What is your background in education?
I was a co-learner with 7-8th graders at Santa Ynez School for 8 years. We learned history and technology through varying experiences.
What inspired you to create these Minecraft books and camps for kids?
Like all teachers, I had students that were difficult to reach using traditional classroom tools. I loved using project based education, and part of that was working on processes that enabled kids to take initiative and control of their learning. I borrowed heavily from the Agile project management to enable functional group work and independent accountability. Agile project management is used in businesses that require large projects to be accomplished by groups. This process starts with identifying the goal of the project (typically our goal was “demonstrate your understanding of X topic”). Kids then developed ideas on how they could demonstrate their understanding of a particular topic. The project is then split into a series of tasks that can be accomplished in a class period.
Around the same time kids received a netbook running Ubuntu, and a few kids figured out how to load Minecraft on it, and explained how they could use the game to accomplish their project. It was that first group of kids that used Minecraft to accomplish learning goals that inspired me to dig in deeper.
As a class we all started to use Minecraft more, and sought out other classes using Minecraft as well. I met my co-author John Miller who is still using Minecraft with kids in middle school years. John and I were asked by a friend (Henry Danielson in Cambria) to run a Minecraft camp with teachers and kids on the summer of 2012.
Our publisher Quarry Books found John and I through our website. Quarry asked us to write a proposal for a book, which became Minecraft Lab for Kids published 2016. Now we have a second book Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids published May 2018. Last year we started a non-profit Woven Learning and Technology to better reach kids who don’t have access to expensive technology-infused camps.
How do you nurture creativity in your three sons?
I think creativity and curiosity are closely related. I believe everyone is creative and it’s just a matter of understanding people to experience their form of creativity. My wife and I ask our kids lots of questions to encourage curiosity. We work with our kids on creativity-focused projects by spending time sharing and working on ideas. We want our kids to learn about who they are, and their own character traits, which is certainly rooted in being curious, which leads to creativity.
What other areas of your life do you exercise creativity?
At the end of 2016, my wife and three boys and I moved onto our sailboat. We chose to try a new lifestyle. As part of living on a boat we’re all forced to solve problems with limited resources. Through this lifestyle I’m still learning about my own form of creativity.