Computational Thinking: My Summer Learning Reflection

I have been learning a great deal this summer on my own initiative like most educators do! Summer is a time to relax, but it is also a crucial time for educators to learn and develop new skills, ideas, and modes of operation because the reality is that we just don’t always have time while in the classrooom.

I have been glued to Minecraft and Computational Thinking. I recently wrapped up a new project around computational thinking using Scratch and Arduino.

I want to compile my reflections of learning so far and decided to use Sway to organize it all. Check it out and let me know what you you think. What else should I learn about computational thinking? What is missing?

I plan to develop projects and create more with Scratch and Arduino. I also plan to get back on the Minecraft path and finish development of some projects I am working on.

| “Computational Thinking: Summer Learning Reflection” | https://sway.com/jytAAWc5i7l3ONJQ

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A Natural Course to Roll Out Minecraft to Students

I have been exploring Minecraft and MinecraftEdu for the past few weeks this summer. It has been a wonderful and challenging learning experience to say the least. In that small amount of time I have come up with a few big ideas that could be used in our school IF we were to get approval for a server and all that good stuff.

The idea that I am have working on lately is the presentation or roll out to students. How do we make this work where students are excited and teachers feel like they are getting their standards accomplished as well.

As an instructional coach and not a classroom teacher I see the first crucial step is helping teachers see the possibilities. It would be a waste of time to launch Minecraft with students if the educators did not see value in it first. My first goal is to create a PD world for educators so they can play, experiment, and learn together so that they can see a benefit. This was a similar method to our 3D printers. I gave some PD and suggested ideas but just let it be. Over time we started to develop more and more projects on the printers to the point where we really need 4-5 more. I hope to do the same with Minecraft. Give them some basics, let them think on it and add it to their tool belt and when the moment rises for it to be used they know where to go for help.

Once educators are on the same page, then we move to students. By this point I hope to have the approval from admin and the tech department to approve, install, and have everything ready to roll out with students. This is the crucial step. Hopefully with discussions over the summer we can begin to move and organize these essential pieces to rollout.

Let us say that everything goes according to plan. As we have early outs and inservices I will continue to provide sessions to teach the teachers in our building. I will just let it take the natural course and not force anything. As a coach we can look at projects and identify if there is any potential. We start small with maybe Minecraft being an option. Then it might grow to a class element to a project. The key is to not force Minecraft for the sake of Minecraft. The key is to look for entry points and identify if Minecraft would enhance the learning process.

I am lucky that in my building we have an amazing staff. Digital citizenship is being covered across the board in core classes as well as our digital literacy classes. As we push authentic audience in our projects we are presented with lessons in being a good citizen all the time. Minecraft is one more option to develop these skills.

I understand that Minecraft is not for everyone. I believe in developing exposure and providing support for those who need and want it. As things develop you continue to make the learning process better and better. To plan any other way would be troublesome because then you are planning for Minecraft and not learning.

As I continue to work through ideas and develop projects for teachers I will continue my summer obsession with Minecraft as I still have a lot to learn.

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The Most Powerful Lesson From #MIEExpert15 US Forum at #ISTE2015

Pay It Forward

One of my items still sitting on my education bucket list is to attend an ISTE conference. I was so close this year being able to fly out to Philadelphia  for a few days before the conference kicked off. To make a long story short I thought I had things lined up to be at ISTE, but due to some scheduling conflicts it just did not pan out. However, I had an amazing two days being with my fellow Microsoft Innovative Experts and learning a valuable lesson.

This lesson that I learned goes beyond any education app, technology tool, curriculum tip, software, hardware, lesson planning, pedagogy, or anything else that comes around the field of education. What I learned from some of the most wonderful, powerful, game changing people and educators while at the US Forum is something that has really hit me deep inside my own heart and mind.

This is it! Seriously.

Paying it forward is nothing new. This is not a new paradigm shift in education. However, many times I feel like when people share, pay it forward, help you out, then you feel like you must pay them back somehow. Whether that is intentional or not I often feel like people help with the mindset that they will need something from you later down the line.

This was not the case. In my short 40 hours in Philadelphia this idea of sharing, connecting, and helping happened to me several times. It happened and I was moved. I was moved on an emotional level. I was moved on an educational level. I was moved in spirit.

The reason these were so powerful was that it is just who these people are. They don’t even realize the greatness they were spreading. They don’t realize the impact they had on me. They don’t realize it because it is just who they are as people. That is what makes it all so powerful.

I would like to give a public thank you to these people. I know that these people would never take credit. They would never ask for recognition. They probably don’t even realize what impact they had on me.

I have made it a personal goal to be one of these people. I want to be someone that helps where it just happens without thought. I would like to think that I do help others, but I want to up my game a bit. I want to continue to pay it forward and have been really thinking hard on beginning steps. Like anything you have to be deliberate to build habit. The goal is to just make it a habit.

In no order here are the people who I want to say thank you…

Stacey Ryan – I met Stacey at the E2 Conference a few months back. She has an energy that just permeates a room. Every single time I talk to her she is all smiles. Stacey helps people like me to connect with others. I am not always the best in a room full of people just starting up conversation. What a person like Stacey does is introduces people like me to others. She is a connector. She knows how to bring people together. She allowed me the chance to talk with some amazing educators and share some ideas. Because of her I developed new connections and some possibilities for future projects. Not only that but we have been developing some projects together where math will be included which unfortunately does not happen as often as it should. Besides her ability to help others connect she has a mind for projects in the classroom that are so good. I am really pumped up to be working with her on some projects this year.

Becky Keene – I met Becky also at E2. Becky I don’t know her as much, but I am amazed at what she gets accomplished. She is a game changer in education to say the least. The reason I want to thank her is due to the fact that her generosity goes above and beyond most people. A few months back she was developing a makerspace workshop. I had contacted her asking some questions and not only did she answer, but she provided me literally everything she had created. There was a ton of work put into her workshop for teachers. I was moved by her kindness. The same thing again while at ISTE. I had to fly home but I saw a session with Minecraft and tweeted about it and there she was again sharing all the resources and helping me stay connected while not being there physically. As I thanked her she thought nothing of what she was doing and this is what makes her so amazing. It was genuine and she was just doing her part.

Todd Beard – I am always pumped to connect with Todd. He is his own beast and I mean that with the greatest respect and admiration. I also met Todd at E2. The best thing about Todd is that he shares. Todd has done so many cool things and he openly lets you know how to do it all. Not only that but we have had some really great conversations while staying up late after a long day of learning and talking. We had a great chat discussing website design. At 1 am we are scouring websites and discussing how to do this, how to do that, why we should clean this up, etc. I consider him a friend and despite only connecting in person twice we just pick up where we left off. I have learned a great deal about robotics, engineering, being an ambassador for kids and education, and once again the trait of just sharing.

Jennifer Mitchell – Another kick butt educator who is spreading the powerful ways of teaching to all parts of the world. She just makes it happen. One minute I am talking with her and the next minute she is helping me connect with other educators. She is one of those people where you don’t always realize what she has done until she has moved on to the next great cause on her list. I love talking with her and just finding out what she is up to. I thank her for the connections she helped me develop while in Philly. More respect for her than she realizes!

Robyn Hrivnatz – Our fearless US MIE leader. Robyn has a way to make you feel right at home. She is never rattled. No matter how many times she is bombarded by requests she just rolls with the punches. She too is a giver always helping me when I have questions, ideas, and just regular inquiry. Working to keep the calmness amidst the hustle and bustle is something that I want to continue to work on. I know that she probably does not always feel that way inside, but her presence puts people at ease and she just makes things happen.

Sandi Adams – Sandi is another rockstar that I met through MIE and E2. I reached out to her about something she has developed. It was actually something I have been toying around with myself and so I asked her about it. We connected and she just poured it on me letting me know how it all worked out for her. The beauty of this was it gave me a perspective about how to go about my idea and develop it to make it work for my school. Because of our conversation I have moved my idea from being a thought into action. Meetings have been setup and I am hard at work bringing the idea to life. Her passion and excitement motivated me to find a way to get the idea out of hibernation mode. Without our chat my idea would still be sitting in my head. Sandi has this energy about her that just pumps you up for making great things happen in education.

Ginger Lewman – One of my education heroes. I did not meet her at MIE/E2, but I have to mention her. I met Ginger about 4-5 years ago at a NAGC conference. One small conversation lead to a multi-hour chat that has lead to a great friendship. She is one of the most honest and real educators I know. She is the one I go to when I need real talk. She gives it to me straight. We don’t always agree but because we have a deep respect for one another it is never personal. This is a rare trait and rare condition in education. Many are afraid to have real conversations due to possibly hurting the feelings of others. Not only this, but she has helped me connect with educators that I did not even know existed. She brings people together and that is once again a very powerful trait. I have learned more from her than anyone else in education and that is a strong statement!

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Obviously, this is a short list. So many more have helped me along the way and will continue to help. These people all had a positive impact on me in some powerful way in just the short amount of time we had together. This is what education is about. It is about sharing. It is about relationships and helping one another be better by just being good people. A blog post is not enough to say thank you, but it is a start to remind me to continue to help others and spread the message of paying it forward. Thank you.

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Game Based Learning Reflection of Implementation

After four weeks of learning and actually applying game based learning I have a new appreciation for educators who use Minecraft/MinecraftEdu in their classroom. I have a new appreciation for those that can build with these blocks and bring ideas to life. I have an appreciation for the kids who do what they do so easily. I basically applaud anyone who can do anything with Minecraft.

One thing that was reinforced to me was that with about 25-30 hours of build time in my world I spent easily 18 hours learning through doing things incorrectly. I learned so much from things that did not work or making mistakes. It was not always fun as there were times I became frustrated, but……

[Tweet “There is no formula for Minecraft. There is no formula for game based learning.”] The minute we try to craft a formula we have killed the spirit of what games and games based learning is all about. This is probably my biggest takeaway from all my learning and unlearning. I spent a lot of time trying to develop some formula to create this perfect world for teachers. In the end I was killing the essence of gaming and struggled to find this answer because it did not exist. It reminded me of my many conversations with educators where I shared that any time someone in education tries to sell you on a product that will solve all your issues you should run like hell. I was trying to do this very thing.

In the end I did create a world. It ended up being a hodgepodge world of ideas. I have plans to develop a new world moving the school idea to a separate world. My son and I are going to move the Jurassic World idea to another world that is not flat. However, this world we have started we are going to continue to build and develop for fun and see what comes of it.(see video below)

Looking ahead I have a few goals that I want to achieve before summer ends.

1. Figure out how to share my worlds so people outside of my local network can join. I have seen this done and want to learn how to do it myself.

2. Clean up my three project ideas and get them fully developed and ready to go. I have some lesson planning and project work to do.

3. Get a server up and running in our school so I can begin to train teachers in Minecraft so we can begin to utilize the tool when it provides a key learning opportunity.

Game based learning is an endless world of possibilities. I am glad that I have found myself finally tuned into the worlds and am slowly learning how to do things. The amount of connections based on Minecraft in the last few weeks has been huge and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow. Who knows where I will be by the end of the summer.

Perhaps I will learn how to do pixel art like my son is learning.

Here is my update on my world with ideas that I tried to implement along with my struggles. Suggestions are welcome!

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Creatively Thinking with MineCraftEDU: Creative vs. Survival Mode

Holy Cow! If you want to force yourself to learn how to play Minecraft/MinecraftEdu in terms of game tactics, building, crafting, etc. then look no further than survival mode. For the first few days I have been just relaxing doing a little here and little there in creativity mode, but if you want to put your finger to the flame go all out in survival.

I died the first three attempts to survive the night. I had no idea what I was doing. I still am not savvy enough to build, craft, dig, etc. Basically, I am not basic skill savvy! However, by the fourth attempt I stopped and started to do some some research and learned more in 10 minutes of survival play than my previous few hours before. Why? You don’t have a choice unless you like being attacked by zombies, fire zombies, bats, arrows, and who knows what else was attacking me.

I checked out the book The Big Book of Minecraft and this book helped me understand that I needed to chop down trees. It took me forever to figure out this whole crafting thing. It is slowly making sense, but for now I had to use the Minecraft Wiki to figure out how craft and build a crafting table. I learned how to chop down trees –> convert to wood planks –> make either sticks, shovels, and axe. From there I could chop down more trees and slowly see the power and necessity for wood in this game.

I eventually built my first little tiny home. I realize I want to go back and build with wood planks so many house upgrades are coming.

Now, I just need to figure out how create light, craft a pickaxe, and keep developing.

It was a bit of a rush when you don’t want to die and the day turns to night.

On the flipside I have spent time in creativity mode. I like this mode because you get everything. You have no stress to worry and can just keep thinking “What if I do……” You can just play. This is where I like to experiment. When I go back to survival I need to learn how to acquire all those awesome things which I have no clue.

In the classroom I could see uses for both game modes. Survival would be a great team collaboration project where students would have to work together to stay alive and make things work. I like that element for them to understand allocation of resources, living dynamics, dividing up jobs, etc. The game provides plenty of social elements along with higher ordering thinking skills to problem solve. I am writing up a bunch of options for using survival mode. I am sure there are so many great ideas out there, but I just have not had time to track them all down.

The creativity mode is a real obvious option as students can build anything. Creativity fits well into any classroom and it just depends on the goals and outcome of the project and classroom.

Finally, I can see why the original Minecraft had no instructions or tutorials. When I played the tutorial world I played to simply get through it. When I jumped over to survival mode, I could not apply anything I learned. It did not stick with me to application. However, the need for survival forced me to learn and I can now recite how to do everything I learned to survive. I still think the Tutorial World is good to start I almost feel like just tossing them in Survival to learn with guidance from the teacher and expert students would be a better option.

I am finding my ideas and thoughts constantly shift as I dig deeper into this world of blocks. Below are some resources that I used with the link to survival mode being a very helpful one along with this book The Big Book of Minecraft which I just bought my own copy. Alright, back to figuring out how to survive day 2 in my CoffeechugSurvival World!

Either way if classrooms had students share their journey and learning I could see a great fit for

SL.7.5

Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

SL.7.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one–on–one, in groups, and teacher–led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Heck, even using Health Literacy standards for survival mode would work.

21.6–8.HL.2

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Utilize interactive literacy and social skills to establish personal, family, and community health goals.

Demonstrate social and communication skills to enhance health and increase safety.

21.6–8.HL.3

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Apply critical literacy/thinking skills related to personal, family and community wellness.

Demonstrate decision making skills.


 

I continue to see so many connections of using this game in classrooms effectively.

Extra Resources:

Glossary of Minecraft Terms

My YouTube Channels of Minecraft Gaming

Minecraft Crafting Guide

Survival mode guide:

http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Tutorials/Beginner%27s_guide

Creative mode, you will not need to use tools, crafting, or worry about being attacked.  It is a sandbox mode of the game.  You have godlike power in the game.  Every resource in the game is in your inventory, and unlimited.

 

 

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Game Based Learning: Is It Effective Classroom Instruction?

Game based learning is one method among many that will enhance the classroom learning environment by increasing motivation, increasing opportunities to develop a decision making process that forces analyzing and implementing solutions, and will allow these skills to transfer to other aspects of life. Game based teaching and learning can be quite effective if understood what it is and how it can be implemented to enhance instruction and learning. Games are not the end-all be-all answer to the problems in education, but they can dramatically change the classroom if infused into the classroom culture properly.

It can be a little unclear trying to pinpoint what is meant by game based teaching/ game based learning. There is confusion between game based learning, gamification, and games. Games are something that we all understand. It does not matter how complex or simple a game can be in order for it to be a game. According to (McGonigal 2011), games have four key ingredients.(McGonigal 2011)

  1. Goal – a game has to have a desired outcome that everyone is working to accomplish.
  2. Rules – in order to achieve the goal there has to be some parameters put into place that eliminate or make it difficult to achieve the goal.
  3. Feedback system – this is a process where the player knows where they are in the system to achieve the goal.
  4. Voluntary participation – basically this means that everyone involved in the game understands the rules, has a clear sense of the goal, and how to receive feedback.

Gamification is something else that is worth discussing. Many people confuse gamification and game based learning. Gamification in its simplest form can be described as a way to “add game elements to a non game situation.”(Blogger 2015). In many classrooms this is done by gaming the classroom through the use of offering badges, leveling up, and earning various items as they progress through the work. Classcraft would be one of the best examples of gamifying a classroom.

Game based learning is not gamification. Game based learning is using games to enhance the learning in the classroom. The idea is nothing new. It has been around for decades dating back to even before the education game changer Oregon Trail was implemented almost everywhere in the 80’s.

Game based learning takes the four elements that create a game and combines them with the expectations and goals of the classroom. When we discuss games for learning it is essential that educators see a benefit to the use of the game. If educators can grasp that a particular game can motivate students to learn, is fairly simple to implement, and can prove learning targets, standards, and district goals can be met, then a game has great potential to actually being used in the classroom. One fundamental difference between gaming for fun vs. gaming for educational purposes is that educators “start with learning goals, and gaming media choices will be made based on the games potential to meet those goals.”(Dikkers 2015)

The first key element to game based learning is hooking students. There are many arguments being made that students now are digital consiuers and gaming machines. There is great debate over whether this is good or bad. No matter where you stand on this debate the key piece is that games continue to play a huge role in our lives. For students, game play has shifted to digital games. The shift is with adults also as we continue to find ourselves glued to our phones and tablets. Schools and educators are making the shift as well. In a recent study it was found that 74% of educators in the K-8 setting used digital games as part of their instruction.(“Joan Ganz Cooney Center – Level Up Learning: A National Survey on Teaching with Digital Games” 2015) Whether the games were deemed effective is another topic altogether. However, the reason digital games are being used is to help motivate students. Another study was conducted on whether or not digital games motivated students to learn. The study discovered that 65.5% found games to be motivating, 28% claimed it would not matter either way, and 8% found them to be demotivating.(“[No Title]” 2015) This study proves that games can be motivating, but they are not the ultimate solution. Any educator knows that developing relationships, treating students like they matter, providing them a voice, and showing you care are vital to any teaching method to work. If educators can show how a game based learning activity can impact their lives and make a difference, then you can increase the number of students who will buy in. No game will solve all the problems, but it can be one element that does help.

If we can agree that game based learning can have an impact on motivation if implemented properly, then we can move on to the next element that is very important. Game based learning can help students learn to develop their problem solving skills and develop solutions. For example, let’s take Minecraft as an example to showcase that game based learning can increase problem solving skills, solutions, and transfer to other aspects of life.

Minecraft is one of the most popular games of all time and more importantly has changed how we think of games. Minecraft operates on the ideas that “a blank slate is compelling for many young minds” and that a “person’s mind is limitless or forever voyaging.” (Dikkers 2015) Minecraft serves as a perfect tool to develop creativity and computational thinking. Computational Thinking (CT) is a problem solving process that includes a number of characteristics and dispositions. CT is essential to the development of computer applications, but it can also be used to support problem solving across all disciplines, including math, science, and the humanities. Students who learn CT across the curriculum can begin to see a relationship between subjects as well as between school and life outside of the classroom.(“Google for Education:” 2015)

Minecraft operates on the premise of building with blocks. The players starts with a blank slate and without a manual or tutorial most people get it. It is a blank canvas similar to using a pencil on paper to create whatever your mind can develop. It is that blank slate where the player can bring to life their ideas. Minecraft can be used in a variety of ways. First, Minecraft can be used for creativity. A player can be given unlimited use of all the tools in the game to build whatever their heart desires. The player simply builds with blocks, creates new items with crafts, can do coding with redstone and command blocks, and basically anything they want to do can be done with enough learning and design. Second, Minecraft can be used for survival mode. In this case the player must start with nothing and figure out how to survive zombie attacks, hunger, weather, and the basics of being alive. There is a great deal of problem solving in this style of play. The power of Minecraft is that you can adjust the settings to literally make it whatever you want.

When it comes to problem solving, computational thinking, and meeting the needs of the classroom, Minecraft has proven ways to do all of these things. Erik Miller, a teacher, has created a world in Minecraft called World of Humanities which places students back in ancient civilizations. It is a beautifully constructed world that has so much to offer. It allows students to really grasp the key moments in history. Depending on where you start and where you go there are a variety of tasks to accomplish. This world supplements the learning in classroom, it does not replace the learning or the educator.

There are many versions of design challenges for students to solve in creative mode. One idea that has many different versions is students building a famous structure to scale. This could be something from any time period or even their own school. Students must research and understand what needs to be built, they must prototype on paper or other CAD software, break into teams, and collaboratively build the intended outcome. There are hundreds of examples on how Minecraft can teach problem solving skills. These examples shared are just two ideas.

The power of game based learning lies in the fact that not only can a teacher teach content, but they can also incorporate 21st century skills easily. If we stick with the Minecraft example, almost every single 21st century skill in the Common Core could be reached. Through collaborative play, building, problem solving, communication, and networking students must work to develop the necessary skills that will prove vital to their future. Education is slowly understanding that it is not the content that matters as much anymore(this thing called the Internet provides content in seconds), but the ability to use the necessary content to solve real world problems. Games like Minecraft help students work on these essential skills in ways that it does not feel like school. By working through these massive multiplayer environments students are working on their college and career ready assets to be productive in other aspects of their lives.

In closing game based learning can be a very powerful and effective method for helping students learn. It is not the solution that will solve all problems because nothing will ever do that. However, it is one key teaching strategy that can build a classroom to being quite powerful. Games are not going to be the answer because kids like games. Games are popular and therefore can help engage more students by connecting to what they are interested in as an individual. Students will enter the games from various backgrounds in games. It is important to provide the support and extensions needed to meet the needs of each learner. A game like Minecraft is so vast and open that it can  easily be modified and adjusted to meet the needs of any learner and educator. Educational games cannot lose sight of the learning targets and goals. This can easily happen for the sake of fun. It is not the job of schools to be fun and entertaining, but it is their responsibility to engage, create social opportunities, and help meet the needs of each learner. If students don’t feel connected, then the learning will be lost. Games can be one avenue to promote engagement, develop social skills through collaborative play, and integrate what they enjoy in their free time in school. As educators we must continue to strive to meet students where they are instead of forcing them to meet us where we are. Game based learning could be one effective way of doing just that.

Bibliography

Blogger, Inservice Guest. 2015. “The Difference between Gamification and Game-Based Learning.” ASCD Inservice. Accessed June 24. http://inservice.ascd.org/the-difference-between-gamification-and-game-based-learning/.

Dikkers, Seann. 2015. TeacherCraft: How Teachers Learn to Use MineCraft in Their Classrooms. Lulu.com.

“Google for Education:” 2015. Google. Accessed June 22. www.google.com/edu/resources/programs/exploring-computational-thinking/.

“Joan Ganz Cooney Center – Level Up Learning: A National Survey on Teaching with Digital Games.” 2015. Accessed June 24. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/level-up-learning-a-national-survey-on-teaching-with-digital-games/.

McGonigal, Jane. 2011. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Random House.

“[No Title].” 2015. Accessed June 24. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/whitton.pdf.

 

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Coffeechug Minecraft World: PBL and PD

Seeking Feedback and Ideas

Below is my current draft of a project I am working on. The goal of this world is twofold. First, to help students and classrooms connect in a place that excites and promotes learning in an interdisciplinary project. Second, the world will eventually be a teacher PD world for them to learn how to use Minecraft in their classrooms. Check out the idea and let me know what you think. I have two other projects, but need to figure this one out first.

Overview

The goal of this project is to design and create a blueprint copy of your school you attend. The school must be to scale. After the school is built you will then design and build your ultimate dream school that would ensure the highest levels of learning.

 

Goals

Design, plan, and build an accurate and to scale model of your school

Use Minecraft to support 21st century skills

Enhance writing skills through visualization and roleplay

Connect the various subject areas to showcase student learning

 

Organizing the Project

 

Step 1: Information Gathering

In this stage students will figure out how to get blueprints or a scaled map of their school. They will need to figure out how to use volume to determine the space needed in Minecraft to build their school to scale(this will help)

 

Step 2: Building in Minecraft

Once a map and plan has been established, students will develop teams with the help of their teacher to divide up the work. Students will go through the tutorial world to learn how things work before being deployed to the School World. Once their plot is established they will begin to build and create their school to scale.

 

Step 3: Writing

Along the way students will be blogging or writing their learning journey to creating their school to scale. Each post will require the use of connecting the standards to the learning. It is important for students to understand their learning and how it all ties together. These posts can also include screenshots and video tours.

 

Extension

The next step if time permits or for those who need more of a challenge would be to take on the challenge of creating a dream school. They will have to justify their decisions and why their creation would allow for the ultimate learning experience for all students.

 

Next Steps

Once students have created their school to scale, the world will be used for PD for teachers. A great entry point would be for teachers to design their own classrooms. Even better would be teachers designing their ultimate dream school and comparing to the students version. This project will be open to all students and schools so in the end we will have this world of real schools and ultimate dream schools which would lead to some great conversations. Last, it would provide a great opportunity for a virtual world tour.

 

Iowa Common Core Standards

 

Math

6.G.A.4

Represent three–dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real–world and mathematical problems.

 

21st Century Skills

21.6–8.TL.2

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Collaborate with peers, experts, and others using interactive technology.

 

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Plan strategies utilizing digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

 

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Use critical thinking skills to conduct research, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate technological tools and resources.

 

Literacy

W.6.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade–specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

 

W.6.5

With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grade 6.)

 

W.6.6

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

 

Getting Started

Students will enter the large massive BMS Training Facility. This building is a square building built to scale based on the square meters of the building and applied to the Minecraft world. Inside the facility will be several rooms providing ideas and help for students and educators to achieve the necessary learning opportunities.

 

Extension

Once we have a replica of our actual school, then the design challenge comes into place. The challenge is as follows:

 

Create a world in Minecraft that reflects the values and mission of Bettendorf Community Schools.

Vision

Bettendorf Community School District will link learning to life with passion, purpose and pride so that all students can make a positive difference.
Mission

Educational excellence is the foundation of the Bettendorf Community School District. Working in partnership with the family and community, we will instill and nurture in all students the knowledge, skills, creativity, and confidence to pursue their dreams and to succeed in a global society.
We Believe:

  • Excellence in student learning, our measure of accountability, is the hallmark of our school district.
  • High expectations for students, staff, parents, and community lead to excellence.
  • Although not all students learn at the same time or in the same manner, all students can and shall learn.
  • Family and community support are critical to student success.
  • To best meet the needs of our students, staff should be motivators, innovators and professional role models.
  • Student learning occurs best in a safe, nurturing, respectful, and positive environment, which is supported by quality facilities and resources.
  • Basic academic skills are the foundation for successful lifelong learning.
  • Rigorous and relevant learning experiences challenge our students to think and solve problems creatively.
  • A quality school district embraces diversity and promotes mutual respect.
  • A quality school district seeks continuous improvement.
  • A quality school district is responsive and accountable.
  • Visionary leadership to achieve the goals of our school district is a responsibility shared by staff, students, parents, and community.

At this point we can divide students up to plot and design their dream school and learning centers. Whatever they create they must connect to the values and missions of the district. Before they jump into Minecraft they must unpack the statements and begin to visually map what elements they would like to add to their world.

 

Once the class unpacks and mindmaps what is needed to address these statements they begin to draft out their ideas. They will map out their ideas on paper. Individually or in small groups they will present their ideas. Once that has been complete, then students will work together as a class to create a prototype in class of what the finished product will look like. They will have to figure out locations of builds and how to incorporate all the ideas into one cohesive world.

 

Once this model has been created and approved they will be set loose to create in Minecraft. There will be groups created, roles for different tracks within the challenge, and regular meetings to ensure we are making the necessary progress. As we need to things to be taught or constructed we will add them to the BMS Training Facility.

 

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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 9: OneNote Clipper

Best thing since sliced bread and coffee and chocolate and well....just check it out!

Here is another quick easy tip when using Surface Pro 3 and more importantly the amazing tool of OneNote. As I continue to morph my whole world over to OneNote there are more and more efficient possibilities to making this tool even better.

This tool is nothing new, but sure is worth the time to explore if you are new to OneNote and the Surface family. One of my favorite tech tools of all time. And that is a bold statement my friends!

 

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Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

I am writing these thoughts as a pre assessment of my thinking. I have only dabbled in Minecraft for about 30 minutes with my son a few years ago as my son tried to show me everything and he was going way too fast for me to comprehend. I never made it back to play another day until this summer.

After watching a few videos and doing some reading along with mixing what I am learning with my previous thoughts and experiences I am excited to put down in writing my answers to these questions. I will then go back after building a world and understanding Minecraft more to see how my answers shift or stay the same.

I will be addressing the following four questions:
Does the openness Minecraft negatively or positively impact its use in the classroom setting?
Because the game has no goals built into it, how does that help it for educational use or does that cause problems?
Do you feel the popularity of the game help or hinder its use in an educational setting, because the majority of students will have already played it?
Is not having a tutorial a good or bad thing for classroom use?

From an outside view(not being in the classroom directly) I see the openness as amazing and extremely powerful. I live and breathe makerspaces, robotics, LEGO, Arduino, and more. While I see the need for instructions to help build a base, I also believe that a huge issue with education and society is that we don’t provide enough situations for students to problem solve. They are rarely given the chance to think on their own, learn how to deal when their ideas don’t work, problem solve new solutions, work with others, ask for help from others, and continue the cycle of building their toolkit of skills to simply survive on their own. I learned all last week running my robotics camp how much kids need these experiences to develop these skills.

So often parents step in and do it for them. Sports are so organized that kids no longer know how to just go outside and play. Schools and classrooms across the nation are so worried about data and test scores that more and more classrooms look the same with scripted worksheets, specific step by step learning, and curriculum to match. Kids are not given enough time to play and explore. Even kindergarten and preschools are slowly losing the exploration and creativity moments because there is not enough time to get it all in for the sake of data.

With that being said, I think something like Minecraft could prove to be a huge asset for classrooms. It is so wide open with zero instructions that educators could create the parameters to allow any type of learning to happen. Students are no longer restricted to bring their ideas to life. It is honestly wide open and limitless to take learning to deeper levels than any other software available. All it takes is an open mind.
This vast openness is also what scares educators and schools. How do we begin? I feel free pretty tech savvy as a person and even I am a bit nervous about diving into this world. I was reminded of my first attempt at learning Minecraft a few years ago and just how different I operated compare to my son(In the chair of a student: Minecraft learning reverses my teacher role!). If I feel nervous I can only imagine how another teacher who is not tech savvy would not allow this to happen.

What Minecraft COULD do is help move education where it needs to be. This openness forces educators to give up some control. They are not in direct control. More of this needs to happen where students are in driver seat of their learning instead of simply being a passenger while the teacher drives. I am a huge advocate of student voice and agency and Minecraft allows both to happen. Obviously, I think it goes without saying that depending on how you use Minecraft you could easily hit any of the Common Core 21st Century Standards. This piece is a real no brainer, but with everything the hard part is documenting the standard being met and mastered.

I have witnessed many examples of Minecraft being used in our schools for smaller projects and am simply blown away by what students can create to showcase their learning. The idea of not having a manual is simply an irrelevant conversation anymore. You can find out how to do anything on YouTube. There are websites and blogs that can give you the answers you need. A “manual” does exist, but just not in a pretty little booklet next to a cartridge. I think the need for a manual is only a concern for the older generations(like myself) who had that as part of the norm growing up. The manual exists in many formats like the internet, Kindle, books, etc. To build off the idea of a manual, it now allows users to create their own. If you can create a tutorial, then you must really know your stuff. This is a great way to infuse learning by having students develop their own manuals to help others.

Last, the popularity of Minecraft is what has allowed this whole conversation to take place. If it was not popular, then education would ignore these worlds completely. Because it is so massive education realizes this could help drive change in schools. Will students run away that an institution is using their favorite tool? Only time will tell. Right now it is exciting and new, but at one point Smartboards were considered cool until they became standard. The true challenge of education is not to ruin an amazing game by placing all these parameters into the worlds and as a result the game loses all the power that bring millions of people online every single day. The moment a teacher starts to limit what can be done the whole project fails. The beauty of the success of Minecraft in education is for educators to not see it as a “game”, but a platform to bring learning to where the students are instead of trying to move students to where the educator is. If enough classrooms fail to see it this way, then it will be one more failed attempt and bridging technology and learning to the lives of students.

In closing, I don’t know that Minecraft is the ultimate education tool……yet. Not enough schools and classrooms are using it to make that claim. I think it has the ingredients to be the ultimate. However, it is first major breakthrough with a safe haven to create whatever. The hard part lies in the logistics of school where you have to worry about monitoring, bullying, cost, infrastructure, and all the wonderful red tape that comes with implementing anything into schools. At this point it is simply too early to determine an answer to this question, but I am going to dive in and see what I can discover on my own and for my school.

Here are the two videos I watched before posting these ideas

**I am taking a class called, Creatively Thinking with MinecraftEdu, so I will be sharing my thoughts, learning, as well as documenting my journey from newbie to not so newbie as I go along with the materials. Feel free to leave comments, challenge my thinking, and share what you know.**

***Today I actually begin playing Minecraft. I will be recording my journey through the tutorial to let others see that it is not as intimidating as you might think…..I hope!***

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