Tag Archives: ISTE Standards

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!

Are Some Primary Classrooms Short Cited?

Primary School Citation Expectations

Citation Children

https://academicallyhonest.blogspot.in/ Inforgraphic created by R. Langlands

In many primary classrooms citation can be a grey area. Often, by the end of primary school, students can source information from a book by identifying the author and perhaps the publisher/date. However, many students use images and videos from the web without ever considering who created them, how to cite them or if they are available for public use. In fact, many teachers don’t consider copyright or fair use regulations when using images and video clips in a school setting.

For a group assignment, 4 educators got together to try to find our why citation may be a problem in primary schools We began by asking Grade 5 students to reflect on their understanding of citation. Most of the students were in the process of their IB PYP Exhibition and all had some experience of citation. Students from our 4 schools were asked to reflect on their skills of citation on this padlet page.

padlet course2

Image authors own. Grade 5 citation reflections

An Idea Develops

The student feedback reflected what we were witnessing in our own schools. Some students can link to websites, but information about citing images and videos is unclear or non-existent. Whilst researching primary citation we located some useful resources for teachers, but no resources for primary students.

We began with the idea of producing posters for primary classrooms with examples of citation. It quickly became clear that this was too limiting and our ideas developed. We used a googledoc to share thoughts and develop our understanding. We quickly had an indepth, authentic collaborative inquiry into primary citation expectations.

Student Resources for Citation

We required an easily accessible resource where primary students could see examples of successful citation, especially of images and videos. Media is constantly changing and students need access to recent citation guidelines at their fingertips. Therefore we decided a blog focused solely on Academic Honesty with specific examples of how to cite a range of multimedia would be beneficial to both students and teachers.

A Truly Collaborative Inquiry

Although our googledoc was a great place to share ideas we felt we needed the opportunity to connect in real time so we decided upon a weekly google hangout. This provided us with the opportunity to really discuss the details of what our blog needed and enabled us to move our own learning forward. We were fortunate to have a range of backgrounds and areas of expertise in our group and everybody contributed significantly to the development of our project. Our collaboration enabled us to build extensively on our initial idea to a blog that we are all proud of. As evidence of our successful collaboration we recorded a ‘Google Hangout on Air‘.

A Unit of Inquiry on Citation

As our project evolved we identified the need for two units of inquiry. Firstly, a unit aimed at schools that are trying to support primary teachers in understanding how and why to teach citation. Secondly, a unit aimed at primary teachers delivering lessons in citation of various media.

A Unit Planner for Schools 

A Site to Help Primary Educators Teach Citation

A Unit Planner for Teachers

A Site to Help Children Cite


Student Self Assessment Rubric

Finally, we included on our blog a self-assessment rubric for students to identify specific improvements in their citation skills. We used the same headings for various media which will encourage students to identify that all images, videos, blogs etc. need to be cited correctly.

Final Reflections

We hope that by introducing our blogs in our own schools that teachers will be able to feedback on how useful it is in the classroom. There are many practical resources available on our blog to assist primary teachers in implementing accurate and age-appropriate citation guidelines for students. Our aim is that our blog will continue to evolve based on the comments that we receive from educators and students so that we will always have an up to date, child-friendly resource, easily available for all.

Exploration (Grade 2 PYP Unit of Inquiry)

I have just completed a Grade 2 PYP unit of inquiry on ‘Exploration’.  I was pleased that one of our activities had been to use My Maps to record our personal histories. Students used markers to record places that were relevant to them around the world, and added images to authenticate the location.  I was pleased that we had used technology in our unit!

map ipad

Image is author’s own.

However, after reading Jeff Utecht’s ‘10 Ways to use Google Maps in the Classroom‘ I realised my whole approach to the unit was obsolete. I had made the mistake of just ‘modifying’ a digital activity without really looking at the potential of the complete unit. Although we had incorporated My Maps as a stand alone activity, it did not alter what or how I wanted the students to learn. I hadn’t really changed how I taught the unit; I’d just added a nice digital activity.

I realised that just modifying a lesson wasn’t enough. I did not address the potential that integrating technology into this unit could achieve. I needed to go back and look at the central idea again.  What can my students really achieve with this unit? What do I want my students to create? What might redefinition look like for this unit?

The central idea is ‘Exploration can change people and places through discoveries and the exchange of ideas and understandings’. The starting point for any unit plan is with the summative assessment. I decided our tool for assessment should be My Maps to encourage all students and staff to become familiar with it as a tool for learning.

Stonehill International School

Students could input videos and images on specific locations. Image and link is authors own.

The summative assessment task is ‘with a partner use My Maps to recreate the route of an explorer adding interesting details about their journey.’

Here is the redesign of the planner for this unit:

To help students collect together relevant information for their virtual journey I used a questionnaire on Google Forms. I am increasingly using Google Forms as a prompt to scaffold and organise students’ ideas.

map questionnaire

Using google forms to structure writing. Image is authors own.

It is quick and easy for students to use, and I can identify any misconceptions, mistakes or queries immediately. It is also easily adjustable when the learning takes a new direction.

responsesAlthough I now have to wait nearly a year to teach this redefined unit, my approach to how I plan has changed drastically. I will now be reviewing the central idea and the summative assessment task, rather than just focusing on ‘adding’ digital tasks to existing plans.



Time to Redesign https://www.flickr.com/photos/unitedsoybean/10481741576/

Technology is evolving at a dauntingly exponential rate. As educators we are tasked with not only trying to stay up to date with new initiatives, but also creating ways for our students to use these effectively in the classroom. The ISTE Standards recommend that:

Effective teachers model and apply the ISTE Standards for Students as they design, implement, and assess learning experiences to engage students and improve learning; enrich professional practice; and provide positive models for students, colleagues, and the community.

International Society for Technology in Education, 2008

Teaching is a demanding job. Incredibly rewarding, but always demanding. I have a constant long list of tasks & ideas that should or could be accomplished. Experience has taught me to be well organised with my time, and to prioritize incessantly. There is simply never enough time to complete every task that crosses my mind. This is why, for me, the word ‘design’ is the most daunting from the above quotation. In a 20 hour teaching week (+ meetings, ECA’s, planning etc.) how am I going to find the time and expertise to redesign all of these learning experiences effectively?

Stress Balls

Stress Balls (not only for student use). https://super-ninja-poo.deviantart.com/art/Emoticon-stressballs-214920563

So what is the solution?

How can we make this an achievable and beneficial process for all teachers?

Leading by example is a great place to start.

In class we are currently learning about surveys, questioning and data handling.I thought this was a great time to trial Google Forms. I began the lesson with a brief orientation and away my students went.

All students launched into creating surveys instantly. They were fearless and unafraid to make mistakes, problem-solved quickly and shared their increasing understanding with each other. Within the first lesson all surveys were complete, shared on our class padlet page and completed by each other quickly.


Our class padlet page. Authors own.

Then the students took the lesson design in their own direction. This is when the design got interesting.

‘Let’s invite other classes to complete our surveys’

‘Add more choices so I can choose one I like’

‘Can the teachers do mine?’

‘Let’s all add more questions about animals.’

‘Can the world do mine?’

Ideas quickly snowballed and we tweeted, emailed and shared links to the forms. Students were very excited to see their results created for them instantly. The analysis of this data was also instant, spontaneous and enthusiastic.  After a quick demonstration all students were able to review their results and create pie charts. They discussed their data immediately. And this was all within the first hour. The task before re-design was at least 4 hours which mostly involved trying to meet our target audience and not losing our data (or felt pen lids). Pie charts, percentages, peer editing and a global audience were not even considered part of this task.

Summary example zoraan

Data analysis from a student survey. Authors own.


The hardest part of the lesson was my decision to actually teach it. The redesign of the task of ‘use a survey’ intimidated me as I was unsure about how the students might learn data collection. The conclusion was that the students far exceeded my design and were able to teach me things as we all learnt the functions of google forms. They quickly realised that if they had a mistake on their form, they could update it without changing the link. ‘Oh it’s okay Miss I’ve already fixed that bit’ was how I learnt to do this.

The students are so excited about their results we have decided to share them with the school in assembly this week. One student is still keeping a daily count of his survey entries and comparing his increasing pool of data. (Please add to it: https://tinyurl.com/och6hrf ).

Teaching P3

A student teaching a younger class how to complete her online survey. Authors own.


I have completely altered how I will teach data handling forever. I did not utilize the peer editing potential of the task so I am already excited about redesigning this task further for next year. Once again I am reminded by the COETAIL approach of how to go about using technology. It really is okay that I don’t have all of the answers. The design of the task may change (for the better) after you have begun the lesson. And hopefully it may even result in saving you time.