In late September 2019 the Minecraft Education Edition team ran a specific command in real life. It was “/tp @BBTNB @Nashville” and before I knew it I was teleported onto Broadway, the main street in a city that doesn’t know that parties have to stop eventually. I was not only going to live out the dream of being in the audience of Minecon Live, but along with a very special guest in Deirdre Quarnstrom (Lead of Minecraft Education Edition and Block by Block Board Member) I was going to be on the show! Just like in Minecraft, my time in Nashville didn’t move slowly and I found myself walking into memorable experiences one after another.
Before I even had a room at the hotel I decided to get breakfast at the restaurant. Sitting alone, still not having met Deirdre, I glanced slightly to my right and to my surprise sitting five feet away was Jens Bergensten @Jeb_ the creator of the most popular video game ever made…Minecraft! Having grown up in a town in Canada frequented by celebrities I knew best practice was to let him eat breakfast. But…. I also knew my students and my son wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t meet him. I simply said “As a father and a teacher I want to thank you for creating Minecraft” and went back to my breakfast wondering how foolish I had looked.
I was in town for a reason. The Sustainability Shuffle, my Minecraft Education Edition project focused on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, had just finished two years of travelling the planet with students from Kindergarten to Post-Secondary Education building a better future collaboratively within a single Minecraft world. Deirdre and I had been kindly given a window of time to share the idea, the progress, an example and to compliment the brilliant effort by teachers and students all over the world. Through the ample rehearsal time Ireland emerged as the most relevant build to mention on that specific day, due to their Goal 15 Life on Land build which, featured bee sustainability but also resulted in “Cow Farts” becoming a focal point of what was to be otherwise an upbeat but less laughable segment.
It is hard to be treated like “The Talent” when you are familiar with granola bar lunches and photocopying everything yourself. I had makeup artists, catered food, microphone assistants, wardrobe suggestions, a Green Room, and even free run of the entire set throughout my stay. I shared the Green Room with Jessica Chobot our segment host who works very hard and is super congenial. Deirdre was there with me the entire time too and as we were talking early on the first day there was a knock at the door. Behind me was Jens but also Agnes Larsson @_LadyAgnes who had come for a more formal greeting. The entire Mojang team had the Green Room next to ours! I had the wind in my sails after REALLY meeting these legends and the experience only got better. I got to meet Quinn Richter from the Marketplace Team, Cory Scheviak, whose passion for sustainable development in Minecraft rivaled my own, Jason Major who was a key component in the developing of the game we know today and many more of the talented people who make Minecraft so special. Lydia Winters was just as energetic and kind backstage as she is on camera and Vu Bui couldn’t help but noticed how stoked I was about the coming Minecraft movie as we laughed about how it has got to do better than The Angry Birds Movie. Right? All interactions left me feeling as if this entire team cares what the community thinks about the game right down to this single teacher backstage.
On the big day, Deirdre rocked the pre-show and we did our best to focus on the effort and talent in our Global Minecraft Mentor community. Cow Farts were mentioned many times but you’ll have to watch the segment online (Give us more views) to see the context. I really think educators will find creative ways to use the augmented reality app Minecraft Earth with students as well as the coming Minecraft board game! The Nether update will prompt some very interesting student writing in Language Arts classes. Relations with the Piglins will open the door to further empathy and international relations education, and as a father, I know that the new emotes and character creator will be a hit once implemented. Cory’s “Bringing Bees into Minecraft” video is great for students of all ages too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4waBSLyhoU
I am very excited for Minecraft Festival in Orlando in 2020 although I hear you have to be very fast when getting tickets. I do hope I can attend with my family and meet many more Global Minecraft Mentors and more of the Microsoft/Mojang family as well. I want to thank the Minecraft Education Team for taking a risk with the teleport command mentioned above. I will remember this experience forever. Thank you!
Tradition. That’s what Skype-a-thon or its newest moniker the Microsoft Global Learning Connection (MGCL) has become at our school. What can appear as a superficial international Kahoot game about pop culture, is indeed an event that inspires a sense of school pride, belonging and even strength. Our girls finished first and second last year in the Kahoot World Cup event and wished to defend their title this year during the Global Learning Connection. They not only recaptured their international title but three friends joined them in completely winning the leaderboard for Canada. Sure it was pop culture as a topic, but when you get every single question correct and quickly do so, well, that’s intelligence and confidence displayed in a pressure situation. The five winning girls are right to be proud.
It is our mission however to use the annual Microsoft Global Learning Connection is a much deeper way than just games. As Canadian Remembrance Day approached we decided it would be ideal to have a chat between Canadian students and students in the Netherlands. The Dutch and Canadian societies have been forever bound together since World War 2 and with our day to remember coming we wanted to solidify the meaningfulness for our students. Microsoft Innovative Expert Jorne from the Netherlands aided us by having his students present Dutch culture and then ask our students questions about Canada. Despite the age difference in the two groups of students all of the students left the connection feeling better about our relationship and more informed about the other nation.
The timing of the MGLC this year was perfect and we are already thinking of what we could do next year (outside of defending our global Kahoot crown) to empower students further through global outreach. Thanks Microsoft for organizing such an event.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB