Minefaire Is For You

Minefaire is a celebration and an opportunity. If you don’t know what it is, Minefaire is a roaming Minecraft convention that brings together creators and educators and players of all ages. It is a remarkable event that should be on your list of things to do. 

The beauty, the wonder of Minecraft is the flexibility baked into its philosophy and game mechanics. It is the single worldwide software building tool in millions of homes that has openness at its core – there is room for endless development and expansion. 

At Minefaire, you can see diversity of thought and creation – and even better you can meet the people who make maps, games, lessons, and artwork in Minecraft. The community is kind, creative, generous, and full of positive energy. For those who have wondered if all this gaming can turn into a business – absolutely, and there are multiple entry points at Minefaire for young people to get engaged and encouraged to convert their play into other ventures.  

Learning and the relationship to knowledge changes when computers and computing are the mediators between people and ideas. This a fundamental principle driving change in schools and Minefaire is a great example of what happens when we rethink our view of the classroom. 

Minefaire Los Angeles 2019 taught us a lot: Code original programs, customize default behaviors, animate your structures, create stunning two-dimensional art, explore art museums, immerse into mathematical concepts, repurpose Minecraft as a green screen soundstage, design your own games, and get inspired to find your own path and purpose. 

With a wide variety of material demonstrated in the Learning Lab and on the Inspiration Stage at Minefaire, you can discover new ideas all day long. And with professional game designers and production studios setting up extensive gameplay booths for all day play, you can also deeply explore highly specialized multiplayer Minecraft sessions – even in virtual reality. 

The heart of Minefaire resides in education. Yes, you will have fun; you will also learn. Your excitement for what you can do will grow. And why is this so? Because Steve Isaacs, champion of all-things-gaming, is a lifelong educator and organizer of Minefaire. He teaches game design in New Jersey public schools and has garnered great respect from educators and creators alike for his insight, initiative, and innumerable contributions to Educational Technology. 

Thanks to Steve Isaacs, an incredible array of gamers, educators, and creators flock to Minefaire every year in many cities to join this celebration and opportunity. All ages, all experience levels, all career interests, we all show up to see done what we never thought of doing, and we connect with each other to form new projects. 

There is room in this convention to showcase well-known personalities alongside people who passionately want to build an audience – this tells you that Minefaire is about creating an inclusive environment. Official Microsoft Global Minecraft Mentors are there in full force alongside novice volunteers. The same philosophy of Minecraft’s open sandbox environment applies to how Minefaire organizes and includes its vendors, educators, and creators. And this extends to all the attendees. If you play Minecraft every day or if you are just starting to think about it, Minefaire is for you. 

See you at the next one! 










Minecraft Education Tweet Meet

On 09/17/19, I will participate as a host in a global Twitter chat regarding Teaching and Learning with Minecraft. I appreciate this opportunity, and I thank Microsoft and TweetMeet for extending it.

Minecraft as an educational tool sparks my imagination and gets me excited about school, thinking, inventing, and creating every day. Since the game’s inception, I have been playing with my adult friends, my child, and all of my child’s friends. I have created summer camps for kids, brought the game to my classroom as a teacher, taught adults and educators how to play, and engaged in years of building and dreaming with friends across the globe. When #MinecraftEdu became an official software development of Microsoft, I knew that we would see great things ahead.

Learning about Minecraft Irish Elks

We are there. The great things are happening now. Minecraft: Education Edition has opened up new potentials, new possibilities, new ways to dream and think with computers. If you can think it, you can build it. With a refreshed collaborative spirit towards teaching, learning, thinking, and building, Minecraft: Education Edition could be the next best school we have not yet made.

Students ought to think with computers, but too often teachers place them at computers. The computer is an object-to-think-with.

One problem facing computer use in the classroom resides in their long history of sitting in the corner or up against the wall. Even though we frequently use computers as a software terminal kiosk, we have also known for a long time that there was another way to work with computers and students. Minecraft is one of those other ways — so what are you waiting for?

I spotted a Minecraft Irish Elk

Students ought to think with computers, but too often teachers place students at computers. The computer is an object-to-think-with — an opportunity to extend and augment the human brain, not a push-button right-wrong answer machine. Minecraft: Education Edition has so much built in and ready-to-use. And with so much potential for you to build on your own, it will change school forever.

On 09/17/19, at 10am Pacific Time, an incredible group of educators worldwide will participate in a Twitter discussion about using Minecraft for teaching and learning. I hope you will join in, share some ideas, learn some ideas, and begin or continue your own journey into rethinking education with students.

Radio Experiment | Create Boldly

I was open to the possibility. That made all the difference. I was a new high school English teacher in 1997 and I observed student talents and strengths not honored by the curriculum or the classroom. So we started a radio station and built it all from scratch.

Particularly during free time, it was easily observed that our diverse student body tended to self-select groups based on affinities. The nerds nerded. The rockers rocked. The rappers rapped. This side-by-side existence ended with the radio station. Radio became the thing they all had in common. The techies were thrilled to have real content and real technical and engineering challenges to conquer. We found a way to build an ecosystem.

It seemed like everyone passed through our doors. Poets, singer-songwriters, freestylers, storytellers, folk duos, journalists, beatmakers, comedians, experimentalists, turntablists — we always said yes and there was always somebody right behind signing up for something else. They wanted to make quality content that was completely within their control. They wanted to share their work and get feedback from audiences that they would find and create. Others wanted to join the recording crew. Others wanted to take photographs. The more word spread about the project, the more jobs the students invented and the more recording time slots filled.

radio studio always crowded

We started with an idea and made it a reality. We did it. We made it happen. We were scrappy. We found other people’s trash and made it our furniture and our recording equipment and our decorations. We broke everything and fixed it right back up. We took every computer and put it to use. If it was too old to handle recording software, we turned it into a slide viewer playing a continuous loop of pictures documenting our work.

We established ourselves and started writing grant proposals to local organizations and also to the school district. Teachers and administrators would walk through a small winding maze of artistically placed old computers all playing the looped slideshows and make their way to the recording booth. A neglected storage closet had become a cave of wonders. Our big moment came when we were selected by Power 106 FM Radio for our grant application. We drove to the studio to receive a $5,000 check on the air from Big Boy himself. (Photo pinned to my Twitter) The funds allowed us to upgrade so many different pieces of the studio and add new components we had only dreamed of acquiring.

As the ‘every spare moment not in class’ project grew from a corner of my English classroom to the storage closet and then to a larger portion of a new classroom computer lab that I inhabited as my regular English classroom, I also began the process of creating an official elective course that would count on students’ transcripts. With this kind of time in the school day, students would have five hours each week to work and I could dedicate myself properly to all of my other teaching duties.

This radio station grew and grew. With the independent study elective course, we were able to prepare for lunch time events and recording sessions. We could also more efficiently process, produce, and post the original student content to the Internet and the low-power FM radio signal transmitting from a PC tower. It was a passionate pursuit from all the students and they were truly better together — a diverse group of students that needed a common goal.

radio studio scratching practice

I look back and can clearly see the importance of both my willingness to be open to possibilities and my desire to help students see the power of their potential. I persisted with helping them to make an idea into a thriving community. The project started because I am interested in my students and I am always looking for ways to help put their original content on display at school. I have to be their advocate. I have to teach them to trust their creative energies.

Here is the very long sentence that I wrote many years ago. It helped us receive grant money, so it may be a good sentence. Feel free to use it for your own school radio station.

The purpose of the project is to provide musical, verbal, journalistic and creative opportunities for all students to actively participate with technology in ways that display those talents in which they excel, while sharing their unique perspectives and expressions with a global and real audience.

You can do it too! Create boldly.