As I was driving my son home from basketball practice yesterday, we were talking about his new favorite subject: Minecraft. If you’re not familiar with Minecraft (some schools are using it with their students), it’s an online game where participants can create worlds and interact with each other. There’s a lot more to it and I’m certainly no expert (ask your students, they’ll probably know), but it’s his new big interest. One of the things that players can do in this game is to modify it to suit their needs. In fact “mods” are a pretty big part of the game and give you additional ways to interact with this digital environment.
Luckily, I have instilled in my 9 year old a healthy skepticism of the “free” things that are found on the internet. But, also being 9, he REALLY wanted to mod his minecraft game and he just knew that I could figure out how to do it. “After all, you’re a computer guy,” he tells me. Now, let me be clear, I like video games and I do play them, however, I have not delved into the world of Minecraft except to install it for him, watch him play and now, begin thinking about how to mod the game.
The first mod he wanted to do was one that, upon doing a little research, seemed to be a virus. No to that one. The next one seemed to check out so I began the process of figuring out which files to copy, what to delete and what to keep. It was no small task but, with the help of YouTube and some Minecraft forums, we got it done. After a brief, “Thanks Dad” he squeezed past me and was off to play.
Yesterday was not the first time the topic came up. He’s be after me for the last few weeks to mod his game but, I was resistant simply because I didn’t understand it. I think this happens more often than not in classrooms, not just with technology but with ideas and practices that are foreign to our experience. We know what works, but do we know what works for every kid? How do we reach those that seem to be unreachable? Could it be that we need to learn something new and give up that control to make that connection, even if we’re unsure of the outcome?
Last night I was part of an experiment that could have gone wrong. We could have gotten a virus or deleted a crucial file to make the computer boot up. Luckily we didn’t, but what if we had? At that point, we’d have to deal with it and the learning would continue. I took a risk and learned something last night. When was the last time you learned something? Was it new or was it adding information to a previous experience? Finally, how can you allow your students to take risks in their own learning?