Hosting a Minecraft EDU Server

The Center Grove Middle School North Minecraft Club decided to build, host and maintain our own MinecraftEDU server.  My previous post was what do kids learn while playing Minecraft.  In this post, I would like to outline some of the foundational work we did to help make our server successful.  My MinecraftEDU classroom as an extension of my real-world classroom.  It is a virtual learning space I teach my students.  The real challenge with a school server is few students have ever played in adult supervised video games.  Students have either only played single player video games or they have played multi player games on more mature oriented servers.  This leads to students who knows nothing of collaborative game play or another students who think it is everyone for themselves (ie. “The Hunger Games” and “Lord of the Flies.”)  Here are a few of the steps we took to establish a positive, collaborative culture on our server.

Have a Plan

Step one was to have a plan and communicate that plan to the students.  Our primary goal early in the year is to develop a sense of community.  I have a call out meeting to provide basic information and establish the server rules and expectations.  There are many types of Minecraft servers out there and we wanted all the students to know what type of server this would be.

As with my classroom, we keep our server rules simple and positive.  Our rules are Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect the World.

1) DO play and talk to people nicely.

2) DO build in your area.

3) DO respect other people’s areas and things. You should avoid using people’s farms, mob grinders, and items unless you are expressly given permission. You should also build far enough away from people that your constructions won’t be visible from their areas, if they request. You SHOULD ask before you start building if somebody was in that area first and respect their wishes if they don’t want you to build there.  Along this same line of thought, if you happen upon an unprotected chest in what’s obviously a claimed area, or a chest that contains obviously non-spawned items, use your head and realize that it’s probably somebody’s stuff, and it would be unkind to take it.

4) DO respect public and wilderness areas. Floating leaves,  tall single block columns, random water/lava covered mountains and half finished piles of plain cobble houses drive me bananas, and not in a good way.

5) DO respect the server itself and its community. You should avoid doing things that cause any kind of lag on the server, whether it’s fast cycling redstone, excessive mobs (generally >30 of a type) in your grinder or farm, giant piles of TNT going off at once or 1000s of amounts of items laying around.  Abusing bugs and glitches, even if it’s a problem with vanilla minecraft, also falls as a violation of this rule.

6) DO use your head! Above all else, if you can do something that seems wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s ok, it just means that I haven’t taken time to fix it yet. If I do have to take several hours to change something that people are abusing, that is probably going to make me extremely unhappy with those people, and they will probably not enjoy the results.

The First Night

While many of the students who come to Minecraft Club have played the game before, some have not.  We review basic game controls and how to move around.  I have students create an outline of the first tasks to be accomplished before the first night.  We identify what resources and tools will be needed.  Often that list includes wood, food and shelter.  We make a design model for the first day and review the basic recipes for the required tools.  While this seems very basic, it helps even seasoned players to begin to think about design thinking.  I also have a copy of these basic recipes available for students new to the game.

Now What?

After the students have the basics down, the real fun begins.  On our server, the goal is to thrive and survive as a community.  We assign roles like farmers, miners, lumberjacks, and explorers.  Each of these groups is organized into trade guilds lead by an experienced player.  The goal is that students have to work together as a community instead of going off and doing their own thing.  We are working together against the game, not working against each other.  I am always amazed at the community that develops from this division of labor.

I also like to do some simple civic planning to model for students how cities are organized.  There are designated areas for shops, forge, enchantment table, library and so on.  Some of these blocks require rare materials that can be difficult to obtain or take a long time to farm.  Making them available to the community allows all the players to advance further.  I love this part of the club as we plan and then build an entire city.

As a long-time gamer, I love sharing my passion for video games with students.  The friendships forged on countless dragon raids and castle sieges are among the deepest and most rewarding I have ever had.  We are able to embark on epic adventures and accomplish amazing quests together.  Minecraft also appeals to many students who struggle to find a place they belong.  Many of these students are not athletic and can find it hard to participate in team based games.  This opens up a new opportunity for many of these kids and one that many thrive in.  I like to use this Minecraft Journal page to help students reflect back on their game time.

Let’s go punch some trees!!

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