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Minecraft Students are evolving. They’ll pwn teachers (and servers). And that’s awesome.

“You’ll never know more than your students. And that’s okay.”

I find myself saying that a lot to teachers looking to bring Minecraft into their classrooms. Any adult who’s been within a block’s throw of a Minecraft kid knows what I’m talking about.

I’ve written about the encyclopedic knowledge of some Minecraft students around upcoming patches, crafting recipes or the latest must have modpack.

It wasn’t always like this. The knowledge of kids playing Minecraft has increased exponentially every year I’ve used the game in my classroom.

And Teachers should be afraid. Very afraid.

They should also be excited.

Before I tell you why, here’s a look at the Evolution of the Minecraft-Playing Student (as seen by me.)

2011: Mine-what?

In the spring of 2011, I brought Minecraft into the classroom for my first time, after playing it myself for about six months.  I had a small group of students,  six who came to me for reading and writing support. I asked them if they had ever heard of Minecraft. None of them had, but when I showed them this trailer, they were all into it.

They were clueless n00bs, the morning was chaotic and there was so much learning to be had.

2012: Minecraft? Yeah I heard of it.

The next year with a new group at a new school, the reaction a vague knowledge around the game. The kids had heard of it but none had played it. Our early sessions were messy and loud, which was expected. What was a surprise was how quickly these students found the growing catalogue of resources online, from Minepedia, to Yogscast videos and more.

By the end of this year, the students were Minecraft pros and a few had got the game and were now playing at home.

2013: Minecraft? Yeah my brother plays it. I hate it.

My third year using Minecraft was the first year I got push-back from a student about using it. Her brother played it, so she officially hated it. But she gave it a go and was the first one in the group to figure out how to chat in game. From there, she was hooked.

The others in the group had also played Minecraft, either at home or at a friends. They knew the commands, how to build and were off.

The first day wasn’t as messy, but it was still fun.

2014: Minecraft? Yeah, I play and I’m gonna hack your server!

This year is the year I’m seeing things really change. Each student had played Minecraft before.

Two ran their own servers at home and immediately set to work trying to crash the server. They ran World Edit commands, they tried to get Command Blocks, the whole bit.

I was thrilled.

They were poking at the edges of this play space we’d created for them. They were testing the boundaries, trying out their theories and seeing if they could get under the hood of the game. These students felt powerful. They felt in charge.

To them, Minecraft wasn’t a video game you just consume. It was a form of media to be manipulated, hacked and reshaped into their own thing (e.g. a broken server!)

The Many Ways to “Play” Minecraft

I can’t say that’s how these students saw themselves or their attempts to OP themselves, make //sphere TNT 1000 or anything else that would have brought down our GamingEdus server (running on some high end university equipment). They were just testing boundaries, pushing limits and playing Minecraft the way any 11 year old with his own server would play.

They were playing the way a server admin would play. And that shouldn’t be surprising or shocking.

Because outside of the physical building known as “school” and after 3:30 pm, that is who they are. And I’m honoured to have them as builders in our lunch time Minecraft club.

The kids will always know more about Minecraft, or whatever game comes next into your classroom. And that is fine. As teachers, hopefully that doesn’t scare you. Hopefully that gets you charged up (as it does me) to have these student push their learning, and your server into uncharted territory.

How many times can you say that about something you’re doing in your classroom?



Ganked print edition arrives. I am happy.

I’ve written over 30 books and graphic novels for kids over the last decade. I like them all. A lot. I’m always happy when the first printed copies arrive at my door. I get to hold them, put them on my bookshelf, show them to my family, so they know that crazy idea I’ve been talking about for the last year is actually a real “Thing”.

So, I was all prepared for the arrival of the print edition of Ganked: Geeked Out Mysteries #1. Except I wasn’t. I kinda freaked out. And it was cool.

I’ve been bathering on about how much I’ve learned from self-publishing Ganked, after traditionally publishing my other books. You don’t have to search far online to find other authors talking about the benefits to publishing your own work (with the help of many talented people, I might add.)

Anyway, tl;dr version: I got my print copies of Ganked and they are kinda awesome (and I hate using that word.)

Here’s what they looked coming out of the Amazon box:


Click to release the biggersaur !


You see. Awesome, right?

But wait. You gotta check them out on my bookshelf against my other (also awesome) books:


It looks better bigger. You know you want to.


Why I’m Launching Ganked Quietly in a Noisy World

Ganked-drop-shadow2525-500WFriday was a bit of a quiet celebration day around here.

First, it was Friday and that always puts a spring in my step.

Second, my young adult gamer geek mystery, Ganked was officially released into the world as an ebook. The print edition will follow in mid-November.

I say it was a “quiet celebration” because Ganked was released without much fanfare or rafflecoptering giveaways, blog hops or well, much of anything really. It just kinda became “available”. And I couldn’t be happier.

After publishing 30-odd books and participating in my fair share of book launch parties and signings, I’ve decided a quiet book launch is the way to go in this very noisy world. And it’s not because I’m becoming a crusty old writer.


Bringing the Minecraft to ECOO 2013

mutli-sign-shoreham2013I’ll be yammering on about Minecraft a lot this October at the upcoming ECOO 2013 conference, in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Last year’s ECOO Minecraft Madness was a lot of fun and this year promises to be bigger, better and blockier than ever before.

Read on to find out why.


Two quick ways to secure your Minecraft server


Avoid griefing like this. Activate your server white-list!

As Minecraft continues to storm through the world of gaming, education and everywhere else, one thing is for certain: everybody wants to create their own server!

I think that is a great thing.

I’ve run several servers since early 2011, through my GamingEdus project, and we’ve had young players go from casual players to admins of their own virtual world, learning a lot about computers and networks along the way.

For teachers, running your own Minecraft server mean opening a whole new world of play and learning to your students.

In the rush to be the ruler of their own world, many gamers and teachers forget to secure their Minecraft servers from unwanted visitors who could destroy (aka grief) your builds.

Fortunately, securing your Minecraft server is as easy as activating the server white-list and installing a server wrapper, like Craftbukkit. This post will show you how to do just that.


GamingEdus Minecraft Project on DMLCentral

About a month ago, I had the honour of speaking with the legendary Howard Rheingold about the GamingEdus Minecraft project I launched with some amazing teachers and the folks at EDGE Lab at Ryerson University.

Our chat was for a larger piece for DML Central, about Minecraft and it’s power for learning.  You can read the article on the DML Central blog. You can also watch the video embedded below (aren’t you lucky?)


Teaching and Learning with Minecraft: Liam O’Donnell from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

So what do you think about “Messy Learning” in Minecraft? Would love to hear your thoughts or ideas about using this game with students in the comments below.

And thanks to Melanie McBride for setting up the interview and all the people at EDGE Lab for making the project possible.


As an award-winning children’s author, gamer-geek and elementary school teacher, I often have teaching ideas and writing news to share with fellow educators. I deliver these resources and ideas to your inbox in my e-newsletter Reading Change.

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