Something that surprised me...
Tell us about something that really surprised you about Minecraft and why. Make sure to explain fully and use any media or links that you need to help tell the story.

Juan Pablo R. (subatomicfish)
Lake Mary, Florida

When I first started Minecraft I didn't think Minecraft could be actually a great learning tool, but now I use it for so many learning opportunities. This has surprised me because many people think of Minecraft as just any other game. It works with almost every subject you learn at school.

Jackson S. (247LikeaBoss)
Lake Mary, Florida

Minecraft and camps involving Minecraft have created a friendly and creative student and citizen in me, whether it's building temples with friends, buildings, or anything I want. Myan Mysteries has taught me how to respect my friends and every person that uses internet or a multiplayer server. Minecraft has also inspired many intresting thoughts in my daily life and it has helped develop important real world skills. Thank you for Minecraft!

Dean Groom:

(Sydney Australia)
Someone has to start this, so here goes. The first thing I noticed about Minecraft, more than any other game out there -- was it's potential to truly bridge the family vs school literacy. By this I mean that what kids use at home (to become literate) is not 'digital literacy' but things learnt because of family belief, mediation and access to media technologies. More than that, it's aesthetic allows parents to recall the 80s and use inter-generational literacies. If you like, broke the idea that kids are 'digital natives' and adults 'immigrants' -- though I never thought that a useful binary.

My experience (I played early beta and didn't get it then later in early 2011 when I did) is that this game has managed to give kids a sense of emerging literacy -- the idea that what they are learning isn't complete and that there will be new skills and understandings ahead. If you like, this will get deeper and harder. It's therefore really interesting that with no end to the game in sight, and potentially harder work to do that they keep playing it -- and developing more media beyond it. This simply never happened with the much fawned over Web2.0. Kids simply didn't take up home and school blogging or movie making to the extent they have around Minecraft.

In summary, my experience is that Minecraft now contains the attributes and archetypes that re-defines 'emerging literacy' and supplants more limited ideas of 'digital literacy'. We are at a place now where we should be playing a lot more attention to home literacy than ever before -- and not assuming that schools can simply co-opt it to play the game and appear edgy -- but to signal radical change in media education itself.

Barb McDonald:

(Michigan USA)
A couple of things surprised me (as the parent of one girl and one boy (ages 9 and 8 when they got into it -- 10 and 9 now). First a little background on me -- I'm generally an early adopter of all things technological and I currently design digital learning and learning environments for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Second my husband is a software engineer and network guy. Our kids have been on our computers with one thing or another from the time they were three. The first thing that surprised me was that they could do more than build! I thought it was great that they could build stuff together (they did that when all they had was the tablet version of Minecraft). When they got the PC version for Christmas (installed on the spanking new computers), they learned (and so did I) about things like playing Hunger Games and Parkour. WOW!

What I love (maybe it's less surprising than enlightening) is that they are extending the social skills we have taught them in the face to face world into the digital world. And learning along the way how things are different when you can't see someone's body language. I also appreciate that we are able to teach these skills as they happen with little "childish" interpretations of the situation. You know, when your child comes home from f2f confrontation and all you can get from them is their interpretation of what happened and why. In the digital world, because it's all recorded, we (as parents) can stop them, review the interactions, and explain some alternative choices they can make. For example, my children were playing with the child of a friend of ours, but the kids had never met f2f. One night my son (8 yo) was apoplectic because the other boy kept destroying my son's stuff. My son was sure that the other boy was doing it to annoy my son. My son wanted me to tell the other boy's mom what was going on. I said, before I do that, have you asked D why he's doing what he's doing? My son said no, but that he would ask. Low and behold, my son found out that the other boy was trying to do something, but didn't know how to do it. So once my son explained it to him, the other boy stopped doing it wrong (and annoying). To me, this is THE MOST invaluable lessons my children can learn right now. Technology will come and go -- tools and methods we use now will be different by the time they are adults -- but the opportunity to learn these digital social skills now is HUGE! I also believe that my children will be teaching the other children some of these skills.

Jay N. (jcreepercrusher)
Lake Mary, Florida

I think something that surprised me in Minecraft is how complex the game is. Also it was surprising when I found out I could download mods to actually expand gameplay experience.

Annabel Astbury
(Melbourne, Australia)

Something that surprised me about Minecraft is the way that it taught me more about the back end of business. When my son first started playing in about 2011, he soon realised that the gameplay could be improved by installing texture packs and other mods. Of course, he found out about this through other players but mainly You Tube. He asked me for help to obtain one of these mods and soon i was faced with the task of googling "How do I install...on a Mac". Through various wikis, boards, communities and You Tube tutorials and A LOT OF TRIAL AND ERROR I became proficient not only in installing mods, adding texture pack but became more familiar with the back end of Minecraft and all the files required to put it together. So, I guess what surprised me about it was that with tenacity and interest, I too, liked becoming somewhat of an expert in this field - just in my family, of course! I just remember one night trying time after time to install some mods way in to the wee hours of the morning, so determined to get it working and after tinkering for all that time, getting better each time, I finally had victory. It wasn't a win in the game but a win of a different type. Also, to show that someone with very limited experience of how these things work, can actually learn how to do something using right resources and tools.

Connor P. (HeathrowConnorP)
Lake Mary, Florida

Something that surprised me was that there are endless possibilities. From regular survival mining, installing a mod where an overpowered gigantic creeper (made from Chemical X) destroys every sing blocky bone in your body, or a plugin where you can 1-hit kill a person with a firework shooting wooden hoe. Endless. Now the community is waiting for the next big thing.

Lucas Gillispie (Edurealms)
North Carolina, USA

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in the Video Games and Learning MOOC facilitated by Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkhueler. In one of her talks on videos games and communities, Constance referred to sociologist Ray Oldenburg's idea of Third Places, in short, spaces outside of work or home where individuals meet, socialize, and form a sense of belonging. She goes on to suggest that massively multiplayer online games can potentially fill this role, virtually, of being a third place. It was around this same time that I decided to rebuild one of our two district Minecraft servers. Our district's Minecraft program had been going on for over two years at this point and it was time for something new and fresh, plus, our learners consistently stretch my own learning when it comes to server management, and I'd picked up several new tricks, skills, and was generally looking to start with a clean slate, re-building the server from the ground up.

One weekend in late September I began slowly adding components and settings to our new server. At this point, only a small handful of our high school students had access to the server outside of the classroom. As I was bringing the server up for testing and taking it down again, they kept popping in. Once things were stable, I began to consider what direction we might take with this new world and told them as much in chat. "Can we help?" I thought for a moment. "Why not?" I shared with this group of three students some of the ideas I had and they shared their own. Finally, I simply gave them administrative rights, gave them some basic "how-to's" with a plugin called World Edit and told them, "You have 48 hours." The goal was to create a starting town, that would serve as a central meeting spot and hub of server activity. As always, they amazed me, not so much for their skills in building, but for their thoughtfulness of players who would soon inhabit our world.

"Soon," I told them, "the floodgates are going to open and we're going to be swamped with over 100 middle schoolers." Our largest middle school was launching their program and had indicated in the permission forms sent home to parents that the server would be available 24/7 (and with no guarantee of adult supervision). I began to ask them about their vision for the server. What sort of rules would you have? How will you help out newcomers? I suggested a ranking system that encouraged activities that would encourage players to invest in building up the community of the server and they helped me flesh it out.

With our new middle school immigrants arriving in droves, this core group, along with emerging leaders from among the middle school crowd began to increasingly take ownership over the activities of the server. The community was forming. I thought back to the talk I'd heard from Constance and realized that I was seeing a digital Third Place form right in front of my eyes. Today, only after a few months, students are largely doing what could have been a tremendous amount of work on my part. We've launched a Guide program in which these emerging leaders assist in the routine operations of community management. Likewise, there's an incredible amount of valuable learning taking place that I attribute to this space meeting Oldenberg's eight aspects of Third Places. I believe our Minecraft server meets each one of them and has become a Third Place for students between home and school. I put together a presentation that I've shared at a few conferences as well as a little video, again with the students' help, that highlights some of this.