The Multi-School server gets pretty active some afternoons when our Minecraft Club meets. Today, in addition to our regular members, Gumby Blockhead came to play. Gumby is an expert Survival World builder in Minecraft. Outside the blocky confines of our game, he is Andrew Forgrave, a teacher with Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. My students really enjoyed interacting with and playing alongside Gumby Blockhead. Don’t take my word for it: read Dishnog‘s post or Kishnog‘s post from the Minecraft Club Hub public wiki.

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There are lots of great things about playing with other teachers and students together in Minecraft. Many of them were evident when the Nogs and the Splats were with Gumby. Minecraft levels the playing field. Although in our server, adults are identified with a tag, the younger players treat them as an equal – and vice versa. I may have said a few complimentary things about Gumby when I saw him log on, but Gumby’s builds spoke for themselves. Gumby treated the Nogs and Splats as “fellow Minecrafters”, not as students to supervise or observe. They checked out his farm, rode his horse (with his permission) and helped him collect crops. (I was fixing roads in our school area’s city.) Despite (or because of?) the equal footing, Gumby was still a great role model. Gumby is renowned on the various servers for collecting all his resources himself and not relying on the infinite inventory of Creative Mode. Gumby was generous with the supplies he amassed but encouraged players to pay it forward – to the virtual earth – by planting saplings if they chopped down trees. He wasn’t lecturing them as a teacher but it was a great, in-game environmental lesson. Gumby was curious and friendly and a good digital citizen.

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There are a lot of practices surrounding Minecraft in education that sadden me – two include devaluing the word “play” and forgetting that adults should be equal participants. Thankfully, on the Multi-School server (and thanks again EDGE Lab at Ryerson University for hosting this space for us), inter-generational play is alive and well.

P.S. This post invoked a lot of anecdotal evidence about why inter-generational play is important. Here’s a tweet that links to a research paper extolling the practice.