Creatively Thinking with MineCraftEDU: Creative vs. Survival Mode

Holy Cow! If you want to force yourself to learn how to play Minecraft/MinecraftEdu in terms of game tactics, building, crafting, etc. then look no further than survival mode. For the first few days I have been just relaxing doing a little here and little there in creativity mode, but if you want to put your finger to the flame go all out in survival.

I died the first three attempts to survive the night. I had no idea what I was doing. I still am not savvy enough to build, craft, dig, etc. Basically, I am not basic skill savvy! However, by the fourth attempt I stopped and started to do some some research and learned more in 10 minutes of survival play than my previous few hours before. Why? You don’t have a choice unless you like being attacked by zombies, fire zombies, bats, arrows, and who knows what else was attacking me.

I checked out the book The Big Book of Minecraft and this book helped me understand that I needed to chop down trees. It took me forever to figure out this whole crafting thing. It is slowly making sense, but for now I had to use the Minecraft Wiki to figure out how craft and build a crafting table. I learned how to chop down trees –> convert to wood planks –> make either sticks, shovels, and axe. From there I could chop down more trees and slowly see the power and necessity for wood in this game.

I eventually built my first little tiny home. I realize I want to go back and build with wood planks so many house upgrades are coming.

Now, I just need to figure out how create light, craft a pickaxe, and keep developing.

It was a bit of a rush when you don’t want to die and the day turns to night.

On the flipside I have spent time in creativity mode. I like this mode because you get everything. You have no stress to worry and can just keep thinking “What if I do……” You can just play. This is where I like to experiment. When I go back to survival I need to learn how to acquire all those awesome things which I have no clue.

In the classroom I could see uses for both game modes. Survival would be a great team collaboration project where students would have to work together to stay alive and make things work. I like that element for them to understand allocation of resources, living dynamics, dividing up jobs, etc. The game provides plenty of social elements along with higher ordering thinking skills to problem solve. I am writing up a bunch of options for using survival mode. I am sure there are so many great ideas out there, but I just have not had time to track them all down.

The creativity mode is a real obvious option as students can build anything. Creativity fits well into any classroom and it just depends on the goals and outcome of the project and classroom.

Finally, I can see why the original Minecraft had no instructions or tutorials. When I played the tutorial world I played to simply get through it. When I jumped over to survival mode, I could not apply anything I learned. It did not stick with me to application. However, the need for survival forced me to learn and I can now recite how to do everything I learned to survive. I still think the Tutorial World is good to start I almost feel like just tossing them in Survival to learn with guidance from the teacher and expert students would be a better option.

I am finding my ideas and thoughts constantly shift as I dig deeper into this world of blocks. Below are some resources that I used with the link to survival mode being a very helpful one along with this book The Big Book of Minecraft which I just bought my own copy. Alright, back to figuring out how to survive day 2 in my CoffeechugSurvival World!

Either way if classrooms had students share their journey and learning I could see a great fit for


Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one–on–one, in groups, and teacher–led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Heck, even using Health Literacy standards for survival mode would work.


Essential Concept and/or Skill: Utilize interactive literacy and social skills to establish personal, family, and community health goals.

Demonstrate social and communication skills to enhance health and increase safety.


Essential Concept and/or Skill: Apply critical literacy/thinking skills related to personal, family and community wellness.

Demonstrate decision making skills.


I continue to see so many connections of using this game in classrooms effectively.

Extra Resources:

Glossary of Minecraft Terms

My YouTube Channels of Minecraft Gaming

Minecraft Crafting Guide

Survival mode guide:

Creative mode, you will not need to use tools, crafting, or worry about being attacked.  It is a sandbox mode of the game.  You have godlike power in the game.  Every resource in the game is in your inventory, and unlimited.



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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 9: OneNote Clipper

Best thing since sliced bread and coffee and chocolate and well....just check it out!

Here is another quick easy tip when using Surface Pro 3 and more importantly the amazing tool of OneNote. As I continue to morph my whole world over to OneNote there are more and more efficient possibilities to making this tool even better.

This tool is nothing new, but sure is worth the time to explore if you are new to OneNote and the Surface family. One of my favorite tech tools of all time. And that is a bold statement my friends!


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Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

I am writing these thoughts as a pre assessment of my thinking. I have only dabbled in Minecraft for about 30 minutes with my son a few years ago as my son tried to show me everything and he was going way too fast for me to comprehend. I never made it back to play another day until this summer.

After watching a few videos and doing some reading along with mixing what I am learning with my previous thoughts and experiences I am excited to put down in writing my answers to these questions. I will then go back after building a world and understanding Minecraft more to see how my answers shift or stay the same.

I will be addressing the following four questions:
Does the openness Minecraft negatively or positively impact its use in the classroom setting?
Because the game has no goals built into it, how does that help it for educational use or does that cause problems?
Do you feel the popularity of the game help or hinder its use in an educational setting, because the majority of students will have already played it?
Is not having a tutorial a good or bad thing for classroom use?

From an outside view(not being in the classroom directly) I see the openness as amazing and extremely powerful. I live and breathe makerspaces, robotics, LEGO, Arduino, and more. While I see the need for instructions to help build a base, I also believe that a huge issue with education and society is that we don’t provide enough situations for students to problem solve. They are rarely given the chance to think on their own, learn how to deal when their ideas don’t work, problem solve new solutions, work with others, ask for help from others, and continue the cycle of building their toolkit of skills to simply survive on their own. I learned all last week running my robotics camp how much kids need these experiences to develop these skills.

So often parents step in and do it for them. Sports are so organized that kids no longer know how to just go outside and play. Schools and classrooms across the nation are so worried about data and test scores that more and more classrooms look the same with scripted worksheets, specific step by step learning, and curriculum to match. Kids are not given enough time to play and explore. Even kindergarten and preschools are slowly losing the exploration and creativity moments because there is not enough time to get it all in for the sake of data.

With that being said, I think something like Minecraft could prove to be a huge asset for classrooms. It is so wide open with zero instructions that educators could create the parameters to allow any type of learning to happen. Students are no longer restricted to bring their ideas to life. It is honestly wide open and limitless to take learning to deeper levels than any other software available. All it takes is an open mind.
This vast openness is also what scares educators and schools. How do we begin? I feel free pretty tech savvy as a person and even I am a bit nervous about diving into this world. I was reminded of my first attempt at learning Minecraft a few years ago and just how different I operated compare to my son(In the chair of a student: Minecraft learning reverses my teacher role!). If I feel nervous I can only imagine how another teacher who is not tech savvy would not allow this to happen.

What Minecraft COULD do is help move education where it needs to be. This openness forces educators to give up some control. They are not in direct control. More of this needs to happen where students are in driver seat of their learning instead of simply being a passenger while the teacher drives. I am a huge advocate of student voice and agency and Minecraft allows both to happen. Obviously, I think it goes without saying that depending on how you use Minecraft you could easily hit any of the Common Core 21st Century Standards. This piece is a real no brainer, but with everything the hard part is documenting the standard being met and mastered.

I have witnessed many examples of Minecraft being used in our schools for smaller projects and am simply blown away by what students can create to showcase their learning. The idea of not having a manual is simply an irrelevant conversation anymore. You can find out how to do anything on YouTube. There are websites and blogs that can give you the answers you need. A “manual” does exist, but just not in a pretty little booklet next to a cartridge. I think the need for a manual is only a concern for the older generations(like myself) who had that as part of the norm growing up. The manual exists in many formats like the internet, Kindle, books, etc. To build off the idea of a manual, it now allows users to create their own. If you can create a tutorial, then you must really know your stuff. This is a great way to infuse learning by having students develop their own manuals to help others.

Last, the popularity of Minecraft is what has allowed this whole conversation to take place. If it was not popular, then education would ignore these worlds completely. Because it is so massive education realizes this could help drive change in schools. Will students run away that an institution is using their favorite tool? Only time will tell. Right now it is exciting and new, but at one point Smartboards were considered cool until they became standard. The true challenge of education is not to ruin an amazing game by placing all these parameters into the worlds and as a result the game loses all the power that bring millions of people online every single day. The moment a teacher starts to limit what can be done the whole project fails. The beauty of the success of Minecraft in education is for educators to not see it as a “game”, but a platform to bring learning to where the students are instead of trying to move students to where the educator is. If enough classrooms fail to see it this way, then it will be one more failed attempt and bridging technology and learning to the lives of students.

In closing, I don’t know that Minecraft is the ultimate education tool……yet. Not enough schools and classrooms are using it to make that claim. I think it has the ingredients to be the ultimate. However, it is first major breakthrough with a safe haven to create whatever. The hard part lies in the logistics of school where you have to worry about monitoring, bullying, cost, infrastructure, and all the wonderful red tape that comes with implementing anything into schools. At this point it is simply too early to determine an answer to this question, but I am going to dive in and see what I can discover on my own and for my school.

Here are the two videos I watched before posting these ideas

**I am taking a class called, Creatively Thinking with MinecraftEdu, so I will be sharing my thoughts, learning, as well as documenting my journey from newbie to not so newbie as I go along with the materials. Feel free to leave comments, challenge my thinking, and share what you know.**

***Today I actually begin playing Minecraft. I will be recording my journey through the tutorial to let others see that it is not as intimidating as you might think…..I hope!***

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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 8: Print Articles From Web To OneNote

Here is another quick easy tip when using Surface Pro 3 and more importantly the amazing tool of OneNote.

There are times when you are reading an article, blog, or website online and you want to make notes, highlight, and store the information. I have been a huge user of Evernote, Diigo, Google Docs, and more. However, nothing has been as easy to use as OneNote nor have I found a tool that keeps me organized.

This video will showcase one way in which you can quickly add a piece from the Internet to OneNote so you can write, highlight, add audio, as well as many more options.

This is not perfect. You can see in the video I have another option called OneNote Clipper which I will share in the next episode. One drawback to printing is that the links do not work so that is one bummer, but there are times when that is not important to me and perhaps I want to just focus on the article and not wanting the distractions of clicking here and here and here.

One more easy tip that I have learned in which I share with you. Enjoy!

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Literacy Across the World

Once again, the power of Skype has come through in our classrooms allowing students to gain a stronger connection with people literally on the other side of the world.

Sue Owen is another one of our outstanding educators who has really pushed the envelope with project based learning. Sue is one of our sixth grade language arts teachers who was able to connect her students with students from Indonesia. This was possible by her staying in contact with one of her former student teachers who is now located in Indonesia.

As Sue shared as we talked about the project and how it came to be she said,

In reconnecting with my student teacher of last year, Cady Windish, who is now a teacher with the Peace Corps in Indonesia, I learned that her school is in desperate need of free reading books for the students. When I plan my Language Arts projects, I always like to incorporate service into the plan so my students not only make a connection with the world, they make the world a better place. The connection between my students and those in Indonesia seemed like a perfect fit! In sixth grade this year, I’ve really focused on students using strategies to understand the elements of literature, so this was incorporated into the project as well. I invited Rachael Dierckx(another language arts teacher in our building who is amazing) to join me with this project, and she readily agreed.

Our students each brought a gently used or newly purchased book from home and read it during Language Arts. They then created a plot diagram, so I could make sure they understood the elements of literature in the novel. Once they were good to go, they summarized the novel, and then created a storyboard, which would be used later in Digital Literacy with Connie Jeschke (yet again, another amazing educator). Connie had the students use their storyboards and WeVideo to create books trailers, which will be sent to Indonesia as well to entice the students to read our books.

At this time one of my guided reading groups was reading The Limit, which is all about staying within your budget; so they investigated the cost of shipping our 100 pounds of books to Indonesia and reported that it would cost $1200! As a class, we brainstormed ideas to raise the money and decided on a garage sale at BMS. Students solicited donations, and then we held the sale May 15 and 16. Students did the marketing for the sale by making flyers using Microsoft Publisher and worked both days to raise $1347.50!

Last night 35 students returned to school at 7 p.m. to Skype with the Indonesian students and let them know the books are coming. The thing that made the biggest impression on my students was when we asked an Indonesian girl if she could have anything in the world what would it be. Her answer was books.

Hopefully you see that using Skype was the perfect way to solidify all the hard work the students put into their class work and service work. Skype allowed them to see the students and share the good news. Once again, we used Skype in an innovative way to showcase to students that the world really is a global village where we can all connect. It was not used to just talk, but it allowed the students to strengthen their connection with people. It allowed students to see who they were going to be able to impact.

My favorite highlight of the night was when the students from Indonesia sang us a song. It started with a few, then all of them were singing and the next thing you know our students were clapping. It was a powerful moment where people were able to connect from opposite sides of the world.

After the Skype call we found out the song was called “Sakitnya tuh disini” by Cita Citata. It is a very popular song in their country and is a type of music called dangdut.

I am so proud of the students and the teachers who worked to make this happen. Students were given a chance to not only learn, but to develop an understanding of what it means to be human and to provide service to others. The learning was authentic. Students volunteered their time and weekend to running the garage sale. Students came back to school to Skype. Students were doing so many amazing things that they often don’t get credit for and none of this would have happened without the educators involved.

Below is a Sway. Scroll down through it all. It contains everything from the project including pictures, project plans, Skype recording, and book trailers. If you have not used Sway you need to give a try. It is one of my favorite presentation tools out on the market right now and it is free!

If it is not working, then here is a link to view it all

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Microsoft Surface Episode 6: 60 Second Tip – Highlighting in Kindle

Here is a quick tip I learned as I continue to use my Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 more and more in my life. I thought I would create short little easy tips that might help others who are getting used to the Surface.

This is not a brain buster by any means, but once I figured this out it sure did make life a lot easier.

This tip is about how I enjoy highlighting in Kindle, but I am sure it works with other applications as well!

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Microsoft Surface Episode 5: 60 Second Tip – Keyboard Placement

Here is a quick tip I learned as I continue to use my Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 more and more in my life. I thought I would create short little easy tips that might help others who are getting used to the Surface.

This is not a brain buster by any means, but once I figured this out it sure did make life a lot easier.

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10 Ideas I Learned from Satya Nadella Fireside Chat


One of the most surprising and memorable moments of the E2 conference was having the opportunity to hear CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, speak to the group. I will be honest I did not know much about him except for reading an article on him in Wired magazine.

I was more than impressed with Satya. He was so down to earth and I felt like he really understood education and educators. When he was speaking it felt so natural to him to just be himself. Here is the CEO of such a successful company and he comes in wearing regular clothes and speaking to us not AT us or as if he was above us.

His message really connected to me on many levels like all of the speakers and people at E2, but it really hit home to see it come from the CEO. This was a powerful moment in which I really felt like Microsoft is placing education at the forefront.

So often we hear lip service about this or that. So often we place our faith in people and companies that proclaim they care about education. I honestly feel like Microsoft is not paying lip service. The whole conference as a whole was a testament to them believing in education. The fact that the CEO took time to speak with us live and in person, field questions from the crowd, stayed patient through the chaos of the selfie moment, and more proved to me that I was in the right place.

Reflecting on his talk I a couple things really stood out to me

1. Democratization of technology to the world. The idea that with technology there is no reason that more people cannot access the tools needed to enhance education. Being at the conference opened my eyes to the fact that I more than blessed with the tools at my disposal where I work and am humbled by the educators who do more with less. I have been motivated to push my boundaries and expectations of myself as an educator.

2. Educators empower kids to be the best that they can be!

All I want to say is please never forget this mindset. Educators can change lives in profound ways. Often times we don’t have the luxury to always see the impact. We must believe in our mission and do our best to help students reach their goals.

3. Lifelong learner. This idea permeated throughout the talk

“Don’t worry there will be one more” phrase from his father that when he did bad on a test to keep at it and keep working stood out to me. We will make mistakes. We will have moments where we could and should do better. We must learn from those moments so they don’t repeat time and time again.

4. Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck

As much as this concept has been talked about time and time again I was struck that he referenced this book further cemented the idea that the power of growth mindset is huge. It is something that we must keep developing in students to allow them to achieve more.

In case you have not read the book, here is a link, and you must buy and read it now! One of the best books I have read on understanding the importance of mindset. I have blogged about growth mindset many times as well.

5. Computer augment our work, but will not replace. There will be displacement, but how can we adapt and grow along with the technology?

We can take the conference as an example. 87 countries represented. We are still connected and sharing using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. We are able to share our learning via blogs and tweets. We can collaborate globally using Sway and other products. IF you are not growing with the opportunities given to you with technology, then we must work to help others see the value in the tools to make better versions of ourselves.

6. Technology can change what learning means to those who have learning issues.

Very powerful. Technology does leverage the playing field for learning. There are so many tools that can help bridge the gaps in learning. Equally as important, these same tools allow those with gifts to excel in new ways.

7. TV Whitespace for internet. Mindblown  by this idea and concept.

8. There is not an aspect of life or walk of life that is fundamentally changed by technology.

I love this idea! You don’t want to get into technology to create technology. You want to get involved in innovation to make life better! Such a powerful statement. The whole concept of looking at what impact you want to have on the world, get involved in the field, and then think about tech to make an impact. That is a huge mindset shift from what is often discussed when thinking technology and STEM.

9. Clarification Issue: OneNote does have translate feature

There is a question posed about the ability to translate in OneNote. It is possible and just wanted to post how to do so here.

10. Show courage in the face of opportunity.

Satya discusses showing courage each day educators starting with the opportunity to help students be their best.  Beyond the scope of the focus on educators I think the question is how do help students embrace the opportunities they have before them and take advantage? I see so many students not understanding how lucky they are to have the opportunities before them. This is my challenge to myself to help them find ways to see the potential all around them.


Overall, you can see I have a lot of ideas. I could write a few more, but these are the main ones. What ideas crossed your mind when listening to him talk? How will you take his words and make a positive contribution to society?

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Group Work Is Hard

Lessons Learned from #MSFTEduE2

How many times have we used or heard the following phrases

“We are doing group because it is something you are going to have to do in the real world.”

“When you get a job you won’t be able to pick who you work with.”

“This is a group project where you can pick your groups/pick some/pick none at all”

“You need to learn to work together.”

In schools around the world educators place students in group settings all the time. It is an expected norm of the classroom where we drop kids in groups to cover the 4C’s and to get ready for the so called “real world”(because the world they live in now is not real?)

However, one thing schools have forgotten to develop and focus on are the skills needed for group work to actually succeed. Group work is hard. It might be the toughest element in the school setting.

How many times do we organize students into groups and teams but we don’t take time to develop the culture, the elements needed to collaborate, the skills of honest talk, critical feedback, and building relationships in order for the group to work efficiently?

We don’t. We assume that these things have been taught previously. We assume they know how to work in groups. BUT, why is that every single time we have the same concerns from the students:

  • Student 1 is not doing anything
  • Student 2 is doing all the work
  • Student 3 is so quiet that they are intimidated to speak up against Student 3
  • Student 4 is the wild card that could be paired with Student 1,2,3 throwing the group to one side.

Now, I am guilty of this myself. I am not finger pointing at anyone. As an educator and parent I realize now more than ever before that I must go back to the basic building blocks of the skills needed to work with other people

Last week while attending one of the most surreal and powerful learning opportunities in my life I had to work in a group to develop a global education project focused on leadership, bravery, and courage(I am referring to the E2 event at Microsoft). My team like all 42 teams consisted of 6 members from 6 different countries. We had to face the fact of not knowing each other at all. We had to overcome language barriers, culture differences, and trying to understand one another on almost every single level let alone understand the project itself.

It was a massive undertaking. It was difficult. It was hard. It was one of the most personally challenging things I have done in my education career. And it was one of the most rewarding.

Throughout the project I was reminded again and again how difficult group work is for people. It reminded me that we as educators need to remind ourselves that when we move students into groups it is a very challenging thing we are asking if we want the group to operate as a cohesive and collaborative group.

I write this post as a calling to all educators to think about group work.

What are you doing to prepare students to understand how to work in groups?

What skills have you focused on in your class to allow group work to thrive or do you just focus on content?

What are the building blocks placed in the project to allow students to reflect, grow, and adapt along their journey?

On a slightly different note I reflected on my own practices as an educator and I think that many of these things don’t happen because we as educators need instruction. We need PD on how to collaborate. We are not the best. We meet all the time and do things in teams, but do we really know how to collaborate? Do the loud ones run the show? Is there a place for quiet ones? Do we take time to really listen? Do we actually put personal bias aside to achieve a quality product?

As much as students need help developing these skills we as educators also need help. I know that I have to work on hearing ideas, thinking them through, understand that all my ideas are not the best, and to not always take the reigns and take charge. The hard part is that many assume that I will do that so we move into our comfort zone roles. We must work together to mix things up. Allow others to lead. Find ways to merge ideas.

For example, when I was working with my amazing team 20 we had two ideas in development. It was tough to find a common ground where we could make both ideas work. We had to work to make things happen. We had late nights and early mornings to make the vision come alive and develop a project where I love everything about it! Through the hard work and collaboration you begin to develop an emotional connection to the work. Everyone had to play a part in order for the project to succeed.


Next time you organize students into teams or groups please be sure you have created the context to allow the groups to thrive. Where are the support services? What skills have you focused on to help them become better collaborators? Have you really thought through the implications of the group work? More importantly, have you taken time to look inward on yourself to work on the skills you need to be a better group member?

Lastly, do we provide time to celebrate the success of hard work in pulling off a successful group project?

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