Final Countdown to GiverCraft!

This last week before GiverCraft begins has been spent finalizing details with a couple of significant changes.  The most significant changes that impacted my tasks, were the approval of a dedicated server to host GiverCraft, several teachers cancelling their enrollment, and the addition of a new teacher.

We started the week with two handshake meetings to get teachers updated on all the logistics they need to have in place before GiverCraft begins.  The meetings were well attended and it was great to meet the teachers, hear about their students, and discuss logistics for next week.  I followed up with teachers who did not attend, to remind them to listen to the meeting recordings as well as to check the shared folder for GiverCraft Teachers for the latest information.

The good news of getting a dedicated server for GiverCraft also meant that we had to scramble to get it ready and get new instructions to teachers very quickly.  We would also be taking a risk by asking teachers to make adjustments at this stage; there have been many challenges getting the MinecraftEdu client approved, downloaded and installed, not to mention the Java issues.  I rewrote login instructions to include the new server address and sent it to teachers.  Thankfully, it’s a small change on their end, only requiring an extra step of changing the server address, but it still will take time on their end to implement.

The dedicated server was still a major addition that will enable us to have a smoother experience and enable teachers to have their students in whenever they need to.  We had one time slot with one student more than we could accommodate with the old server, so having more room for students, means we don’t have to worry as much about transition time as each class enters and leaves the game. We will certainly need to pay attention to any issues that come up but it’s great to have more room to accommodate schedules for each class.

With the new server came teacher requests to add days and times in the game; I spent some time this week communicating with teachers and adjusting schedules as needed.  Several teachers had new students in their classes which meant generating new usernames and passwords, creating wiki pages, and updating class numbers in the schedule.

Unfortunately, we have several teachers cancel their enrollment this week.  One school had just installed their own MinecraftEdu and would not be able to use our client on their student computers.  For two classes from another school, rolling back the Java would compromise other programs that were needed and their school was not willing to make the adjustment and accept the risks.  Another teacher pulled out because she was overwhelmed with her other responsibilities and was not able to commit the time to prepare for GiverCraft.  With teachers pulling out, I had to reshuffle zone assignments and send updated zone assignments to affected teachers.

There were some teachers who received administration approval only this week so they had to scramble to install the client and get it running on the student computers.  Several teachers were also impacted because they had to attend conferences and trainings and would have less time to prepare; one teacher would be in training during GiverCraft so her students would miss two days in the game.  We are going to allow her students two extra days to complete Scenario 2.

The dedicated server and cancelled classes also meant that we could add classes from our waitlist.  Only one Alaska teacher responded and was able to add her class to GiverCraft on Friday.  I had a conference call with her and the district Tech Director to discuss tech requirements and the GiverCraft Community Agreement.  With the Tech Director already being very involved in MinecraftEdu programs, it was encouraging to see how quickly they were able to approve the late enrollment and coordinate getting the client installed on student computers over the weekend.  I spent some time talking to the teacher and getting her caught up on what she would need to begin on Monday.  I also added her class roster, usernames and passwords, scheduled times for her students, and added their wiki pages.  The students in this class had also just finished reading “The Giver” and didn’t even know they will be participating in GiverCraft.  It’s going to be an awesome surprise at school for them tomorrow!

I have two tasks that I also want to complete this week:  A storyboard for our Celebration Highlight Reel (thanks to Thomas for offering to create the video) that we will send to teachers to share with their students, and a one-page infographic/stat sheet to share with teachers and students – we’d like to show all the locations of our participating classes.

Dr. Lee and I created a schedule for monitoring students in the game this week.  With classes on the east coast, we will be in the game as early as 4:00 am AKST!  I created a Google Hangout event for the first day so that teachers could jump in and chat with us if they are having issues with the client.  All the hard work we’ve put in will be tested tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to getting the first day of GiverCraft started!

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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