Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Digging Deep into Google Chrome

I would like to share what I believe is one of the best features in chrome, Start Pages. When you open your chrome browser you can set pages to open automatically. Everytime I launch my chrome browser, my gmail, calendar and school website launch at the same time. With one click I have everything I need to start my day. To set your start pages, log into chrome and go to your settings.

Click on settings and go to On Startup section. Click on open a specific page or set of pages.
Open the sites that you would like to make your start pages and enter the URLs. You can enter more that one by clicking on add a page. Click Ok. The next time you launch your google chrome browser, the pages will load automatically. You will need to let google save your passwords in order to open the pages without logging in.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Minecraft for Writers Week

This week students at Hernandez Middle School are using the Library World from Minecraft Edu to build and then write about what they build. Students have a book and quill and are to write about why they built what they built and to describe it. The Library World has a library they can place their story in. I modified it by asking the students to put their book in the library. So far I am getting some pretty good stories and some good building design. I will publish the best story from the group next week.

Minecraft at TCEA

This past week Sara Richards, Lori Lind, Cara Shipp and I presented what we learned from piloting Minecraft on our campuses to a full session at TCEA. It was fun to see several other Minecraft sessions at TCEA this year. Minecraft is starting to catch on and I can't wait to see where it goes. I know now how my students felt when they were showing me what they knew about Minecraft. This time I got to share my enthusiasm with educators just learning

Sara, Lori and Cara are a great resource and I am so very honored to be working with. I am also excited to see other schools in Round Rock ISD join us in spreading minecraft in education.

My Robotics team used Minecraft edu for their Robotics Project this year. The project question was "How could we improve the way people learn chemistry/" The answer was of course MINECRAFT.
As my students were researching how to help students learn chemistry better they found the Minechem mod and used it to demonstrate how it could help students learn about chemisty. Although we ran into problems getting it to work all the time, it did give them enough information to present Minechem as a possible way to teach chemistry. I will keep working with Minechem and see how we can integrate in our chemistry units in Middle School.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Minecraft in Language Arts

Students had their 4th day on minecraft this past Tuesday after taking a break for Spring Break. Students continue to build their Middle East world. I had some trouble with griefing by one of the students who became invisible. I am going to have to see if I can get some data and find out who it is. I think there is a way to do that, I just need to investigate.

I continue to be amazed and surprised at how well my students can understand the ins and outs of minecraft and put so much thought and complexity into their minecraft structures. After one of our minecraft session, I showed our after school coordinator some of the buildings students were working on. The students were eager to show off what they had done and kept talking about what they were going to do and how they would do it in minecraft. Students craft without having to refer to a resource. So anxious were they to show me how they added the various features to their buildings, that they would take over my machine and make the item they were trying to describe. They seem to know everything about minecraft. During this very lively convesation, I asked the students how was it that they were able to learn all the ins and outs of minecraft and be so creative, but had such a hard time learning Math facts and being creative in their other subjects. One student answered without having to think "because we get to do it." In other words, in minecraft he gets to learn and do on his terms. It's not because he thinks the subjects are boring or not relevant, he wants to discover them on his own. So here's to minecraft and having students create and do on their own. Most of them can do quite well without being told what to do.

Mr. Gembicki has started to use minecraft for his 8th Grade Language Arts Class. He was looking for a project for his advanced students. The assignment is to buid a structure from a book they have read and to write about it in minecraft. Mr. Gembicki is a minecraft player, so he was able to get the assignment running in no time. Students have had about 30 minutes to work on their structures and I have included some screen shots below. I expect this assignment will evolve over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for the final project.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Middle East World

We have only had two Minecraft days since my last post, due to ice days or after school cancellations, so our progress is slow. I am considering tyring to meet more than once a week once we get back from Spring Break.

We continue to try to work on what to build. The tornado idea is on hold since it will require me to install a mod that may not work with minecraft edu. So, in the meantime my minecraft students have decided to build a middle east city (with a little prompting from me). Most of my students are studying the middle east in their Social Studies class so the idea of building a desert city made sense.

We started with a flat desert world and the students decided to use TNT to make a hole in the desert and add an ocean. Filling that ocean with water turned out to be a monumental task and eventually our server crashed. I have also found out that it isn't very easy to get rid of water, so today we started over.

Rather than having students build on their own, I asked them what they wanted to build and assigned them a place to build. They put a perimeter around their space and began to build. This worked well and we are starting to see some good structures in progress.

One of my favorite is the hydroelectric dam. Students have studied that there are some hydro electric dams on the rivers in Egypt so Brian built one using redstone. I have a short video of the dam in operation below.

Here are some of our structures starting to take shape.

I have noticed how well the students take care of each other in Minecraft. They are always willing to help each other and share their knowledge. I have also enjoyed their enthusiasm and their patience with me as they teach me what they want to do and how the game works. I see the value in using Minecraft in the classroom, but I am not sure how, just yet. For now, it is a wonderful enrichment for students. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 1 with Kids

Wow! Did I learn a lot from the kids today. I had 6 middle school boys eager to try out minecraft on the school machines and test our server. They had lots of questions, most of which they answered on their own. I brought the students into the computer lab and explained that they were going to test minecraft edu on our school machines. I was afraid once I mentioned edu, they would lose interest, but they did not. Not knowing how much experience they had, I started them out on Tutorial World. They didn't need it. They were crafting and building without much help and they were eagerly helping each other. At the end of our time, I asked them what we should do with minecraft that would be educational and require them to work together. They immediately mentioned the mods. There were several ideas, but one seemed to create a lot of conversation. They want to create a sort of storm chaser minecraft using the tornado mod and the car mod. Oh yes, and they can teach others about tornadoes while they are at it. Even though I am not sure how they are going to do this, I feel certain, they will bring me up to speed.

The computers worked great. The kids were running around the tutorial world as fast as they could and the computer kept up. The computers did not freeze up and when I teleported all of them back  to build, it was fast. I don't think we will have any trouble with the computers.

So, now I need to get up to speed on the tornado mod as well as other mods and see what the kids can do. I think these kids will do a great job. Next week we will include a few more students and so we will have a discussion about the mods to see if the other student are in agreement creating a storm chasing minecraft. We may even have time to create other worlds. Since there will be more students, we will begin with a Minecraft Charter, our social contract for behavior in minecraft.

My greatest fear starting out today was that students would be more interested in doing their own thing in minecraft and would not be helpful to each other. My other fear was that I wasn't going to like this. I am having as much fun as the kids are. I can't wait to meet again next week. Next week I will have about fifteen students. We will see how that goes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Weather Delay

Our weather turned icy last Tuesday, so no minecraft with students that day. We are going to try again this Tuesday. In the meantime I visited Sara's elementary minecraft class, view her blog at, and watched her students use minecraft. It was helpful to see multiplayer minecraft edu in action. I'm wondering how well my students will play together and what they will want to do in minecraft. I envision students using their creativity to collaborate and create elaborate structures and worlds. Will students have the same vision? I am grateful to Sara for sharing her knowledge. I am going to introduce my students to the Diamond Boots website so they can easily craft items.