Teaching Minecraft: Education Edition

Some of you will know that I am currently a facilitator working for the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust. We are accredited Professional Development Providers through Aotearoa, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education.

Recently, we were funded by Microsoft New Zealand to run a series of courses in Minecraft: Education Edition. It happened to coincide with the beginning of lockdown, so it was kinda serendipitous. I mean, how much more appropriate for quarantine than playing in a totally immersive 3D virtual world!?

I’ve learnt a few things along the way. So I thought I’d encapsulate them into a blog. Maybe some other people out there are wanting to dabble in Minecraft: Education Edition and don’t quite know where to start.

Isn’t it just a game?

The most common question we get as educators in this space is “Why Minecraft?”. Generally, because the only experience that they’ve had, as a parent, is watching their child sink hours and hours into what looks like, from the outside, just another computer game. 

There is a whole bunch of reasons why play-based learning is superior to a lot of other ways to learn. So many reasons that I’d have to write a university thesis (or several) to really do it justice. If you are interested, here are some interesting resources I’ve found on the subject:

In particular, Minecraft is so popular that it is familiar to a lot of the students already. This means that you are starting somewhere where they are comfortable.

Great! How do I get it?

As of the writing of this blog (May 2020), all state and integrated schools in Aotearoa have access to Office 365 through the Ministry’s Microsoft Agreement. This means if your child goes to school in Aotearoa, New Zealand, they should be able to use their school login to play Minecraft: Education Edition. Even if the school doesn’t teach it. If you don’t think your child’s school lets you do that, I’m happy to have a chat via twitter and see if we can help you out!

I always write from my perspective here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. If you are not in Aotearoa, you’ll need to check what the deal is in your country. The twitter team behind Minecraft: Education Edition are super responsive, so you could ping them here. You could also probably check in with your child’s teacher.

Getting Started

As you can see, the controls are much like those in any first-person perspective game. At its heart, Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and building. Or it can be about going off on adventures in a vast map full of exciting terrain. It’s an example of what we call a sandbox, a place with no specific goals or set objectives. You make what you want of it.

This is the main point of difference between Minecraft and other computer games. Often games have a mission or things you have to do to complete it. They will lead you in a certain way. Minecraft throws all that out the window and lets you create what you want to do.

Multiplayer!

I’m going to delve into some tricky tech stuff now. This is because one of the reasons I wrote this blog was to share these tricky tech learnings. So if you are a newbie, you can probably stop reading here!

One of the remarkable things about Minecraft is the ability to switch on Multiplayer mode quite quickly. If you are within the same network (you are all at school together, for example) simply choose a child to host a game, and everyone can connect super easy!

Click here to read a how-to if you are in the same network.

What we found, with all this lockdown and global pandemic stuff is the need to be able to do that from many different locations. 

The awesome Sam McNeill already wrote a whole blog on how to configure your router and things to connect here, so I won’t repeat any of that… however, I’d like to add that we found a couple of additional tips and tricks that might be helpful.

Can’t Connect?

In all the online help for multiplayer Minecraft: Education Edition, they suggest that you use the Join Code only. This is a four-picture code which you get when you host the world.

We found that if you wanted to connect across the world, the more foolproof method is to use your IP address. To do that, simply click on the three dots in the same window and pop in your public IP address there. You an use Whats My IP to find out what it is.

In fact, we took this one step further and added a DNS setting to redirect a URL to the public IP address. This meant that when I was teaching, I could just go ahead and tell people to type in an address instead of a lengthy IP address.

More than one game?

The other significant restriction I found was that the Education edition can only have thirty gamers playing at once. The course I was teaching has almost a hundred participants, so I needed to fire up more than one game.

The only problem is that within the game you can’t host on a different port. The game hosts, by default on port 19132. You can, however, connect FROM a different port. 

So some more router trickery was needed, and what I did was route 19130 to computer 2 on the original 19132. I routed 19132 to computer 1 on 19132.

This got complicated super quickly, so I drew a diagram; hopefully, this makes sense to you! If it doesn’t feel free to ping me on twitter and I can perhaps take you through it in greater depth.

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