Students Solving Heartbreak: Creating Community Around Kid-Safe Minecraft Videos

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Students used Minecraft to create a website offering kid-safe Minecraft videos.

This is a guest post by Daniel Rezac, Director of Academic Technology at Quest Academy, an independent school in Palatine, IL. 

If you teach (or have) children of the ages of 8-13, you’ve most likely seen these young creatives play Minecraft at some point. You’ve probably thought they play Minecraft too much, or don’t even understand what “playing” Minecraft really means. 

That’s okay. I teach using Minecraft, and my students are still 10 steps ahead of me. As Minecraft has proliferated, so has the community enveloping it, with public Minecraft servers that kids can easily join. In addition, Minecraft has become a spectator sport, with millions of YouTube videos available of people just playing Minecraft.  

Indeed,  there’s an entire video service dedicated to watching Minecraft, called Twitch. ESPN recently televised an eSports event, and might soon dedicate serious resources to televising video games. 

On the other side of that, many of these videos contain language and behavior that is not appropriate for kids under 13 years of age (or over 13). It’s a real problem, and it needs a real solution. 

A couple years ago, two of my entrepreneurial-minded students created a solution. It’s called Clean Minecraft Videos. CMV is a community with a guiding vision: Profanity Stops Here. 

CMV offers personal and group memberships for a nominal fee. Members are treated to pre-screened Minecraft videos, personally approved by the founders, providing a thriving community and service- based on trust. 

Since CMV launched, it began to pick up speed among parents and the Common Sense Media crowd. Over the past year, Scotty Vrablik and Mitchell Brown, the CMV Co-founders, have been profiled in the Chicago Tribune, keynoted the Students in Technology (SIT) Conference in Berwyn, IL, and were recently invited to present at the Illinois Computing Educatorsconference, which made a big splash with their keynoter, Mr. Adam Bellow. 

Mitchell came up with the idea of CMV, when he saw that his little brother (then 8 years old), was discovering videos that were too crass for an 8 year-old’s ears. He put his idea into action, and with the help of a friend, built a community that helps children even younger than himself. 

Scotty and Mitchell used their skills as Minecraft coders and builders to grow the network of users and consumers, to put together a website and Android App that made it easy to find great Minecraft content and find friends with common interests. This is a community built on respect. 

Believe it or not, it’s not only parents who are concerned about the proliferation of vulgarity on the internet; as you can see, it’s kids! With CMV, these two 12 year-olds have built a solution that helps other kids be part of a safe, thriving, positive community. They solved a problem, because they believed kids matter. 

Recently, The Wall Street Journal posted tips on ways to promote entrepreneurial thinking in your kids at home and school. They identified behaviors that young entrepreneurs should do to become the “next Mark Zuckerberg.”  Do your students do these things? 

See the graphic here. I couldn’t help noticing that Scotty and Mitchell have most of these qualities: 

  1. See the world as a problem solver, addressing real world problems. 
  2. Use social media in a savvy way, before they’re 13. See their Twitter account. 
  3. Have built a website. 
  4. Have coded in Scratch or Lego Mindstorms. 
  5. Written scripts in Javascript, Python, or C#
  6. Blogged using WordPress, Tumblr, or Medium.
  7. Written or edited HTML Code.
  8. Edited a digital video. 

Because of their access to Minecraft and other tools in our Innovation Lab, Scotty and Mitchell have had opportunities that a lot of students in America probably don’t have. But they should. Access to these tools and this movement should not be limited to a few forward thinking schools willing to invest in maker labs. 

The Maker Movement is taking shape, but it’s going to take more than just a handful of schools dedicated to STEM/STEAM; it’s going to take all of them. Microsoft/Mojang’s Minecraft is, in many ways, the quintessential platform for launching the entrepreneurs of the next 30 years. It is the LEGO of the modern age.  

We often feel melancholy about how much time our students spend in front of a screen. While it’s definitely good to have balance, what if that time is spent creating, building, and making, like Scott and Mitchell have done? Can we guide our students to solve the problems of today and tomorrow? 

What would our students build if they all had access to these tools?