Monday, October 02, 2017

Pirate Cove Part 2: Digital Project-Based Learning in Minetest

This is post 2 of a two-part series on using Minetest to explore project-based learning with Grade 3 students. Click here to read Pirate Cove Part 1: Digital Project-Based Learning in Minetest.

Step 4: Check

I included a checking step in the project: all of the 'paperwork' had to be done before the teams could earn building time in the game. This was an opportunity for all of the student teams to finish the research and design phases and help anybody in the class that needed extra help. I emphasised that our pirate town is a community and we all had to help each other. This mentality was later seen in the building phase as students asked to help other teams finish their buildings. Our lessons during this project were quite intense and busy for me and this built-in checking step helped me actually have a chance to look over their written work and ask students to adjust their work if needed.


Step 5: Build!

This was the highlight of the project for the students and the part that provided the motivation to complete all of the previous steps! The students logged in and we spent a chaotic first session getting used to the controls, the map we were building on and the plots that the teams were allocated. My students impressed me with their levels of cooperation, they really tried very hard to follow the rules of Parley and stay focused on their objectives. Despite a large range of skill levels, the students helped each other learn basic tips and tricks to make their building projects a success. I rewarded the most helpful pirate of the week with permission to wear a gold medallion which further helped to incentivise helpful behaviour.

The Minetest version we used allowed for the students to customise the appearance of their character, which was massively popular. This feature had the side effect of teaching the students about using Function keys on the keyboard (F7 changed camera perspective) and the importance of a correct username (if they logged in with a differently spelt username they lost their customisation).


We constructed our pirate coves for a total of 4 hours = 1 hour per lesson. In that limited time both classes finished their assigned buildings and worked together to improve their towns. Students came up with original ideas to customise their town: one class worked on a large statue with a pirate hat and another class came up with the idea of creating a path to join up their buildings. Here a sample of one pirate cove being built up over the four lessons.

3H Timelapse.png

The final lesson was set aside for students to leave their plots and walk around the town, exploring what they had built together. At their request, I set the game time to night in order for us to see pirate cove lit up from the light of the lighthouses and other buildings. At the end of the lesson, I asked the students to park their character in a spot of their choosing as we turned the server off for the last time. Most of them chose either a beautiful viewpoint or inside the building they had made. One student gave this advice:

When the time comes to turn the server off forever, make sure you go somewhere with a good view.


Click here to view a slideshow of screenshots from our finished pirate cove project.

Step 6: Reflection

The students learned how to take a screenshot on a computer (print-screen key) and paste it into Microsoft Paint. After saving it, they imported the screenshot into their Building Quest document and completed a reflection page about the project. We then discussed advice we would give next year's students:

  • Don't jump into deep holes looking for shiny rocks, you will get stuck.
  • Work as a team and listen to your partner's ideas.
  • Keep your idea simple, don't let it get too complicated.
  • When you dig don't dig straight down, it's dark.
  • Ask people for help if you need it.
  • Don't sit in chairs, you will get stuck. (we had a few glitchy chairs)

I feel this is a refreshing mix of advice relevant to the game and also to wider contexts!

Step 7: Learning

Learning areas for this project included:

Digital literacy:
  • Online interactions and appropriate behaviour
  • Design process
  • Online research
  • Integrated studies: Pirates

ICT skills:
  • Software: Minetest
  • Software: Google Slides
  • Software: Microsoft Paint

Computational thinking approaches:
  • Collaboration
  • Persevering
  • Creating
  • Tinkering

The students and myself thoroughly enjoyed the experience of project-based learning in ICT this term. The maps for each pirate cove have been saved for posterity and future showcases.

Completed Building Quest Projects:

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