server Hosting sites. You can find them at the links below:

1) The Best Minecraft Server Hosts

2) THIS post not only offers a list of the top rated Server Hosts but also offers an approach for how to determine what YOU in particular might need out of a server — a very useful list indeed.

3) And HERE is a third list of server hosts and reviews of the aforementioned. You should look at this site, if only for the sidebar in which the poster discusses ‘Minecraft and Time management’ — Grin. It is well worth a read. Believe me!

So off you go! Have a wonderful time. Creating a server is hard work — labor almost. But your children’s delight is a reward worth the effort and they will quickly become involved,  and you will all learn more and faster than you would ever have believed possible,

Educating with Minecraft #1

August 11, 2013

Let me introduce myself: I am one of a growing number of people who homeschool their children for ‘secular’ reasons. (In my case, it is because we were so completely horrified at the way our five year old was classified as a ‘potential future troublemaker’ all because he finished his schoolwork before his classmates…) I have friends whose children attend public schools, friends who children attend private schools, and friends who homeschool their children. I think that each of them has made the best possible choice they can for their children and their families.  And their children — all of whom I like and respect — reflect the wisdom of those choices in their happiness and behavior. Schools and children’s experiences in schools differ. In our case, homeschooling was the best choice.

Now you may be asking yourself why I am going to the trouble of explaining all this? Fair enough — I am telling you WHO I am and where I stand on homeschool versus other educational choices so that what follows will be in context.

As a homeschooler, I am ALWAYS thinking about how to incorporate learning into what happens around us. Life is our classroom. It is much, much easier on me (as teacher) to use something that intrigues and fascinates my children/students, something in which they are already engaged to teach lessons than to construct lessons and force the children to fit into that artificial box.

Minecraft — the phenomenally popular computer/ Xbox game — is an example of such an opportunity. Or, perhaps, for this example, I should rephrase that: Minecraft and Youtube. 

Let me explain: One of the signs of Minecraft’s explosive popularity was the rise of song parodies about the game. Songs such as 500 chunks: parody of 500 Miles and Fallen Kingdom: Parody of Viva la Vida began appearing on Youtube in 2011 and there are now hundreds of such parody songs available to be heard and downloaded. My sons, avid crafters that they are, love to listen and debate the merits of the various songs (when they are not deep into crafting!) and that gave me an idea for a school assignment:

Minecraft Music assignment #1:

1) I will select two – four songs/melodies. From these songs, each boy may choose his favorite.

2) The child will listen to the instrumental version of the song several times. My eldest son, who plays piano, will begin learning it on that instrument. My younger, who is learning the recorder, will start trying to learn it on that instrument.

3) While they are working through the melody, they will be simultaneously working on Minecraft Parody song lyrics to fit the melody. They may choose to collaborate. During the process, we will discuss/study the process that poets and various composers/lyricists have used in writing their music. A poem or a lyric?

4) When they have put words to song, they will attempt to play the song/sing the words.

5) Once they have the song beaten into shape, they can begin to storyboard a Youtube video for the Parody. What are storyboards?

6) As their teacher, I will review their work. When it reaches a good level of completion, we will work together to set up a private channel where they can post their work for those they invite to see it.

This particular assignment meets a number of criteria that I have set out for myself:

1) They will be getting in their music practice in a new and challenging way

2) They will be engaging with the English language in a new an challenging manner (Poetry/Language arts)

3) They will be practicing the ever difficult task of collaboration. Five Tips for Building Collaboration

4) They will be rewarded for their hard work by seeing and sharing the product of that work with others.

5) They will learn greater appreciation of the creative process.

6) They will have fun learning.****

This last one is all important to me because, honestly, if learning isn’t fun — then why do it? When we enjoy  what we do, we seek to repeat the experience. Moreover, we REMEMBER the experience and revisit it in our minds. Revisiting it in memory reinforces it… and that is how learning happens. I learn best when I WANT to learn. I want to learn when I have a reason to learn and one of the very best reasons to learn is because doing so makes me happy… and who wouldn’t want a happy childhood?

So… I am looking forward to some laughter, some yelling, a great deal of frustration (my eldest is a perfectionist) when the words don’t come quickly, and in the end, something magical. I have no doubt about the last because I have seen it happen before… in a book my eldest wrote’when he was five called ‘The Adventures of Captain Wavy Cape’.  I can hardly wait for the songs to begin!

Minecon!

March 31, 2011

Minecon is ON!!!!

Okay — so perhaps you need to be a crafter or related to a crafter to understand the THRILL of that word, the insanity that accompanies the drive to attend… MINECON. Minecon, the great gathering of crafters, as the players/followers of the game of Minecraft call themselves, was first held in 2010 in Washington state. Since then, it has been an annual mania. The last Minecon, held in Paris is 2012 and the 4500 tickets sold out within hours.[ Minecon 2012 Live Stream ] This year’s Minecon, which is scheduled to be held at the Orange Country Convention Center in Orlando, Florida on November 2 and 3 will be larger, the 7500 tickets having sold out within minutes of going up for sale.  Tha t said, the sad truth is that many of those tickets quickly made their way onto E-bay and Craigslist where they sold for thousands of dollars — a mark up of 10s of times more than their original sale price of $150.00.

We — my sons and husband, to be specific — were among the ‘lucky’ones who secured legitimate tickets at their original price. The boys had worked and saved to pay for the price of the tickets and my eldest, at least, has committed to working to pay for the price of his plane ticket. Given that we live on the exact opposite side of the country, that is no small commitment for a twelve year old to make — such is the power of Minecraft.

So what exactly IS Minecraft and why is there such a passion for it amongst children and young adults?

The Phenom known as Minecraft is the brainchild of Markus Persson, a Swedish game designer. The story says that, while unemployed, he began playing an indie game called Ínfinimier’.  When the company that created it went bottoms up, Markus Persson, better known in the Minecraft world as ‘Notch’, began creating his ‘Cave Game.’ It was released in it’s first ‘Minecraft’ form in 2009 and reviewed, as a multiplayer game in 2010. Then the game server crashed! And something momentous happened — Notch made the game FREE but he did more than that. He made the code accessible so that talented programmers could create and ADD their own creations to the game… Twitter and Youtube made Minecraft a topic of discussion — even if you didn’t play, you started hearing about the game. Minecraft began to receive Indie game awards and, to my mind a better sign of the power and range of the game, Musical parodies began to appear on Youtube [Top 25 Minecraft Songs ]

In 2011, Notch handed over control of  Minecraft to another crafter, Jens Bergensten, better known as ‘Jeb’ by his followers, so that he could work on other projects ( Scrolls and 0x10c ). Under Jeb, Minecraft was expanded to the Xbox 360 format. At this point, there are at least 43, 500,000 have registered to play Minecraft but that does not reflect those who play without registering. There is also the educational forum for the game, Minecraftedu .  A growing number of teachers are using the game to encourage higher order thinking in their students, challenging them to think and explore the world of Minecraft in new and different ways.

So that explains the ‘what’. Now for the ‘why’ — Why is Minecraft so addictive?

Minecraft is a deceptively simple game — some people have described it as ‘virtual legos’ but it is more than that. There are monsters and tools and weather and… you. Minecraft is about the crafter. What Notch did was he created a game that keeps on being created. It is an organic, living, growing entity.  It is almost as if ANYTHING that the crafters can imagine can become reality within the Minecraft universe. Young crafters, passionately attached to the game, are learning computer program almost accidentally, as a side effect of their engagement in the game. Terms like ‘mods’ and ‘jar files’ trip off their tongue easily. They tap on keyboards, search websites, create web servers, lan servers, and without even realizing it, become proficient in computer skills that their elders struggled to understand. Minecraft is about imagination, about passion. It gives the player just enough — just enough in the way of limits, just enough in the way of tools, just enough of a push, a challenge, a start, and then… off you go. It is not easy, you have to learn, but once you begin…  And when you begin, you discover that there is a whole community, a WORLD of other people out there who share your passion… Not all of them are nice. Some of them are ‘griefers’, people who will smash what you built, steal your stuff and kill you when your back is turned, but there are many, many others with whom you can build a real community and it is those folks that make the Minecraft multiplayer verse such a draw.

So the answer to the question of ‘why’ Minecraft? is ‘Imagination’.  And, like another Scandinavian creation, I anticipate that it will live and outlive it’s progenitor.

For now, though, MINECON! And yes, though I am not attending, except as a tagalong, I am getting excited too… because, you see, I am a bit of a crafter myself (wink!)