[Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

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[Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Wuzzy » Sat Dec 21, 2019 03:03

So the topic of using (abusing?) Minetest for educational purposes has been brought up again and again. I'm sure many of you have stumbled upon one of these threads in the past. Heck, there's even a page in the wiki: https://wiki.minetest.net/Mods:Learning

Personally, I was never really impressed by these topics and never took them seriously, but now I'm starting to get fed up.

Basically, the common theme of most of these threads is that how wonderful it would be how Minetest could be used in education/schools how great it is that it's FOSS, interactive, yadda yadda yadda. You probably have read that already.

I have identified multiple groups of proponents:

- The teacher: Teachers who have somehow heard of Minetest and for some reason are excited for it and/or believe that it could help them
- The FOSS advocate: People who are angry that Minecraft is used in schools (me too!) and want to replace it with Minetest. But they do not question whether using such a game/engine is a good idea in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely despise the use of proprietary software in schools, but that's a different problem
- The reformer: People who say the education system / the school is broken and therefore new methods of learning must be used, and one of them is Minetest. I'm not against reform, but the question is: Which system is better? If you want to reform, you better know that!
- The Minetest fan: They want to make Minetest more popular, so they accept any help they get. Not a compelling reason, and also a pretty dark one. Many kids are forced to go to school, so by extension you're basically proposing to force children to use Minetest …

None of the groups seems to back up their beliefs, hopes and claims with any hard research. It seems, we simply have no freaking clue on whether Minetest does any good. Any “success stories” are mostly worthless if there wasn't a control group. The “success” could still have been for an entirely unrelated reason. And even if Minetest IS useful for education, we still simply have no idea on HOW exaclty you are supposed to use Minetest to actually, effectively teach things. This is the part that disturbs me. Because it could mean that a lot or all proponents of Minetest-for-education have no clue of what they're doing. You know the saying “a fool with a tool is still a fool”? This perfectly summarizes what I think about all this.

So, I just wonder: Where's the evidence? Where's the research? Do we have any data on whether using Minetest is actually helping people to learn? The important question is: Is it better than other methods of learning? And if Minetest can indeed be useful, where and how?

There have been various ideas on what to teach with Minetest which sound more or less reasonable.
- Logic gates: Well, Mesecons basically forces you to understand them
- Learning to code: Well, I don't think Lua is a very good language but it does its job. Modding is a great start to go into game development. And in Minetest, you get to working results fast. It also helps that we have a large community. So yeah, I absolutely buy that Minetest is a help here. But this is usually not what most proponents mean, many proponents are talking about many non-coding things
- Showing off architecture styles: Intuitively, this seems just way too convincing, given that Minetest is primarily about building things. Still I would like to know if that's the best method of teaching, or if Minetest is just a distraction. Another problem is that Minetest is blocky, so other 3D software can be much better suited for this.

But there were some ideas that are outright bizarre:
- Learning how to read and write (so you're telling me it's a good idea to first teach people how to use computers before teaching them how to read and write?)
- Geometry (only as long you don't use triangles, spheres, cylinders, cones, …)
- Math (all I've seen are just blocks with numbers and operators on them, but no real plan on HOW you are supposed to use them.)



I think the whole discussion needs to be more scientific or at the very least more fact-based. Thank you for reading this.,
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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Festus1965 » Sat Dec 21, 2019 04:31

As of playing minetest my daughter was much more often asking about how to spell a word, as she knew that she will need to find an item,

As of playing minetest, my daughter understood much more the complex of economic, how to estimate a worth of an item, as of how much time and other items had to spend in during transformation.

Last something we most lost, as I see - as we are not so nearly bound to old productions as had been when living as farmer. Here as to see prepare land (dirt to soil), plant seeds (even to understand where we get and store them during winter) and time (sun and water) to let them grow, and harvest them. = work ... just to get wheat (..) not told about the next how to make, transport and store food out of it.

Some of this basic things about economy are in there, maybe not meant to be, but as of rebuild real live got in.

In a time where town-kids even have not seen a cow anymore, where there daily milk is coming from ... sure a part of education, and can be used ahead.

Just ONE option will never be able to cover education, but many different options can make it easier, more fun and combine knowledge from different subjects.
For me sure it is more fun the local Thai kids here, to help school English fE getting better, when the kids play here and we repeat vocabulary with the game (grass, tree, trunk, stick, and more) just a bit, but better than nothing.
Also I see rebound effects back to School want to learn, as realize they get easier and better also in games (and probably in life) also !

This doesn't only mean minetest - but gaming is better than just video, as the brain is definite more active to find solutions, and so ... deeper learning.

I still remember my Korean kids living here. After teaching lesson shopping Center in the books, we just was in the real shopping center, and used most of the vocabulary there USING it. Elevator, Escalator, ... and more also with repeating spelling. This vocabulary was never lost again.
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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by BirgitLachner » Sat Dec 21, 2019 07:26

Hey, Wuzzy, what's the matter with you? You sound so frustrated? Don't you have anybody to spend Christmas with? ;-) Okay, let's forget this... but seriously now. Why are you so concerned about the guys who use minetests at school? That's what it sounds like to me.

As far as I know, you don't work at school or with kids!? You say at the end that you would like the whole discussion to be more scientific, so probably that it is proven that minetest is good for something.

But why? What would anyone gain if it were proved? Hmm, okay, maybe such a game would then be state-aided because of its positive influence. But, I'm afraid Minecraft (= Microsoft) could prove that better and then they would get the money.

I don't know where you "meet" teachers or educators who use Minetest, but I suspect I know more or follow them on social media.

And what they do in Minetest and the advantages you can see there are only partly related to what you think about. But apart from these positive examples of use, I wonder why they can't just use it because they (the teachers and educators) and the children simply enjoy it. It is just a tool that is used to do certain things. Besides building, planning and preparation are also part of it.

I would like to add a few more topics where you could say that minetest could be useful.

An educator reports about (at least one child) who couldn't talk about something so well (I don't remember what it was). After visualizing the "problem" in Minetest, he could suddenly talk about it using his constructions more easily.

Another example: My son plays Minecraft (unfortunately) with his friends and they use extensive technology mods. What I notice is that building together requires a lot of cooperation. My son explains to his classmates and friends how the complicated mechanisms of the mods work, I see him as a leader in the group because he spends a lot of time understanding the mods and passes on his knowledge to the others. Maybe a future teacher (like me and his aunt ;-) ). Apart from Minecraft and its complicated mods per se, it's the cooperation that makes it necessary to communicate, show consideration, ask the others for blocks or agree on a resource sharing arrangement.

For the "classical" school subjects Minetest may not fit now (except for building and visualization of some topics). For this you would need better mods, but since I know enough other tools outside of Minetest that I can use better in my subjects mathematics and chemistry, I will not ask for such mods. A broader user group would perhaps create more subject mods.

For computer science I and other computer science teachers using MinecraftEdu are missing a mod like the Computer-Craft, which is known for Minecraft. The existing mods (and there are some) are still too complicated or can't do enough.

In mathematics I would have some ideas, but I don't have the time to implement them. Of course not these number blocks for tasks, that is nonsense, you are right. But when it comes to numbers, you could use Minetest as a tool, like the Montessori didactics (Hooray, maybe there was research already?) uses different objects to touch and visualize numbers.
If you have 24 blocks, how can you build them into a rectangle? That's about the dividers of the number 24.
Or how about using variables? I'll attach a picture of a worksheet where it's about setting up a term and what solutions it has. The students don't play in Minetest themselves, it's just an example of how you could use mathematics. Certainly much more formal than the children would actually do, but I have the feeling that the children understand what the variables can mean. And that is more important than doing math in Minetest now. Perhaps there is (not directly for the use of Minetest but from the principle) a study that proves this.

All right, that's enough for now. Time for breakfast! My special thanks go to DeepL for translating everything for me, otherwise I probably wouldn't have written much.

Let's see what other contributions are coming ;-)

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by paramat » Sat Dec 21, 2019 23:28

Wuzzy, many people are happily and successfully using MT in education, that is all that matters. Your opinion is irrelevant to these situations, obviously.
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Wuzzy » Sun Dec 22, 2019 02:24

many people are happily and successfully using MT in education, that is all that matters.

Paramat, the fact that people are using Minetest in education alone doesn't explain much. How do we know that it actually works?
My problem is not that Minetest is being used as such, my problem is that nobody seems to know whether Minetest does actually do any good in education.
Also, saying, that it is ALL that matters, is absurd. It's about education, and it is very darn important to know if the things you try to teach people are actually working. And you just implied this is completely irrelevant. o_O

Sure, you can bring up these happy anecdotes all day long and I do not deny they exist. But I'm looking for the bigger picture here:
Did these success stories occur because of the use of Minetest, or is it because of something else happened?

OK, there's probably no research on Minetest specifically (VERY unlikely, lol), but maybe there is something about the general principle. Would be interesting. Frankly, I myself have no real idea of where to look … :(


Another example: My son plays Minecraft (unfortunately) with his friends and they use extensive technology mods. What I notice is that building together requires a lot of cooperation. My son explains to his classmates and friends how the complicated mechanisms of the mods work, I see him as a leader in the group because he spends a lot of time understanding the mods and passes on his knowledge to the others. Maybe a future teacher (like me and his aunt ;-) ). Apart from Minecraft and its complicated mods per se, it's the cooperation that makes it necessary to communicate, show consideration, ask the others for blocks or agree on a resource sharing arrangement.

What you describe sounds more like a team-building exercise. That's not really what I meant. And that's also not a really surprising statement here, what you say here can be applied to a lot of multiplayer games. I'm not challenging that notion.

It is just a tool that is used to do certain things. Besides building, planning and preparation are also part of it.

See, this is exactly the problem. It's the attitude. Minetest is being used because reasons. Whether it actually does any good, or even having an idea of how to use it properly, it doesn't seem to matter much to you. I really wish those people who advocate for its use in education have a better understanding of what they are doing.



But OK. Let's suppose Minetest truly is that educational tool that you all claim it is to be. I have questions:

1) How does it work? I mean with that: Do you have, like a process that has been tried-and-tested or something like that?
2) How do you know the use of Minetest (and Minetest, specifically) contributed to learning?
3) In which specific areas/topics has the use of Minetest proven to be the most practical and why do you think that's the case?
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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by FangPlays » Sun Dec 22, 2019 03:54

I think I get what Wuzzy is getting at so I'm gonna put my two cents in.

I don't know if it is personal preference or forum culture but while Wuzzy is using only Minetest as an example mostly, I would consider both Minecraft and Minetest's usage for education to be pretty similar. When I say Minetest, I definitely mean both of them.

First of all, anything that gets decided by the government or boards about education, kids have to suffer through it for at least 12 years before it can be safely cycled out. Thus, making sure anything actually works, and not "sounds like it should work" is important.

I don't disagree that Minetest can help develop certain qualities but I too have been highly skeptical of heavy use of the games in teaching certain concepts to children. I think there has been an unnatural push to justify why Minetest can be used to teach subjects like Chemistry or Physics. One look at the promotional material for Minecraft Education Edition will show that too. What any amount of thinking about it will also show is in how fundamentally flawed ways does it try to teach those things. Telling children with blocks instead of letters what doing electrolysis with salt water produces is not any better. Seeing real life practicals that will serve them in life as valid experiences will always be better until Virtual mimics Reality perfectly. Building pretty looking historical monuments devoid of any real detail will not enlighten a history student. Building fake socio-ecological systems in a simulation will not present the nuance of real systems. Milking a cow will not give them a idea of all the problems that come with it ethically.

All in all, my two cents would be that Minetest or Minecraft should only be used to develop the qualities they
are specifically suited to develop and leave the rest to better teaching methods.
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by BirgitLachner » Mon Dec 23, 2019 11:10

For chemistry there are much better tools, as I already said. Just one tool for many purposes: http://mw.concord.org/modeler/ ... free, Open-Source, ...

If you use Minetest for Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biologie or whatever, sure that's just a little appetizer. But theory needs to be shown with better tools.

The question if Minetest in education can be proofed as useful, is may be the same question as old fashioned teacher asks, if an interactive whiteboard brings any advantage comparing with a blackboard or a daylight projector (German: Overhead-Projektor). But has a blackboard ever been tested if it brings more advantage then other tools?

Everyone can use the tool he wants. Some prefer blackboards (really, a lot do it still in germany!), other use beamer and their tablet. That's it!
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Xudo » Mon Dec 23, 2019 20:34

I found scientific paper about using Minecraft in schools.
https://www.academia.edu/39432911/Redes ... _Education

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Astrobe » Fri Dec 27, 2019 15:33

Evidence?

There's this: https://framinetest.org/en/

And for actual use, I can refer to french teachers experiences ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y73BoR23BfM ):

A french teacher of mathematics in middle school says that he uses MT is to train his students at mental calculus and introduce concepts around once every three months (per class) so as to keep the "surprise factor".

Another: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgNAi03NCZU&spfreload=10 ). Title reads "Framinetest: let's hijack the sandbox".

A middle school biology-geology teacher (350 students) tells his experience managing his middle school community on their school server. He has been doing this for three years. At first, he simply wanted to make the kids model the building because the new students couldn't find their ways in their new big school.

Then he used it in class. For instance, he made a mod that erodes the sandstone blocks away to introduce the phenomenon. Or he uses it (probably thanks to MobsRedo) to introduce the concept of reproduction. He can also uses aerial photographs and ask his students to model what they see in MT, in order to make them use math.

He points out that the ease of configuration and modding is a big plus for them over MC. Even, one of his 12yo students asked him to put in their game a "cars" mod he made by himself by hacking a boat mod.

One particular principle he uses is that teachers are not the sole administrators and rulers on their server. Students can acquire more and more admin powers depending on how well they behave. So much so they can have the same privileges as the teachers. Students are made responsible (12-16yo preteens/teens) and moderate the server themselves. The students made prisons, a police and a single-judge justice system (he notes how an ideal society for kids is actually... not too far from a totalitarian regime). The server is open 24/7 for everyone.

To the point that one day a student banned a dozen teachers that connected to their server for a demo (of the use of MT in edu) because the teachers were messing around and cared about nothing - as typical newbie players do. Fortunately it was near the end of the session. Sometimes people from the french administration that check the work of the teachers ("academic inspectors") get banned for the same reason.

He introduces an interesting difference between "to cooperate" and to "collaborate" (straight from french words - as you might know we taught the English people how to talk and write - not well enough if you ask me - so the terms might not be accurate wrt. to their current English meaning): to cooperate is to work with other towards a common goal, but nobody can touch what you do and you cannot touch other's contributions. It's only when you "collaborate" that others can improve on your work and you can improve the work of others. He says that learning to collaborate is slow for kids because it requires to learn to communicate and interact with others. His students need about a year of "playing" to learn these skills, but once learned the quality of their group work in class skyrockets.
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by sorcerykid » Fri Dec 27, 2019 19:51

This seems like a subject that jp with KidsCode should be chiming in on, since he's a fairly active contributor.
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Wuzzy » Sat Dec 28, 2019 02:34

Sadly, I have difficulties downloading the linked paper. Also, I don't want to give away my personal info just to download a paper. WTF?

Framinetest doesn't actually show anything, other than that they used it. This still doesn't demonstrate that it's benefitial compared to not using it. I remain skeptical.

But I have to admit, the students banning teachers is really hilarious. :D
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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by Astrobe » Sat Dec 28, 2019 10:17

What I get from these interviews is that they don't use Minetest to teach things, they use it to introduce concepts.

Minetest is a model of the real world. But as one says, "the map is not the territory". What is a limitation for us players and casual game designers is I think a great opportunity for teachers. They can introduce a model of a real-life process (be it geological erosion, ecosystem dynamics, economy...) and proceed with the "well, that's not really accurate, here is how it actually works IRL".

I think the keyword is "engagement". Probably the most difficult thing to do for a teacher is to get kids interested in something. Kids have a hard time remembering their history lessons and their equations, but they can remember the plots of several shows featuring dozens of characters easily. Being interested in something makes a big difference.

As for the rest of your questioning, what you are asking for here is a scientific study. It could perhaps be a good PhD topic (education again...) but we all know that the PhD will spend half of their time looking for funding. I am afraid you will have to put up with anecdotal evidences.
 

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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by texmex » Sat Dec 28, 2019 16:11

Seems like some research or prestudy exists on the matter:
Minecraft education
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Re: [Rant] The Minetest-for-education movement is delusional

by FreeGamers » Mon Dec 30, 2019 16:43

I think a lot of the sentiment about the educational aspects of these games comes from Minecraft's push for its place in education. A lot of the articles I've seen about Minecraft in education seem to be a mix of marketing and hype by tech publications.

I would agree that its probably not the best tool for learning reading and writing. However, I think that getting young kids engaged in computers in an interactive way probably is a good thing. So as far as gaming goes, getting kids to enjoy their time on a computer is important in of itself and gaming is a good resource to get that started. In fact, that is how I got into computers and technology in the first place. Don't dismiss that early nurturing of interest as non-important. Part of being young is trying out new things and learning what you enjoy and don't enjoy. If young people can have fun on a computer with a game, then they may develop an interest in computers and technology over time.

For programming and game-development, the programming language is not the most important thing. It is much more important to get a person involved, having an idea, and learning how to implement that idea and see it become part of the program. That can be a texture, a sound, or a program or script. But being able to learn that you can get involved and make things is a key concept. When I started learning more about programming, it made me feel more capable. I felt like I had grown a third hand somehow, like I was increasing how I could interact with the things around me in life. That was a very empowering and exciting feeling for me. It would be good for young people to have a chance to discover that themselves.

The last six months I've spent with Minetest and lua have really given me a better understanding of programming fundamentals than some of my college courses in some ways. It greatly helps that this is a project that I have interest in and goals. Also, the fact that the community is open and promotes sharing code is another very important aspect of the project. You can go through entire I.T. courses and be taught only how to use proprietary software to do jobs. Being a part of a collaborative project and interacting with source can be important in developing a philosophy that is more assertive with technology instead of just using closed software all the time and never even touching any code at all. That is far too common in most educational institutions sadly.

In terms of hard actual research, I think research done on Minecraft would be pretty relevant to Minetest as well. I don't think you'll find much research done on Minetest due to the significantly smaller user/market capitalization and lack of publicity and therefore growth of this project. Who would fund such a thing? Until a study like that is done, Minecraft is the most similar subject available.

I don't have any of my University access to research journals anymore so I can't search academic databases about this either. What a travesty by the way that this information is locked behind these... So the only sources available to many of us are those that are publically available.

I'll read through a few.. The first one I come across seems to start off with the conclusion then go about justifiying his conclusion by writing. I actually see a lot of these that are almost like blog articles "A case study" or just an abstract concept without much research.

If anyone is in university still and has access to academic studies, can you look into this? I would be interested in seeing what actual research has turned up as well. I would suspect that the basic computing concepts I mentioned above would be the most useful skills one would generally get from such a thing. I think team-work would be important in survival mode too. I see to many articles trying to claim that minecraft teaches physics, chemistry, biology and ecology. That is a bold claim and I doubt that. To me that is like saying "Lighting a bottle rocket teaches young people about rocket science". The research involved from playing with these basic concepts could lead to some knowledge on the subjects but just because you smelted iron by using coal in a furnace does not mean you know chemistry now.
 


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