Tag Archives: connectivism

A Minecraft Inquiry

If you work in a primary school chances are you have heard your students discussing Minecraft. Currently over 21 million people have purchased Minecraft. There are a staggering 7 billion views of Minecraft related activities on YouTube. Clearly it is very popular. My question is ‘Can Minecraft enhance student learning in my classroom?’.

Image from Flickr by Thomas Wagner

 

I have researched how many teachers have integrated Minecraftedu successfully into the learning engagements. I have read and learnt from previous coetailers’ blogs about integrating Minecraft into a primary classroom, in particular @wayfaringpath @mikehoffman and @biggles. I am hoping to learn from their experiences and to build a valuable resource for teachers like myself. My aim is to create a blog that is aimed at primary teachers interested in integrating Minecraft into their classrooms.

The first draft of my Minecraft blog.

 

I am particularly keen to see how Minecraft can integrate into an inquiry classroom. I will be focusing on how the PYP transdisciplinary themes can be used in Minecraft, as well as looking into possible conceptual links with the PYP key concepts. I am also hoping to see any potential ways to teach language, mathematics, social studies or science learning outcomes.

Image used with the author’s permission.

 

My research will also include reading Colin Gallagher‘s new book ‘An Educator’s Guide to Using Minecraft in the Classroom’.

It is my aim to provide a simple guide for primary inquiry teachers to integrate Minecraft into their units.

 

 

 

 

A Unit of Inquiry: Design a School

I have designed a unit of work that will help to introduce MinecraftEdu to students. The project is deliberately open to enable students to follow their own ideas. Students will be working collaboratively on designing and building a new school. They will have to justify features of our new school design and then follow a plan to all build it together. We will also be focusing on cooperation skills so that it is a collaborative learning experience. The detailed plans are below:

My Concerns

My main concern is that, although using Minecraft will be fun, it may not be academically rigorous. I am also worried that it will be a distraction for students. In regards to my blog my concern is that I am repeating what other teachers have already tried to do. I am also unsure of how using Minecraft can be linked to our curriculum as I will be learning as I inquire. I am also concerned about the technical side of using Minecraftedu as this is the first time it has been used in my school.

New Pedagogy

This will be a new experience for me. I have not yet used Minecraft or seen it in action in the classroom. As a homeroom teacher I will be rethinking how I can teach all areas of my curriculum to find authentic links through Minecraft.

Image from Flickr by Steven Saus

Let the inquiry begin!

A Mid-Year Tech Review

As I am approaching the half-way point of our school year I want to assess my ‘Tech Targets’ to review my plans for the remainder of the school year.

Flipped Learning

The Flipped Learning Model is a practical way for teachers to maximize class time. The excellent Flipped Classroom Infographic by knewton.com provides an easy way to see the benefits. This is a useful tool for front loading information and allowing students to prepare questions in advance.

In an inquiry-based PYP classroom I rarely prepare lectures for my class. I want to be part of their learning journey to assess prior knowledge, address misconceptions and plan the next day of learning depending on student understanding and ideas. However, using video reminders after a lesson has been very useful. I decided to design my own infographic, based on Knewton’s, to target the specific needs of my flipped classroom.

Below is an example of how I have begun to put these ideas into practice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wC7ACLOrNL8  (video no longer available)

Kahoot 

Every now and then in education you stumble across something that has a big impact in the classroom. Kahoot.it is a simple idea and very easy to use. It is attractive, fun, engaging and has seeped into all curriculum areas of our classroom.

Kahoot excitement to liven up a shape quiz on a Thursday afternoon #sislearns #kahoot pic.twitter.com/b3kt4YcagI

— Amanda (@ALMcCloskey) October 15, 2015

My class are constantly requesting more Kahoot quizzes. We even have our own style of chair dancing emerging thanks to the catchy tunes. If you haven’t tried Kahoot yet I recommend it!

Minecraft Mania

It is clear that Minecraft is currently a major influence on primary-aged children. The excitement of even mentioning a mine, and the many conversations in class that can be related to Minecraft is impressive. I first saw it used in the classroom by @donovanhallnz in 2013 and began to realise the potential of Minecraft. I now feel ready to launch an ECA and have just received approval for site licenses and a server. My research has now begun and I have found some excellent information on some coetail blogs including @davidc, @wayfaringpath @chezvivian, @holtspeak. My new project awaits!

Image from Flickr by Mike Cooke

Student-Centred Learning

A Brief History of Student-Centred Learning

Student-centred learning is not a new phenomenon. John Dewey outlined many educational theories including the importance of how ‘students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning’, in 1897. Project-based learning, Problem-based learning and more recently the apple launched Challenge-based learning all discuss the importance of student-centred learning, and inquiry being central to the learning process. What all of these learning styles have in common in today’s classrooms are that they naturally lend themselves to integrating technology. If the technology is available, and students know how to use it, it should be a part of the learning process.

My current conundrum is ‘If I want a student-centred, inquiry classroom, should my students should have access to technology all of the time?’

My Concerns

How much screen access is okay? Should ten year old students have access to iPads all day? I decided to find out what students and teachers thought. I used a great idea from @traintheteacher. A binary question for all students to answer as they arrive at school.

    I also tweeted a poll for teachers’ viewpoints:

An Experimental Inquiry

Our central idea

After discussing these issues in class we decided to try an experiment. A full day with unlimited technology, and a full day unplugged completely.

Below are some student reflections from our ‘Tech Saturation Day’.

Students were also asked to write a Headline (maximum of ten words) to sum up the unplugged day. Below are some examples:

Teacher Reflections

  • Beginner EAL students were able to work independently. They produced more work than they ever have before.
  • Some students were easily distracted with the iPad. They did however still complete all of their assignments.
  • Working on paper is time consuming. Ten minute tasks took at least four times that.
  • Students enjoyed drawing and paper-craft.
  • Our replicate social media account is the students favourite past-time.
  • Marking and photocopying work is very time consuming. This took up approximately two hours of my day (compared to minutes using google apps).

Conclusion

I will still have some parts of our school day tech free but will monitor for which learning engagements this is an advantage. I’m interested in hearing how other teachers manage the availability of technology in a student-centred inquiry classroom. Is it time to let the student’s decide?

The Shifting Definition of Teaching

As I am approaching almost 2 decades of teaching I am able to reflect on a shift in my role as a teacher. In my early career in London my role was to ‘share knowledge’ and although we sometimes ‘looked something up in the dictionary together’ (just to model how of course) I was perceived by my students as the expert in all areas. When I began teaching the IB PYP in 2001, my perceptions of myself as an educator were challenged. I began to adjust to an increasingly student-centered, concept-driven, inquiry based approach. Perhaps I didn’t need all of the answers to be an effective teacher.

Now, as a teacher attempting to utilize all of the advantages that technology has to offer in my classroom, I find I am definitely not the expert. I am learning continually: sharing, copying, modeling, trying, retrying, listening and reviewing different approaches. For the first time in my career, my students are able to discover things with me, and teach me. ‘Miss, why don’t we do it this way?’ has become one of my favourite questions in the classroom. I am constantly impressed with how quickly young students can utilize new tools, apps and programmes experimenting and sharing their knowledge instantly.

Not a solitary activity!

A spontaneous sharing of ideas. Photo from my Code Club activity this week.

This sharing of knowledge and expertise is having a hugely positive impact on what is happening in my classroom. The connection of like-minded educators around the globe is an outstanding, never ending resource, of new ideas and approaches. As we all try to accommodate the ever evolving technological advances around us, we are able to help, assist, develop and offer practical suggestions for adapting these in the classroom. This connecting and building on knowledge extends the expertise of teachers like never before.

This shift in learning within a digital community is being discussed as a new learning theory.

“Siemens and Downes initially received increasing attention in the blogosphere in 2005 when they discussed their ideas concerning distributed knowledge.  An extended discourse has ensued in and around the status of ‘connectivism’ as a learning theory for the digital age.”

Rita Kop and Adrian Hill

Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? 2008

 Although the authors conclude that connectivism is not a learning theory in it’s own right they do acknowledge that connectivism:

“Continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner.”

It seems that the role of the student is also shifting. They are no longer ’empty vessels’ waiting to be filled with knowledge. Technology has enabled them to become contributors and creators in their own learning. The excellent ‘Blooms Digital Taxonomy‘, by Andrew Churches, attempts to incorporate this new digital learning style to facilitate learning. He also discusses the importance of teachers setting the example in their practice:

To prepare our students, our teaching should also model collaboration.

Andrew Churches

Churches provides practical examples of what being creative is currently like digitally, including coding, filming, animating, videocasting, directing, producing, video logging etc. All great practical suggestions of how we can try to encompass the modification and redefinition stages of the SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura (explained briefly below by Candace M).

As teachers we are at a compelling time in education. Incorporating endless new technologies to prepare our students for an ever-changing world. Luckily, our connections mean that we’re not alone. Even our youngest students can help us to create this. And whilst we tackle this task of the future we should remember some wise words from the past:

dewey

 Schools of Tomorrow, 1915