MinecraftEdu is a phenomenal tool for educators. The possibilities are endless and I am already planning how to integrate MinecraftEdu into language, mathematics and social studies units.
I found that a one hour setup before each session really helped me to stay focused on exactly what the students had to achieve. It also helped me to become more familiar with MinecraftEdu as a tool. The social computing skills that the students were able to develop far exceeded my expectations. It was a safe, easy to use digital environment for young students to be able to interact, collaborate and create together.
A Minecraft Inquiry Unit Plan:
This really is just the beginning. I am going to continue my ‘Minecraft Inquiry Blog‘ as I continue to research the possibilities of Minecraft in an inquiry classroom.
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.
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 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.
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 Creative Commons: https://pixabay.com/p-447576/?no_redirect
As I continue on my digital inquiry I can appreciate that Heraclitus was right ‘Change is the only Constant’. Assessing the effectiveness of new technologies available in education, and the impact they are having, is an ongoing task.
As I find authentic ways to successfully embed technology in my classroom, many questions have been raised about a shift in skills, especially in literacy. Some concerns are raised by parents, queries by colleagues and observations by students. Recently, whilst reviewing our twitter feed (a highlight as we heard from Moby of Brainpop fame) a student noticed that I hadn’t followed one of my own rules (always an exciting discovery).
Why don’t you need to use finger spaces Miss? Image is authors own.
“Why don’t youneed to use finger spaces Miss?” was the query. The response from another student was even better, “You don’t need too if you put a hashtag in front of it”. Then of course a wonderful discussion followed about what hashtags are and how they are used- and why can’t we #justputtheminfrontofeverything.
This discussion led me to thinking about other major changes that have occurred in ‘The Literacy Rule Book’ of lower primary education. Handwriting, spellings, letter formation, formal letter writing, were all essential literacy skills when I began teaching. Now that we have less emphasis on these tasks in our everyday lives, I am beginning to question just how relevant these are in everyday lessons. My main queries are:
Is handwriting still important?
Do we need to teach children how to spell?
Should touch typing be in the curriculum?
How much screen time is okay for young children?
Do devices detract from oral language development?
When should students have personal cloud-based log ins?
For the skills of handwriting and spelling I feel that I am midway on a continuum stretching from essential to not needed. They are not as vital as they once were, but I’m not ready to let them go yet (to the relief of many parents). Interestingly the BBC reported today that Finland have announced that as from August 2016 typing lessons will replace handwriting lessons.
Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place.
My main defence for handwriting is that IBDP exams still require more than 2 hours of handwriting. Spelling is still a useful skill to speed up the process of writing, but with spell checks at everybody’s fingertips, endless spelling tests are not as important. My students still need to learn how to write and spell, but these are just components of communication.
Balancing screen time is a new concern for educators as devices are becoming more readily available and affordable. Common Sense Media points out that:
“Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties.
If they’re using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behavior is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there’s no need to worry.
As I have mentioned in previous posts ‘not all screen time is created equally’. Our screen time is very interactive. It is always planned and purposeful, and always in a class or group setting. Students share, compare, discuss, analyse and create together. Students are often so engaged in their creations this is an excellent chance to encourage oral language skills to develop.
My final query was about the age appropriateness of personalized cloud-based log ins. This year I have begun using Google Classroom. I manage students security settings and we only access the accounts together.
Google Classroom in Year 3/Grade 2 Image is authors own.
The wonders of Google Apps for Education are just beginning to transform our actual classroom. The benefits of the classroom app are just becoming apparent and I am now able to efficiently organise all of our digital learning with instant google drive access.
So it may be that the literacy rules are shifting, but they are increasing our capacity to communicate, which can only be a good thing.