By Dean Whittaker

While mentoring a seventh grader this month, I learned a valuable lesson. I asked him to teach me Minecraft, an online virtual world. My first lesson went well, complete with a homework assignment. After spending the weekend reading “Minecraft for Dummies,” I thought I was prepared for my next lesson.

For the uninitiated, there are two modes in Minecraft. One is the survival mode in which you can be killed, and the other is the creative mode in which you can create and destroy without the risk of having your avatar (virtual self) being killed.

There is much to be learned in each type of mode/world. The survival world teaches how to find materials, build shelter, find food, and plan for the future. The creative world teaches how to cultivate and grow food, fish, and explore your world.

During my second lesson, I lost my student from this world into the virtual world of Minecraft.
It took the pause button on my iPad to bringing him back into the “real world.” However, while we were in the virtual world, a “griefer” came in through our school Wi-Fi connection to our virtual world that we had created, and after a brief friendly text exchange, left an obscene “F%$@ Y!&” billboard in our world.

My somewhat embarrassed “student-teacher” quickly destroyed the offensive sign with a case of TNT. Fortunately, there is a setting by which you can restrict visitors to your virtual world. The default setting, which we had not turned off, is to allow others to visit your world.

Are there any “griefers” in your world? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? If given a choice would you live in the “real” world or the “virtual” one?