Real-Time Training in Responsible Media Use

digital citizenship

For high school students, having to learn about digital citizenship and cyber-safety feels insulting. It smacks of adults invading youth territory and telling them how to run their country.

Digital Citizenship lessons feel artificial because they are artificial. Teachers harp on about “responsible use” and “being cyber-safe” from a distance—a distance that seems bizarre to young people. Why not learn about behaviour in cyber-space IN cyber-space?

Real-time Training in Responsible Media Use

Learning real-world social rules happens day-to-day as we bump up against one another. We learn to conduct ourselves not in a laboratory but in real life situations. Excuse me, thank you, sorry, in my opinion…

Imagine what could happen if we did real-time training in responsible media use? Instead of lectures about digital citizenship, students go online in a controlled environment, play, and learn.

Minecraft for Real-Time Training

Late in 2013, e-Quipped touted the educational benefits of the computer game Minecraft. Problem solving, practical maths, and creativity are all developed through play, which is one reason Minecraft is mandatory for 13-year-olds in Swedish schools. It’s safe, relatively cheap, has minimal gratuitous violence and no gore. An article on Powerful Learning Practice cited one American school’s use of Minecraft to develop persistence, attitude, and effort.

Minecraft is safe, relatively cheap, has minimal gratuitous violence and no gore. It might even be a good place to learn about—Ta da!—digital citizenship.

Welcome to NorthMine

Panorama of NorthMine

Panorama of NorthMine

NorthMine, a multiplayer server set up by Northside Christian College for its gaming students, is a virtual cubby house where students can safely play Minecraft and bump up against one another, all the while learning good online conduct.

NorthMine is a project of %TMP% Team, a student IT group for gaming and tech enthusiasts. The participants are collaborating to create a unique virtual playground. The group is headed up by Mr Andy Rogers, a member of the College’s IT Helpdesk department.

An Interview with Mr Rogers…

Steve  (CC)

Steve (CC)

Mr Rogers spoke with me about the rationale for setting up a college multiplayer server.

Alison: Can you explain the main advantages of providing a multiplayer server for students?

Andy: Firstly, all students get to play with their friends in the same closed place, without any strangers coming in to distract them or encourage them to misbehave.  Our students will be playing and interacting with students they know from grades 7-12. The students are really excited to have the college support their online play in this way.

Second, I’m excited about the huge items the students have built in the NorthMine server. With so many students playing, students can work together to complete projects far greater in scope than a single person could achieve. Here are some of the kids’ ideas:

  • Replicate the college campus
  • Build a huge Coliseum-styled arena
  • Build some spaceships

This large-scale teamwork outside of a classroom context is very exciting.

Alison: It’s downright inspirational! What benefit is the NorthMine server to the families of the Northside Christian College community? Should parents be excited by another gaming opportunity?

Andy: It is a huge benefit to the parents. Typically, playing multi-player Minecraft required their children to connect to a random server in the US or Sweden, where they’d be playing with any number of strangers, but NorthMine is a safe, known environment. Providing a server to play on that is fun and moderated by the College provides a huge peace of mind for parents.

Alison: What steps are in place to prevent excessive gaming and bad behaviour on the server?

Andy: We have a variety of tools in place to combat these two problems. Firstly, I have a set daily schedule. At 9PM every night the server shuts down and play ceases. The server restarts the following day after they are at school. I have chosen this time frame to work with parents to provide a reward for homework and chore completion, but not excessive time available to game into the night.

Regarding behaviour, a common problem on many public servers is Griefing, which is the deliberate destruction of someone’s creation just to cause grief. We have installed a number of server plugins that allow us to modify how certain items work. Here are a few examples. Lava can be used for decoration but will not spread or catch anything on fire. TNT can be made but will simply disappear when ignited.

Spider (CC)

Spider (CC)

Alison: How is the server moderated?

Andy: I am the server Administrator (aka: “OP”). I have access to all tools, commands and the back- end interfaces. The Student Moderators work with me to ensure that everyone is behaving, that there is a project to work on, and that the sense of community is protected. The rest of the students have access to some basic commands, but are mostly there to have a good time mining and building.

Older students can take a Moderator role, which carries extra leadership responsibility. Moderators set a good standard for the types of play. They should use positive language and encourage co-operation and creative thinking. Student moderators are the first point of misconduct reporting. If they can’t handle the situation, they will refer straight to me. As part of the Moderator team, with the support of the college staff, students will learn valuable life and leadership skills, especially conflict resolution and collaboration.

Alison: It sounds like being a student moderator is an effective way to teach the students about monitoring their own conduct while playing. As the saying goes, “Responsibility educates.”

Tell me about the training the students undertake.

Andy: The Moderators and I are constantly communicating. I have made it very clear about the expectations of them. While I don’t have a formal training approach, initial guidelines and frameworks have been laid out and on-the spot-training is offered.

Having the added responsibility of the Moderation role, those students will need to take time to assess their actions and language to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of the server. They’ll be the ones setting the community in place and being a leading force in the teamwork. I can’t wait to see how they step up to the plate.

Chicken (CC)

Chicken (CC)

Alison: I think that is so exciting! You’ve created an awesome possibility for “real-time training in responsible use.” When does NorthMine open, and can we have a tour?

Andy: Students will be able to log in as of this Friday 9 May, and the Grand Opening will be on Monday evening, the 12th of May. We’ve got some cool plans for the Opening, including inviting the College Principal to come in NorthMine and cut the red ribbon. I’m excited.

Alison: I can’t wait to see that! I’ll organise a film crew. One last question…Any chance I could have an avatar of my own? I’d like to be a ninja girl.

Andy: Definitely yes. That’s awesome.

Watch This Space!

Andy Rogers work with the %TMP% Team is inspirational. In coming weeks, we’ll visit NorthMine and see how things are progressing. We’ll speak with students, teachers and parents—and we’ll post a video of the grand opening.

Got questions for Andy? Leave them in the comments section!

Creative Commons Image, Digital Citizenship by Dan Callahan


NorthMine by Night

NorthMine by Night