Highlights from my first week of data collection

I have had a fun time observing Givercraft teachers in the MinecraftEdu game world this week.  Teachers have a schedule for each class to be in the game throughout the week.  Two (2) teachers have a single class that meets on specific days and two (2) teachers have three (3) classes each, that meet regularly every day.  So far, the tools and strategies that teachers have been using include:

  • Using border blocks to contain students in a specific area
  • Using a single block type and color which is laid out on a level surface to give the students a “blank slate” for building
  • Giving special items to students for specific purposes (use of the Home block for each student to be able to return to their buildings)
  • Teleporting students to and from the Home spawn block
  • Teleporting to students to respond to questions or issues
  • Teleporting students to them (if they are lost or need to return to an area)
  • Freezing students either to get the attention of the entire class or to stop an individual student who is griefing
  • Muting students who are spamming the chat
  • Muting all students to get their attention
  • Using the chat to encourage collaborative and positive dialogue between students
  • Requiring students to only communicate through the chat tool (as opposed to speaking to each other in the classroom)
  • Using the chat to make reminders and announcements about tasks and expectations
  • Walking and/or flying around the zone to observe student behavior and work
  • Mediating conversations in the chat
  • Giving instructions through the chat – distribution of labor or assignments to specific students
  • Checking in with the class about progress on specific buildings/structures; students respond when their building is announced and report on progress or time and assistance needed for completion
  • Using chat to engage students who appear unfocused or confused (basically you can’t tell what they are doing or what they are working on)
  • Walking the perimeter of each structure of building, walking inside and inspecting details and asking questions in the chat related to the builds
  • Assigning teams of students and sectioning off areas in the zone for each team
  • Using the chat to discuss and re-iterate themes from the book and recommend strategies to students
  • Using the chat to teach students how to edit and use their controls
  • Giving 10 and 5-minute “warnings” until the end of the game time so students have time to finish tasks before logging out; reminding students to log out and write in their wikis
  • Using the chat to encourage, affirm, and praise students individually and as a class for positive behaviors and building progress or details
  • Using chat to “call out” students who are violating the Community Agreement and “warning” students about inappropriate behaviors and use of items (especially potions!)
  • Timely responses in the chat to general questions asked by students and to specific requests for help or clarification (that go unanswered by other students)
  • Helping students in the game with labor intensive tasks – breaking down structures or clearing land
  • Staying in a general area when not “patrolling” so that students may find the teacher easily

This is just a quick list from my observation notes and does not assume what specific strategies are used by each teacher.  This list also does not include the tools and strategies used by students in the game, which would be another research study on its own.  However, I plan to analyze and discuss the student behaviors in my summary as they relate to the teacher tools and strategies.  I will also be receiving the game chat history for this week and then a daily record at the end of each day for the duration of the Givercraft experience.  Without trying to get ahead of myself with only a week’s worth of observations, there are still some important themes to note from what I have observed this week.  First, as I expected, the teachers all use the same tools but very different strategies to moderate and monitor their students in the game.  Second, as far as I can tell, the teachers implemented the unit plan with different strategies – based on the student behaviors, how the teachers organized the students, and the progress or types of work that students have completed this week. Third, teachers are all participating as themselves and not as characters in the story; certainly not a requirement or expectation, but for all the teachers, their role in the game is guide, facilitator, or task-master/monitor.  Fourth, the two (2) teachers that have several classes in the game, use more or less the same tools and strategies for each of their three (3) classes.  It is my guess, but I think this is an extension of their own personal classroom management plans and styles.

As far as revisions for my data collection plan, I need another column or section on my observation note-taking to incorporate student behaviors that prompt or necessitate the teachers’ use of specific tools and strategies while they are in the game.  For example, if my observation is that a teacher is helping students in the game with labor intensive tasks – breaking down structures or clearing land, I need to include a note about the factors or student behaviors that contributed to that.  In one case, a new task, or rather a change in task or building strategy made it necessary for one student to attempt to clear a large area by themselves.  This was neither easy nor a good use of the student’s time in the game and it was easier to just help the student to get the area cleared quickly so that he could move on to his next task.

I’m in the situation right now where I know I will have a mountain of data to analyze.  Next week, only one teacher with a single class will be in the game since the other teachers and their students are on spring break.  I will still observe this teacher next week and resume observations for the rest during the third week.  I have the in-game observations figured out, now I just need to get confirmations from the teachers about individual interview times; the chat history for the game, google hangouts and groups transcripts will be easy to compile at the end of the data collection period.  I have been enjoying the observation although it is extremely tricky to “follow” teachers in the game.  The students seem to be enjoying the experience and have quickly built the Community as described in the book (The Giver, by Lois Lowry).  Here are some screenshots from this week:

5 thoughts on “Highlights from my first week of data collection

  1. Wow! Your project sounds so interesting. I just wish I knew more about Minecraft to understand it all so I could ask better questions or give better advice. I understand what you mean about having a lot of data to go through–I feel like that’s where I’m at right now. It’s important to sit down as soon as possible after my research time to sift through what I have. Otherwise I forget what happened and am not able to be as reflective as I need to be. It’s amazing how much data we can collect after only a few days!

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  2. I am a little overwhelmed with the amount of information in your data collection! You have been busy! Some of it is quite complicated. Perhaps I feel this way because I have never played Minecraft but only watched over the shoulders of my own children, so I do not have a strong understanding of the game. I am impressed with your mountain of data, and a little concerned that you will be able to organize and analyze it all. After all, we are fresh researchers, just discovering the process if data collection and analyzation. Do you need all of this information to answer your research question? I just fear the complicated mountain of data will be overbearing, and wonder if you should modify your research by simplifying or limiting your data collection. I do not want to discourage your amazing enthusiasm – I am very impressed! If you can do it – awesome! Just making sure you are not getting too in-depth.

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    1. What a fun project for those kids, and teachers! Thank you for sharing those screenshots. I would recommend choosing the data that is more relevant to the initial research question you began with, and keep the important key point you want to take away from this experience. It is quite amazing, all of the information you are collecting and how much there is to be learned from the project. Just remember to keep focus on the questions you are trying to answer when sifting through all of your recorded information. Great Work!

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  3. Wow! That is a lot going on. It is a wonderful project for the students, and I love, and have from the beginning, that you are incorporating MinecraftEdu into it. It can be a great learning tool. I can’t imagine the amount of data you have to go through. I am glad right now that I only have 11 students – and 6 days of data collection. Not really, but you have a lot of work cut out for you. I hope that with all of it, you are still able to find time to enjoy it as well.

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  4. Reading all this is a little mind-blowing for me, but I get a sense of your enthusiasm for the game and the data your collecting and makes me wish you could implement Minecraft in my classroom. Sounds like you will have a mountain of data to analyze but hopefully you have a good plan for collecting and synthesizing so it won’t be too overwhelming. Maybe this week, with fewer classes, you’ll have the time to begin organizing it and find helpful tools like I did with Google Forms and Google Spreadsheet. Like someone else commented, I’m sure you’ve already narrowed down to what is essential to your research question so are overwhelming yourself with irrelevant data. If you do have extra data that isn’t essential to your question you can always add it to the discussion or next steps section of your paper.

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