June 3rd, 2015 By colingally Categories: Minecraft

The internet loves a list!

I recently ran some workshops for our parents based around Minecraft and its role in their children’s lives. The conversations were enlightening and informative. Parents are excited but wary (and weary) of Minecraft and have many tales of tantrums but also fun and laughter to share when engaged in talking about Minecraft. It is very important for our parents to understand the positive aspects and how to face up to the difficulties of parenting in a digital age.

So here are 5 things about Minecraft that worry parents that I derived from the conversations I had. My proposed “solutions” to allay those fears are included also.

Photo: Natasha Buckley ISS International School


1. The “addictive” nature of Minecraft


Why the worrying?
Mojang freely admit that Minecraft can be…highly engaging…”just one more block” “just one more block”. One parent told me of how their child had meltdowns when asked to stop Minecraft and rejoin the reality of eating with their family again. The parent had already remedied the situation by setting clear boundaries and moderated use of all digital tools in the household. My thoughts exactly!

Stop the worrying!
If the child has the free reign to do whatever they like, whenever they like then, of course, there will be meltdowns when what they perceive as their free time are ceased at any given moment. Children need to be involved in planning out with their parents their daily diet of activities. There needs to be absolutely no doubt what amount of time is allowed to do various things on any given day.


2. The “passive” culture of the Minecraft YouTube scene


Why the worrying?
Riding along in tandem with young people’s engagement with actually playing Minecraft is an increased engagement in merely watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. I guess I would be a little perturbed as a parent if my child just constantly watched videos of Minecraft now and didn’t actually spend time in the game creating and exploring. But it is happening.

Stop the worrying!
Parents need to delve deep in to the videos their children are watching to, first of all, make sure they are appropriate and second of all, to try to gleam any learning or inspiration their children can bring in to their own Minecraft worlds. There are countless videos out there from amazing people who can inspire creativity but there are also countless videos that contain swear words and less than polite communication skills! Parents need to know how to sieve out the good content from the bad content that their children watch.


3. The “balance” of play


Why the worrying?
It’s very confusing as a parent to find any solid information on how long a child should spend in front of a digital screen. Stories abound of bad eyesight, posture, and mental disposition after spending too long on digital devices. The same parents may not see any problem in seeing their child sit for 2 hours with their nose in a book.  One of the only organizations out there to actually give concrete guidelines to parents on “screen-time” is The American Academy of Pediatrics who state:

The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play. – See more at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx#sthash.Nzk3JjNL.dpuf

Stop the worrying!
Easy right?! I think the above quote is a solid piece of advice for parents to look at but every household and, indeed, house is different. One would argue that “using their imagination in free play” can be achieved in Minecraft. One would also argue that “using their imagination in free play” can only be achieved in the real world with absolutely no physical or digital restrictions. The key word, again, is balance. Creating a balanced approach to daily routines and activities is the most important thing to develop in a household and that would naturally include guidelines on screen time.


4. The “violence” of Minecraft


Why the worrying?
When I talk to parents about what we do with Minecraft they instantly are very happy to hear the details of the curriculum integration we achieve. They are happy because all they see at home is swords flailing and mass slaughtering of animals. From my experience children’s use of Minecraft at home and at school is pretty different. At home, they mainly choose survival. At our school, we always use creative. At home, children may have the free reign of what they can build, destroy and kill. At our school, we need to have rules in place (co-created by students) so we can utilize our time effectively to reach (and assist) our learning goals.

Stop the worrying!
Parents need to educate themselves a little on what collaborative, creative, artistic, design based, and programming projects exist out there using Minecraft and realize that their children can learn some important skills from doing the same type of projects at home. Is there any real positive aspect to Minecraft if it’s just killing zombies or animals? Probably not. Unless parents want their children to be butchers, hunters, or zombie slayers in the future. Who knows..?


5. The “exposure” of children to bullying and inappropriate content


Why the worrying?
When children get exposed to platforms like Minecraft there are a number of worrisome factors that come along with that. Namely that you are going to either see inappropriate content, hear inappropriate content or experience inappropriate content explicitly directed at them. From watching YouTube videos one only needs to scroll down to see the wild west of the internet in the comments section. Anything goes. If you get involved or if, indeed, you are the uploader you are the next target. The world is not perfect, someone will take an exception to what you are saying or doing.
When children get involved in multiplayer servers or set up servers for themselves they are perhaps experiencing digital relationships for the first time in their lives. The disconnect between the real world and digital happens. Inappropriate behavior and communication comes easier when you can’t see the other person’s face and emotional reactions. Especially for the younger person.

Stop the worrying!
I like to present this as a challenge to parents to get involved watching YouTube videos and discussing Minecraft content in a positive manner at home. Bad experiences within Minecraft servers or in YouTube comments, if observed by parents, can be massive learning moments for the child in gaining an understanding of ethical and moral behavior in the world today. When we have issues in our school server we can coral our classes into learning how to behave in digital realms. Everything’s a learning moment and rather we are there with them when it happens than not.
So there you have it. Not so scary after all if parents take the time to educate themselves so they can parent their child through this sometimes challenging digital era.

May 4th, 2015 By colingally Categories: Minecraft

I’ll preface this post by saying I think the Wonder Quest Youtube channel is a fascinating and innovative shift in educational media and it should stir up a few minds in thinking about how we are using media that children already watch and navigate to integrate educational material into them. What I find interesting is the audience’s reaction to it and how young people perceive an educational aspect to an area where they may not have experienced a learning element before and involving a Youtube character they are used to “just” being entertained by…

Last week a new channel sprung to life on Youtube mashing up Minecraft, fun, and education. Wonder Quest.

It stars the 6-million-followers-Youtube-superstar Stampy and the tireless, multi-talented Adam Clarke.

So Adam has been in the design and education field with Minecraft for years and he has been involved in many amazing educational and design related projects around the United Kingdom. He’s been involved in a lot of education centered Minecraft projects and his involvement in this makes a lot of sense.

Here is where it gets interesting for me. Stampy is huge with elementary school kids. Huugggeeeeeee, I don’t know how else to write it to get that fact across. His young followers expect zany, funny (and kinda a chaotic mix of manic laughing and high pitched talking to these 36 year old eyes!) adventures with which they can plop down in front of and turn their brains off after a long hard day at school (or during school if they find a quiet corner!).

Therein lies the crutch. Stampy has already been proven to be immensely popular with young people. How will they react when he sprinkles in a little bit of education in to his antics…?

What Wonder Quest is setting out to achieve makes a lot of sense to me:

  • They have the captive audience of millions of Stampy fans.
  • They have the captive audience of roughly 54 million Minecraft players worldwide.

So why not work on this premise…



Some children don’t like things they usually construe as being fun being invaded by “education”. The fun wind-down time of their daily lives is their chill out time away from the stresses of homework and exams. It’s this that’s been the downfall of video games in education since….schools started buying video games to be used in education (with a few notable exceptions of course).

So where else to see what these young people thought of this new fun and educational Youtube channel than in the comments that were posted by Stampy’s adoring fans on Wonder Quest Episode 1.


A voice of reason to start off with! I think this pretty much sums up why they have endeavored to work with Stampy’s already captive audience to gain an educational foothold in this arena.


I find it interesting that there are still calls for Youtube channels to be made into “full-on” TV shows. I guess TV is not a dead media yet…


Boooom! No comment.


So herein lies the quandary, if you want to do an educational series who is your target audience? You’re obviously going to alienate certain age groups whatever you choose. It seems from watching the first episode that Wonder Quest can entertain anyone but the education focus or where the educational aspect might result in a learning moment is targeted at elementary school. Perhaps tapering off in Grade 5. Perhaps.


I used to feel weird and I still get weird looks sometimes saying that one of the reasons we might use a certain technology tool is because it’s fun. I think it’s a pretty simple equation; fun=engagement. If young people are engaged they are paying attention. If they are paying attention they are remembering things. If they are remembering things they are learning (on a consumptive level).


Pretty cool to read this. The whole visualization of the sun and the earth was quite cool and stuck in my mind after watching the video.


Hmmm. So here is where we might lose some young people. They equate Stampy with fun. The second we take…a second… to explain something (“teach”) and cut the flow of the fun adventure then it’s hard to earn their trust back. From an adult’s perspective watching the Wonder Quest video it really is 85% fun and 15% education (if that). I think they got the balance just right and I’m sure with each iteration of the show they will learn what the secret ratio is and the audience will know what to expect.


Isn’t this awesome? A scientific debate on Youtube, who would have thought it?! The content of the episode enabled someone to express their different opinion on how long the Earth takes to orbit the sun. Deeper discussions and debate are always good. And nobody is calling each other horrible names! Win!

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And, again, a conversation that evolved in the comments of Episode 2 of Wonder Quest. Love it.


But then there are the young people who just will be turned off by what they see as chocolate covered brussels sprouts…how do we engage them? Teachers struggle with this every day in classrooms around the world. It’s why differentiation exists but when taking on a project like Wonder Quest it’s nearly impossible to reach everyone..to differentiate the content. The mere fact that it’s an educational cartoon based in Minecraft should be seen as a major attempt to broadly differentiate teaching traditional subjects or topics.


Yes, fun is a factor in making education engaging.


The mindset of young people can be that education is not symbiotic with entertainment. Wonder Quest is trying to find that hard to reach area in between those areas.

Now, here’s another fascinating turn of events in this story. Stampy uploaded an episode this week on his main channel with Adam (Wizard Keen) involving a memory game:

Nothing wrong here it’s a nice little fun episode which, tactically, makes sense; it introduces the relationship between Stampy and Keen to an audience that may not have crossed over to Wonder Quest. In doing so, Wonder Quest might get more traction with the hardcore Stampy fans. I think it has backfired somewhat..Stampy has now invaded his area with what can be seen by his fans as “educational” content. They are not used to this more “organized” content and enjoy the more flamboyant and “no-real-end result” episodes. The fan base aren’t really happy.

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I would imagine they expected this.

I would also imagine that they weighed up the possible negative and positive outcomes of uploading this and concluded that if they got a small percentage that enjoyed this on Stampy’s main channel who then subscribed to the Wonder Quest channel then it would be a good outcome. Next week, Stampy will upload his usual content and all will be forgiven. I’m guessing.

I don’t know Joseph (the man behind Stampy) but I’ve known Adam for a few years now and he’s worked extremely hard for this. He deserves the accolades he’s getting and will be getting. I think Wonder Quest is going to be extremely popular and will pave the way for future educational endeavors.

However, the complicated task of mixing education and entertainment has always been one fraught with miss-steps and wrong decisions. The equations are pretty simple:

Too much education+not enough fun=No engagement.

Too much fun+not enough education=No learning*

And as seen above in the Youtube comments you also run the gauntlet of encroaching upon these young people’s daily online spaces. If they feel tricked into something they have not been expecting you will lose their trust and engagement.

These are interesting times and I have only started to mull this over…


*the specific learning that YOU (the educator) want to happen. There always be learning by-products like collaboration or risk-taking.

April 27th, 2015 By colingally Categories: About Me, Procrastination

We all take inspiration from somewhere or something whether it is a mere human being, a god we believe in, or a beautiful sunset on a beach.

It’s what we do with inspiration that makes us unique in our profession. And in turn, others may get inspired by what we do. And so on, and so on.

I very recently became interested in how I have being inspired by certain things and what I did with that inspiration to create something new and unique to my story and my profession. If you truly are inspired by something then what you do with that inspiration should make you authentically stand out from the crowd.

I have broken down how I cultivated creativity from inspiration into four categories. Then I have taken examples from my own career to explain each one. Behold!


It’s vital that you are aware of the difference between copying from inspiration and using inspiration to create something new and without doubt comes from your deep admiration of and reaction to the inspiration. For example, I came up with this idea of a blog post after an experience I had recently in my profession. I thought it would be an excellent and positive reaction that would leave me feeling better than I was. So I’m fully aware that this particular approach might have been done before so I’m going to go Google it right now….ok, I’m back! These are the first few hits I found when I googled “Cultivating Creativity from Inspiration”:

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I’m going to go ahead and delve into some of them and see if anyone has broken down this topic in the way I’m doing now, if there is then I will want to mention that at the top of this blog post. I see one of the links has content from Tom Kelley who I greatly admire in the world of creativity and met in Hong Kong once a few years ago.

So I have gone through 3 pages of Google search results and haven’t seen any website that is breaking it down like I am (a lot of great websites though!) I’m going to go ahead with not crediting anyone just yet and in doing so I’m hoping that this blog post is a unique and creative response to a “moment” in my profession (an inspiration if you will!). If, indeed, someone does come forward and say I have based my blog post on their work I will, without a shadow of a doubt, introduce this blog post with an explanation of my content and a link so that readers can go to the other person’s work too.

I go through this process with all my projects I undertake. We all would love to think we are uniquely creative but it’s a big world out there with many interesting people. Chances are something may have been done.

But in a sense that’s the litmus paper test right there; if it was truly a creative response then nobody will have done it before you in the way you are doing it now…

As I go through the next 3 areas; awareness plays a vital part in each one.


As a technology coordinator I take inspiration from the teachers that are doing amazing things with the opportunities I’m able to give them. Most of the time, my only input is to fight the fight to purchase the right devices so they can deliver content in a style that suits them and their students. For example, for the past couple of years I’ve been able to get our physical education teacher Nathan Horne the number of iPads that he requested. I can take inspiration from him in that he is leading the way in a field where traditionally technology was not a part of. When I present on portfolios in our school and mention PE I always get his name up on screen due to the individual effort he undertakes on his own in PE class.

So back in 2010 (which is a long time ago regarding technology) I was able to get iPod Touches for the kindergarten classes and worked with Serena Fan and other kindergarten teachers in getting them into their classrooms. From what I saw there I was inspired to break down the reasons why the iPod Touches were working so well. I had content for a creative response and as luck would have it I could present my content at a TEDx event shortly after:

Again, awareness played a part with my content creation (and of course style which I’ll get to later). In breaking down the content as shown in the video I, again, Googled if anybody had done it before (specifically the words I used) and came up clean. Of course the phrase “Right tool, right job, right time” has been around in other forms for ages but my content would differentiate in that case. Since it’s been 5 years since I did this and nobody has complained I can surmise that this was a creative response to an inspiration of mine!

A few factors worked for me with the content aspect:

  • The timing helped as iPod Touches were new in the realms of education so my content had a good chance of being a creative response.
  • The time I had observing the students in class had given me a unique opportunity to get down on paper the positive interactions the students were having with their devices. Both these factors came together to allow me to have a creative response and to make the presentation come from a unique and personal angle.

So to produce creative content you sometimes have to be in the right place at the right time….in the right job!


Delivery is tough. Delivery is presenting your story, your perspective, your personal response to something. You can deliver your responses in many, many different formats. If you nail a creative delivery you are pretty much assured you will be remembered or at least respected for your unique approach.

I’ve seen some creative deliveries over the years but I would like to dip out of the education realm for this one and talk about stand up comedians. I could never be one but I love stand-up comics. They are surely the bastions of cultivating creativity from inspirations around them. I see humor as a very valuable tool but extremely hard one to get right to suit a wide variety of people. Let’s check out my 5 minute Learning 2.014 Africa talk here (excuse the safari jacket but I was loving being in Ethiopia!):

This was the first time I went into a presentation knowing I had “humorous” things to say and not knowing if they would work. My delivery was inspired by feedback before my “official” talk and as my job as a technology coach. As a Learning 2 leader you get to present your talk to the head honchos beforehand and get feedback on your delivery, style, and content! The head honchos in this case being the lovely Simon May, Kim Cofino, and Madeleine Brookes. I knew humor had to be in there because my role as a tech coach is filled with funny incidents and experiences.
I doubted my humor content but they were adamant I leave it in and deliver what I gave them in my first run-through. This inspired me to tweak and fine tune the humorous elements so that my delivery was unique to me. That was me up there and they inspired me to stay…me!

Delivery is a major factor in how you cultivate creativity from an inspiration because it’s you in person doing the delivery so if you are presenting something in a delivery style that is not comfortable or natural to you then…it’s not entirely you up there.


Let’s get one thing straight. You don’t own your style. You can be the first one to do something in a certain style but anyone can take your style away from you. That person can then, unethically as it may be, use your style in their context and get great plaudits from it. There’s nothing you can do but realize “well, I did it first and it was my unique style inspired by something that was personal to me at that time. At least I still feel good about myself“.

Let’s get another thing straight, there’s a blurry line between copying from an inspiration and using an inspiration as a menu of ideas for your creation. It’s up to you as the unique individual to either be creative or be lazy. Nobody can help you with that choice.

But I hear you ask “Everything’s a remix right?” Sure, I get that and it’s exactly what I did in the example I’m about to show you. But I think at the heart of remixing an inspiring form of media it is still a truly creative response to an inspiration that is totally unique to you. Let me show you my ADE application video from 2011 and I’ll then explain what I was inspired by to come up with a personal and creative style for the video:

Back in the Summer of 2010 the movie Inception came out. I was blown away when I watched it. I knew the music, the graphics, the style, and the atmosphere of the movie is what I wanted in my ADE application video. I got the Inception font (freeware) and music. I did have a moment of an ethical dilemma using the music as it wasn’t public domain per say but I had purchased the song from the musician’s website and created a link in my Youtube description to counterbalance my feelings on this. And you know.. fair use in an educational arena. In another related issue the whole blaring trumpets style music in Inception which has been horribly adapted (but inspired by!)  by every action movie since Inception is being done so much to Hans Zimmer’s chagrin.

So I had all the elements from the movie I needed to create my style. I now had to worry about the content (style!). I knew I wanted to put my face in there and I knew I wanted to work with the movie title “Inception” but change it to “Education”. I knew I wanted to put my voice in there but didn’t want to be bland so I decided I would go all out with the link in with the movie so (almost) everything I said was an amended line out of the movie:

My ADE Application Video

The Movie “Inception”

“I deal in a very specific type of integration; technology integration.” “I specialize in a very specific type of security. Subconscious security”
I wanted a line that I could use to introduce myself.
“Should students be coming into school to sleep? Nope, they should be coming into school to be woken up.” “They come here every day to sleep?”No. They come to be woken up.“
I thought this was an amazing line from the movie that could tie in with education.
“I’m just doing what I know and assisting students and teacher in what they need to know.” “I’m just doing what you taught me.”
This was a simple line I took massive inspiration from to create my own sentence about my own profession.
“These are interesting tools to keep touch with and keep track of reality. There are new ideas everyday to discuss and debate on.” “How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that it’s reality?”
I wanted to make sure we kept with the reality of…reality and the tools that can help with that.
“As educators we create the world of the dream, we bring our students into that dream. They can fill it with their creativity and knowledge.” “You create the world of the dream, you bring the subject into that dream, and they fill it with their subconscious.”
Loved this line and found it easy to adapt to our roles as teachers.
“For our students to become the global citizens that we envision, it is our responsibility to prepare them for that and guide them along the way” Actually no link to any quote from the movie! I just had to add this in as it was important to substantiate the Skype footage as more than just online debate. It does have a loose tie in with “guiding” within the movie through the dreaming.
“We mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger.” “Shouldn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, Arthur.”
Thought this was a perfect bookend to my video and an appropriate slogan for teachers to follow.

The adding of the quotes at the end of my video from various ADEs were meant to be similar to movie review quotes you see on movie posters. They rarely appear on movie trailers but I took artistic license on this one. The quotes from fellow educators style seem to be a method a lot of people use in their ADE applications nowadays. It must work!

It is imperative you consider these 4 areas when cultivating your unique creative response to inspiration.

I believe if:

  • you are aware of already created content by other people in your professional area
  • you can use your own unique slant on your own personal perspective from your source of inspiration to create your content
  • you can deliver your creative response in a unique and engaging way
  • you can come up with your own unique style which befits the delivery and content

you can successfully cultivate a creative response to sources of inspiration.

November 5th, 2014 By colingally Categories: Minechat, Minecraft

I was delighted to be able to schedule a Minechat with most of the authors involved with our “Minecraft in the Classroom” book. Special mention to David Lee, James York, and Dan Bloom who couldn’t make it. Thanks to Stephen, Adam, Eric, Shane, and John.

Don’t forget you can get 35% off the Minecraft in the Classroom book by using the code MINECLASS on the Peachpit Website.

I also have a code for a free digital copy of the book if you tweet out the book and website link! Winner will be chosen at random.


More Minechats coming soon…

October 24th, 2014 By colingally Categories: Minecraft



Available at PeachPit Press and Amazon amongst others.

Well, it’s been a long time coming and probably the worst kept secret around the Minecraft in education community but our book on Minecraft is just about to be published/available!

From the time Cliff at Peachpit Press contacted me back in March 2014 it’s been a whirlwind of planning, getting in touch with some fantastic teachers around the world and getting them on board, editing, editing, and more editing (thank you Robyn for your guidance!). My respect for authors has grown exponentially.

This all wouldn’t have been possible without the willingness and openness teachers around the world have with regarding sharing what they are doing in Minecraft and it all stemmed from my Minechat series on Youtube.

Thank you Shane, Dan, André, Adam, Stephen, David, John, Eric, and James. Thank you to Robyn, again, for the momentous task of editing all the chapters from people in many many timezones! And thanks to Cliff for getting it all kickstarted.

If you’ve read this far congratulations and have a reward! I can get you 35% off the book, just DM me on Twitter @colingally

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