Tag Archives: Online4

A Minecraft Inquiry – Course 5 Final Project

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.

Creative Mode

My Minecraft Inquiry is now well underway. I still have a lot to learn but we are definitely making progress with MinecraftEdu. I’ve discovered that we achieve more in Creative Mode and that border blocks help students to build in the same location. Our unit of inquiry is almost complete and then I will begin the process of compiling a video for my Coetail Course 5 Project.

Our new school so far!

I realised I have had to learn a lot of new vocabulary quickly. Students are already familiar with Minecraft which left us teachers new to Minecraft constantly researching definitions. I decided a MinecraftEdu glossary aimed at beginner educators would be a useful addition to my Minecraft Inquiry blog.

Throughout the Minecraft lessons the students helped to create an assessment rubric. Student suggestions are listed below which we then constructed into a rubric.Assessment tips

The students identified a range of skills required to be successful in our Minecraft Inquiry including face-to-face social skills as well as ‘in game’ social skills. They also felt it was important to follow the plan and recognised that this was related to staying on task.

Students identified cooperation and kindness as key Minecraft skills.

As in all aspects of education, the more time and effort I put into the Minecraft lessons the more the students get out of them. I have now scheduled an hour’s set up for each lesson where I just explore the world, check on student buildings, and prepare any assignments or additions for the lesson. This has really helped me to understand the expectations for each student for every lesson, which in turn helps students to be successful with clear guidelines.

My Initial Observations

Student engagement in MinecraftEdu is staggering. Every student is completely focused on their task for every minute of the lesson. Every single lesson ends with disappointment when the students realize they have to stop working. This level of student interest is remarkable and motivates me to consider how else I can integrate MinecraftEdu into our curriculum.

One minute warning: What already? #MinecraftEdu the fastest hour of the day #coetail#minecraft

— Amanda (@ALMcCloskey) February 23, 2016

The social and thinking skills that the students are developing are incredibly beneficial.  Elena Malykhina discusses in ‘The Scientific American’ the impact that digital games can have in education. The challenge for teachers is trying to find the time to assess how to best utilize these resources. Hopefully my ‘Minecraft Inquiry‘ will support other teachers hoping to incorporate MinecraftEdu in an inquiry classroom.

Course 5 Beginnings…

I am now ready to begin my Course 5 Coetail Project.

A Crash Course in MinecraftEdu


My aim is for students to plan and design a new school. They will have to consider the relevance of the learning areas they design and hopefully add some creativity. The focus will be on working collaboratively, developing cooperation skills and listening to other perspectives.

I have decided to introduce MinecraftEdu in our school and to use this as the tool for students to design their learning environments. My first task is therefore to familiarize myself with MinecraftEdu. I decided to create a blog to document my progress.

As a group the students decided the best strategy would be to design new classrooms in small groups. I then decided to enforce the presentation zen principles of designing offline. I created a planning sheet for students to complete before they logged in to MinecraftEdu.

I aim for the collaboration process of designing and building to be beneficial for all students as they all have an equal voice. All students will design in groups and then build using their own computers build together online. This will give all students to collaborate and be creative when building.

Architects at work!

As an educator my aim is to become more knowledgeable about MinecraftEdu by broadening my PLN.

There are 5,500 teachers using MinecraftEdu so I am now part of this online community using twitter lists, google+ MinecraftEdu communities and following channels by experienced MinecraftEdu educators especially Joel Levine and Colin Gallagher. This is helping me to understand the terminology involved and potential usage.

MinecraftEdu server is running!

Ready to Launch!

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!

iPad Time!

As a class we have decided it is time to update our system of iPad access in class. Up until now the teacher has had control over when the students have access to their iPad’s. Increasingly students request their iPad’s for a range of tools (spelling, translation, research etc.) and I realised it is time for me to let go of the control. I asked myself ‘Am I hindering my students’ learning?’

Previously, I have been concerned about device distraction, lack of social interaction and an overload of screen time. Common sense media recommends one hour per day for primary aged children. We have six hours of class time per day. Does this same amount apply to supervised educational use? There appears to be limited research that applies to our specific situation: a small class of motivated Grade 5 students who are encouraged to independently make the right choices about their learning.

Are we hindering student learning by restricting tech use?

I proposed to the class my idea for allowing them to use their iPads at any time in the classroom. Surprisingly a quick vote showed me that students wanted a list of rules that they could follow. They explained that having some guidance made it clearer to understand what was acceptable.

When deciding on these rules the following points came out in a class discussion:

Encouraging self-management skills.

We conducted a ‘think, pair, share’ thinking routine to analyse these results. We narrowed these ideas into four workable class rules that addressed our concerns. A student also suggested we review these rules every month. Another student suggested that they monitor their own daily screen time – if we use the iPad’s a lot at school – play outside at home.

Class designed rules.

I look forward to the monthly review!

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.

Empowering Student Action with 1:1 Devices

Recently my school has adopted a full 1:1 programme in the Primary School. After only a fortnight of using our own iPads I am already beginning to see the amazing benefits of a 1:1 programme for young children.

Immediate Impact

My students now have the choice of how and when to use their iPads. Without planning to, we have naturally moved away from scheduled  ‘ICT lessons’ to students accessing technology when it is relevant to them. Students have requested to use apps, take photo’s, record themselves talking to take notes, video something interesting and more. And it feels like we are only just beginning to redefine our classroom practice.

Image authors own. A choice of tools available

Another significant improvement in our lesson time is that we no longer have to deal with passwords. If you haven’t had to help a class of Grade 2 students log in using computer generated passwords then you may not realize the significance of this statement. It is usually the most time consuming and frustrating part of any lesson. I’ve tried a number of strategies to overcome this (password cards, teacher log-in prior to use, saving passwords on desktops) but there are inevitably problems. I am relived now that we can use the wonderful ‘remember password’ feature.

Image authors own. Not your typical spelling list.


As I now reflect on how to enable my students to reach their full potential I am considering how I can make the most effective use of our devices.  After reading ’20 Things I Learned’, created by Google, I felt reassured that I may not know everything but what is important (especially for my class) is that I am learning about developments on the web.

Life as citizens of the web can be liberating and empowering, but also deserves some self-education.


Thanks to my research for my COETAIL course I have increased my awareness of cookies, browsers and filters. I can also see how important it is that I become a ‘search engine expert’ so that I can teach my students these vital skills.

Search competency is a form of literacy, like learning a language or subject. Like any literacy, it requires having discrete skills as well as accumulating experience in how and when to use them.


What I am witnessing is that how we are learning is constantly changing. This should impact on how we teach. David Weinberger explains this well in his book ‘Small Pieces’.

The old model is about control: a team works on a document, is responsible for its content and format, and releases it to the public when it’s been certified as done.

David Weinberger, https://www.smallpieces.com/content/preface.html

Although not aimed at primary educators the point is still significant. Technology is not just a substitution for how to publish work. Now we have the potential for students to create, share, connect, comment on and transform their learning. This was written in 2002, yet many schools are still not realizing the potential of how the web can enhance and alter everything we do in the classroom.


An excellent example of how a primary student can use the web to share and connect globally is Martha Payne, a Scottish student who kept a blog ‘NeverSeconds‘ of her school dinners for a writing assignment. She currently has ten million hits on her blog and an incredible story to share. If you too are inspired you can donate on Martha’s just giving page for Mary’s Meals here.

As a PYP teacher, action is an area where I feel the web should have a huge impact on student experience. One of the five essential elements of the PYP programme is action. In the document ‘Making the PYP Happen‘ the importance of action is explained.

In the PYP, it is believed that education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action.

Making the PYP Happen, 2012

As a teacher attempting to provide authentic opportunities for students to ‘act’ the web can be a powerful resource for connection. Student-initiated action can be enhanced by:

  • The potential of a global audience
  • Connecting with like-minded individuals
  • Learning from others instantly
  • Continuing to receive feedback on their ideas and move their understanding forward
  • Reflecting on their own understanding

Educators need to model these connections in the classroom to enable students to appreciate the full extent of possibilities. The potential for students using the web for action is vast and almost incomprehensible. Our role is to increase student awareness and skills, then step back and allow them to access the power of their global connections.

As I attempt to move my teaching forward and to utilize our 1:1 devices effectively I hope to promote more meaningful and collaborative uses of the web in our learning, and to inspire student-initiated action.

It Takes a Village…

The attitude to parenting in Tanzania is often referred to as ‘Mtu ni Watu‘ which translates as ‘A Man is People’ (often interpreted as ‘It takes a village to raise a child’). Children’s needs are not the sole responsibility of the parent. It is expected that the community is always able to help out. When a child is tired, hungry, bored or upset, passers by entertain children, offer snacks and drinks and greet parents with messages of reassurance and friendship. As a parent raising a young child in Tanzania this approach was refreshing and appreciated. Raising children is a shared responsibility.

Mtu ni Watu (It takes a village to raise a child) Photograph by S. McCloskey

I think the same attitude of ‘Mtu ni Watu’ is needed in the approach of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens. Whilst I appreciate that being a responsible citizen is the same thing, it is important to identify specific situations for how to be a responsible digital citizen. Valerie Strauss’ article ‘Teaching kids to be ‘digital citizens‘ (not just ‘digital natives’) discusses why it is important to help students be safe and responsible online.

That’s more true now because today’s technologies have unprecedented power to harm, as we have seen in documented cases of cyber-bullying and harassment.


One of the ways schools can initiate the involvement of parents in raising responsible digital citizens is by holding parent workshops. This gives parents the opportunity to become more aware of what schools are doing and how they can also support their child in being a responsible digital citizen. Mike Ribble explains the importance of involving parents and using the same terminology to help students understand digital citizenship.

Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?


With this ‘common language’ parents are then able to reinforce the same message at home that is encouraged in schools. Parents’ views on technology vary widely from no regulations to no technology. I believe there is a happy medium on this spectrum and that with an open dialogue and knowledge about potential problems students can manage their use of technology well wherever they are.

Another way that schools can support students to be responsible digital citizens is by educating all teachers about the uses of and dangers for children using technology. Awareness and knowledge about digital citizenship are essential for all teachers so that any problems that may arise are recognised and dealt with appropriately.

My Grade 2 class have recently completed their Common Sense Digital Citizenship work in Information Literacy lessons. I thought I’d see what they had learnt. I was inspired by @traintheteacher in the blog post ‘Back Channelling in the Primary Classroom‘ and used TodaysMeet to record their reflections.


TodaysMeet created by P5A. Image by Amanda McCloskey

It seems our village is on the right track.



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).

Moby Tweet

Why don’t you need to use finger spaces Miss? Image is authors own.

“Why don’t you need 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.

https://m.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30146160, 2015

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.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time/how-much-screen-time-is-ok-for-my-kids, 2014

However they also go on to state that:

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.




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.