Getting a Change of Scenery in Mineclass

Today we started class in our regular cave classroom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I first built the space I modeled it on the attributes of a physical classroom. It has a “front” with a podium and a blackboard and virtual books. At the time I guess I designed it thinking that those things would signal “classroom.” Using it for these first weeks, it has already come to feel like a classroom—albeit a much more cute and colorful one than those in real life.

Today, however, I guess things were just feeling stale, so I thought I’d mix things up a bit by asking the class to follow me out of the classroom and fly together out past our classroom valley, over a small sea and onto a terraced place on a mountainside. Gathered together in the open air with virtual Old Main off in the distance, the feeling was very interesting. One student said that it really did feel like we had traveled somewhere together on a field trip—even though we were all still physically in the same places and connected by Zoom in the same way. Moving our avatars through Minecraft space to a new location literally gave us a new sense of perspective on the class. We had moved and this offered a change of pace. To double-down on that feeling I instructed the class to pair up and go build themselves simple, small mountaintop retreats to have their breakout group conversations. It made for quite an interesting contrast to our regular class.

Oh, and we settled on a name for all of this: Mineclass. After class I discovered it’s hardly original—there are quite a few Minecraft-related educational things that use the same moniker, but for now we are going to stick with it. Also, it will be a useful tag for me to add to all of my posts related to this semester’s work in digital anthropology.

Here is a candid shot from today’s class field trip.

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