So I asked the experts, my students, what I should do differently. The first thing I asked them to tell me about is Minecraft. We used it to build neolithic settlements, we used it to learn about the agricultural revolution and the development of trading and cities, and we used it to build Greek buildings in Minecraftopolis.
But I never felt like I did a great job with the Minecraft work because it was all so new to me. I was constantly learning and relearning. I didn't know how to fix the issues that came up, and I had students destroying other students' work.
So I asked students to help me reconceptualise it. To start over and see what we could do with Minecraft that would be more meaningful.
They had some great ideas.
Another suggestion was to build a house typical of lower-class people from each civilisation. Again, like a timeline, only the history of the 99% and the way they lived.
Then, the best idea: to build a world that could be used as a background for puppet plays. In other words, create a whole new world where they could customise what would be seen on screen. A 3D world that could be perfectly timed to what's happening on screen.
That is an amazing idea. They get to create the world, write the story, time it all up, perform it, and edit it. It takes everything just one step further.
For their last project, students had to create the backgrounds in Google Draw to go behind their puppets. That improved the quality and appearance of the videos much more than I thought it would. But imagine: Odysseus is on an actual ship in the water. The water and the sky and the ship are all on screen behind him. He jumps into the ocean and it actually happens.
And the students get to be even more immersed in the content and think about camera angles, what is visible at what time...everything.
History is supposed to be fun and interesting and immersive. I love how Mindcraft supports the curriculum while being so engaging. And I'm looking forward to incorporating student ideas into the Minecraft curriculum next year.