Lucas Gillispie on using Minecraft in the Classroom (transcript)

On November 11, the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life welcomed Mr. Lucas Gillispie, an Instructional Technology Coordinator in North Carolina, to talk about how he is using the sandbox digital game Minecraft in the classroom.  What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the talk he gave and the resulting conversation.

[09:05]  Rik Panganiban : …we should move on to our featured guest. Newton Apogee please come on down. 

Lucas Gillispie talks about minecraft in school at Nonprofit Commons

[09:06]  Rik Panganiban : Newton is known in the real world as Lucas Gillispie. Lucas Gillispie is an Instructional Technology Coordinator for Pender County Schools in North Carolina. I met lucas a couple of years ago at some games confreence?

[09:06]  Newton Apogee: Games in Education, I believe.

[09:06]  Rik Panganiban : And I’ve been following what he’s been doing in World of Warcraft with admiration for some time now

[09:07]  Newton Apogee: <grins>

[09:07]  Rik Panganiban : He’s taken that knowledge of how to use an MMO in the classroom to his work now in Minecraft. So I’d love to hear from him how you can use this sandbox game in the classroom, and to accomplish what. Take it away, newton.

[09:08]  Newton Apogee: Thanks!

[09:08]  Newton Apogee: Wow… huge crowd. Is it strange that I experience the same jitters I do when presenting to a RL audience? πŸ˜›

Lucas Gillispie talks about minecraft in school at Nonprofit Commons

[09:08]  Newton Apogee: Well, good day, everyone! Thank you for having me. My name is Lucas Gillispie, and I’m an edu-gamer.

[09:08]  Mimi Muircastle: we are real:)

[09:08]  Gentle Heron: actually, we’re a real audience, Newton, we just look virtual.

[09:08]  Newton Apogee: Indeed!!

[09:09]  Peace Furst: and we’re nicer

[09:09]  Rik Panganiban : Rik Panganiban is really a dragon

[09:09]  Newton Apogee: So, how many of you are playing Minecraft?

[09:09]  Mimi Muircastle: me, sometimes but not enough!

[09:09]  Newton Apogee: πŸ™‚

[09:09]  Peace Furst: not me

[09:09]  Namaara MacMoragh: (Nam puts her hand up) with my 14-year old

[09:09]  Newton Apogee: Well, if you aren’t, you definitely should check it out.

[09:10]  Rik Panganiban : its on my list, after I defeat Glitch!

[09:10]  Newton Apogee: @nam – Perfect!! (So important to play WITH your kids!)

[09:10]  Mimi Muircastle: minecraft trumps glitch!

[09:10]  Namaara MacMoragh: πŸ™‚

[09:10]  Newton Apogee: Of course students were the ones who introduced me to this quirky little sandbox game. At first glance, I discounted the game because of its graphics. Really? 3D 8-bit graphics? I play World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.

[09:10]  Newton Apogee: It looked, frankly, cheesy.

[09:11]  Newton Apogee: A few months passed and Minecraft kept working its way into my Twitter stream, so I decided to take another look. This student told me, “Here, just use my account and see what you think.” So, I did… Within ten minutes of game play, I’d purchased my own account. I was immediately sucked in.

[09:11]  Mimi Muircastle: fun cheesy

[09:11]  Newton Apogee: (Fun like Easy Cheese is fun!!!)

[09:11]  Newton Apogee: If you aren’t aware, Minecraft is a game independently developed, originally by a single programmer, Marcus β€š”Notchβ€š” Perrson in Sweden. It’s essentially a virtual world made of Lego-like blocks that can be broken down and re-configured in many ways.

[09:11]  Newton Apogee: There are a few different ways you can play such as Survival Mode (that includes monsters that emerge in dark places in the world) and Creative Mode (that has no monsters and simply allows you to build freely).

[09:12]  Glitteractica Cookie: Are you affiliated with the MacArthur foundation serious gaming community?

[09:12]  Newton Apogee: @Glitter – Not officially… but I try to follow the work!

[09:12]  Newton Apogee: I lost hours inside the virtual block world and realized something… Even the simplest of game formats, done well, can be as compelling as games developed with multi-million dollar budgets. Notch tapped into the power of play and did so in a powerful way!

[09:12]  Mimi Muircastle: Notch is brilliant

[09:13]  Newton Apogee: Yep!

[09:13]  Newton Apogee: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to get hooked. To date, the game has over 4,000,000 people worldwide who’ve paid $15-$20+ for the game… And that’s when it’s still in development! It’s quickly become a phenomenon, and demonstrates that the independent game development community is alive and well.

[09:13]  Mimi Muircastle: highly addicting:)

[09:13]  Newton Apogee: If you haven’t seen it, 2PlayerProductions is creating a documentary on the game and its development. In an early scene of the preview, Notch shares his high school experience in which a career counselor asked him about his career goals.

  He said, “I think I’d like to make video games.” She responded, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

[09:15]  Newton Apogee: I love that!

[09:15]  Mimi Muircastle: love it – the power of a young genious

[09:15]  Newton Apogee: (You can catch that preview here: )

[09:15]  Newton Apogee: Me too, Mimi!

[09:15]  Newton Apogee: Also underscores that we should never, ever, ever…. ignore the passion of our learners!

[09:16]  Mimi Muircastle: absolutely!

[09:16]  Newton Apogee: Before long, my six year old and three year old daughters were begging to play. Watching them at work (and how quickly they picked up on the game) really grabbed my attention. It was fascinating!

[09:16]  Newton Apogee: (By the way, do you watch your kids playing games? If not, you are totally missing out!)

[09:17]  Newton Apogee: So, I did what all good edu-gamers do… I put on my teacher glasses (You all have a pair of those, right?) and began to look at the pedagogical implications of the game.

[09:18]  Newton Apogee: It wasn’t tough for me to make those connections (after all, if you can bring World of Warcraft into an 8th grade language arts class, the sky’s the limit!)

[09:18]  Newton Apogee: I approached to administrators of elementary schools in my district and pitched the idea of a Minecraft-based club/elective and both agreed. We worked last year with roughly 22 fifth graders between the two schools. (?)

[09:18]  Mimi Muircastle: and 8th graders love you for it! (?)

[09:19]  Newton Apogee: And I love them, @Mimi – The learning has definitely been a two-way street!!!

[09:19]  Newton Apogee: We hosted our own server, internally (something freely distributed by the game’s developers). It was surprisingly simple. Interestingly enough, we used an older web-filter and re-purposed it to be our district Minecraft server. …a beautiful little irony… >:)

[09:19]  Mimi Muircastle: it always is!

[09:19]  Newton Apogee: Since we were moving into uncharted territory, we took a largely low-structured approach. We simply wanted to see how our learners would respond to the game world, what sort of norms they’d establish, and if they could complete a simple mission: re-create a functional town.

[09:19]  Newton Apogee: We started with a discussion about what were the essential components of a functioning town. Our kids then chose what they’d like to build, sketched a blueprint on graph paper, and set out to construct it in the world.

[09:20]  Newton Apogee: Since I wasn’t sure how things would work from a classroom point-of-view even to a technical point-of-view, I resisted too much structure. As Bronwyn Stuckey says, I decided to simply “Follow the learning.”

[09:21]  Newton Apogee: They worked on these structures for about an hour each Friday for the last half of the school year. I quickly realized that to accomplish some of the things I’d envisioned, we’d need more time, but we made do with what time we were given.

[09:22]  Newton Apogee: Our learners realized this, too! They would have worked all day, every day if we’d let them. They were totally engaged. They begged for more time, even weekends! (They wanted to do a sleepover in the school just to keep playing…)

[09:22]  Newton Apogee: Watching them interact in the virtual space was incredible. Early on, they all agreed we needed to establish rules for the group. We let the kids decide on their own rules…  They came up with:

  1.  If it’s not yours, leave it alone.
  2.  No griefing.
  3.  3. Respect others’ space.

[09:23]  Newton Apogee: (Yes, 5th graders established these rules! Don’t underestimate the depths and understanding of your kids!)

[09:24]  Newton Apogee: I put together a short video one afternoon and uploaded it to YouTube: . Please check it out when we’re wrapped up. The views have skyrocketed in the last week to over 30,000. (This really excites our kids, by the way.)

[09:24]  Newton Apogee: When you watch it, also check out the comments. If you don’t think we need to change education, the comments of the 100s of kids to this video, might change your mind.

[09:24]  Newton Apogee: Now, what’s really awesome about the idea of using Minecraft in school, is that I’m not the only one who’s made that connection. Other educators are doing the same and seeing equally amazing things:

[09:24]  Newton Apogee: Joel Levin in New York is doing incredible work! Known as @minecraftteacher, he’s running a great blog focused on his work using Minecraft with Second Graders. You can find his blog at: . and follow him on Twitter!

[09:25]  Newton Apogee: Likewise, JoKay Wollawong (RL?), Dean Groom, and Bron Stuckey are doing great things at Massively Minecraft: in Australia.

[09:25]  Newton Apogee: When giants like these are coming to the same conclusions, you know you’re onto something!

[09:26]  Newton Apogee: So, moving forward this year, we’re running the program again at our elementary schools and I’m excited to say we’re expanding it to a middle school as well.

[09:27]  Mimi Muircastle: middle schoolers LOVE minecraft!

[09:27]  Newton Apogee: I have a wonderful art teacher, Sara, who’s going to incorporate Minecraft into both her art, and is working to create a unique curriculum for 6th-8th graders at her school.

[09:27]  Mimi Muircastle: is that a curr. that can be shared?

[09:27]  Newton Apogee: All of our work will be hosted on a wiki… (I love wikis!) There are already some lesson ideas there, and as we create more, we’ll add them.

[09:28]  Rik Panganiban : thats’s great newton!

[09:28]  Newton Apogee: πŸ™‚

[09:28]  Namaara MacMoragh: great!

[09:28]  Namaara MacMoragh: (lessons)

[09:28]  Rik Panganiban : so any other resources and links people should know about?

[09:28]  Newton Apogee: So, that’s where we are… Might I answer any questions for the crowd?

[09:28]  Newton Apogee: Yes!

[09:29]  Newton Apogee: If you are working in a public school and would be interested in purchasing Minecraft for use with students , just opened. You can purchase accounts for up to 50% off. …and they take P.O.’s! (Believe me, credit card purchases to an overseas company makes finance departments nervous.)

[09:30]  Buffy Beale: Question: Do you think this is the future, having online games for teaching assisting aids?

[09:30]  Mimi Muircastle: yes, Buffy – I do:)

[09:30]  Newton Apogee: @Buffy – Absolutely! Well, a component of a bigger picture of instruction. I think the beauty is when we develop instruction that taps into student creativity.

[09:31]  Mimi Muircastle: a tool to deliver content in a meaningful way for students

[09:31]  Newton Apogee: Holy smokes, people… School does not have to be boring!!

[09:31]  Buffy Beale: me too Newton, thanks, games are a part of the internet, we may as well understand them and use them to our benefit

[09:31]  Buffy Beale: fun is the new way of learning πŸ™‚

[09:31]  Brena Benoir: Yes

[09:31]  Newton Apogee: New? or forgotten?

[09:31]  Mimi Muircastle: YES! Newton and thank heavens for folks like you who get it!

[09:32]  Buffy Beale: lol, yes, forgotten is right πŸ™‚

[09:32]  Mimi Muircastle: forgotten in the midst of testing!

[09:32]  Keeon Naglo: Forgotten

[09:32]  Newton Apogee: I think kids’ brains know fun learning.

[09:32]  Brena Benoir: make learning fun, immersive and engaging, then people want to do it

[09:32]  Gentle Heron: Children and animals have always known that one learns through play.

[09:32]  Newton Apogee: It’s just that completing 1-150, odd, on page 325 just doesn’t cut it.

[09:32]  Mimi Muircastle: kids make learning fun for themselves, we just have to allow them the freedom to do it!

[09:32]  Newton Apogee: @Mimi – Bingo!

[09:33]  Mimi Muircastle: so true, Gentle and some of us never grew out of that sense of fun:)

[09:33]  Zinnia Zauber: Newton, do you have books you might want to recommend for educators who want to become advocates about gaming and eduation?

[09:33]  Glitteractica Cookie: Are some of these educational orgs nonprofits?

[09:33]  Newton Apogee: Our kids, when they go home, know what engagement is… They play at home, they use social media, and have free-flowing information. We too often deprive them of that “oxygen” (as Chris Lehman calls it) when they step across the threshold of a school.

[09:34]  Newton Apogee: @Zinnia – Indeed I do!

[09:34]  Mimi Muircastle: Many charter schools are nonprofits!

[09:34]  Glitteractica Cookie: And are you familiar with the Game4Change community?

[09:34]  Mimi Muircastle: oh yes the oxygen of freedom to pursue your interests

[09:35]  Newton Apogee: @Zinnia – For an easy-to-read starter (great to put into the hands of curious/concerned parents/teachers/admins), I recommend “Don’t Bother Me Mom — I’m Learning by Marc Prensky.

[09:35]  Newton Apogee: @Zinnia – For educators who are looking for a more “pedagogical” read, “What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” by James Paul Gee

[09:36]  Zinnia Zauber: Yes, great! I just met him, and he loved that my avatar looks like me. lol

[09:36]  Zinnia Zauber: Marc is great.

[09:36]  Zinnia Zauber: great, thank you.

[09:36]  Mimi Muircastle: very cool, Zinnia!

[09:36]  Newton Apogee: Those are starters!

[09:37]  Zinnia Zauber: Thank you, I think we all need to read up and share how important this is.

[09:37]  Newton Apogee: If you go to the wiki, there’s a huge white paper list, largely compiled by Dean Groom, supporting games in education.

[09:37]  Mimi Muircastle: we do!

[09:37]  Zinnia Zauber: wonderful!

[09:37]  Rik Panganiban : Well for any further questions, how do people get a hold of you?

[09:37]  Newton Apogee: There are a bazillion ways!

  • Twitter – @PCSTech
  • email:
  • Skype: lucas.gillispie

Those should get you started.

[09:38]  Rik Panganiban : FYI I found Lucas via Google plus!

[09:38]  Zinnia Zauber: Thank you for sharing with us today!!!

[09:38]  Rik Panganiban : thanks so much for joining us, Newton

[09:38]  Newton Apogee: Honored to do so, @Zinnia!

[09:38]  Rik Panganiban : let’s hear it for him!

[09:38]  Newton Apogee: Thanks for having me, Rik!

[09:38]  Keeon Naglo: *applauds*

[09:38]  Mimi Muircastle: yes, I am impressed and enthused and glad you are out there doing great things for kids!

[09:39]  Newton Apogee: @Mimi – Thank you!

[09:39]  Rik Panganiban : you have inspired me to get started plaing Minecraft

[09:39]  Buffy Beale: Gret job Newton, thanks!

[09:39]  Gentle Heron: Thanks for sharing with us Newton.

[09:39]  Newton Apogee: Yay!

[09:39]  Mimi Muircastle: ah, the thanks are to you!

[09:39]  Zinnia Zauber: This is another world to add to the list!

[09:39]  Rik Panganiban : I’m tired of squeezing chickens in Glitch

[09:39]  Newton Apogee: Oh, all of my links and my typed notes for today are at:

[09:39]  Mimi Muircastle: as I said RikMinecraft trumps Glitch and I have played both!

Written by: rikomatic