Minecraft Edu

Tuesdays class changed the way I see the integration of technology in the classroom. Heidi James, a teacher from Colquitz Middle brought in a group of middle schoolers to teach our cohort how to play Minecraft. If you have spent any time around kids in the past 5 years you have probably heard of it. A widely popular game, Minecraft is an “open world game that promotes creativity, collaboration and problem solving”. Those nouns probably sound pretty familiar if you’re a BC educator, that’s because they are some of the core competencies in the new BC curriculum! Heidi uses Minecraft Edu, which is a classroom friendly version of Minecraft with features that allow the teacher to manage learners within the game, build challenges and choose or create students ‘worlds’. The Education edition also provides a 10 module training course and lesson plans. Heidi showed our class how game based learning is a student centered approach that incorporates prescribed learning outcomes with 21st century skills.

Mike Prosser – A map of my minecraft world -CC BY SA 2.0

Minecraft is an immersive game which means that it is technology that attempts to recreate attributes of the physical world within a virtual world. A 3D block landscape where participants create and alter the ‘world’ they are dropped into. Players collect and re-purpose the 3D blocks, building shelters and crafting tools like a pick axe, that allow your avatar to mine for granite or the coveted obsidian. As well as building and mining, players can explore, gather resources , build communities and even learn to code.

I have always thought of video games as an isolating past time but when played in a classroom setting the game has the potential to increase social interactions. Players need to work together in order to ‘survive’ and end up communicating to their team mates beside them, face- to face, developing strategies or telling them where the ladder to the next floor is.

Having the Colquitz team facilitate a Minecraft how-to was a great example of how we as future educators can empower our students, work with their interests and help them become digitally literate citizens of the 21st century. What an exciting time to be an educator.

Open and Networked Learning

I wasn’t able to make it to our class on Tuesday for the video conference with Verena Roberts on open and networked learning but I was still able to take part via Blue Jeans Network, a video, audio and web conferencing tool that works anywhere with any device. Blue Jeans was easy to use and I didn’t miss out on the amazing learning opportunity. What a great way to expand the learning community beyond four walls! An open education experience during #openedweek.

Flickr – Global Water Partnership-CC-BY-NC-SA2.0

Through the video call our class was able to take part in a conference in Edmonton (co-located session) led by Verena, here are her slides and Resources. Her talk made me think about what learning opportunities are available beyond physical experiences and the possibilities of networked learning that connect our students to the wider, possibly global community and how I can bring this concept into my own classroom. Her slides laid out indicators of open educational practice based on her own research:

  • Designing for sharing
  • Participatory learning
  • Learning networks
  • Safe learning spaces
  • Expanded learning environment

Open and networked learning makes Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) possible, an opportunity for students to connect to community opportunities outside of their classroom. In IBL students are not given the answers, the responsibility for finding the information is on the learner, which means that we have to ensure that our students have the proper digital literacy skills necessary to succeed. By starting early with guided inquiry we can help our students learn to not only follow their curiosity and build their digital literacy but to become independent learners.

Video Conference with Ian Landy

Tuesdays class was my first experience with a video conference call, we met with Ian Landy, Principal at Edgehill Elementary in Powell River. Next time I will make sure that I get there early so that I am not in the front row, I was a bit uncomfortable with being on the big screen and the camera moving to wherever the sound was coming from seemed to have a mind of its own.

Ian talked to us about technology as assessment in the form of e-portfolios, fresh grade , just one example of a digital portfolio/ assessment platform (currently being used in SD61) provides educators with a way to report student learning rather than reporting student achievement (what the old fashioned report cards did). It allows teachers to document, capture and communicate learning to parents and students in a secure way, student data is stored in Canada but does spend a few seconds in the US. Through this platform teachers can also share resources and provide their students with formative descriptive feedback. All this capturing and documenting sounds like teachers would spend a lot of time using devices to upload student content, Ian suggested adding archivist as a class job which I think is a great idea that teaches students how to upload to their own e-portfolios. One thing that is great about e-portfolios is that it gives the students the opportunity to document and share their own learning, providing a sense of responsibility. Ian suggested scaffolding independent use of e-portfolios starting at around grade 5 or 6.

Each student comes to class with their own experiences and worldview, no two students are exactly the same so why would we assess them in the same way? As Ian pointed out ” we can’t compare students… E-portfolios allow for personalized achievement”.

Edcamp

Today we spent the first couple of hours of our class having our own mini Edcamp session. Edcamp is an unconference where the topics/themes (education based) are chosen by the attendees. The topics are then narrowed down by up-voting the topics that interest you. Rather than having an expert come and talk, the sessions are curated through the collaboration and conversation of the attendees, this allows everyone involved to both share their own experiences and learn from their peers. Edcamp can also be used as a learning tool for teachers to use with their class. More information and resources can be found here.

I chose outdoor learning environments as my Edcamp topic. My group started out by telling each other about our own experiences or lack of experiences learning outdoors. We then relayed examples of outdoor learning environments we have seen. Here are some ideas….

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Image result for outdoor classroom
Image result for outdoor classroom

Through our group conversations it was evident that time spent learning outside was a memorable experience for all of us. We did not get much further than My group ended up getting off topic so I think that if I was going to have my own edcamp with my class I would structure it for them, maybe a list of questions so that if they get off topic they can refer to the questions and get back to purpose of the activity.