Thursday, 11 April 2013

Some thoughts to help those interested in teaching with Minecraft.

What is Minecraft?
A digital, collaborative, three dimensional sandpit where students can explore ideas, test concepts and experiment with their designs. Watch the two videos below for more about what minecraft is. 

So why teach using Minecraft?

Many of our current teaching and learning tools were developed a long time ago and belong in an age past.  Look at the infographic below and ask the question, "which tools are we still using, and when where they developed?" Using Minecraft is part of a strategy that seeks to keep teaching and learning tools current. Test: which major piece of technology is this infographic missing?
Answer: this infographic is missing... the photocopier, did you notice?

Does Minecraft allow opportunity for teachers to draw upon the Quality Teaching Framework?

Minecraft is simply an environment, a digital, virtual Lego set. Many of the elements above very easily fit into this style of student learning. However the teacher remains the architect and creator of learning experiences and the degree to which quality teaching is evident in the student's learning is still determined by the teacher, not the tool. 

What I learnt from Teaching with Minecraft.

In term 1 of 2013 I was employed to be the ICT consultant at Canley Vale High School in a western suburb of Sydney, Australia. The school was having some mixed success with integrating technology into the curriculum despite significant federal and state funding. As part of my position I was given the opportunity to do an experimental project with year 7 and 8 maths students – the “low ability” classes. I had a total of about 3 hours (over 6 periods) to work with students through an introductory topic on what Minecraft is and a unit of work on Probability. I had not previously worked with these classes or their regular class teachers. This is what I learnt.

  • 1.       Teacher tools from MinecraftEDU are invaluable. They form an important part of classroom management practices.
  • 2.       Students love to collaborate. When asked about their collaboration experience 100% of the class voted it as their preferred mode of operation.
  • 3.       Students will often extend tasks, adding their own creativity to personalise their end result.
  • 4.       Minecraft caters for a diverse range of students, allowing them to excel, regardless of personal strengths or weaknesses.
  • 5.       I can have high expectations from students and be surprised by the outcomes because Minecraft is student centered and open-ended.
  • 6.       Students who come to a lesson using Minecraft as their tool, came with anticipation and excitement, this seemed to translate into participation in group discussion, before we moved to the computers, a dramatic contrast to their usual participation levels.
  • 7.       Creating resources, activities and maps for the students is fun and gives me the opportunity to explore my own creative ideas.
  • 8.       Students are very motivated to complete tasks when rewarded with items in Minecraft (who wouldn't want a diamond breastplate!) Students, who were typically off task, were able to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.
Setting Expectations
I had the students read, discuss and sign a promise card to support some classroom management strategies. The teaching style in these lessons would change very drastically from teacher-centered to student centered so class-norms needed to be revisited.

Experimental Teaching
Teaching content, using a particular tool or methodology you are unfamiliar with is fraught with potential problems and no matter how much pre-planning you do, expect that something is going to go wrong! But is that a bad thing? Some of the most valuable learning experiences come from mistakes we make, these situations cause us to reflect. Reflection and self-evaluation is one of the most valuable tools a teacher can use and will often lead to further development of quality teaching.

Student Response To Learning with Minecraft.

These responses were unscripted and unrehearsed.

My Probability Map

This is a quick tour of the activity I made for my year 7 & 8 maths students.  There are 2 activities with space for a 3rd. The first one  student need to read a number of signs to find which "colour" sign does not use the language of probability. Secondly Students had to find the experimental probability of 5 dispensers. You can  download the map to try it out. Probability Activity

2013 DER laptops support MinecraftEDU

Without any modification to the device I have been able to use the software supplied by MinecraftEDU to run games on student devices connected to servers run on school desktops. The laptops handle the graphics quite will and connect without any problems to the server on the school network. Students do not use their own mojang accounts as we only play within the school network. As the server is run on a school desktops it may be possible  for schools to collaborate across campuses. 

Bit.Ly Bundle

I use bit ly to curate Minecraft resources. Here is my bundle