Events for: Monday, February 17, 2014
6:30-7:30 pm EST
Introduction to Minecraft
G Hangout - Interview
Colin Osterhout


Show Notes

Presenter Bio

I’m Colin Osterhout and I am a full-time graduate student at the University of Alaska Southeast in the Education Technology program. Previously, my most recent experience has been as a systems / network administrator for small school districts throughout Alaska. In my past career-lives I’ve also been a programmer and an engineer. As part of my coursework, over the past year and a half I have been roped into a few different initiatives involving Minecraft in the classroom, and I’m here today to share some of the lessons I’ve learned to get you started.

I don’t consider myself an expert in Minecraft! It’s a very big world - I have experience helping others get started with it but the real experts are going to be your students.

Who should be here?

Educators who have heard about Minecraft or MinecraftEdu but don’t know very much about it will get the most out of this session.

What to Expect by the Time We Leave

By the time we finish today we’ll have gone through the basics of how to get started and how you can use it in your classroom environment. You will be at a spot where you can then explore on your own!

Here's The Pitch

So you have heard about this “Minecraft” thing, your son / daughter has been playing it non-stop, or else you keep on seeing kids walk around with a blocky looking guy on their shirt and are wondering what the big deal is? Ever play legos as a child? Sitting up for hours and hours, spending so much time sifting through the big, way too deep box of legos? Remember that feeling of glory as you finally built that super-awesome plane complete with external fuel tanks, missiles, and … and… you get the point. And that was “back in the day” before all the Lego Technics, NXT robotics components, etc. For a visual, check out Drakkart's video on the subject:

Even if you don’t remember your rear-end getting cold on the basement floor as you work on the latest delta-wing design to show off to your mom and dad, you’ve undoubtedly seen _that_ expression on a child’s face before. Now take that enthusiasm and move it into the computer space. Let’s imagine what you can build using a couple scenarios:
  • An box of Legos of infinite depth, easily searchable (as opposed to sifting around in the box for 15m looking for _that one_ piece that you really need)
  • Sitting in a vast landscape made up of Legos where you can take the pieces that are all around you and reshape and recombine them into something else

What does Minecraft Give me that a big box of Legos doesn’t?

  • The concept of crafting
  • Multiplayer - worldwide!
  • A lot cheaper!
  • You won’t step on the parts with your barefeet in the middle of the night!

Architecture (and glossary) of Minecraft

  • Client - the program that you run on your computer that provides "the game" experience. Connects to the server in multiplayer mode. The Minecraft client is the piece you download from Mojang.
  • Server - the program that someone runs allowing multiple clients to connect and play at the same time on the same world. There are multiple varieties of server software packages out there allowing for different mod environments and features; some of the most popular:
    • Vanilla Minecraft server - The "stock" server, provided for free from
    • Minecraft Forge - very popular 3rd party server, comes with it's own mod loader (Forge Mod Loader)
    • FeedTheBeast (FTB) - A community that groups together popular mods and builds packages based on the Minecraft Forge server
    • Bukkit - Another popular Minecraft server distribution
  • Mod - short for "module". Provides additional features to Minecraft and is installed on either the server, the client, or both, depending on the nature of the mod. Server lists on the web (see below) will specify which mods are enabled for that server, or "Vanilla" if none.
  • Spawn Point - the entry point for the world. Where you go when your character dies.

A Very Short List of Gameplay Terms

This is far from exhaustive, but should serve to get you started!
  • Creative Mode vs. Survival Mode - Creative mode allows you to have an infinite supply of any block that you like in your inventory. You're not battling against monsters, and you don't need to eat food to stay alive. And to top it all off, you can fly! Survival mode is just that: you're pitched against monsters, you need to scrounge around (or farm!) for food, and the only blocks at your disposal are the ones that you scrape from the earth or craft from those raw ingredients.
  • Singleplayer vs. Multiplayer - If you run Minecraft just on your local machine in either Creative or Survival modes you are playing "singleplayer" - there's no server involved. If you connect to a server somewhere then you are running in "multiplayer".
  • Difficulty level: peaceful through hardcore. In peaceful, the monsters don't attack you. The damage they inflict, and the amount of monsters you face, gets progressively more difficult until you opt for a server that is "hardcore"; which means that if you die, you are banned from that server. That's harsh!
  • Adventure mode: places limitations on what blocks can be destroyed with what tool; allows map makers to generate maps suitable for questing. Think: Dungeons and Dragons.

Minimum Specs

  • For Minecraft / MinecraftEdu: most any machine made within the past few years will work, as long as it has at least 2GB of RAM. 4GB works better.
  • MinecraftPE: iOS or Android. Doesn’t work [easily] on Chromebook. Doesn’t work well in lab situations where you are using roaming profiles or something like Faronics’ DeepFreeze.

What is MinecraftEdu anyway?

MinecraftEdu is a specially developed combination of server, client, and set of mods that allow teachers an easy path to setting up a server and a great range of classroom management tools through the use of special teleport blocks and features such as blocks that restrict student access and student building (and destroying) in certain map areas.

MinecraftEdu provides discounted Mojang licenses for classroom use - this allows you to either have a set of "classroom" licenses that stick with your class, or provide them to your students for their own use. Highly recommended for working in the classroom! They have been great to work with and usually respond within 24 hours to emails.

How much does it cost? How does licensing work?

I came up with a quick and dirty MinecraftEdu licensing cost estimator for an example class. Feel free to copy and use as a rough guide! For more official costs, use the MinecraftEdu purchasing page to request a quote.

OK, That’s Great. So how do I get started again?

Get a Mojang Account

Either on your own, or as a part of a discounted license purchase through MinecraftEdu, you will need to get a Mojang account to play the game. Having a Mojang account is required to download and play Minecraft with others.

Recommended: Download and Play Minecraft (not MinecraftEdu) in Single Player Mode

Once you have the Mojang account you can then go and download and install Minecraft onto your computer. This is highly recommended so you can experience the normal facets of Minecraft life: running single player, either in creative or survival mode, logging on to servers, etc. Make sure you get the controls figured out; for Mac users I personally recommend remapping the "Use Item" key.

Recommended for those who are interested in connecting to outside servers

Look up an outside server that matches up with what you’re looking for on Reddit.

Here's a quick guide to popular server types, often listed by acronym:
  • Creative
  • Vanilla - Stock Minecraft Server
  • PvP - Player vs. Player
  • SMP - Survival Multiplayer
  • Adventure

Attempt to connect to an outside server and make sure that the school’s firewall doesn’t block the connection. Request special permission if necessary. (Tell your IT staff: please allow outbound connections over TCP and UDP port 25565).

Get your “Minecraft Learning System” figured out

  • Minecraft wiki - Invalulable. Don't open up Minecraft without it! Great for craft recipes and a just-in-time resource to figure out specifics of gameplay.
  • MinecraftEdu wiki - a little out of date at times, has resources particular to using MinecraftEdu.
  • Minecraft-Teachers Google Group - I post occasionally, lurk a little more, but I’ve found the denizens to be extremely patient and helpful. Great for searching for answers on your own.
  • Minecraft in Education Google Plus Community
  • YouTube videos. There’s a whole culture of people who use YouTube to share videos of their work. An excellent example of a YouTube screencaster, featured on a different Gamifi-ED session, Drakkart.
  • Forums - there are many. I have found the most helpful information on Planet Minecraft.
  • Twitter - search for "#minecraft" or "#minecraftedu"
  • Chat - don't forget about chatting to others on the server as a source of help. Type 'T' to open up the chat window. Type in a short message and then hit "return" to send it out to all players on the server.

Figure out your school’s content filter situation

As you go through the resources above, make sure that the school’s content filter doesn’t block them. Request special permission if necessary.

Survive your the first night

The big first milestone in Minecraft is surviving your first night. The world of Minecraft outside of “Creative” or “Peaceful” mode is a harsh one. The pressure of having to eat, and running away from zombies, skeletons, and spiders trying to feast upon you provides that impetus to learn the basics pretty fast! Make sure you read the Minecraft Tutorial before jumping in. Another helpful tool is to search YouTube for “how to survive minecraft first night”.

Now Go Forth and Build Something Cool

You now have all the tools you'll need to be dangerous! Spend some time in the game, build something neat, let your inner child emerge and build something. Oh - avoid the bad guys too.

Sharing with others

Now that you've got something to be proud of, it's time to learn how to share it with others so that you can in turn demonstrate the process for your own students. Screencasting is a popular choice, via QuickTime (free), or Screencast-o-Matic (also free), or my personal favorite, ScreenFlow (Mac only, not free, but has loads of features and is worth it IMHO). This is a great way for your students to present their work to others both in the class and to the world at large. Make sure to take the time to explain good "digital citizenship" along the way.

The Basics of MinecraftEdu

Check out the Google Hangout for video for more information and how to startup and launch these various parts of MinecraftEdu.
  • Launcher - your starting point for all things MinecraftEdu. Has buttons to launch all other programs.
  • Servertool - greatly simplifies the process of starting a server, setting options, and managing your worlds
    • Start with the "Tutorial World"! It guides your students through the Minecraft experience
    • At the end of the launching process, grab the IP address that is displayed; that is what your students will need to connect with your server
    • I made a quick YouTube guide I made to saving, exporting, importing worlds
    • I didn't cover this in the quick and dirty Google Hangout, but be sure to check out world templates. Very handy for creating a base world that you modify for individual classes.
  • MinecraftEdu client - the piece that you (the teacher) and your students will use to connect with your server.
  • The Teacher Menu - Invaluable for classroom management. Check out this video to get you started with the teacher menu.

More Advanced Topics

Build Tools / WorldEdit

After you build something block by block, check out this video for a little more detail on some of the more advanced tools available to the teacher that come with MinecraftEdu to build creations. For more information on WorldEdit, check out SK98's wiki on the subject. I can't imagine building a world without the help of WorldEdit.


If you want to build a world from scratch, complete with terrain, water, etc., I suggest you start with WorldPainter. You can even import grayscale images as height maps to get you started!


Super useful tool to allow you to move sections from one world to another (say, exemplar student work into one master world), then you are going to need an offline map editor. I suggest MCEdit.

So how can I use Minecraft / MinecraftEdu in education?

Start with the MinecraftEdu page on the topic. Here's some ideas to get your brain going:
  • Anywhere that you can use manipulatives in the classroom, you can use Minecraft.
  • Boolean Logic using Redstone (again, look at Drakkart’s channel)
  • Modeling assignments
  • Cell cutaways
  • Engineering projects
  • Landscapes
  • Social studies / experiments
  • Hunger games!
  • Physics
  • Measuring in-game physics, applying to real world
  • create their own mod

Easing Into It - Levels of Engagement

  • Lunch / afterschool club
    • Provide a general outline or goal for the students to engage with
    • Allow great latitude to allow student direction (mods, game rules, etc.)
  • Use Minecraft as an outlet for differentiation for students who are familiar with Minecraft
    • Have them screencasting their work!
  • Full classroom engagement with MinecraftEdu
  • With other classrooms in the same school
    • Using server hosted at the school
    • May require IT involvement to set up virtual machine, or dedicated IP address for a server that you set up
  • Using 3rd party virtual hosting servers

Other Random Resources

Questions that Were Raised in the Presentation

Can I use MinecraftEdu at home?

The direct answer from MinecraftEdu: No. Source: Using MinecraftEdu for Homeschool: - I did put in an email to the MinecraftEdu people via the contact form and will edit this page once I hear more from them.