Featured article

by Yasemin Allsop

I am aware that the computer science aspects of the new computing curriculum creates extra work for some teachers as they need to learn many unfamiliar concepts. I know this can be challenging and time consuming, but I think we are very fortunate because there is a vast range of free programming environments /apps available for teachers to use for teaching computer science elements to children. What we need to remember is that the program itself doesn’t just make children develop computational thinking, the context we use, the pedagogical approach we employ shapes the learning experience of our students.

On the next page I have shared a simple activity which can be used as a main task or as an assessment task at the end of a coding session. The aim is to support children to design solutions for a specific purpose by selecting and using correct blocks in a sequence. These activities can encourage them to think in logical steps which is the main foundation of problem solving skills and at the same time provide opportunities for peer or whole class discussions.

Before this task there are some hands-on activities that you can do with children that will help them to design and use algorithms, which is a key element of programming. You could:
1-Ask the children to design their own dance routines in small groups on paper. Then let them try out each others dance algorithms. Remind them to use functions such as ‘repeat’, ‘If’, and ‘forever’.

2-Download the vector version of standard Scratch Blocks created by Paul Heather from the link below:
Print the cards and laminate them. You can use these cards to practice specific actions with the children before moving onto the on-screen program. The children can work in small groups to give instructions to each other using the Scratch cards.

An example solution for the dance task can be seen at: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/43629216/

Click here to download the ‘Let’s Dance’ task in pdf


The first teachmeet in the capital of Norway took place early in January, in the University of Oslo. Forty teachers and some representatives from ed-tech related businesses and startups attended, many more watched the live stream. This is part of a strategy to bring teachers and developers together in an ed-tech cluster, and a decent way to kick off a new year.
A teachmeet is a good way to meet other teachers, share practices and get updates on educational technologies. There is an abundance of excellent ideas and relevant technology out there, but content in school does not change by itself. Enthusiasts and professionals need support and motivation to keep up their good work. Distances in Norway can be difficult to overcome. The distance from Oslo to the Russian border equals a trip from London to Istanbul, and since there are far less people living there – they seldom meet.

The teachmeet in Oslo was organised by Digitalpedagogene, the Norwegian answer to CAS and similar organisations and companies who train teachers in technology and pedagogics. There are two different types of teacher educations in Norway, the Universities and the “lærerskole”, academies who are less oriented towards research. Both Universities and Academies are having a hard time keeping up with the development, and this is one of the reasons why private companies like Digitalpedagogene are in demand.

Building an arena for ICT in schools is important to the Oslo region. Every year, swarms of Norwegians seek out the BETT show in London – to get new impulses from abroad, but first of all to meet other Norwegians who are interested in school and technology. Some are there to sell, some are fierce network builders, and some are just there to hang out, but in the end, they are all part of a movement who agree about one thing: there is an urgent need for change in education, and ICT is bound to play an important role. The emerging coding movement, “Lær kidsa koding”, has also had an important impact.


First, there was an interesting introduction from a local celebrity. Professor Sten Ludvigsen, head of the advisory commission working on “framtidens skole”, the future of Norwegian schools, presented his views on what direction he would recommend to the politicians. A short resume: Cross- curriculum and problem based learning, self-regulation and collaboration – everything normally associated with the 21st century skills movement – is the recipe to success and innovation. It remains to be seen if politicians will choose to listen to Ludvigsen, one can only hope.
Norwegian schools have a tradition for being progressive and student centred, but the last ten years have been different. Old fashioned governance of schools and increased focus on teach-to-test has cemented the contents in schools, forcing teachers to take responsibility for school development themselves. The national authorities have also delegated responsibility for schools to a communal level, which has led to bad investments, confusion and increasing differences. As a result of this system failure, teachers went through a bitter strike last year, and the wounds between school leadership and teachers still need some mending.

A teachmeet must be both informal, informative and entertaining, but nobody expects anyone to have the qualities of a stand-up comedian and a professor in education sciences at the same time. Still, those attending, got excellent presentations on gaming, Arduino and robotics, the use of iPad in music lessons, Minecraft in kindergartens and how to use fan-art as a learning method. There was enough content for several teachmeets, and there is hopefully still more to come.

This was the first teachmeet in Oslo, and there will be many more. Once the word spreads, and more teachers loosen up to the concept, there might be hope that a new tradition has been born.

On 18th October Staplehurst School celebrated Code Week UK in style with our 2nd U Can Too – Mozilla Maker Party.  We saw visitors not only from our own school, but many schools from the local area, as well as schools from as far afield as Snodland, Romford in Essex, and Surrey. We even had two lovely visitors from Korea, who were performing government research on the UK Computing Curriculum.

U Can Too was so busy that we couldn’t register everyone who walked through our doors, but we do know that we had more than 350 who came along and gave coding a go at our event.  We were exceptionally lucky to be invited to apply for a grant from Google, even luckier to win that grant!  Our 1st U Can Too event saw just under 100 people attend, so we increased our publicity campaign and added many new activities; both enabled by the funding from Google.  With such an increase in numbers attending we were pleased that we made the right decisions and thoroughly excited to see families working together to create so many different coding based projects and having so much fun.

Our activities were very varied, including unplugged coding activities, like our giant version of Robot Turtles as well as the more obvious choices, such as Scratch.  We also had activities that we made ourselves with some good old-fashioned wood, these were very popular, especially our ‘Crack the Code’ game and our ‘Sphero Maze Challenge’ both of which our Code Club got the chance to get in on the coding.

Here are some of the other activities that our visitors spent their 2 hours doing: Giant Voice Controlled Human Crane, Life-Size Robot Turtles board game, Mozilla X-Ray Goggles, Sphero Maze Challenge, Sphero Arena, FUZE Raspberry Pi’s, Code Club Scratch Creation – Crack the Code, Scratch programming, Scratch Jr, Looming with algorithms, Zu3D Animations, Soldering, Minecraft, Lilypad eSewing, Electric Paint.  We also had a shop and an eSafety area.

There is more info on our event blog, please find the link below:

As well as our U Can Too event we got up to many other activities during Code Week UK.  We delivered training to parents sharing with them several of the programming tools that are available to their children at home, we took our Digital Leaders along to present an ‘unplugged’ coding workshop at Code Week UK’s London event, which was an amazing experience for us all and our Key Stage 2 children presented an eSafety Expo, including acting, singing and debates on a variety of eSafety topics.  As well as all this our Code Club and Digital Leaders had some extra special sessions during Code Week UK.  Code Club were visited by Vicki from FUZE who delivered a fantastic workshop using FUZE Basic to Code Raspberry Pi’s and controlled a robotic arm using the Raspberry Pi.  Whilst our Digital Leaders were visited by Lego Education for a Lego WeDo workshop challenge, our DLs worked in pairs to see who could make their Lego WeDo Motorized Spinning Tops spin for the longest… it was a tie, Samantha and Eleanor v Sam and James.  It was impossible to tell which finished first when both spinning tops stopped in unision!

As you can tell, we had a very busy week exploring the world of coding, and most importantly we loved every minute of it!

Our U Can Too event, was the biggest part of our Code Week UK endeavours.  We are very proud of the success of our event (and the week in general) and attribute much of it’s success to the funding provided by Google.  With this in mind we would like to say a huge thank you for your invitation to apply for it and also your support for our involvement in Code Week UK.  I am still working on creating a video of the DLs review, I should have it done for you by the end of the week.  In the meantime, here is a short review from one of our DLs about our presentation at your London event:

James says:

“CODE WEEK UK on 15th October
This activity was very fun. I particularly enjoyed talking to Ross and Mathew who were computer scientists, as well as teaching grownups our unplugged activity. Ross & Matthew taught me that there are different ways of sorting which are quite exiting. If I was offered the opportunity, I would definitely do this activity again. It was very informative. Personally I think it would be a school trip that all of Year 6 would enjoy, but it would be too crowded. If next year’s Digital Leaders are given the opportunity to represent us again, I would say, go ahead, it’s a great experience!”

2014-10-15 18.52.59

You Can download the starter kit from:


More than 90 millions people have tried an Hour of Code so far thanks to the playful massive open online course made available worldwide by Code.org. The Hour of Code is the most famous of the many cloud-based visual programming methods that have provided effective support to computer literacy campaigns targeting not only IT-gifted pupils, but neophytes of any age, regardless of their aptitudes and dreams.
Unplugged activities can further contribute to the diffusion of computational thinking, spatial reasoning and problem solving skills, lowering the access barriers in terms of age, infrastructures, and socio-economic conditions. This paper presents a method for organizing unplugged activities that retain the immediacy and effectiveness of the Hour of Code.

The method is called CodyRoby to emphasize that computer programming entails two roles: the role of Cody, a coder who provides instructions, and the role of Roby, a robot who executes them. At the beginning there are only three instructions: move forward, turn left, and turn right. Each instruction is represented by an arrow drawn on a playing card. While playing, Cody selects the cards to be passed to Roby, who moves on a chessboard accordingly. No equipment is required. Cody and Roby are just characters played by the players of the game. Having not only to write a code segment, but also to interpret and execute it, adds to the learning experience provided by CodyRoby with respect to its online counterpart.

The Cody cards
Cody cards are used to represent instructions as the blocks of visual programming tools. In order to make the game as intuitive as possible, instructions are represented using only symbols, with no words. The three basic Cody cards are shown in the Figure. They represent spatial instructions Turn Left (turn to your left without moving), Move Forward (make a step ahead), and Turn Right (turn to your right without moving).

Each card has the size typical of a playing card (about 1.97 x 2.76in) in order to be easily handled and packed in a deck. The instruction associated with the card is represented by the big arrow in the middle, while the two drawings in the upper part explain the effect of the instruction, showing the position of Roby on the chessboard before (to the left) and after (to the right) execution. The borders of the cards are shaped to suggest that they can be concatenated either vertically (top-down) or horizontally (from left to right) like pieces of a puzzle.

The DIY Starter Kit
The starter kit is freely available online (http://codeweek.it/cody-roby-en/diy-starter-kit/). It consists of 6 A4 pages to be printed out, cut out and folded in order to obtain a deck of 40 Cody cards, a card box, a folding chessboard that fits into the card box, and the Roby pieces to be placed on the board. A silent video tutorial is available that shows how to cut out and fold the kit (http://youtu.be/D5hQ9UTDQ6s).
Instead of using the kit, teachers could engage pupils in DIY activities aimed at the design of more creative Cody cards and pieces.


The Unplugged Games

There are many unplugged games that can be played with CodyRoby. Some of them are described on the CodyRoby website, many mores will be posted soon. Hereafter I outline only two of them, that are particularly suited to experience the unplugged Hour of Code: The race and The tourist.

The race
cody 2The Race is a board game for two players (or two teams) of any age. The players draw a random path across the chessboard by marking with a pencil all the squares along the path. The suggested path length is of 8 squares, that can be marked by the two players in turn (e.g., two at the time). Cells must be contiguous, i.e., any new cell must share an edge with the previous one.

The Roby pieces are placed at the beginning of the path and all the cody cards are placed at a side of the chessboard, separated by type into three decks to be easily found and picked up. When everything is ready, the players clap their hands and the game begins.

Each player (or team) has to take the cards from the side decks and to place them in sequence in from of her/him as fast as possible in such a way that the sequence of cards can drive Roby along the path. The player who finishes first presses the GO! button and tests her/his solution. This is done by moving the Roby piece along the path according to the instructions provided by the cards. The other player follows the test and tries to find an error or to think at a smarter solution (i.e., a solution which makes use of fewer cards). If the solution is correct and no shorter sequences are proposed by the other player, the fastest player wins.

The tourist
cody4The Tourist is a spatial game for kids to be played by two teams. The game play is similar to The Race, with three main differences: i) it is played on the floor, ii) Roby pieces are replaced by a girl or boy playing the role of the tourist (an impartial referee possibly not belonging to the two teams), and iii) the path leads to the image (picture of drawing) of a monument.

Being a real-world spatial game, the path has to be drawn on the floor. The ideal material to be used to this purpose are puzzle play mats, but simple sheets of paper can also be used to compose the path.

As in The Race, the two teams start by composing a random path. This is done in turn by placing puzzle tiles (or sheets of paper) on the floor. Then a drawing representing a local monument (possibly drawn by the pupils) is placed at the end of the path, while the Tourist takes place at the beginning. Cody cards are divided by type into three decks placed on a school desk. The two teams work on two desks placed at the same distance from the main desk.
The game starts when the Tourist asks directions to the monument. The two teams have to run to get the cards they need and to put them in sequence to compose the directions. Then the cards are stacked up in a deck with the first instruction on the top. The team who finishes first provides the instruction stack to the Tourist who tests the solution following the instructions under the supervision of the other team. The fastest team wins if the solution is correct and no shorter solution is provided by the other team.
The Unplugged Hour for Code
The Hour of Code (http://hourofcode.com/) challenges online users to provide spatial instructions to a videogame character to help him/her find the correct path throughout a maze. There are 20 mazes of incremental difficulty. The first 5 mazes make use only of the three basic instructions, while the following ones introduce loops and conditional branches.


The unplugged hour of code consists of playing CodyRoby games using as paths the mazes proposed by Code.org. In particular, the first 5 mazes of the hour of code can be directly played with the starter kit on a 5×5 chessboard, as shown in the Figure. These 5 paths can be proposed as a warm-up activity before allowing pupils to design their own paths.

Cody cards representing Loops and Conditions will be released in February 2015.

The focus on teaching children programming skills is growing every day. There are many tools that have been designed to support children to develop their logical thinking and problem solving skills. We talked to Filippo Jacob and Matteo Loglio, the founders of Primo, wooden programming blocks, designed to teach logical thinking to children aged 3-7 and asked them about their journey.

How did your story begin?
In early 2013 myself and my co-founder Matteo Loglio decided to create a company with the intention of designing and producing products to help children and novices learn, play, and create with technology. This is how Primo as a company came to be. Myself, Filippo Yacob, and Matteo are both creatives and technologists and we know that in order to be creative and express oneself, technology is incredibly important.

PrimofoundersThe first product we worked on if the Cubetto Playset, a tangible interface designed to introduce programming logic to little children (3 to 7), without the need for literacy. The goal of the game is to drive a little robot called Cubetto back to his house. To accomplish the goal, children have to program the little robot using a limited set of physical instructions: forward, left, right and function. While the first three are rather intuitive, the last one calls a sub-routine, an extra line of instructions packed in a single command.

What was the development process and the rationale behind it?
Teaching programming to children is a widely debated topic. We are aware of a moderate number of solutions that try to accomplish this for children above the ages of 8. However, there aren’t many of these solutions suitable for younger children, and there aren’t any that work without a screen or without the need for literacy. We see an increasing number of Apps for tablets and computers that also work in combination with physical robots, but none of them are completely free from the pixel domain in the same way the Cubetto Play Set is.

Wood was chose as the main material, first of all because it’s natural; you get a warm feeling from it and it makes a nice sound. The second reason is cultural. Observations were conducted on games used in traditional kindergartens in Switzerland (where the product was originally designed) to discover that the games loved by children were all made out of wood.
Wooden toys are very durable and you can see marks and scratches on them, signs of their past usage from other children. It’s a material with memory. Wood was also chosen as a material because of the stark contrast it creates with technology. Inside of Cubetto there’s a circuit board, but we wanted to create a “magical” experience, hiding the complexity of the play set.
primo-mfr14-8The concept behind the Cubetto Playset is heavily inspired by the work
of Seymour Papert, a mathematician who co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky, in the sixties (if you are interested in the subject, we encourage you to read Mindstorms, his most famous book). He was directing the team who invented LOGO, probably the most used and long lasting resource to teach programming to children. The goal of Seymour Papert was not just to teach code, but also to help children discover their own personal way of solving problems. Primo can be considered an extreme simplification of LOGO and the physical turtle. We limited the instructions, to their purest form, avoiding any kind of textual or numerical language.

At the beginning the robot was a toy car. A very complicated and time consuming shape to produce, as it’s a laser-cut shape glued together layer by layer, and subsequently sanded for over an hour.

The car had another major issue, it was very boy oriented. We wanted to avoid entering in discussions about ‘brain toy’ producers being criticised of only producing boy-oriented toys. We wanted to stay neutral, we didn’t want to create a toy specifically for boys or girls, and instead opted for a very neutral geometry, a box.
A name was given to the little box, along with a personality and a similey face, making it even more appealing for children. The robot is called Cubetto (little cube in Italian). The idea with Cubetto is also to create a basic module that can be expanded and customized easily in the future.

How can it be used with different aged children?
primo2Out of the box it’s a great tool for children aged 4 to 7, they play and program a robot using colourful blocks. It’s a game, and it’s fun, they don’t really think about what they are learning. They don’t need a screen, and they don’t even need languages because there is no literacy involved, something important when considering multicultural environments. We tested this assumptions with workshops across Europe, the Middle East, the USA… it works the same no matter where you go. There is no learning curve, even for teachers, which is important considering that teachers sometimes shy away from the right products due to their inaccessibility. It differs from a Beebot for example, because the “coding” experience with the Cubetto Playset itself is tangible, and there is a direct reference between what the robot is performing and the instructions they gave Cubetto.

It becomes interesting for 7 to 12 year olds though, because the robot has been designed to be assembled and taken apart without any screws, using plug and play electronics. The robot by himself is essentially a Robot that anyone can build and code in minutes. A school that isn’t interested in the early years experience can just get the robot. It comes as a kit with a shell, a chassis, wheels, motors and a PCB that serves as Cubetto’s brain. The PCB is open source, and everything is based on simple plug and play electronics.

Children use scratch and Blockly to program the robot, and can just plug in a new sensor to change the behaviour of the robot, and even craft new creations and inventions. For 12+ year olds, people can simply purchase the Cubetto Board, which is a great prototyping platform for electronics, programmable with Arduino.

Activity ideas? 
The out of the box experience for both the Playset and the Robot is quite intuitive. It’s based on free play, which is what we encourage. Show children how it works once, and let them go!

One thing we do is a cardboard robot workshop, where we get children walking around a grid dressed as Cubetto the Robot, while handing each other instruction blocks. This helps even super young children come to grips with Playset, and it’s also great fun.

Which computer science concepts can be taught using primo?
The Playset focuses on the queue of instructions. They can design, predict and write programs using the blocks. They can also easily debug by changing a block in the sequence. It’s simple and powerful. They can also learn recursions and negation using two special blocks we created. With the Robot by itself, there is basic robotics and physics.

Can schools use it as part of the curriculum?
Some schools already do, and we freely publish lesson plans that guide educators through the core concept mentioned above. It’s all available from our website:

by Nicola Schofield

So, I passed a building site for Crossrail in London and I started puzzling about tower cranes. I looked around me in London and there are SO many cranes – often building huge skyscrapers. How did they even get the cranes into place on the building sites?

This is a tower crane and here are the questions I have about tower cranes in particular:

What’s their purpose?
Where are they used?
Why don’t they fall over?
How much weight can they lift?
What couldn’t we do without them?
How do they work? (takes you to a web site which may contain unsuitable links, be warned – “Think before you click”)
How do they get on site?
Who controls them? where from?
How were tall building built before cranes? What are the alternatives? What’s the benefit of a crane?
What other types of cranes are there? Next time you are out & about, why not look out for different types of cranes and take some photos for this blog?
Which birds/ animals look or move like a crane? Why? How do they get food?
PS If you are interested in Crossrail and how they made the tunnels under London you can watch the BBC documentaries here – it’s fascinating!

Can you:

Draw a crane
Design a crane
Make a crane in Lego/ Meccano/ wood etc
Test your crane & modify/ stabilise it
How much weight can your crane lift?
In school, we will be using Phil Bagge’s Human Crane activities to start thinking like a computer-controlled crane! We will develop practical algorithms and look for patterns that can be turned into procedures and repeat instructions. We will then develop these ideas using a Logo program.

Can you program a tower crane or a grab machine game? You could just write an algorithm or you could have a go in Scratch 2.0 eg http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/2520260/

image source:www.krhicranes.com/

by Ben Eilenberg

Generalist Teacher/Robotics Coordinator at Silverton Primary School.

Microsoft Innovative Educator

One of the big questions being asked these days appears to be, ‘how can we integrate programing into the curriculum? It is also an important question as the National Curriculum, in Australia is slowly introduced. One of the key requirements is having students learn to write computer programing.

As a grade 1-2 teacher, I believe that it is important to introduce students to simple programing at an early age and make it fun and educational. Within the classroom, I first introduced the students to ‘Kudo’. (A game making platform created by Microsoft). The aim was to get students engaged in using a fun interactive platform, which linked in to game consoles that they already use, such as Xbox.

robotics robotics1

Initially it is important to not just have the students’ sit in front of the computer and create a program but actually be introduced to a process and encouraged to take risks and understand how to problem solve. The grade 1-2 students got in to small groups and played some games that other people had created in Kudo. In my opinion, it is important to have the students reflect upon what was good or bad, what type of game it was and how did you win or finish the game. As a class, the students also discuss what other styles and types of games they have played that they enjoyed. From there, they then think about what type of game that they want to create, the audience that they would create it for, how the game would be played and how the game will be finished.

As a group, they then go away and plan their game. This involves answering the previous questions and creating a storyboard of their game. Once they have planned, then they create their game in ‘Kudo’. At the end of each session, students have to reflect upon 3 areas, how did they work as a team, what challenges did they face, what did they work on and what do they still need to work on?

They then use this at the start of each session to remember what they needed to work on and tackled any challenges that they have faced, using problem solving skills.

After the students complete their games, they invite other groups to play them and reflect upon what they liked and what could be improved. This gives the students a chance to go back and improve upon their games before releasing it to the rest of the school community.robotics4

Throughout this whole process, other parts of the curriculum are linked in to the process. Within literacy, students read articles and books on computers, programing and technology. In the area of the humanities, students research the history of computers, how it has changed over time and what affects it has had upon society.

By starting this process within lower levels of the school, their programing and problem solving skills can become more complex and detailed as the students move through the school. From using Kudo, students can move on to writing their own code using program such as Python, following the same process. The process also helps the teachers to assess the students on their understanding of programing, teamwork, writing and computer skills within the classroom.

by Marcin Siekanski

The history of humanity is a consequence of education and the ability to teach and learn. Almost all inventions have had to follow the hard road to being accepted by societies or cultures. The ability to read or write hundreds of years ago, had magician stigmatas and problems with social affirmation. In our recent history we see the same problems with medical inventions, electricity, photography, the beginning of movies … and finally computer games. Every young generation has their own way of learning and exploring. Technological and scientific progress is moving very fast. Almost every country has a problem of “education lagging behind the cognitive abilities” of the young generation. Games could improve the education process and also make it more attractive. The biggest and most important world resource isn’t oil, gas or uranium but the youngest representatives of our society. The old-fashioned way of teaching is making education dull and unattractive. It does not fit with their needs, whilst computer games, on the contrary are an ideal fit. I’ve been thinking for many years about how to best use games to improve the learning process. Finally a year ago I created a small group of students aged 14-18. I’ve improved lessons using various games. I’m teacher of history and history and society, so the game bias has been targeted towards the humanities horizon. For Example: The history of Europe and World

  • Ancient times- Rome Total War, Europa Universalis Rome, Ceasar, Mount and Blade…
  • Medieval times- Rome Total War BW, Crusader Kings, Sims medieval, Mount and Blade…
  • Modern times- Europa Universalis, Empire Total War, Victoria, Mount and Blade, Hearts of Iron, Capitalism…

I’ve highlighted only a few of the computer games. I’ve used many more but these are simple biased towards history and writing about the whole project / intiative would have been very long and elaborate. After entering into the world of game education, my new role started, nevertheless the teacher position isn’t disappearing at all, on the contrary, it is evolving to a higher level and it’s going to become much more conscious. Because of a lack of scenarios to match to lessons, I’ve saved many of them. I’ve copied them to every computer so that students know what to do and had the same materials to use. Books were used to describe events, names and various concepts founded in the game. I’ve changed the tasks to be undertaken from those that were old and dull, often made by people, who had sometimes never seen school, particularly since the fall of the iron curtain to new tasks. For example:

  • Take a screenshot when you see a gothic castle, an Arabic castle and describe them…
  • Try to win the battle of Waterloo as Napoleon.
  • Find the names of medieval clothes in your book and make a screenshot of everyone mentioned in the task.
  • Write about various scenarios and why you’ve chosen these options?

Of course there were many more tasks. A number of positive conclusions exceeded my expectations. These abilities/skills were vastly improved:

  • Creativity
  • Ability to self- education and seeking for answer
  • Ability to communicate both orally and also in “written word”
  • Students found an attraction in books to find solutions to ”quests” in a game
  • There was a higher tendency to explore internet for wisdom than for “time-killing” sites
  • Imagination

And much more… the game market is like a gold mine. I’ve been researching it for many years. For open-minded educators it could be a great tool to teach with. For games corporations, it could also be an invaluable source of money. Profits taken from connecting educational systems with game producers would be beneficial for both sides. The simplicity of this “task” is lying between the group of open-minded educators and game producers. If we could connect these groups and create a communication link, GBL could create real fundamental advances. Throughout my years of research, I’ve found basics to biology, geography, social sciences… for almost every subject found in every curriculum. I’ve put below screenshots of various games. Try to imagine that every screen is a portion of names, conclusion. Every second is huge step in a process of learning and remembering, but there is of course the teacher’s part which is always the most important. games 2 games1

by Timothy G. Weih

Ph.D. Associate Professor of Education

University of Northern Iowa, USA
The purpose of this article is to describe a computer club that was based on the video game Minecraft in hopes that others interested in developing either a Minecraft Club or any kind of a computer club, will find this information useful. The club met in July of 2014 at a public library located in a rural town, i.e., under 10,000 population and not close to a larger city, in the Midwestern United States. The members were eight boys ranging in age from 9-12. The structure and organization of the club followed a format similar to a book club, but instead of a book, the main text was Minecraft.

The club met on Mondays and Thursdays weekly during the month of July from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the meetings were scheduled to fit around the library’s busy summer schedule. The meetings began with the boys gathering around an oval table in a small conference room. This was for the purpose of developing some camaraderie between the boys with the common association of Minecraft through discussion and sharing. The boys talked about the content of the game, their personal achievements, and updates to the game, and they set personal gameplay goals. In addition, the librarians, at my request, had placed numerous books related to the content of Minecraft in the conference room for the boys to browse through while they discussed the game.
The books included titles from the following categories: animals, farming, and crops; rocks, minerals, gems, metals, and mining; land features, biomes, and trees; tools and weapons. Each of these categories was further defined with specific items that were part of the game. Moreover, there were nonfiction and fiction books about survival, hunting, camping, engineering, architecture, smelting, masonry, and Medieval Europe-all topics within the game. The books were spread out on the conference table before the boys, and they would casually pick them up, browse through them, talk about the content in relation to the game, and the books were available for them to check out from the library. The purposes of the books were to help the boys see the relationships between the game, literature, and subjects of study in school, i.e., social studies, science, engineering, architecture, and math. Equally important, the books could help the boys have a deeper understanding of the contents of the game, thereby increasing their knowledge and enjoyment.

The boys also brought items from home to talk about and share that were connected to Minecraft (artifacts of the game). These items included things they made, books, action figures, legos, paper crafts, plush figures, clothes, and soft tools and weapons. The purposes of these items were to further build conversation around the contents of the game, thereby fostering a game-based culture within the club.
During the first club meeting, the boys were each given a booklet that contained a statement about the purpose of the club for the members which was to play and have fun with Minecraft and to talk about the game and learn more about the contents and gameplay with each other. The booklet had the meeting agenda, which was to first meet for 15 minutes in the conference room to talk, share, look at books, and set personal goals for gameplay for that meeting. This was followed by one hour of gameplay on the computers during which members can talk, share, and help each other. The meetings concluded back in the conference room for the last 15 minutes to talk about gameplay, achievements, and game strategy.
The booklet contained the club rules, which were the following: use school or library volume for your voices; when someone is speaking listen without talking; it is okay to disagree, but act kindly and use friendly words; and always let your club leader know where you are in the library, for example, if you go to the restrooms, or if you are leaving to go home. Finally, the booklet contained some basic directions for how to get started in the game and some essentials about how to play the game.
Following the conference portion of the meetings, which lasted about 15 minutes, the boys met at the library’s desktop computers to actually play the game. There were eight computers, separated into groups of four computers to a table, with a large library reference desk service area that separated the two groups. This was located in the central, open part of the library surrounded by the library’s bookshelves, and not in a separate room. The library had reserved and set aside these computers just for the club’s use. The boys played the game on these computers for the remainder of the club meeting time.

Reflections about the Club
The library performed as a central location within the community that most of the boys were able to ride their bikes to, thereby providing for easy access for them. Some boys were brought by their parents along with younger siblings and the parents remained in the library browsing books, attending other programs with their younger children, or doing their own job-related work on their personal, portable computers. Sometimes the parents, along with the boys’ siblings, interacted during the time the boys were playing the game, thereby making the computer club more of a family literacy event, than a detached club. Additionally, other children in the library frequently stood next to the club members while they played Minecraft, which furthered a sense of community.

The club met twice a week for four weeks during the month of July. There were many advantages for this type of schedule. Since the club met on Mondays and not again until Thursday, I had an ample time to create any materials that I saw the club members needed and get them ready for the next meeting. I also had time to work out any details that came up with using the library and the computers. Most importantly, the members had a long duration to get to know each other and develop trust and friendship, and this scheduled frame also gave me plenty of time to develop working relationships with the library staff.
Mornings worked out well because most adults from the community were at work and not using the library, and the hour and half of each meeting period gave us enough time to develop camaraderie before gameplay, and still have enough time to play the game. I had initially planned for the boys to meet back in the conference room to discuss their gameplay and have some kind of a conclusion or wrap-up for each meeting, but from the start, it was difficult to get the boys off of the computers, so this never did workout. So, to conclude, I would tell them when our meeting was almost over, and then they either left with their parents, or rode their bikes home.
The club was structured around the format of a book club with the video game taking the place of the main “book” or text. Book clubs were planned activities that the library frequently held, therefore, something that was familiar not only to the library staff, but also to many of the children in the club. Giving each member a booklet that contained the purpose of the club, what happens during the meetings, club rules, and some basic directions for how to play the game, proved to be very useful. I saw many of the boys reading through the booklet during the conference time and using it during gameplay on the computers. The same procedures and rules were followed for each meeting, thereby lending a sense of stability for the children.
The Books
The library staff gathered several dozen books all related to the content of Minecraft from the categories and topics that I had given them. These books were placed in the conference room, and I scattered them around the oval table that the boys sat at so they could readily see them. Initially, the boys expressed surprise to see the literature connections of Minecraft, and
the boys frequently picked up the books and looked through them, but they did not bring them to the computers, and they did not check any out during the meetings. The reason for this could be that they were very focused on playing the game, rather than reading books. They may have checked out some of the books after the meetings or even at a different time while visiting the library. Seeing literature related to the content of the game, rather than only manuals on how to play the game, was a new experience for most of the boys, and one that may have delayed results, so I recommend keeping this component of the club.
The Artifacts
The artifacts were objects either self-created or purchased by the boys that were related to the game. This went over very well. All the boys brought items to talk about and share. There was some mock sword fighting that took place, but all in good fun. A standing source of anticipation, amusement, and challenge was to be the first one to spot the ever-roaming plush Creeper that hid in different locations around the conference room. I stressed that they could bring something self-created, and this is very important considering not all families have the same abilities to purchase items and specialty clothing. For example, one boy brought his self-developed journal of handwritten crafting recipes (a major component of Minecraft).
Library Spaces and Materials
The library conference room with its large, oval table situated in a smallish room with huge windows overlooking the library’s prairie gardens provided a place, away from the computers, during which the boys could develop some camaraderie with each other. It was a time to joke around, have mock sword battles, talk about new updates to the game, plan out game strategy, browse books, and to share personal Minecraft artifacts. I had hoped that we could also conclude each meeting in the conference room, but once the boys were actually on the computers, they did not want to leave until the very end.
The library computers were sufficient to play the game, but somewhat slow in loading it. The boys made good use of the time waiting with continued discussion started in the conference room. A major drawback was that the two tables of four computers each were separated by a large library reference desk area. This hampered collaborative gameplay since they all wanted to play together, which they could online, but they also wanted to be physically close to each other for talking, sharing, and helping each other.
The location of the computers in the middle of the library was somewhat bothersome for a few of the adult library patrons because of the noise the boys made while playing. Even though the game itself has very soft internal sounds, the boys got excited when playing and their volume would rise. The library staff were not concerned about this and said they just wanted the library to be an interactive learning place for children. Having the computers in a central location also made the gameplay component of the club accessible for the boys’ families and other children in the library who frequently participated lending a community context to the events.
I had purchased a classroom teacher’s version of Minecraft from Minecraftedu that I downloaded onto the library’s computers. When choosing this version, members, who did not have personal accounts, could play without having to purchase an account first. This worked out well, because several of the boys did not have their own account, and the ones that did, did not know how to log in with their user name and password. Since I already had a version downloaded on the computers, members were ready to play immediately.
This was the first video game club that the library had ever hosted and the first for all of the boys as well. The library staff were very supportive and helpful which made for a positive learning environment. The boys were very excited during each meeting to talk about and play Minecraft together. Even though the game can be played online with multiple players, these players are usually not actually physically with each other, and most of the boys had never experienced playing a multiplayer game, on their own computer, alongside the people they are playing with. When this happened during the club, collaborative gameplay took on multiple levels of communication with the boys helping each other, sharing roles and tasks within the game, narrating their gameplay aloud, and in essence, collaborative gameplay became very real and very exciting. A game-based culture emerged through Minecraft Club.