Let them obsess a little

Every time kids get really excited about something, there is a small (usually) but significant movement among parents to stifle it.

Remember the panicked reaction to kids reading Harry Potter books? Remember that young people were eager to get to the bookstore, the library, etc.? Because they were interested in something?

But there was a lot of concern about the content of the books, because the students portrayed in them did things that weren’t 100% “right”. Because there was conflict in the story, and poor choices, and moral dilemmas. I remember reading a serious blog post or article (sorry, no link) about how Harry should have been happy to be with family and content with their treatment of him. Some people worried that Harry Potter was subverting our youth, turning them into authority-questioning hooligans.

That said, if my own child was throwing tantrums because he needed to wear his wizard robes and carry his magical wand to school every day, I’d have to take steps with him. And, you know, do some parenting. But a little obsession, like wanting to read the rest of the series immediately as it’s published, is healthy, in my opinion.

I’ve watched the same thing happen again with Minecraft. It’s an obsession for some people (not just kids). It’s getting them reading strategy guides, making video tutorials, planning and plotting with both face-to-face and online friends. This kind of sudden, unexpected activity is terrifying to the status-quo-loving segment of the population.

But until it’s seriously interfering with an individual functioning in other parts of their life, it’s okay. Let them obsess a little. Or do what the wisest among us do: leverage it.

I work with teachers K-12 in every school in our board, and by far the single greatest concern/complaint I hear is that students are apathetic (or absent, which might have the same cause). They are disengaged. They don’t care. They don’t get excited about anything.

Why then would we squash them when they do engage?

Join them. If you haven’t tried it, go buy Minecraft. Read Harry Potter. Try Pokemon. Whatever your kids are loving, love it too. They want to share with us, and they love it when we’re interested in their interests.

Obsess along with them, just a little.

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I installed Minecraft because of #ecoo13

Minecraft Pocket Edition screenshot

I attended a session about using Minecraft for instruction yesterday, and I found myself wanting someone to show me how to play. Then I realized two things:

  1. I can play without being shown how.
  2. I have access to a bazillion videos on YouTube from the rabid, Minecraft-loving masses.

I don’t need to ask for help, or details, or ideas. That’s what the Internet is for.
So I installed the free Pocket Edition Lite on my iPad while waiting for the plane at Billy Bishop and messed around a little during the flight.

Minecraft Pocket Edition Lite

My initial reflections:

  1. I’m used to (and I like) text instructions/prompts. Minecraft doesn’t really have these.
  2. I’m used to being told what the goal is in a game.
  3. The graphics induced nostalgia.

I understand the iPad version (especially the free one) is less complete than the PC version, but I think I’ll start here for now.
Next steps:

  1. Figure out how to do stuff.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Learn to use Minecraft to engage students in their learning.

Update

Minecraft Pocket Edition Lite is very light… I just paid the $6.99 for the full version of Pocket Edition – way more complete.

Update 2

Yup, I was right: YouTube is the place to learn how to play Minecraft. I found the tutorials I viewed very interesting, particularly the detailed, complex environments people build. For example, one person had a vast “barn” in which each wall was lined with furnaces, stonecutters, chests and more. Steps down into mines were perfectly regular – no variation in slope, and the torches were exactly, evenly placed. Wow.