Tag Archives: technology integration

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.

Community Starts at Home

Global Community

One of the significant advantages of being a COETAIL student is the level of community engagement required and encouraged. Any educators at any time can reach out globally yet this wasn’t something I really benefited from until this COETAIL course. I now consider it my responsibility to develop my PLN. The articles shared, conversations, connections and learning experiences I have encountered due to my expanding PLN are incredible. I strongly urge all educators to take the time each week to reach out globally.

By sharing my own experiences I am able to process my own ideas and consolidate my own understanding, known at the Protege Effect.

Twitter

I have been astounded by the power of twitter. After a reluctant and slow start to twitter I now can’t imagine a significant teaching event without it. COETAIL has encouraged me to extend my reach and use twitter in different ways. At a recent IB regional workshop teachers were asked to volunteer to run a short presentation on something they are passionate about and I jumped at the chance to sing the praises of twitter.

I quickly put together this presentation using the PYP key concepts to describe how I use twitter as a primary class teacher.

As a result of actively engaging with my PLN as part of my COETAIL course I have become significantly more engaged online.

Twitter has also enabled me to further my own understanding by discussing relevant topics with others. Hashtags have been a really effective way of connecting including #coetailchat, #pypchat and our own school hashtag #sislearns.

TweetDeck has been really useful to help me efficiently manage my account and not to miss anything.

I also enjoy using storify to record and share special events such as #siscodes for the Hour of Code. I now create hashtags for significant events such as our PYP Exhibition #sispypx.

#Edu-Hangouts

Following on from connections made during our coetail blogs @tracyblair invited @leahbortolin and myself to trial #Edu-Hangouts. The proposal is that like-minded educators meet on Google Hangouts to discuss topical educational issues. I created this infographic to help advertise the event.

We have now met and discussed social media in the primary classroom and are planning many more #Edu-Hangouts.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 19.37.00

Local Community Connections

An area where I have had unexpected success in connecting with educators is at my current school. Surprisingly by connecting online we are able to share, discuss and connect. The quick and easy instant sharing that twitter enables means that we can all be a part of each others learning environments even when we are unable to be there in person.

Yes it is wonderful to be able to connect globally- but don’t forget the fantastic educators that you share a staff room with!

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.

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!

My Classroom in 2030

After reading Michael Barber’s article on ‘How Could-and Should-Schooling Look in 2030’ I began to reflect on what the future might hold in my PYP classroom. My dream learning environment of the future is an open learning space with comfortable furniture filled with the latest technology. I will be able to enlighten my well-motivated, internationally minded students. However, from what I can remember these have been my dreams for some time.

I decided to compare my PYP classroom from 15 years ago with my vision for my future PYP classroom in 15 years time. When using Mary Beth Hertz’s levels of technology integration I can see that 15 years ago my technology integration was sparse. I would currently rank my classroom as between ‘comfortable and seamless’ but I wonder what the next 15 years will hold. What is beyond seamless?

I also reflected on how teacher use of technology may change in the future. Will the email epidemic continue to take up value time? Will university entrance exams become 100% digital thus releasing the pressure on handwriting expectations?  I researched potential future technology use for the classroom including from ‘Co creation and the web of new things‘. I also attempted to keep my financial expectations realistic whilst considering how technology advancements can impact student learning in my classroom. Below is my infographic to demonstrate my ideas.

How technology may change in the future.

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?

Another Feather in a Teacher’s Cap

teachers cap

Image from pixabay

Teachers are adept at wearing many hats. In a ‘normal’ week in a primary school a teacher may also take on the role of coach, leader, nurse, engineer, editor, designer, cleaner, peace-maker, philosopher or facilitator. The list is endless and ever changing and now often includes blogger, web-designer, vlogger, social media marketing managers and many more roles.

The hurdle for many teachers today is that they are not equipped with the correct skills to fulfill these digital roles successfully. An understanding of web design, topography, visual hierarchy, scanning patterns etc. should now be a priority for all educators (and their students) both as consumers and producers of information.

An informative post by web developer, Brandon Jones, has helped me to understand the essentials of web design. He explains web design as visual communication. He goes on to explain the importance of using size, colour, contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity, density and whitespace, and style and texture.

Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

So now time to make my learning authentic. How can I improve my own blog? Admittedly I have not given much thought to the design of this blog. I am now reviewing my own blog through the eyes of my new role as a web designer. The size of the large sunset image draws the eye but it is now relevant to the content of the blog. The background colour could be toned down to be more ‘calming on the eye’. I also need to consider which widgets and headings I want.

Digital Inquiry

My COETAIL blog homepage

 

One of the questions that Brandon Jones tells us to ask ourselves is:

Does the expected importance match up with the actual designed importance?

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

This is an important question for me as the expected importance in the layout, particularly the widgets, does not match up with the designed importance. A photograph of personal significance doesn’t have a lot of relevance to my audience. I am also now analysing the priority of the tool bars and widgets. What do I actually want you, the reader, to take from my page? The aim of my blog is to connect with like-minded professionals and to promote collaboration as a tool for developing classroom practice.

Possible design updates:

  • technology related header image
  • reorder widgets depending on relevance
  • new background colour to complement new header image
  • upper tool-bar categories for each coetail course
  • twitter feed more prominent
  • links to my other blogs
  • include some personal information about me
  • global visitors map/globe counter
  • clear licensing details

As always, I look to my COETAIL colleagues for inspiration. The design of these blogs have given me some great ideas.

chez vivian with comments

A screenshot of Vivian’s COETAIL blog.

chamada with comments

A screenshot of Clint’s COETAIL blog.

And now I shall begin the process of updating and improving the design of this blog. I now feel more confident to include web design in my own teaching as I help my students to understand and benefit from the importance of visual media. As George Lucas succinctly put it in an Edutopia article:

We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word.

James Daly, Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education

And here is a screen shot of my ‘new look’ blog, which may continue to evolve as my confidence in visual literacy grows. Watch this space!

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.25.53 pm

My new look blog; constantly being updated.

Are you using more tech than a 2nd grader?

School has broken up for the summer holidays! This is a wonderful time of the year to appreciate all our students have achieved. As I reflect on my adventure in educational technology this year I can’t help but wonder how many educators would also achieve our grade 2 tech goals for this year.

So before you head off on your summer break ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the majority of your work saved in the cloud (googledocs etc.)?
  2. Are you using hyperlinks instead of attachments?
  3. Are you a confident googledocs user (e.g. using the suggesting setting)?
  4. Are you using a photo sharing app or are you still uploading/downloading every picture?
  5. Are your cloud based documents organised into folders?
  6. Are all the images you use cited/licensed correctly?

In my class the aim was for each student to achieve at least 5 of these. How did you do?

What else would add to this list?

Handover

Are we all keeping up with our students tech skills?