33 posts categorized "Thoughts"

Images on the cinema screen

With the pupils completing the cinema design, it's time to move onto a new project. Except that there is one more thing needed at the cinema - something on the screens. They are sitting there blank.

What would be much better would be picture (or a movie playing - even better) to make it look finished.

When we first started the cinema build, I was chatting to the school technician about this and we both tried - unsuccessfully - to find a way to get an image on the giant monitor. 

Well, I wasn't prepared to give up and have been beavering away  since using the computercraft mod.

Today I cracked it. The reason we were failing (primarily) is that (1) the children had built the screen using the 'basic' monitor with a grey surround and (2) I connected a 'basic' computer to it. Basic, in this case just wasn't good enough. It needed 'advanced' monitors with the yellow surround and an advanced computer. 

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Because the computer was placed to the right of the screen, it meant that "monitor left" would need to be used to send the output to the screen correctly.

Once the advanced items were in place I needed to open the "paint" program on the advanced computer, making sure it output to the location of the monitor, and the specify an image name.

 > monitor left paint image1 

Once this was running I could then draw - block by block - an image on the cinema screen; With an image completed, I used CTRL + S to save the image to the advanced computer.

To make the image appear whenever I wanted it to, I needed to edit the start program on the advanced computer

> edit start

and then write a program that would call up the image from the advanced computer, and draw it on screen.

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Once the edited start file had been saved (CTRL  key then select SAVE), it could be run with the following command to make sure the display was sent to the big screen on the left of the computer;

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So now showing on Screen1 is a blockbuster movie, while on Screen2 is a film about a plane;

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The World So Far...

Using the isometric view that MCMap creates from MineCraft data, (as mentioned in a previous post) I've created a view of the World created so far by pupils over the past few years. Seeing it like this, it suddenly becomes apparent just how much creativity there has been.



For a long time I've been trying to map the pupils Minecraft world so they can see just how big it is. Last year I resorted to making several 'maps' in game that I then had to stitch together to make an overview of the world. I was never 100% pleased with the birds eye view it created.


I wanted something more akin to a 1980's computer game view - the view that Bing and Apple maps gives me when I'm in the 3D map mode. I wanted the isometric view. Thanks to mcmap, I've finally got it.

Here is the current world (a little is missing from one edge as I squared off the map) in wonderful isometric glory. (Click on each image for a bigger version of the map)


Making the virtual physical

I stumbled across some software today called "MineWays". It allows a MineCraft world to be viewed in a birds eye style, and then lets you select a specific area of the world (for example a version of a school pupils have made).

MineWays then takes that area of the world and presents it in 3D, and allows the file to be exported to a 3D printer. Obviously I had to give it a try using the school 3D printer, and the result is in the photo below (with MineCraft comparison under it);

IMG_0508 2016-11-25_23.00.06

Déjà Vu - almost

The after school group of pupils who began to construct their new houses last week fetched laptops to continue with their building this week and discovered an issue. They were unable to log on. Thinking that they were doing something wrong, I told them to try again carefully - until I went to log on and discovered I wasn't able to either.

No problem, I thought, as I could just remote into the server and check the MCE server for any issues. And that's where everything started to unravel. I couldn't access the school server. I went to the suite and looked at the server monitor only to be greeted by a strange screen. I contacted our tech via Twitter who was also unable to remote in. 

That left a group of pupils unable to continue with their task, and so we quickly thought about other buildings we could design that the city was missing. They settled on a cinema (they city has two theatres already - an open air and a covered one - but no cinema) and began to allocate areas of the cinema to design. They all began to think about our local cinema in the city centre and the separate sections they remembered within it; the ticket office area, the refreshments area, the screen(s)* and the restrooms.

So now we have a cinema blueprint ready and waiting once they've completed their houses.

*Initially all of them thought about designing the screens but soon realised that just one design would be needed as it could be repeated again and again within the building because all the cinema screens look the same.


However, going back to the server issue... with the access problems we discovered our tech paid us a visit the following morning to find out what was going on, and soon had some very bad news. It seemed as though a part of the server where MCE was installed (and the worlds saved) had corrupted and everything could have been lost. Cue my panic at the recollection of when we first started our MinecraftEdu journey and the corrupted world we encountered one day without warning. Fortunately, through a bit of command line investigation our amazing technician managed to find where the files were, back them up, fix the server and reinstall MCE and the worlds without losing anything. What a relief! He's now put in place a system to automatically back up the MCE files, and as an extra backup, I'll be regularly saving the world and then copying that saved file into a third location as an ultimate failsafe. The city has grown far to big to lose!

Redstone ramblings, Part2

More distractions via redstone as I wondered whether it was possible to make a "lift" using sticky pistons. It seemed easy enough to make each piston extend, but retracting each one, and then finding a way to pull the pistons back down to their original place was tricky. However, it *IS* achievable, although it takes up a lot of room, uses an unbelievable amount of redstone and repeaters, and would be much easier just to place a flight of stairs in a building instead.

I tried to colour code the design and so white wool carries signals to extend the pistons (they are inside the purple "floors" area), red wool carries the signals to retract the pistons, whilst the blue wool is a looping section that forces the pistons to extend and pull down the piston above it until all pistons are in their original position. In the second image you can see the height that the "lift" travels between floors (just 6 blocks!).


The lift is operated on each floor by a lever, and these are connected to a XOR gate (seen in the second image on the purple blocks of floor1).

Redstone ramblings, Part1

It's the spring break (I'd have called it the 'Easter Holiday', but as we didn't break up until after Easter had finished it seems wrong) and I'm sat at my laptop doing some housekeeping on the CityQuest project.

Despite the pressures of the current curriculum, I have managed to - occasionally - find time for my class to take the CityQuest challenge and attempt to find The Great Explorer. They worked in pairs, and over a course of several sessions managed to get about halfway through the challenge. I can see where it needs to be altered, and what needs to be made easier, and so this is one my holiday jobs.

However, I got bored, and so began to mess around within the city. I built a small minecraft powered railway and thought about whether it could contain 'points' to redirect the direction the cart travelled in. The first attempt with sticky pistons was awful. Everytime the piston moved, it ripped up the track next to it making it unusable. But then I accidentally laid the track a full block away from the piston and this time it worked. When the piston activated this time, it pulled the track towards it, and then pushed it away successfully;


With a little further experimentation, I could lay a second track by the side of the initial track at one block below (to prevent the track from joining), and flick a switch to direct a mine cart along either route.

Then I thought about placing a button next to the track, connected via redstone and a few repeaters so that a user sat in the mine cart could trigger the points themselves;

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Now I'm trying to figure out just what this could be used for. I've no idea at the moment, but I'm sure something will come to me eventually.

It's all ground to a halt :o(

My grand plan to get some Yr5/6 pupils to build a new project hasn't happened. There's no time for it in the school day anymore because our older pupils are so busy trying frantically to learn so much for the new SATs tests that there is no time for anything else.

For me, as a teacher, this is heartbreaking. Creative learning has been pushed further and further into the long grass as the ridiculous demands from the Department of Education have been ratcheted up and up until we've reached breaking point.

It's wrong. It's short sighted. It's immoral. Messing with children's futures to make a political point shouldn't be allowed, but the government seems intent on doing more and more of this.

The only - small - ray of hope is the single session each week where my own class spend an hour working through the 'CityQuest' challenge in pairs. They are showing great teamwork, and their problem solving skills are improving as they try and find The Great Explorers hidden items around last years MineCraftEdu city project.

Up, up and away

The MineCraft City project has had a few more additions.

Once the main challenge has been completed, and the pupil discovers 'The Great Explorer' there is a teleport block that gives them access to several areas of the project instantly. 

Now, there is a new destination within the teleport options: a Space Station!


Once a pupil arrives inside of this object, they'll meet a familiar (and now famous) person;


Yes, we've put @astro_timpeake up there, and the pupils can ask a few questions.

In fact, it's not just AstroTim that the pupils can interact with - there are now lots of characters all around the project world that will pass on information to pupils, or respond to a range of questions they are asked;

  • There are some characters who will suggest places to visit
  • There are some characters who will tell you all about a particular place
  • There are some characters who will ask for your particular help

Now, it's just a case of

(1) finding time to run an extra curriculum activity, and

(2) finding pupils who aren't stressing out and panicking about SATs, SPAG tests or times tables skills...

New Term, New idea...

With the city project completed last term, there is no world for any children to continue working on when the new school year begins. So, I've been messing around over the summer trying to create the framework for a new one.

This one is based on a project that was initially begun last year before the world borked and all work was lost - a medieval land.


Here's the idea;

There is a walled settlement named 'Three Crops' (try working out why) that currently contains a Manor House where the Lord and Lady live, along with a single medieval house. The first task for any pupil to undertake is to construct their own medieval house for a villager using the same materials as in the example house.


The pupils have no access to unlimited blocks, and so to build their house they will need to visit the dispensers and remove the required number of blocks as they construct their house (I can top up the dispensers if needed, but the idea is that they take only what they need, as otherwise it will prevent their classmates from completing their building)


Once this first challenge has been completed, there are others planned;

- Plant and tend to crops that the settlement will need.


- Discuss and plan additional buildings that a walled settlement needs apart from houses. Once planned, these can be constructed.


- Plan and construct a medieval ship at the 'dock'


So, there it is. Now I just need to find some pupils willing to use minecraftedu (won't be hard!), and then try and find a time to allow creativity to flourish in the school. That's my challenge.