EDET 694: Practicum in Virtual Teaching and Learning
Instructor: Dr. Lee Graham
The Beginning of a Very New and Exciting Journey
by Aleta May, M.S. Ed., and M.A. Ed.
So far on my journey in this practicum class, I notice how different a practicum for instructional technology is than it was for special education teaching and reading specialist training. However, it seems to me that these three are inextricably entwined. For many, this is a well-traveled path, but for me I am just now exploring. This path is gamification in education. Also, I am creating blended learning environments in my own small group instruction. I will blog about these along the way as well, but for now I stick with the topic at hand. More specifically, using the Minecraft.edu game that has been organized into a Givercraft environment.
The first thing I did was to read the book, The Giver by Lois Lowry. Although this was originally written in 1994, it is a revitalized fantasy, science fiction that is now used as a part of meeting literature (reading, writing, and speaking) standards in a manner that utilizes technology to deeply engage students into the meaning of the book. One way this will occur during my group’s adventure is that we will lead a group of teachers as they lead students as a community of learners who build scenarios to fit their interpretations, inferences, predictions and even alternate endings to demonstrate comprehension. What I will contribute to this team remains to be seen. However, I obtained principal permission to download The Giver onto ipads just today and to make an official request to our technology department to allow our school access to the UAS Givercraft server for three weeks. This means I will be a teacher who is both learning from and teaching teachers as I delve into this new experience with six of my own students—all boys. Sounds so fun—a bit scary, but hey, I have so much support, what could go wrong? I know, this is a very dangerous question to ask.
For many years, I have watched over the shoulders of family members as they play various video games. Yet I have played very little personally. The place to start for someone like me is to buy a Minecraft for teachers book, referenced at the end of this blog. Another place is to visit a Youtube site where a child used Screencast-o-matic to teach about how to use the mouse to make different moves in the game.
During one of our group meetings, Mia and Scott took me to the game. My husband joined in and I watched him play and listened as he and Mia were troubleshooting, at which time Dan was given teacher access. I will earn that in time; for the time being, it is too risky to allow me access to certain buttons as I am a “try this button” experimental type of learner in a game.
To gain a better understanding of why other educators use gamification in the classroom, I found a site where the author of the book I purchased interviews a variety of educators who use Minecraft in the classroom. Below are notes I took from just one 45 minute episode of 33 interview episodes at this site.
Minechat Episode 1: Joel Leven by Colin Gallagher—February 14, 2013
Joel teaches in Singapore in an elementary school Colin interview/discusses Joel’s use of Minecraft from New York with a 13 hour time difference.
Digital citizenship. There are teachable opportunities. For example, working as a community where the players don’t horde items, work together and under the supervision of teachers, they learn to talk to each other kindly rather than mean (inappropriately) as in some of the common X-Box games.
This is an international program. Colin used this elementary in Singapore and hopes to bring Minecraft across subject areas and grade levels. An example would be to enter this into problem solving for disaster relief. Joel was asked by the CEO of Mojang to join them as a teacher to create the software program. History, language teachers saw the potential. Now they are in more than 1,000 schools in six different continents. Pre-K through college; people are using the game in ways Joel could have imagined.
Minecraft students, when supervised by teachers and parents, can learn to be involved in a game without being overtaken by a game. Parents can become engaged with the kid while he/she is creating. They can model balance for their children. They can learn about the creative outlet part of gaming while using Minecraft.
Students in an afterschool program may be creating a story. Minecraft is a template for students to express themselves. They can also create games for each other. There are other games coming on. Minecraft is all about squares. Another game is coming on that is all about patterns, with triangles. There are program developers, however, presently working on the next stages of Minecraft. Likely we will be playing Minecraft for a long time to come.
Joel pointed out that he personally only plays the game when he is with his students. This is a collaborative game. Though it can be played in the same room with other students, the internet feature brings a whole new layer of excitement to the challenge of learning from other students in other places. Joel also noted that when he does go in and play on his own, he learns about the updates within the game. Joel mentioned in closing that the students, as they become adults, will have the experience of this game together and that it will likely be the one they talk about the most because they created together as opposed to alternative violent gaming experiences.
Gallagher, C. Ed. (2015). Minecraft in the classroom: Ideas, inspiration, and student
projects for teachers. Peachpit Press (division of Pearson Education);
www.peachpit.com. Chandler, AZ: Pearson
Lowry, L. (1993). The giver. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Minecraft Colin Gallegher
Minechat by Colin Gallagher updated January 2015
A kid teaches the basic directional keys.