Some people said I was crazy to do it, others said they were too young and others still said that it would be too hard!
On Tuesday I ran two lots of one and a half hour Raspberry Pi Minecraft workshops with year 3 students at a local school.
The students had just started a healthy eating topic based around the food that Tim Peake would use on the International Space Station. This gave me a good hook to introduce the Pi and more specifically the AstroPi.
The year 3 teachers wanted to me to do something fun with Minecraft and include a element of text based programming.
The lesson resource I used is here (worksheet 7) and simply gave students an opportunity to post a message to the Chat Window and then change the code to change the message.
The lesson followed my general formula for Minecraft workshops and I was really pleased with the effort and determination by the students.
- Welcome and Introduction
- Familiarisation of Minecraft Raspberry Pi edition controls
- 15 minutes to either build a rocket or a Moon base for Tim Peake’s next space journey
- Introduction to code activity
- Students type the code into a blank text file
- Teacher runs code from the terminal
- Whilst students are waiting for help they can return to their original designs, reducing any waiting time
- Students were very keen to type in text and use their partners to check each line
- Generally students will forget the capital letter M in mc = minecraft.Minecraft.create() but with the attention to details and checking less students made this mistake than I would have expected.
- Many of the students in the class couldn’t find the key combination to type a “ or (
- Students showed resilience and were very excited when their first chat message appeared on the screen.
Would I do year 3 again for my workshop - absolutely!
During our curriculum days I was given an opportunity to run a Minecraft programming workshop with half of year 7 and half of year 8. This is a workshop I already run at other schools and events so was excited to see what my students would make of it.
The theme for the day in Science was First Aid so we had a look at building a 3D hospital in Minecraft using a few lines of Python code.
For most of the students (apart from the ones who come to Raspberry Pi club) this was their first experience of writing a text based computer program. Students were given a worksheet with the basic program which they had to type in and then run. This was a challenge for many students who found the task of copy typing accurately very difficult. Once the code was written and the hospital was built students then had an opportunity to tinker with the code to change the dimensions and the materials the hospital was made from.
It was a really interesting experience giving the students "an hour of code". Most of the students engaged with it well and were keen to type in the code and tinker with it. Some became frustrated when their code didn't work and they had to go back and debug it.
Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi is definitely a great way of introducing students to text based programming.
The code for the hospital can be found here.
The students will have to design, build and evaluate Red Cross Emergency hospitals in Minecraft.
To give the students a head start I have written a Python program to build the shell of their hospitals for them.
A video posted by MrUkTechReviews (@uktechreviews) on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:00am PDT
The code is available here:
Minecraft Raspberry Pi club has been running at school for just over two terms now. After introducing the students to the Raspberry Pi and learning how to set them up we embarked on a series of projects based on resources which can be found here.
Initially the idea would be that we would spend 20 minutes ‘playing’ on Minecraft, followed by 20 minutes doing a simple piece of practice code and then 20 minutes having fun.
After Christmas I was interested to see what would happen if they were just given time to ‘play’. It was at this time that I networked all the PI’s so that they could do some multiplayer Minecraft.
The results were really surprising and shocked me. The students were really quick to ask me where the project cards were as they wanted to do different specific tasks with the code rather than just play. The best bit was when students started showing me how they had adapted the code to do a specific task.
One of my main aims with the Raspberry Pi club is to help students develop the skills to become independent learners. It looks very much like this is happening!
Many of the students were really big Minecraft fans so I was off to a great start. After the usual quick build challenge we moved into the first of our activities. None of the students had used Python before but very quickly realised that you have to type the code in exactly as it is on the sheet. The first task was completed quickly and students were displaying messages in Minecraft.
The second task (making Steve fly) was really enjoyed by the students and many were keen to see what happens if they send him off in different directions! It was really good to see how quickly the students picked up the tasks and were at one point showing the older prefects from school how to do things.
A very common theme I have noticed when talking to colleagues about the new Computing Curriculum is the need for students to starting coding at an early age and how daunting this is. Activities like today reinforce for me that students are really keen to do programming and want to push themselves to extend their knowledge and skills.
It was a great deal of fun and all the students who came had a really great time and the feedback was extremely positive.
During the session we
- Looked at what a Raspberry Pi is and experienced a first boot
- Learned how to log into the Pi and start a windows environment
- Started Minecraft and had a play
- Learnt how we can write code into the MInecraft API
- Wrote our first program and displayed chat messages on MInecraft
You can download the worksheet we used here