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.
Schools face many challenges when attempting to integrate technology effectively. These challenges include training, awareness, and the prioritization of appropriate technologies based on cost and benefit. The adoption of technology is never a ‘one-stop’ solution but always a continual process of upgrading, learning, adapting, purchasing, training and implementing new tools.
It is becoming increasingly clear, at least in my classroom, that the redefinition of learning moves at a much faster pace when students, have access to a 1:1 device. This is expressed in Claire Wachowiak‘s blog post ‘A Beautiful Game’ where she compares not being 1:1 to a team of footballers not all being allowed on the pitch at the same time. Mark Prensky also highlights the impact of not having a 1:1 programme in his Edutopia article ‘Adopt and Adapt’.
Any ratio that involves sharing computers — even two kids to a computer — will delay the technology revolution from happening.
Image by Creative Commons. https://pixabay.com/p-214364/?no_redirect
However, there is a lot more to implementing technology than just purchasing it. ‘Alive in the Swamp: Assessing Digital Innovations in Technology’ is a detailed report by Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly. In the foreward Sir Michael Barber addresses this concern:
For years – ever since the 1970s – we have heard promises that technology is about to transform the performance of education systems. And we want to believe the promises; but mostly that is what they have remained. The transformation remains stubbornly five or ten years in the future but somehow never arrives.
Below is a video summary of the Alive in the Swamp research paper.
Whilst reading this report I came across the term ‘activator’ to describe the new role of a teacher. This struck me as an excellent way to describe how our role is now being defined with technology in the classroom. This was illustrated in the report with a teacher as a ‘change agent’ (not just a facilitator of learning), guiding students to take charge of their own learning.
Active Proteins. Image from Creative Commons https://www.rcsb.org/pdb/images/2wns_bio_r_500.jpg?bioNum=
This report also supports the view that just having the technology is not enough. Teachers need support and guidance to effectively implement the technology. Mark Presnsky goes on to discuss strategies that might enable educators to do this:
So, let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more.
This approach to integrating technology is not necessarily easy, but it is, I believe, important. The dangers of not supporting teachers in this approach are outlined in a recent Edudemic article focusing on the pros and cons of educational technology:
If not utilized properly, the positive effects of technology become negative which continue to hinder students’ success.
There are many things that administrators can do to enable teachers to be successful in integrating technology. Expectations and priorities should come from the leaders of the school, preferably supported with a proactive technology integrator. A culture of collaboration amongst teachers should also be encouraged, face to face, and also by utilizing an on-line PLN. A realization that this is a continual process for teachers and that time and guidance should be encouraged to accommodate this also helps. I also believe that teachers need to plan technology integration with a purpose. Whether modifying or redefining tasks, we need to actively plan to incorporate technology in a meaningful way to facilitate learning.
The good news is that there are many international schools leading the field in successful technology integration. By developing PLN’s and connecting with like-minded educators we can learn from each other to successfully integrate technology and move learning forward in our classrooms. Let’s get activated!
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.
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.
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: