Yesterday evening I gave a TEDx talk about Minecraft as a language learning domain. Video to come soon!
OK, so you want to join us over at Kotoba Miners but don’t now where to start? Follow these steps to get signed up, enrolled and on the course!
Enroll and pay course fees over here. You will need to put in your Minecraft username:
The first place players see as they enter your Minecraft server. It has to have that wow-factor to guarantee return visits. It also has to be functional, lag-free, easily traversable and appropriate for the theme of the server.
Our old spawn was massive, sprawling, and processing power heavy. Don’t get me wrong, it was phenomenally beautiful, but was much more “form over function.” If players have difficulty negotiating the first place they see on your server, guess what, you’ve lost them. And we did.
この鯖ちょっと重いというか動作が遅い。ノーパソだから余計重いKotoba Miners 1.0 spawn from above
Just look at the size of this thing. Not only is it a whole town square, but a floating town square that requires some serious walking just to exit it. Half of those buildings you see are unused and the bridge over to the left is to another huge castle that remains little used to this day. Time to fix all this!
This server, and particularly spawn, addresses all of the previous problems.
The design considerations of the new server can be summed up in the following points:
In my opinion the new spawn is:
There are only two major buildings (the town hall and shop), a dojo which houses the server rules, and a small 千と千尋の神隠し-inspired downtown area. I will now introduce these three areas and their purposes.
This is for town introductions and recruitment. It is a little bigger than originally intended, but in retrospect the size allows us to host a number of additional informative areas such as common player commands, an 王室. The building is inspired heavily by the 帝国ホテル (Imperial Hotel) by Frank Lloyd Wright.Source:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Imperial_Hotel_Wright_House.jpgOur town hall
One of the most difficult things for a server to get right in Minecraft is the economy. Common questions include
The new shop uses Hyperconomy, a plugin which features a dynamically changes the price of items in the shop based on supply and demand. in other words, get loads of money for the first few saddles you sell, but see that price drop rapidly as the shops stock increases. Already the price of a saddle has gone from ¥80,000 to less than ¥30,000 when I last checked.
The downtown area to the right of the shop will feature a number of player-made quests in a similar vein to those found in MMORPGs. The plugin used is called Quests and features a simple way to make quests, give rewards, and even make complex quest chains that build up in difficulty. The plan, then, is for admin and players to create quests using the Japanese they know (and some they don’t) to create interactive, text-based adventures.
I’m extremely excited for the next step in the history of Kotoba Miners, and am even more sure that with this iteration, we are heading in a direction that will promote more language learning, a more integrated course and Minecraft specific task-based methodology that I’ve been working on. This methodology is built around the notion of:
Plan → Build → Use → Review
But that’s for another post. ＾ー＾
I’ve been accepted to present at TED! I’ll be introducing the how and the why behind the Kotoba Miners project!
The Town intro and recruiting building is a little bigger than we originally intended, but we can host a number of other things inside, so I’m really excited to see this one built. For those wondering, it is inspired heavily on the 帝国ホテル (Imperial Hotel) by Frank Lloyd Wright. I have attached a pic of the original below the minecraft version.
I’m super excited about this new server. There are some very interesting plugins that we have for creating reading comprehension skills and finally a plugin to help with kanji knowledge! ;)
How I came to the decision to abolish ranks in my language school
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how I can promote more community-based learning and teaching sessions outside of my Japanese class times. It’s well known that as soon as class has finished on the server most people log out. Never to return… until the following class.
Let’s go back to square one. What is the rank system that I am talking about here? Well, the Japanese course that I teach is based on weekly lessons. Lesson plans are stored sequentially in buildings of approximately 5-7 storeys known as the JP buildings. These buildings are surrounded by learning activities appropriate to their content.JP8 building surrounded by language learning activities
As there are 10 buildings, the idea was to give students a “rank up” when they finish all the content of a building. There are therefore 11 ranks represented by a prefix to players IGN. [JP0] for people that are just starting out and [JP10] for those that have completed the final building. Along with the ranks, students gain more and more responsibility as a fairly innocuous reward (read: cool permissions to change things in game).
As players learn with me, they complete lessons and gain ranks. These ranks act as a status symbol showing what the student is capable of doing. The higher the rank, the higher Japanese proficiency. And this is where my initial ideology comes in. I imagined a server where the community would be interested in helping new members become more proficient in Japanese, leaving myself to focus on planning and teaching the later lessons. In other words, imagine a pyramid where I teach the few students that have completed all other content, and they in turn pass their knowledge onto the next level and so on all the way down to the [JP1] students teaching the [JP0] students. Wishful thinking, eh? All of this is outlined in the server intro guide and right outside the first building. There is even an in-game monetary reward offered for people that help each other to rank up in this fashion.Server guidebookServer guidebook 2
In practice however, what happens is:
I am physically unable to teach every newcomer the [JP1] building content on an individual basis which is why I really need the community to pull together and help new players level up for the greater good! I teach a Japanese course, but is has been going for a while now so the content is way past the basics. However, a new instance of this Japanese course starting in February so I’ll finally be able to start some new students on the JP ladder!
OK, so if we are keeping the ranking system (which I may choose not to do (more on this later)) there may be a better way to incentivize altruistic actions.
Instead of giving people the next incremental rank of the JP ladder upon completing all of the course content within one of the JP buildings, how about we アド民 only reward a JP rank upon having helped someone else complete the same content. As an example:
My thinking regarding the rank system is stuck. I’m constantly working onhow to reward people effectively instead of focusing on if I actually need to reward people.
I recently finished reading Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. It was a fantastic read and complemented another book that I have read by Daniel Pink: Drive. The premise of both of books is to highlight that research on motivation in a number of domains (school, workplace, parenting) all point to one thing: rewards, whether monetary, gold stickers, or even praise have detrimental effects on an individuals intrinsic motivation. This particular type of motivation is considered an individual’s motivation towards doing a task for the enjoyment of doing it, not due to external pressures or desire to attain a reward.
Sure, rewards seem to work, else why would we have so many of them like incentive programs, grades in school, and sweets for successfully using a potty. The knock-on effect however is that when rewards are not explicitly made available, task-engaement plummets. Without going into too much detail, there is a very famous study by Deci and Ryan which showed that when children were promised a reward for playing with a puzzle, when they were told they didn’t have to play with the puzzle anymore, they didn’t. However, those that were offered nothing continued playing even when they were told they didn’t have to.
Key points I took from Punished by Rewards:
A player on Kotoba Miners succinctly wrote about how unnecessary rewards are on a thread about how and why we should be providing more rewards for learning Japanese on the server:
Remove the reward system for JP learning. Anyone that is studying Japanese and is still doing it at this point is because they are actually interested in learning the language. Never have I gone to a lesson or done an activity because I wanted the reward, I’ve done it because I want to further my understanding.
So does this mean that as soon as the rewards are removed engagement and altruistic acts will suddenly appear more frequently? Probably not, and Kohn provides three reasons why not.
I offer a few reasons why I doubt we’ll be seeing people fall over themselves to help others:
There is no real conclusion yet… sorry. I know what I am going to try and do though (after discussing with the player-base of course):