“Broken Links on education.minecraft.net,” image by @gumbyblockhead
Nobody likes broken links.
Searching within the Support – Knowledge Base only led to a list of /slash commands from September 19, 2016, last updated on November 1st, 2016. At the time, the document lists 32 unique commands.
By paging through the /help pages for MinecraftEE 1.0.17, I have compiled the following list of 67 commands that exist in the current release. Each command listed below provides the noted parameters and required syntax. Note that I have not had time to test each one as yet. Something for another day.
Minecraft: Education Edition (#MinecraftEE) provides educators with a number of education-specific features that are different from those native to vanilla #Minecraft, and #MinecraftPE (Personal Edition).
In TeacherGaming’s modded #MinecraftEDU, there were dialogue box interface elements and server management features added by TeacherGaming that contributed to education functions in support of managing World files and world features, students permissions and assignments, and a host of other useful functions.
The key (from the end of Part 2, please read) to getting at the important education elements in #MinecraftEE lies in understanding and accessing text-based commands that are “buried under the hood.” To access them, you need to become familiar with using the “slash” / key in the text chat. There is no server option or significant GUI interface for education features at this point in design of the product. In this regard, #MinecraftEE is notably different from #MinecraftEDU.
In vanilla #Minecraft, there are commands which have no GUI interface but which are accessed by typing syntax-correct text expressions in the chat bar, for example:
The statements above are examples of text commands used to toggle to Survival, Creative, or Spectator, respectively, or to set a home base or return to a home base. Some text-based commands are added to vanilla #Minecraft by the addition of mod files.
#MinecraftEE has a set of similar “slash commands” (accessed by typing the forward slash/ key) to access. When typing commands, the #MinecraftEE text box employs a nice prediction feature to help save you time typing and cut down on mistyped keystrokes. Use the TAB key while typing a command to auto-complete the command.
Understanding the slash commands is the path to getting access to the various #MinecraftEE education features (NPCs, border/allow/deny blocks, access to camera/portfolio/) so that you as an educator can unlock its current potential.
Text-based “slash” commands in #MinecraftEE
Here is a brief explanation of each of the commands present in #MinecraftEE:
/ability Sets a player’s ability
/clone Copies blocks from one place to another (does not appear at this time)
/setfixedinvslot Places a particular block type in one of the fixed inventory slots
/setfixedinvslots Sets the number of fixed inventory slots (from 1-3)
/setworldspawn Sets the world spawn (where new players appear the first time they join)
/spawnpoint Sets the spawn point for a player
/summon Summons an entity
/tell Displays a private message to other players
/testforblock Tests whether a block is in a location
/testforblocks Tests whether the blocks in two regions match
/time Changes or queries the world’s game time
/toggledownfall Toggles the weather
/tp Teleports entities
/weather Sets the weather
/xp Adds or removes player experience.
For those familiar with using such commands in #Minecraft, knowing that the commands are present and how they need to be used will likely be sufficient. For educators who are newer to #Minecraft or to text-based commands in general, it is important to know that many (but not necessarily all) of the commands require additional text-based arguments (parameters) — details to complete the instruction.
An Example: Changing the weather
The command /weather (which makes in-game changes to the weather) requires one of three possible arguments to identify the type of weather. If you type /weather (and then a space), the three possible options appear above the chat bar as prompts:
Note that one of these three options is sufficient to effect a change in the weather. Try each of the following, pressing the return key after each to initiate the command.
Note that the /weather command can also take a second parameter after the selected weather option (clear/rain/thunder) in the form of a number to specify the duration of that weather type. Try the following:
Time in Minecraft is measured in “ticks.” 20 ticks is about one second in real time. Did you wonder why the rain only lasted for a second? 20×60=1200 (one minute).
The Key: Accessing the Educator-specific Features of #MinecraftEE
The key to accessing the education-specific features of #MinecraftEE is to use the command /ability for whenever you wish to make such changes. The /ability command takes three parameters to effect this change (a username, the specific ability, and the boolean value true):
/ability GumbyBlockhead worldbuilder true
As of the June 2016 release, there are two possible abilities that may be effected using the /ability command:
Giving yourself the worldbuilder ability as well as setting your /gamemode to creative opens the door to the following:
NPCs: place NPCs using the multi-coloured spawnNPC egg (third tab in creative), and edit them by right-clicking to access their name, text box, and learn-more URL.
Slates, Posters, Boards: place slates, posters, and boards (second tab in creative) by right clicking. Right-click again to edit.
Deny Blocks: place deny blocks (first tab in creative) underneath an area which you do not want users to be able to change.
Allow Blocks: place allow blocks (first tab in creative) above existing deny blocks to allow users to make changes to the area above the allow blocks.
Border Blocks: place border blocks to restrict movement of players (a larger border around a specific learning area with the spawn inside will stop students from wandering off)
Fixed Inventory Slots: provide up to three additional inventory slots (cycle through the by using the 0 key) to the right of the standard 1-9 slot using /setfixedinvslots
Set Contents of Fixed Inventory Slots: assign a specific block type (camera, portfolio, etc.) to a specific fixed inventory slot using /setfixedinventoryslot
To test things out as the user will experience (to see if your NPC web links are working, or to test your boundary blocks, etc, you will need to remove your worldbuilder ability.
/ability GumbyBlockhead worldbuilder false
Note that when you use the /ability command, you would specify YOUR username, not mine! As soon as you have typed /ability and a space, your username should appear as a possible target in the pop-up above the text bar.
If you have followed through this far, you are well on your way to understanding the education-specific features of #MinecraftEE Minecraft: Education Edition. Play around with the features and explore. Feel free to contact me if you have questions! We can learn together.
You may wish to download and check out GumbySample.zip which includes a GumbySample.mcworld file and ReadMe.txt file. Import the world file into your #MinecraftEE using the Import button.
There are 3 types of “profiles” in #MinecraftEE: normal, operator, and worldbuilder.
Users who connect to a world over a LAN will join with a normal profile.
If you are hosting the world for others to connect to, you will automatically have an operator profile, which gives you access to the “slash commands.”
If you have opened the world as operator, you can give yourself the /ability worldbuilder to make use of the education-specific features.
There are a number of posts on the education.minecraft.net/ site that will serve as reference in the initial stages of your exploration of #MinecraftEE. I’m sure other resources will be forthcoming over the next few months.
Sunday morning I came across a tweet linking to a Tutorial world for use with Minecraft: Education Edition, and the file shed some bright lights 🙂 on the as-yet-to-be-seen education features.
The file was easy to download (obtain Tutorial World.mcworld here) and super easy to import with the new Import/Export interface. (NOTE: This one feature for sure beats rooting around (pun) in the Library/Application Support/Minecraft/Saves for a folder of data to share, as is currently the case with vanilla Minecraft!)
#MinecraftEE includes a very easy-to-use Import button for bring in shared world files.
NPCs: Upon launching the file, I was greeted with an NPC (non-player character) “Tour Guide” who welcomed me to the tutorial. The NPC is a previously-available-via-mod Minecraft feature which has now been built natively into M:EE. Clicking on the “Tour Guide” provided a large space to provide text-based information to learners, as well as an active link to a video on youtube, Welcome to Stage 1. Nice.
It’s an NPC Tour Guide! Hooray! The NPCs dialogue button “Learn More” links out to Youtube. Very cool.
The tutorial world provides a brief introduction to movement, crafting, and an “open world” exploration before introducing the specific #MInecraftEE education features. The tutorial sequence was not unlike that experience found in the MinecraftEDU tutorial world (or the Teacher Training Zone#TTZ) on the GamingEDUs Professional Play server, but it moved quickly through three stages:
Stage One: Movement (WASD, space) for navigation, mouse-look, lever to open door, breaking blocks, swimming, breaking and placing blocks, climbing ladders.
Stage Two: Crafting (harvesting (punching) wood, inventory, planks and sticks, crafting a Crafting Table, recipe for crafting a pick), and breaking through stone,
Stage Three: Open World (exploring a stone pick, making torches, mining coal and iron ore, building a door, harvesting and replanting carrots and wheat, making bread, and finally making a furnace and smelting some iron — I added those last two.)
Here’s a little video of my adventures through Stages One, Two, and Three.
After working my way through Stages One, Two, and Three, I arrived at the hoped-for StageFour: Education Edition Features They do exist in this release! Hooray! You just need to know how to find them.
New in #MInecraftEE is a camera block, which allows you to easily capture an image of a scene or take a selfie. You can either place the camera on the ground to capture an image, or simply right click while holding the camera in your hand. Note that the ability to take full-screen captures exists in vanilla #Minecraft through the F2 key — the only challenge is (again) rooting through and digging the images out of the Library/Application Support/Minecraft/screenshots folder. #MInecraftEE makes this a bit easier for learners and teachers alike, although I would like a full-screen option as well as the “polaroid” form factor image. You can see me holding the camera block in each of the “polaroid” images below.
Hooray! We’ve struck #MinecraftEE teacher features! I’ve taken a picture with the built-in camera!
The Portfolio provides a two-page-at-a-glance book interface, with a captioning option. The Portfolio can be exported.
The Portfolio collects images taken with the Camera, and provides a captioning facility to allow learners and teachers to provide a brief annotation. The text is styled in the blocky-Minecraft script. It’s a bit hard to read, both on-screen and when the images are exported via the Portfolio’s export function. (The portfolio creates a .zip file, which contains one file for each “photo” taken — any added caption is included as part of the image.) But again, this is a step-up from the vanilla F2 screen capture.
Allow and Deny Blocks
Allow and Deny Blocks allow and deny changes above or below them.
#MinecraftEDU provided a number of options for ensuring that areas of an instructional world file remain unchanged by visitors. Essentially a binary pair of blocks (placed below ground level) either permit or deny changes to the blocks above. The #MinecraftEE Tutorial World has the Allow and Deny Block on display, but they are really not implemented in the tutorial so as to demonstrate how they might be used. Rather, the educator is prompted to “think about how you can use Allow and Deny Blocks in your worlds.” This is something likely to be remedied in an updated Tutorial World file in the near future, I’d guess.
Slates, Posters, and Boards
“Slates, and Posters, and Boards. Oh my!”
Upon seeing the Slates, Posters, and Boards, my second thought (after asking “Why can’t I break or edit these?”) was, “Why aren’t these iPads or electronic display boards?” I find it odd that we revert to the blackboard metaphor in this day and age. Granted, they are a step up from wooden signs, but only just. (The answer to “Why can’t I break or edit these?” appears in Part 3. You’ll notice I was able to detach them from their placements …
Fancy-looking, fiery-red animated Boundary Blocks. You shall not pass!
Another feature that has made it through from #MinecraftEDU is the boundary block. In the TeacherGaming version, the boundary blocks have no animation, and my application has always been to bury them under ground (with deny blocks beneath). The effect is that a player reaches an impassable boundary, and receives a message to that effect. In the #MinecraftEE implementation, the Boundary Blocks have a red, fiery animation. The effect is the same — the player cannot cross or fly over the boundary — or dig under. Again, my inclination would be to continue to bury them — thus adding a sense of magic to the play. These boundary blocks do not appear to provide a message to the user.
NPCs (Non-Player Characters)
The DemoNPCs speak of great potential, but it is hidden in the tutorial.
Mr. and Mrs. NPC appear at the end of new Education Edition features. They are standing there, with their names displayed above them. Aside from that, they don’t really say or do anything. It appears that NPCs as implemented in #MinecraftEE do not move. They are essentially interactive signs, with the option to provide an active web link. They track to face you as you move about them.
In closing, The Tutorial World was not immediately forthcoming as to how to use the Slates, Posters, Boards, or NPCs.
But as I wound down my second (Sunday morning) session with #MinecraftEE, I poked around a bit and came across a key to what will form the bulk of the next part in this series:
NOTE: Throughout this series of posts, I will be referring to a number of different versions of Minecraft. To keep them straight here, and in online environments such as Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram, I will be maintaining the following naming conventions:
#Minecraft: vanilla Minecraft for desktop computers, currently at v1.10
#MinecraftEDU: TeacherGaming‘s modded Minecraft for Education for desktop computers, based on vanilla v1.7.10, no longer under development, but available for use in perpetuity for users with existing licenses.
#MinecraftPE: The tablet-based version of Minecraft for iOS and Windows tablets, v0.14.3
#MinecraftEE: The new “Education Edition,” for Windows 10 and Mac OS X, v0.14.2
A generic #MinecraftEd tag will be used for a general use of Minecraft in Education, irregardless of the version of Minecraft being used.
Friday After School: First Look
Friday after school I loaded the new #MinecraftEE application onto my Mac. The .zip archive contained a single Mac OS X application, but no read me file or documentation. It was a Macintosh snap to install by dragging the program into the Applications folder. So far, so good.
Login authentication via Office365. Education-accounts only.
Upon launching the application (the window initially scaled really small on my large monitor and Macbook retina display) I was prompted to log in using an education-related Office365 account. My school district account authentication worked perfectly. (My personal hotmail.com Office365 account was not recognized as a valid education-related account. More on that later.)
Education Edition arrives with Steve, Alex, and an additional 55 skins to choose from. As importing your own true-identity skin is not yet possible, I started by choosing chose Steve.
You can be Steve, Alex, or one of 55 special skins for Education Edition.
I moved then on and created a New World, going with my natural preference, Survival.
Movement, breaking, and placing blocks functioned as expected. I punched some wood, functioned a crafting block and some wooden tools, and then dropped into a hole to mine some coal and iron.
I may look like any other Steve in #MinecraftEE, but I still have my GumbyBlockhead mining mojo.
As I worked through the mine, I missed not being able to dual-wield my pick and torches simultaneously (a recent addition in the 1.9 desktop version Minecraft), and I noticed that the sprint (double-tap W) seemed pretty much absent. That may be an issue when mobs are chasing you. So far, I’ve not seen any.
Controls and Interface Elements
The usual desktop controls (WASD, mouse, spacebar, etc.) worked just fine (as they had with the Minecraft beta for Windows 10 I tested earlier this spring), despite a number of interface elements reminiscent of the tablet-edition #MinecraftPE. One thing that I really hope that gets updated is the cramped and merged-together 4-tab interface in Creative. The vanilla #Minecraft interface sorts them into ten much easier-to-navigate categories. The vanilla search option would be nice to have, too.
Eight categories of blocks smushed into 4 tabs
The interface in Minecraft: Education Edition (#MinecraftEE) is very reminiscent of the #MinecraftPE touch interface.
Given that the 0.14.2 #MinecraftPE-available features seemed to be functioning as expected, I decided to go looking for the education features. But they weren’t readily apparent. #MinecraftEDU, TeacherGaming’s modded version of Minecraft, provides additional teacher features within the client version via a teacher menu (press M) interface. I tried pressing M. No luck.
The large selection of “teacher features” from #MinecraftEDU appear to be missing from #MinecraftEE
Since a great strength of the #MinecraftEDU is the easy-to-manage server implementation, I wondered if the teacher functions only appeared once a networking environment was in place for #MinecraftEE. However, given that the #MinecraftPE (and thus #MinecraftEE) is based on a peer-to-peer networking rather than server-based networking, I had my doubts.
The server of the #MinecraftEDU implementation offers considerable features. #MinecraftEE does not use a server.
Test 1: I tried logging onto #MinecraftEE simultaneously on a second computer with my education O365 account, but Microsoft knew that I was already logged on, and would not allow a second authentication with the same account in Minecraft.
Test 2: I tried logging onto #MinecraftEE on the second computer using a hotmail.com O365 account, but it was recognized as an ineligible-for-education use account.
This Account is Not Eligible To Use Minecraft Education Edition
Test 3: Knowing that #MinecraftEE shared a common code base with #MinecraftPE, I tried connecting from my iPad. HEY! I was able to see the v0.14.2 #MinecraftEE hosted world from the iPad, but the different version (v0.14.3) was detected, and the connection was refused. But I’m thinking this potentially bodes well for multi-platform implementations of #MinecraftEE. Might students one day be able to all work together from a school collection of iPads, Macs, Windows-desktops, Surface tablets, and game consoles when #MinecraftEE is fully implemented? Only Microsoft knows.
Connecting to MinecraftEE from MinecraftPE was almost possible …
So What’s New?
My initial 30 minute exploration had me mining, building, exploring, and farming, but really did not reveal any of the new features that were advertised on the Minecraft: Education Edition website. At the end of my initial session, I wondered if there were any education features within this release. Was it simply the Minecraft beta for Windows 10, ported to Mac? Did I need to run the application under Windows 10 to see the education features? Was the “Easy Classroom Collaboration” working? Where were the Camera and Portfolio? What about the Non-Player Characters, the Chalkboards, and the host of other features that were present in the End-of-Life’d MinecraftEDU? At least the Simple, Secure Sign-In allowed me to sign in — but only from one machine at a time.