Building Community through Minecraft

My Minecraft journey began two summers ago. Returning from my first ISTE, inspired by the Minecraft: Education Edition space, I committed to start playing, to my husband, @mr_isaacs’ delight. I learned a few things pretty quickly: 1. You lose all your inventory when you die. 2. Everything wants to kill you at night. 3. You respawn right back in the face of danger. This was not going to work for me. Lesson 4: creative mode is your friend.   I spent that summer working through the achievements (I’m still looking for diamonds), and sharing my success, and countless failures, in 140 characters or less, using the hashtag #MomsCanCraft. I used wikis and YouTube to learn how to craft everything (yes, even the planks), made too many buttons, and figured out the key to crafting. Lesson 5: layout is everything.   Cue fall, and the school year. New position, new school, new students, new staff. Starting from scratch. New kid on the block jitters. How would I fit in? Would I connect with the students and staff? I decided to introduce myself by adding to my “This is a…” (aka Master of the Obvious) video series, and created a video about me. In the video, I shared some of the highlights of that summer, including learning the difference between an acacia and an oak tree, and a 3D printed creeper. Little did I know how these subtle mentions would impact my new life at school.   3D printing adventures   Each day my first year, I was greeted by students (boys and girls) who would ask me, “Did you find the diamonds?”, “Have you beaten the Ender Dragon?”, “Do you use command blocks?”. Whether it was entering the building in the morning, passing in the hallways, during lunch duty, or just peeking in my office to say hi, someone was always asking about my progress, or wanting to share something cool that they had built. Kids were constantly offering advice, and genuinely interested in helping me improve my skills. It was amazing how Minecraft created an instant connection with these kids, who might not have otherwise interacted with me until they absolutely had to. The Parents’ Association even asked me to auction an afternoon of #Crafting with Mrs Cheo-Isaacs for the annual gala.   These connections were strengthened the following year when my office was moved from a room off the auditorium on the first floor (admin offices only), to the fourth floor common room. My proximity to classrooms, student lockers, and other faculty provided greater opportunity to connect about Minecraft and educational technology. The accessibility allowed kids to stop by every morning to teach me something new. We even live streamed “lessons” on Google Hangouts during #MinecraftMorning. The connections grew to include kids enrolled in the after school program, which met outside my office every afternoon. My #MinecraftMatinee crew loved having time to teach me new skills. They checked in with the after school teachers, and headed straight to my office. These wonderful relationships existed because of Minecraft.   I am grateful for the opportunities that Minecraft and the Global Minecraft Mentor program has provided. My after school coding students were able to beta test the new Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial, experience Code Builder right after it’s release in May, and have their work showcased at the #ISTE17 #HackTheClassroom event. I’ve had the incredible support and the amazing friendship of mentors around the world (and in my own house), all #BecauseOfMinecraft. _______ Cathy Cheo-Isaacs (@iwearthecrowns) is the Educational Technology Specialist at All Access Labs, and the lead producer of the Young Innovators Fair. Prior to joining AAL, she was the Lower School Educational Technology Specialist at Trevor Day School in NYC, and the Technology Integration and Innovation Specialist at Cedar Hill School in Basking Ridge, NJ. Credits include: Google Educator, Google Trainer, Certified BrainPOP Educator, Class Dojo Mentor, Polar Ambassador, Seesaw Ambassador, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Minecraft Global Mentor, Microsoft Surface Expert, #CoffeeEduNJ co-founder, @EdCampNYC Organizer, wife of @mr_isaacs, mom of @amazingrace1214 and @leilaboo215. She hearts all star cheer, tech, food, ‘cuse, and little red cars. Cathy tries to live aloha each day, and likes to yell.