Social Learning with a Six-Year-Old
Harry placed his arm around me. For the first time, I was his friend. Joyously, it made me cry.
It was December 2020 when Harry approached me about Minecraft. At first, I thought it was just another game and deflected his request to play. Little did I know schools AND universities like MIT around the world were using Minecraft as a social learning tool to help students acquire new, and practical skills to solve some of the biggest problems of the future.
And so I was hooked.
Harry had always been a builder. Legos. Magnet tiles. You name it. He was always stacking and exploring new ways to express his creativity.
He had already been on Zoom for four hours a day from virtual kindergarten so he was accustomed to using a mouse, keyboard, and operating a web browser. He had been crushing Minecraft books I bought from Amazon and borrowed from the library. We would sit together and watch safe videos on YouTube of some of the best builds. I didn’t have to teach him Minecraft. All he needed was access to a safe and secure environment.
I was blown away at what my boy could do within a month. He had built a fortress, a virtual school, and edited Python scripts to create structures with different block types. I never attempted this before.
I thought to myself. If Harry could learn this fast, he could show others how to build something similar too. The trouble though was most kids his age at his school weren’t into Minecraft yet, nor was it offered at the kindergarten level. You had to enroll in an activity outside of school and his teachers wouldn’t collaborate. There was a real need to empower Harry with technology and enable him who thrive in an unstructured learning environment, ideal for someone who doesn’t perform well when isn’t being challenged.
Each week. Each month. Each step that started with a what-if soon became a reality. Harry soon developed a brand, a business, and a model where he could invest his time and energy helping others. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Here are some of the projects we completed together so far:
Created a YouTube channel to publish the videos we made of our builds and has them organized using playlists.
Please consider subscribing to his channel.
Created design templates in Canva to advertise his new brand.
Check it out on his website.
Created a self-hosted WordPress blog hosted on AWS Lightsail to inform, educate, and get more participants involved in his community.
Created business cards designed in Canva and printed from Walgreens photo.
Bring your own device
Programmed a SIM card for his new Motorola smartphone.
Recorded screen capture videos from his Motorola smartphone.
Programmed a wireless phone number and chatbot using Twilio to manage incoming calls and text messages.
Host our own version of Minecraft multiplayer mode with strict player settings on an AWS Lightsail server managed from the command line.
Built a website from scratch to help kids and parents get involved in Harry’s community builds.
Created a Mailchimp email newsletter opt-in form to collect email addresses to notify parents about upcoming sessions.
Created a Learning Photos Album to summarize what we are learning.
Created a Patreon membership website with multiple tiered packages to help earn money, save for college, save for a down payment on a house, or save for the future.
Designed image for merchandise on Canva and had shirts printed for giveaways and events.
Created a facilitator’s guide to provide directions and block types to better collaborate on builds.
Compiled Programs for Different Community Builds
Harry is available to offer virtual Minecraft builds using his ever-expanding facilitation guide, tools, and skills he has acquired by being actively involved in the process.
Created a speaker request form to invite Harry to speak at schools, libraries, parent groups, and teaching conferences.
Created the Certified Master Builder Certification to help the community uphold the highest standards for kids and parents when playing Minecraft.
I joined a couple Minecraft for Parents groups in the last couple weeks and this is what I’ve learned:
1. There are kids who want to play with other kids, not just their parents.
2. There are kids who don’t have anyone to play with because their parents don’t know how to help get them set them up.
3. There are some kids who are kind and helpful. There are some kids who are bullies.
4. Some kids have earned a reputation for being destructive when playing on other people’s servers, they have been blocked from playing.
5. There are different versions of Minecraft and you may have to buy two or three different versions of Minecraft so your kids have more options to play with more kids.
6. You can establish participation rules for your own Minecraft server but that does not mean others will follow them all of the time.
7. If you are going to successfully build a world with the help of other people, you need to make it as easy as possible for others to understand your vision, gather the right tools, and exemplify the behaviors you too want to see demonstrated by other people.
8. The one-time fee for a Minecraft license is cheaper than one night out at the movies.
9. Helicopter parents are everywhere. You need to watch out for them as much as you do your kids.
10. You can learn a lot about managing technology by enabling your kids. There’s new equipment to buy, new software to explore, and some of these tasks to get kids started may help you at your job.
Tonight 4/15/2021 we are going to play at 6 pm CST on the Java version of Minecraft.
Here’s the feedback we received.
Social learning is one of the most often underutilized utilities of the learning function. It’s what happens when we attend conferences, participate in networking groups, and thrive in the face-to-face environment. I have learned so much from working with Harry already. I hope you can join us in one of his next builds.
Thank you, Harry’s Dad