Course 5 Final Project. Inquiry into Collaboration the Minecraft Way

Passion learning
Passion learning

 The End is Really the Beginning

My final project ends where I started. Making our learning visible to all our community. Above are some of the comments the parents left when we had a morning sharing our projects with them and when students coached them in Minecraft. Sometimes it is not always obvious to the parents how we are learning through technology unless we include them in our learning journey.  So in the spirit of sharing our learning , transparency and collaboration I included my parents in the process right  from the beginning, starting with this letter . The support and interest from the parents has been one of the most important outcomes of the project and has opened up many conversations around what their child’s future learning and opportunities may look like.


These were my goals for my students

  • offer choices in their learning
  • understand what collaboration means
  • be creators of their own learning environment
  • collaborate locally and globally
  • develop independence in their learning

This was the question I kept asking myself as the project progressed. Would this task have been possible without the use of technology?

My  concern throughout this project was reaching the transformation in student learning. Many of the tasks leading up to using Minecraft were achieved without the use of technology, or sometimes with technology enhancing the task. I have thought long and hard to try and reach my own understanding of transformation.  My interpretation of transformation became clear when I watched hours of video footage of students working in Minecraft and saw that seamless cross-over between the pedagogy and technology in a virtual learning environment.

Rather than planning a project to reach that transformation stage in my students learning, what happened  was something much more powerful. The students themselves were transforming or redefining their own learning. So although it was a guided inquiry into using Minecraft as a collaborative tool, with detailed steps and skill building, before too long the students were beginning to take the project way beyond my original task.

Students create an array city to reinforce their maths
Students create an array city to reinforce their math

Students connected their current maths inquiries into counting groups of objects into their virtual world and created ‘Array City’ setting challenges for one another. Throughout the project my role has become progressively more hands off. At each stage of the project, the students made reflections on their learning and on their personal goals. I also did this through two previous blog posts.

Project Reflection Part 1

Project Reflection Part 2

Inquiry into Collaboration Through Minecraft.


It has been so empowering for the students to begin the school year learning through their lens rather than mine and for me to see an increase in the level of personalised learning.  I have seen confidence, independence, peer-teaching, problem solving and inquiry skills developing so much earlier. I am already seeing the trust and collaboration which the students have built in the classroom with one another and the depth of understanding around the possibilities and opportunities collaboration offers.

Collaboration helps their learning, not only in the classroom but globally too. My project was two-fold. Whilst my students started their inquiries around collaboration through Minecraft, they also started their blogging journey and started to share their learning on our class blog. We made connections with another G1 class in Kuwait. Students have exchanged information about each other’s schools and countries through class blogs.

Individual connections
Individual connections

My students are just beginning to connect  to individual students in Ms Abby’s class through shared interests which will continue for the rest of the year. Abby and I are now helping each other in our current units and the students and parents can see first-hand the power of collaboration and the value of connected learning.


My  personal inquiry into Minecraft  has shown me it’s potential for differentiation and cross-curricular learning. The students are already planning to create stories in Minecraft and some of the Grade 1 French teachers have approached me to help them use Minecraft for instruction in their French lessons. Being a linguist and a former EAL teacher, I am already envisaging multi-lingual worlds being created. Students needed more or less guidance using Minecraft itself and developed their understanding and skills at their own pace. It was a perfect environment for my non- English speakers to practice their English at the beginning of the school year because they all understand the language of Minecraft. They are thrilled to all become Minecraft coaches for the rest of Grade 1, providing a familiar and fun platform for everyone to shine.

I purposefully planned this unit around 9 weeks. Perhaps it seems like a long time out of our busy school schedules, but I wanted the students to reap the rewards of taking their time to be independent, creative, digital citizens who know how to collaborate to transform their learning. Alongside using Minecraft, there were important skills that I wanted my students to develop around technology.  My plan to create a Minecraft club for Grade 1 students is already in motion to begin in January and the best part of this is that my class are helping me to organise it. In a few weeks time my students will be coaching the other four Grade 1 classes in Minecraft. My colleagues have watched this project unfold and have already booked me as soon as I have posted my final reflection to share the project and set them up to use Minecraft. Love that ripple effect.

I am so glad I chose something that I have been wanting to use with the students for over a year now. This is just the beginning of my Minecraft journey.

Unit Planner

What now?

Having spent a long time trying to produce a video for my final project, I have really appreciated the work and talent of those who are able to produce inspiring and memorable digital stories  through their powerful visuals. This will be my next personal inquiry and was in fact one of my project options. I am looking forward to going back to having more time to explore and extend my learning from course 3.

Let the learning continue-always. Thank you Coetail.



Inquiry into Collaboration the Minecraft Way part 2




This inquiry is well underway now and although there is still a lot to do I feel happy that I can see some of my goals being met.  I see changes in how the students are collaborating and their ability to be more independent in organising their project.

I have been able to step back and observe their understanding, their self-management, their participation and collect that all important information on my students. Equally important, I am finding it a powerful beginning to the school year which I hope will influence the rest of the school year. We are learning through their lens, not mine, it really feels more student-driven. There is an air of trust and knowing each other that feels exciting so early on in the year.

Experienced Minecrafters helping the Minecraft newbies




Recognising Minecraftmasters


During reflections , students are beginning to really understand how their contribution can impact how their project advances. They are showing more empathy and trust  and generally showing more support towards one another. A particular student who finds it very difficult to listen to others and work collaboratively got a shout out from one of his peers on his ‘listening to others’  successes. Improved empathy and listening has impacted on this particular students ability to form friendships. It feels harmonious, and the collaboration is beginning to flow. There are serious conversations going on and yelps and wows and still a few disagreements as they see their projects developing. They are beginning to negotiate these disagreements, ask opinions from the group and work out a solution.




I’m happy also that according to my students I am ‘doing ok’ on my goal -WAIT ( Why Am I Talking?). Obviously I have a way to go. Let the silent voice continue.

What am I hoping to see in student learning?

I wrote these in my first blog post and am happy to see all of these happening. These are based on Colin Gallagher’s  book Minecraft in the Classroom.

  • collaboration
  • creativity
  • differentiation
  • digital citizenship
  • engagement
  • fun
  • independence
  • leadership
  • relevance

and in addition I can see

  •  a greater independence in self-management
  •  reflection, self-assessment and recognition of what they need to do to move on in their  learning
  • trust and empathy
  • increase in problem solving
  • perseverance when the learning gets tough or frustrating

Alongside our Minecrafting,  students are also showing me their understanding around digital citizenship and are beginning to make the connections about being a good citizen both online and offline. They are beginning to realise how their positive contribution can influence their online profile. We have had discussions around digital citizenship and I am happy to see that this has now influenced the rest of the Grade 1 team.

We have started our collaboration with Ms Abby’s class in Kuwait. We skyped and now we are getting to know one another through blogging.

Comparing countries
Comparing countries

The students are starting to write blog posts about their Minecraft journey and reflect on their inquiries into collaboration. We will continue building our understanding around collaboration in both our real and virtual worlds. Some of the students are starting to write our class guidelines for the year based on their inquiries so far.


So happy that these two Minecraft newbies are enjoying the project and have stepped right out of their comfort zone.



Take your Time Makerspaces


Thank you Adele who gave me the title for my blog post. During a recent reflection with my grade 1 class on some of the things they think are important about how we are learning , she included this :

Take your time

When I asked her to explain she said:

Because you need to think a lot when you’re making stuff and you might get a better idea from someone else and then you need to do that idea and so you need time.

I have always felt lucky to have chosen what I believe is a truly creative profession. Throughout Coetail I have been constantly reflecting on the intersections and influences between pedagogy and technology and feel compelled to write about yet another project I wish to pursue . I chose to write a post about this because I feel passionate about creativity in learning and it will help me to reflect on how and why we create our own creativity/idea/innovation/makerspace/s at our school. Innovation spaces, makerspaces, call them what you will. At the heart of them all is the idea of creativity and passion. Purpose, process and products might be different in every space, but fundamentally they are about

helping students be creative with their own ideas.  Andrew Goodwin Facilitator of the Makerspace at Grand Center Arts Academy, St.Louis, Missouri

At any time during your life who or what particular place, space or opportunity has helped you realise your creativity and show you possibilities ? I asked myself the same question, and realised that when I was at college, the Art room after hours was my makerspace.


We were allowed to go in there and sculpt, sew, hammer, paint, plaster, and weld to our hearts content to pursue our own projects. This place is where I stretched and challenged my own creativity and thinking. Here was where I could try out my thinking that some lecturers had prompted. Through having time and space to think and try out creative ideas, sometimes alone, sometimes with other students with different artistic skills, I learned new skills, thought learning was fun, found out what intrinsic motivation felt like and managed to supplement my student grant by selling some of my creations. I remember an endless supply of materials, mainly recycled and reclaimed and a technician who would go above and beyond to help us.

Observing my grade 1 students immerse themselves in creative projects, whether high or low tech is where I see the most focus, the most Aha moments, the most flow and the most grit.  I see my students making meaning out of their curiosities. So if I see all of this happening with a woodwork bench, an endless supply of boxes and recyclables, imagine what we might see:

  • if the area was truly resourced to accomodate both high and low tech projects
  • if we allowed the students time to pursue these ideas both in and out of the regular timetable.

This is what we have right now.

A group of us are working on turning this large collaborative area into an on-tap making and creating space. One that I would hope could be available to students in and out of the classroom schedules. I eventually imagine a space where students can pursue their ideas, follow up their curiosities, trial their designs and ideas whilst learning new skills along the way with people who can show them different skills and guide them in their inquiries. We have a talented and passionate community of adults who work in our school as well as a wealth of talented parents. We need more community collaboration.

I have just completed an inspiring PD with Ron Ritchhart on The Cultures of Thinking,  and follow incredible and passionate educators on Twitter about  Makerspaces . I’m reading   about Design Thinking , and passion projects,  and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by everything I felt I was not doing.

My reflections perhaps seem a little simplistic or presumptuous to mesh all these brilliant pedagogies together. They are infact, a reflection of my belief that we and certainly I have got to where I am in the classroom today because I take the best bits of  what went before and add the future. They are also an attempt to ease my mind, to reassure myself that I don’t have to achieve all of this as separate elements and become that superstar teacher we all wish we could be. It’s enough, give yourself as well as your students, time. So I went  back to the quote at the beginning of the blog:

                 helping students be creative with their own ideas.

I considered that just as technology intersects pedagogy and the other way round, the principles of Design Thinking, The Cultures of Thinking , invention literacy , inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, challenge-based learning and  passion projects can form integral parts of the same goal.

Creativity in thinking and making.



What we want is to develop deep thinkers who remain curious and creative for the rest of their lives and who follow their passions for their curiosity and well-being as well as for the difference or contribution however big or small to the future. It is about helping them develop a thinking perspective that allows them to be creative in designing  their future.

Kath Murdoch The Power of Inquiry

Honestly it feels liberating to be free of the learning intention and to consider more deeply the ‘process intention’ or creative process.

[youtube width=”400″ height=”300″][/youtube]


My starting points to build this real and virtual creativity space have come from my PLN and I thank all those who inspire me, too many to mention. I have been learning so much from  Craig Kemp and more recently, Thomas Tran and Adam Torrens that instead of thinking I should work with what we have, I’m thinking now I should also be working with what we would like to have.








The Innovation Centre at SAIS is truly inspiring, taking creative thinking, designing, making and contributing to a whole new level.

We also have a lot at ISL . We are lucky to be working in a country whose education ministers believe and have the means to encourage innovation and creativity-it’s there for the taking. Just across the campus we have this BeeCreative, a makerspace for every school in Luxembourg to enjoy and only a bus ride away, a soon to be opened science centre .

But it is more than having amazing spaces to learn. In  Robert Appino’s recent Learning2 talk How the Grade Game Limits Creativity, he underlines the importance of schools “creating a fertile environment for creativity” and students feeling “nurtured, encouraged and inspired” to follow their creative ideas and passions. Quote: Inquiry doesn’t have time limits.

Tricia Friedman’s talk , Idea’s Hospitality  also prompted similar reflections. I considered her opening question to educators, “Would you want to be an idea at your school?”.  I followed her 7 step audit and can honestly say I feel lucky to be at ISL. Opportunities to follow ideas and be listened to are there for the taking. I flipped the subject of the audit and wondered how many of our students could say the same? Does the school feel like this for our students or could we go further in nurturing “Idea Hospitality” ?


I am fortunate enough to be part of Megan Kuemmerlin’s global book club #GBCreatingInnovators. A brilliant choice of book:

Creating innovators by Tony Wagner

In the book, he talks about parents of young innovators who offer their children “a buffet of opportunities” to explore their passions and interests.

Do we offer students the same “buffet of opportunities” in schools?



All I need now is time…… and alongside my students, we’re going to take more of it.

Inquiry into Collaboration the Minecraft Way


Happy to have chosen, following advice from Robert Appino’s  and others, an inquiry into collaboration through the use of Minecraft. It feels like we are all on a truly creative learning journey together which in itself is a  worthy enduring understanding for the rest of the school year and beyond.

My big goals:

  • students develop an enduring understanding of what collaborative learning is and a increased desire and ability to be a contributor and  creator both online and offline
  • students pursue and organise their own inquiry into themselves as learners through using Minecraft
  • we all, as a class have a better understanding of one another
  • we explore learning possibilities through Minecraft
  • students create their own guidelines around digital citizenship and class community
  • students are able to explain their thinking and learning to a wider audience using technology
  • parents ask deeper questions about learning and Minecraft
  • a Minecraft club for Grade 1,  with the possibility of involving parents and older students
  • offer Minecraft as a personalised learning option during our 20 percent time.

Applying my learning from Coetail

  • building my PLN and thinking collaboratively and visibly through Coetail is deepening my understanding around learning, extending my knowledge around using  technology and helping me learn new skills to transfer to my students
  • helping students understand the possibilities as well as  the  responsibilities of being digital creators and contributors
  • how we learn is more enduring that what we learn
  • digital literacy is and will remain important for our students
  • digital learning environments are often new to parents, we have a responsibility to help parents see the bigger picture and the new tools for learning.

What am I hoping to see in student learning?

In Colin Gallagher’s  book Minecraft in the Classroom, he lists why teachers use Minecraft in the classroom:

  • collaboration
  • creativity
  • differentiation
  • digital citizenship
  • engagement
  • fun
  • independence
  • leadership
  • relevance

I’m hoping to see all of these.  Above all, I would like to see an enduring understanding of what true collaboration and connection locally and globally really means for a Grade 1 student and

  •  a greater independence in leading and organising their learning
  •  1st graders reflect, self-assess and recognise what they need to do to move on in their  learning
  • an increased independence in being part of a digital community
  • trust and empathy
  • a variety of choices in their learning which they may choose to use again
  • increase in problem solving
  • perseverance when the learning gets tough or frustrating

Let’s go



Main components of the project

Students and I begin the year by watching videos of ourselves in group situations and set our own goals which we will try and achieve by the end of the project.

Students will use i-Pads to learn how to use Twitter, Kidblog , and various other apps such as Explain Everything, Popplet, i-Movie, @30Hands and Google slides. Understanding and discussions around digital citizenship will be woven into the activities.

In the beginning, students will follow a few teacher led tasks to develop and show  their skills in Minecraft

In a group students design a community in Minecraft, agreeing how they will achieve this, they will need to plan it, build a model, and create in Minecraft,  reflecting on the project and their learning throughout.

Through Kidblog and Twitter we will share stages of our project with our Grade 4 buddies, the parents and with Ms Abby’s class in Kuwait. My goal would be that some students will begin blogging about Minecraft which will continue beyond the project.

We will have a Minecraft presentation morning with parents and other Grade 1 students to share our projects and reflections and plan new projects for our Minecraft 20% time

Parent involvement

My first responsibility, apart from sharing our project with the students was to share what we we would be doing with the parents. From the very beginning of this project, I wanted to give parents the opportunity to question and understand why I am using Minecraft in the classroom. It is the beginning of the school year and transparency and trust is an important part of the learning partnership with my parents.

Letter to parents

Parents have been sharing the students’ excitement and enthusiasm for the project and some hare  surprised by their child’s ability to create in Minecraft. I am happy to hear that some parents are starting joint building projects with their child at home. Some of these have been posted on our blog. This student built his apartment block at home and posted on Kidblog. We used the picture to do some maths inquiry around arrays.



The beginning of the unit was finding out how much they knew about communication, connections and collaboration. I needed to find out just how much they were able to collaborate and how much they knew about Minecraft. The following are some of the videos we made at the beginning of the unit. The students watched these to self-assess their willingness and ability to collaborate and communicate. My goal is WAIT…Why am I talking.





Having launched the unit, we have hit highs and lows, obstacles of time and technology. These have all been teaching moments and part of our problem solving. It’s an exciting and sometimes uncomfortable  journey watching some of  the students argue because they don’t want to share i-Pads or watching other students struggle to communicate their ideas and participate . Our first few times using Minecraft made interesting viewing for all of us and helped the students to better understand how to collaborate, solve problems and what they had to do next to move on.

Some students are experienced Minecrafters, others not. It has taken some students a while to realise that it is the collaboration part that makes the project run smoothly and their learning deepen, not particularly their Minecrafting skills.

I am observing  what is happening in the class as the project unfolds. I will continue to document my reflections and our journey.


Building Communities The Ripple Affect and Oops Moments



I recently made a new header for my Twitter page because I wanted to express how connecting to others has not only changed my classroom practice but also probably my future. I have done my fair share of travelling the globe over the years but I don’t think I had ever really travelled minds and thinking to such an extent until I started the Coetail journey a year ago. And that’s just it, it’s a journey now that will continue and who knows where it will take me?

into-the-unknown-knownDeveloping a global mindset is a journey, not a destination.

Amelia Friedman

When I first joined the Coetail community I was so focused, no, obsessed with reading everything I could, writing my blog, getting my head around WordPress and publishing to the world, I didn’t realise how my PLN was slowly growing. Before long,  by reading others’ blogs and commenting and asking questions, I realised that this community was helping and reassuring me in my learning in a way I could not have imagined. As well as attending excellently designed and executed Professional Development, I am now designing and directing my own.

I started to connect to others in different ways and for different reasons.

  • Because they teach the same age group,
  • Because I connect to what they say that it makes me want to visit their school, try their ideas, or just reply
  • Because the experiences are so different or the age group, subject, roles are so different , it helps me to broaden my thinking
  • Because I think/know they can answer some of my questions that I have about why and what I can do in the classroom
  • Because we are trying to solve the same problems- a problem shared etc.



 Global and local PLN.

Building a community is just as important locally as globally and I noticed that since starting Coetail I was also extending my PLN at school. Colleagues were interested in things I was sharing and asking me more.










I noticed that the Coetailers were building an important connection with Lower, Middle and Upper school colleagues that hadn’t happened before. In my last post I talked about the importance of a ripple affect to effect change.  I suppose that is what has happened in my teaching as a result of my PLN- all those I have asked, listened to, read, connected with, have had that amazingly powerful ripple affect on my classroom practice, on the Grade 1 team and the school as a whole. Through my PLN , I’m helping other colleagues at school make those connections and think about extending theirs.

#Whose PLN?

Because my PLN has taken me all over the world in my thinking, has pushed, changed, inspired and sometimes reinforced my ideas, answered wonders and problems, why would I not help my students do the same? Here is where I can see the powerful effect of my PLN, here is where I can model to my students that their future is collaboration.














This is where my students’ growing PLN is taking them on their travels and understanding and hopefully on their way to making a difference.




# oops moments.



I credit reference to this video to my PLN and  Megan Kuemmerlin’s global book club #GBCreatingInnovators . We had our first Google Hangout this Sunday and due to my ‘oops moment’ wasn’t able to connect to the hang out. Problem solving,  and thanks to Megan I watched it live on Youtube and tweeted comments. What was so great about the Google Hangout was that I could actually get to ‘meet’ people who are part of my PLN.














Isn’t this where true learning, innovation and problem solving comes from?  The road to building my PLN has been full of these ‘oops moments’.


I joined Twitter in July 2015 and honestly, it took me at least 6 months to understand what I was doing and feel confident to share my thoughts, ask direct questions, and join Twitter chats. I  enjoyed being a lurker for a while, taking in the connections, and ideas because reflecting on all those articles, conversations and powerful statements or questions  helped me to develop my own voice.

Everyone else is full of knowledge, skills and has really interesting things to say.  When I look at how many followers others have in comparison, I used to feel insecure, but then I realised that you contribute in order to get. The moment I started investing regular time and participation in Twitter, there was a turning point. People were beginning to reply to my tweets and I was building not only my PLN but also my professional profile and footprint. What’s important for me is that my tweets represent my voice and that’s when the connections really start to happen.


Sustained interactions are important. In August I started regularly joining the #AfricaEd slowchats and appreciate being able to dip in and out of the conversations during teaching breaks.






















I also use direct message via Twitter to build detail and real specifics into the conversation.
























What next?

Continue to learn through my PLN, but more importantly, share my voice more and louder.


I can’t finish my post without giving a shout out to Tricia Friedman whose blog posts are a regular part of my PLN.














Although my network may not be a galaxy, it’s growing. I will continue my journey. My PLN has no limits and no destination, that’s what’s so exciting. Thank you to all who are contributing.

This is my voice:




A Reflection


-Reji_-_crea- (1)

It’s the start of a new school year and the beginning of Course 5. Reflection is part of my everyday, it’s an important part of how we understand who we are and how we learn. It’s something we ask the students to do everyday, so why wouldn’t we? The exciting part is that reflecting  gives us the choice and helps us to make changes….or not.

I found myself comparing the beginning of the school year this year with the last and did some serious thinking. Something has changed and I wanted to reflect on that. Then I read Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Amplify Reflection and that was enough to motivate me to write a short post and do a quick stock take. Perhaps you can relate to some of my reflections?

#I’m not scared         

Pensiero_-_c-When I started the Coetail course last year technology  was something that I really wanted to improve in my classroom but found it a little scary. After a year of reading, trying things, failing and trying again, learning from others, I now find the overlap between pedagogy and technology  has become my ‘favourite’ part of my teaching.  I can’t wait to try new things this year. I’m genuinely interested and hungry to learn. 


#Now what?

  • Introducing Minecraft as a learning platform to enhance our communication and collaboration Unit of Inquiry.
  • Connecting my Grade 1 students globally though blogging.
  • Starting self-directed learning with our Grade 4 buddies. Thank you to a member of the new cohort Jennifer Byrnes for including a powerful video on this.

#I’m on it     

gazzat_-_cre-It’s only the end of week 2 and the students are already posting on Kidblog  and Twitter because I know how to get everyone set up very quickly, using the I do, we do you do approach.  Modelling how to to the students has become part of my visible routines. It’s important to me to teach the students about blogging and commenting from the beginning of the year so that they can benefit sooner. I understand how powerful these connections can be for the learner.

#Failing #Learning                 

nicolasnova_-I had quite a few failures or frustrations along my learning path last year-it taught me about problem solving in an genuinely authentic way. Be good problem solvers we ask of the students, but it’s not always so easy when there are other pressures around you and you don’t quite have the skills to solve. It must be how the students feel sometimes. I became more confident to ask for help, but at the same  more resilient and creative in resolving difficulties. It took me a long time to understand Twitter and all that it has to offer. I joined Twitter chats and found it difficult to follow at first or even contribute anything remotely interesting. I started to ask myself why I wasn’t getting it. So I looked to my PLN and read blogs by  Tricia Friedman  and others.  I learned to reach out, in different ways, to get conversations going and I’m genuinely getting better at Twitter Chats. My now what? will be to try my own.

#You can    

MICOLO_J_Tha- (1)This year at our Back to School Night I volunteered to be the one to talk about how we use technology . I’m no longer scared, I think I’m beginning to know what I’m talking about and understand that it doesn’t take a ‘ tech expert’ to talk about technology, just a good teacher and someone who believes in it’s importance and relevance in our schools and students’ lives. I’ve noticed a change. Before school, after school, lunchtimes, members of our grade 1 team are coming to me to talk about pedagogy and technology. I love it. We are building a common and collaborative approach to technology in Grade 1.

#The ripple effect

climbnh2003_-In the last term of the year our Education Technology Coach organised speed geeking during a Faculty Meeting and asked some of us to share how we use different technology tools in the classroom. I can see the effect this has had throughout the school. Colleagues are approaching us individually and asking for help, and ideas. Sometimes the ripple effect is the one that works.

#Change can be good 

Change encourages reflection and  differences in thinking. Change in working teams allows colleagues to spread their brilliance elsewhere and for others to have a voice. On the Coetail site, I was genuinely excited to see a new cohort popping up on the blogs. Different things to say, different thinking and styles, new things for me to learn.

#Collaboration is the key

Everyone is out there to help and learning from each other is key. It pushes conversations, changes perspectives, encourages understanding, is reassuring and it matters today more than anything.



# Positive work habits

To describe oneself as a life long learner is strange- how can we not be? I’m always going to be a learner but now I’m better at it and have better work habits because my connections have sparked a genuine interest and motivation to learn new things.

  • Before school, strong black coffee drinking is Twitter time to connect to others
  • 2 out of 5 lunchtimes are collaborative learning with colleagues
  • Football pick ups and any other waiting around for my teenagers are used reading my RSS feeds and articles on Pocket and connecting to others.
  • Saturday and Sunday mornings are blogging times, connecting to others

My learning is continuous, I can’t believe I did this in my vacation and enjoyed it.

Self-directed learning
Self-directed learning

To all of you who blog online, tweet, message, email, hang out on google you are all part of my learning and encourage my ” now what?” mind set , you matter.  You take the time to share. A genuine and heartfelt Thank you.

thank you

Course 4 Final Projects-The Luxury of Choices

Photo credit
                                  flickr photo shared by derekbruff under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

It’s been really interesting to consider options for my final project because there are so many things I want to try,  improve and initiate because of my learning  from Coetail and my PLN. I have too many options , so I’ll write about my A list , whilst keeping my B options on my to do list.

I keep coming back to 3 ideas :

  1. Something I have wanted to try since last year
  2. Something that I want to improve and refine
  3. Something I want to trial to help students, parents and teachers.

Option 1#Introducing Minecraft to 1st graders as a collaborative and creative platform for learning.

                                  flickr photosharedbygamingedusunderaCreative Common (BY-NC-SA)license

This has really been inspired by Tanya Irene’s Minecraft Club , from other Coetail graduates such as Angela Langlands , Amanda McCloskey and reading about The Minecraft Generation . These books ,Minecraft in the Classroom by Colin Gallagher and Adventures in Minecraft by Martin O’Hanlon and David Whale  are also helping me in my own Minecraft inquiry into how the game works and it’s endless possibilities in the classroom.

Last year during Course 1, I started a project with a gaming enthusiast in our team to introduce Minecraft as an option during collaborative learning in grade 1. We got as far as writing some guidelines for playing and setting simple building tasks, but that was as far as it got. So my final project would be the perfect opportunity to follow up what I started. Our central idea for our first inquiry of the year will be:

  We communicate in different ways to make connections to a wider community.

I want to redesign the unit and use Minecraft as a way to encourage collaboration, community, citizenship, responsibility and expectations at the beginning of the school year. Students will explore, through building communities in a virtual world how communicating with one another builds understanding, collaboration and appreciation of others and make the connection to the real world.

Students will first explore different kinds of communities they know or belong to. They will then look at different ways we communicate both offline and online and how this helps us to build communities. Students will then create their own set of guidelines for appropriate, respectful and effective communication. They will use their guidelines to build Minecraft Worlds/Communities collaboratively. The students will explain the process of building their worlds to others and reflect on their communication and collaboration skills. We will  share the projects on our class blog to start Minecraft dialogues with students from other schools.

Three outstanding things that I have learned from Coetail is that process in my learning is more powerful than the final product. Learning collaboratively through my PLN is powerful, continuous and supportive and role modelling inquiry in my own learning encourages a growth mindset in my classroom. For this project I  want to apply my learning around game-based learning and digital citizenship.


To set the tone and expectations around digital citizenship and collaborative learning at the beginning of the school for students and parents

To develop confidence in using i-Pads

To model the possibilities of using game-based learning to other grades and parents as a tool for learning and teaching

To have a deeper understanding of how students want to learn

To help students have a better understanding of one another

I think this project could act as an inquiry into how we integrate technology into student learning  and could prompt and strengthen discussions around more personalised and interest based-learning in our school. It would allow voice and differentiation for individual students, and be an opportunity for them to show me what they know and can create through their world rather than mine. By introducing the class to learning through Minecraft, it would give students the option to build on their skills later on in the year during our inquiry unit on Structures and Materials.

My concerns about redesigning this unit are making sure that my students achieve the same level of understanding around communication and community as the other grade 1 classes. I am mindful that some parents may not support using Minecraft and so I need to be clear about the learning intentions and outcomes. I will need to have parent information sessions and be able to answer any questions or concerns they may have. We will be using  Minecraft PE because we use i-Pads in grade 1, so the students will not be working within such a controlled virtual environment. I have some concerns about that. However, I am excited about the prospect of introducing game-based learning into my teaching and to start the school year with something that meets the students’ interests. The students will need to understand that using Minecraft in the classroom has different expectations to the Minecraft they may play at home. Some students may not be familiar with the game and so we will be learning new skills and learning to make and explain connections between virtual worlds and the real worlds. They will need to learn how to effectively plan and  problem solve to overcome some frustrations they may encounter along the way.

If the unit redesign is successful, I would like to think that I can go back to my original plan and offer Minecraft as a personalised learning option during our 20 percent time.

Option 2 # We All Have a Story To Tell .

This project is inspired by my learning in Course 3 around digital storytelling and visual literacy and by 2 projects initiated in my class this year. I want to improve and combine both projects. During our first inquiry of the year on communication, I started a story writing project with our inspiring librarian, Helen Hagemann. The students used several versions of the same story to learn about crafting a story and characters . Helen and I decided to take this a step further and introduce research skills. Using Armadilly Chili by Helen Ketteman, we asked the students to add their own character into the story. We led a lesson about how writers develop characters through observation and research. We asked the students to create their own animal characters after first showing them how to research using non-fiction books and websites. The students loved the project and they developed fabulous new story characters, but we found that they needed more skills in searching for information.

I started  Course 3 around digital and visual literacy and we began writing digital stories. The students again  found searching for information and citing images challenging. These are two of the ten valuable digital skills they will need during and after school.  At the same time my class started their first footsteps on Out of Eden Learn . Students connect with other students around the world to exchange stories about their lives, where they live and their about their families.

So my second option is to create a unit around digital storytelling merging fact with fiction. Students will create a digital story about themselves using Book Creator , iMovieTouchcast or 30 Hands . As part of their story the students will research either:

where they currently live

another place they have lived

or a different place in the world where a member of the family lives

The students will then share these stories on the Out of Eden Learn platform and as a story exchange project through our class blog with another Grade 1 class in the world. I would also like to add the option of translating these digital stories into their first language with the help of parents and to share them on our blog with family members.


To develop online search and image attribution skills

To develop an awareness of online safety from the beginning of the year

To use technology to learn about others locally and globally

To begin blogging with another grade 1 class in another part of the world

I am happy that the unit redesign will cover required goals around communication and connecting to others. Students love to see and learn about the world through personal stories. In January my students connected with a class in Abu Dhabi and have learned so much from their regular tweeting.

Comparing weather
Comparing weather

My concern is that all the research will be very individual, which may be difficult to manage. When working on research in the past, several students have worked together. Having spoken to the teacher of our current Grade 4 buddy class, she would be happy to work together on this which would also be very relevant for her Grade 4 students. From recent experience of creating their own digital stories , the students need time to carefully plan and create. The students will have an authentic audience for their books on the Out of Eden platform but I I would like to find blogging pals before we start the unit so that we can exchange stories throughout the year. There will be a lot of new skills for the students to learn at the beginning of the school year. These include:

learning to use several new apps

learning how to search for information and cite sources

learning how to choose images to convey meaning

learning how to search for and attribute images

Although I may need to troubleshoot any problems we may have using different apps, recent experience in making i-Movies with my Grade 1 students has shown me the power of peer teaching. I will be creating app, search and cite experts within the class.


Option 3 # Creating digital badges linked to our Learner Profile in the Lower School .

This option is trialing a project rather than redesigning a unit. It has been prompted by discussions with colleagues around helping students to reflect on how they learn, setting learning goals and sharing their achievements and growth. Completing my Course 3 project highlighted the importance and relevance for our students of creating digital profiles. My learning in Course 4 prompted me to reflect on alternative ways to identify, celebrate and share accomplishments. I see this option as a way to help students to understand themselves as learners , model how to build their digital profiles and as an alternative way of providing visible recognition and credentialing the whole student.

The project would involve creating badges linked to each learning asset on the Student Profile.

How do I show that I am

  • proactive
  • responsible
  • communicative
  • creative
  • a contributor

Students would reflect on their skills, interests and achievements both inside and outside school and match these to the Learner Profile badges. Students would provide evidence of these learning assets through conferencing, and providing images and links, which would be attached to badges. The badges would become part of their e-portfolios on their class blogs and would provide ongoing and regular information to parents and other specialist or single subject teachers about their learning. Older students could be encouraged to create  an About Me page on their class blogs which would include their badges. Students would be encouraged to look at each other’s  digital profiles to encourage peer learning and develop interest groups across grades and schools.


To help students understand themselves as learners

To identify their strengths, set goals and celebrate achievement

To increase the visibility of student learning, skills and contributions in the school community

To encourage the importance of building a positive online presence for our students

To celebrate the whole student

I have three big concerns about this idea. The first is that I have a big picture of the final project but in order to complete it, I will need to break it down into much smaller components.  The second is that if gaining badges becomes more important for students than identifying progress in their learning and sharing their skills then I won’t be achieving my goal. The third is that unless it is an efficient system and easy to use, there won’t be any buy in . My intention would be to begin this project with my class at the beginning of the school year and evaluate whether it is helpful for the students before sharing it with other grades. I encourage a lot of reflection in class about learning, the students are used to uploading evidence into their e-portfolios. The shift will be in linking this to digital badges which could help the students to see their learning pathways more clearly . I am hopeful that by taking time to build a bigger picture of their learning, students will be more proficient at identifying their next steps. By using the class blog to display their badges, their expertise will be visible to others and students will be taking their first steps towards creating their own online resumes or About Me page.

Feedback or advice on any of these options would be much appreciated.




Do I have Balance? Getting Feedback

                                               flickr photo  NCinDC  Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

Right now I don’t have much balance in my life. Reasons? My drive to learn and stay relevant in the classroom, report writing, end of year plays, beginning a new to the Grade inquiry unit, being an unbearably reflective learner and trying to juggle family life. So thinking about balance, I was struck the other day by two things this week.

The first thing that happened:

My 15 year old had 10 of his friends over from his class for a ‘hang out’. They all arrived armed with various devices. Their very first goal was to find enough places where they could charge them and get connected. Over the course of the next 24 hrs this is what I saw :

They used their devices to listen to music together, which then prompted conversations.

They used their devices to watch Youtube clips together, which prompted lots of laughter and conversations.

They used their devices to create videos.

They used their devices to look up homework together, which prompted conversation-some of it somewhat negative about certain teachers…hasn’t that always happened?

The point is they used their devices as conversation starters and to create and share. Quite soon, this happened.

Campfire Chats

flickr photo JustUs3 CreativeCommons(BYNC)license

They sat around a campfire, listening to music and talking. They scared each other in the dark. They played table tennis, they talked. They stayed up until we said the neighbours could stand it no more. Next morning, after connecting to the world and maybe their parents, they played football, table tennis, cricket, sat around and generally enjoyed hanging out together. The devices were left on the table.


Photo credit: Suzy Ramsden
Photo credit: Suzy Ramsden tech free teens


Perhaps this generation of digital natives are able to find balance themselves between their online and offline lives. Perhaps because their lives are so connected, they strive to also disconnect?

The second thing that happened: 

” Mum, get off your lap top, you’re always working and come and watch this with us ”

I thought it was funny that my youngest was telling me to take a sort of tech break and exercise thoughtful digital etiquette . It  reinforced the importance for me, as a parent of 3 digital natives and as a classroom teacher, to join in with their digital worlds, to model offline activities and to share our tech worlds to build digital trust and understanding. Building guidelines and understanding around the use of technology helps students and my own kids to be part of and contribute to this digital world, whilst also having the skills to self-sensor and make informed decisions.  Being a parent and/or an educator is also about helping kids to achieve the right kind of balance in their lives and if they are lucky enough to have choices, then to make informed ones.

I enjoyed reading Keri Lee Beasley’s  post about building family digital time, understanding and expectations together. My youngest son’s feedback made me think about the importance of joining in, setting boundaries and striking a balance. My 18 year old expressed concern over always having to study online. He is mindful of his needs.

I hate always looking at screens to read stuff. I prefer it when we use the laptops to work collaboratively, or to start a discussion about something. When I have to read a lot of stuff online, that’s when I really have to get up and do something else. That’s when I have to  move around and do sports. That’s when I need lots of breaks.

My oldest son has already flown the nest- I get his ‘life’  feedback through Skype and FaceTime.

Having the opportunity to reflect on technology use through Coetail is helping me both as a parent and educator. Fairly early on in the year , we held a parent workshop around blogging in Grade 1. We had quite a few parents attend, they were positive about their children using blogging as a platform to share and collaborate with others. The feedback I got from the workshop was that parents needed more help to be armed with information  and have helpful guidelines so that they are able to help their children learn and self-sensor in their digital worlds, just as they would in their non-digital lives.

I then introduced Twitter to my class. The parents love that their child’s learning becomes so visible on a daily basis, particularly for those who are always travelling.

Parents say it starts family conversations and they feel more connected to their child’s learning. Whilst I see this as a really positive change in my classroom, I also feel I should have more regular conversations with parents to listen to their worries,  to share the positives, the learning possibilities and choices around our use of technology and sometimes to help them use the technology itself. I need to make my own thinking and learning on the use of technology in the classroom more visible more regularly to my parents. I need to get feedback from my parents on what they would like more of, what would be more helpful, or what hasn’t worked for them.

So do we have balance in the classroom?

Since starting Coetail, I would say that the balance between using technology as substitute and augmentation has definitely shifted further towards modification and redefinition. We use technology to collaborate, share, search, create, imagine, reflect and play and we build conversations about online safety and digital citizenship into the learning. Whilst the use of technology is not always seamless , it is woven into the classroom in a more natural and intuitive way. Once the learning objective is clear, I help them to plan their pathway to achieve their goals and regularly check in to see how I can best help them. Sometimes the use of technology comes right at the end of a task when they hit  share or publish . But they also know that this will be the beginning of new and deeper learning. Feedback from others is how their learning continues.

The students have free access to use the iPads whenever they want. It is not always their first choice of learning tool. The students are currently in the middle of producing a persuasive piece for Grade 2 around helping the environment. We gave them a choice of 6 ways to present their persuasion. Exactly half of the class chose to make iMovies, the rest to make posters. All of the initial planning was done on paper. The students were clear about their goal.They thought about the message they wanted to convey, thought of reasons and thought about how this would look in an iMovie or on a poster. The students who chose to make an iMovie told me it was something they wanted to get better at. So Tanya Irene our  ICT facilitator ran a mini lesson so I could do that all important check -in with them on what they knew.

Each morning we do a quick peer assess, 2 stars and a wish on one of the iMovies so that the students can get feedback and edit before they present to Grade 2. This iMovie is still under construction, we are working on the citations.


For my students the most empowering effect of using technology comes in their ability to understand their world by learning from and about others. As they communicate more across continents, they join the dots themselves, recognising things that are the same and different, helping them to make sense of the world.  My 6 and 7 year old students were born into a world where using technology is as natural and intuitive as learning to ride a bike. Do they still get excited about learning to swim, their first goal, growing plants, climbing challenging heights, losing their first tooth, sleepovers, making footprints in the first falls of snow and just playing-of course they do. I think they can achieve balance.

Every day, they use technology to connect and collaborate with others to share their ideas and opinions through Kidblog  Twitter , Out of Eden Learn Google, Padlet, Skype and  along the way we try new technology tools because I am also connecting and collaborating.

learning from others
learning from others

I look at them in awe of their ability to communicate confidently across the globe, to think of sharing their great ideas as a given. I recently responded to a tweet about how blogging helps students with their writing. Since my class have been blogging on a daily basis, their reading and writing skills have improved significantly.

feedback about blogging

I asked them to give me feedback on the use of technology in the classroom. Was it too much….? Too little..? Their overwhelming response was more technology . One girl replied, when are we going to Skype that school in Bangalore about our Zero Trash Campaign?

Arranging to Skype
Arranging to Skype






and Mrs R- when are we going to start Minecraft? I am learning to speak their new literacy and helping them to have balance in their lives. This is their world they are building, and through communicating and collaborating I hope they are building a better one.
















The Future of Learning-It’s a Collaboration of Trust


At the School

         flickr photo shared by whoever, whomever under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

 The internet will be the disrupter for higher education

Clayton M Christensen

Has education and approaches to learning changed because of technology?  I think the undeniable answer to that would be a resounding YES. Technology has changed the way we can live and learn, but are we optimising the possibilities of technology in leaning? I hope that  we increasingly encourage collaboration and motivation in a way that our 21st century students show us when they are  hanging out?  I hope we continue to move towards crowd sourcing their expertise and natural curiosity to offer them real world experiences in problem solving. Technology helps us to do this.

                                        flickr photosharedbygeofonesunderaCreative Commons(BY-NC-SA)license

Innovation in education is often a reaction to or a response to local or global needs for change. It evolves from the story, what happened before. The narrative develops one hopes, into something that it is better than it’s previous form and so it goes on. Successful innovation in education for me is taking the best bits from what happened before, from what we know about how students like to learn and adding new and exciting ideas that best serve  and are most relevant for their futures. Our present discussions and explorations in education stem from education not fitting the need for our 21st century students. Cathy N Davidson  talks about the mismatch between ” the age we live in and the educational institutions we have built”.

                                              flickr photobydeanmeyersnetCreativeCommons(BY-NC-SA)license

In her article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age she describes the “interconnection”  and “collective learning” that happened ( in 2003)  when first year students were given an iPod and told to ” dream up learning applications” .

“they came up with far more learning apps for their iPods than anyone—even at Apple—had dreamed possible… They turned iPods into social media and networked their learning in ways we did not anticipate.” The students began to successfully peer assess their work. A great example of creative, innovative, collaborative, learning in an environment of trust.  The RSA-ANIMATE : Re-imagining Work promotes the exact same skills for work places.

According to The World Economic Forum complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity are the top 3 skills we will need in 2020 and Dana  Mortenson in her article,  A Look inside the Classroom of the Future  outlines the following skills students will need to be able to navigate work and life:

  • An appreciation for cultural differences
  • An ability to understand and consider multiple perspectives
  • Critical and comparative thinking skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Comfort with ambiguity and change
  • An understanding of globally significant issues
Model for Online Courses

  flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe under a Creative Commons (   BY-NC-SA )      license

Technology is allowing us to move from a static classroom scenario to  access, anywhere learning  where students and educators can learn from one another across the globe. Contributors to our learning are vast and diverse – Coetail . Online learning is not particularly new just as the premise that effective teaching transcends time or place , but MOOCs are adding new and exciting dimensions to how we can learn. There is some criticism around the manageability of course sizes and fear that the learning will not be personalized enough. There are difficulties over personalised feedback and grading. The most powerful element of MOOCs is that they are providing “hub” type learning in which the learning and networking become the powerful and successful aspects of the course. Will this be the future in 5,10, 15 years time? The significance and impact right now of MOOcs  is that they are encouraging discussion, disruption and  innovation in education.

                                             flickr photosharedbymstephens7Creative Commons(BY-NC-S )license

“I like to call this the year of disruption,” says Anant Agarwal, president of edX, “and the year is not over yet.”

The hope of the courses offered by Coursera , edx and udacity are that they can help bring education to everyone and everywhere. Matt Brittland in his article What is the Future of Technology in Education writes:

Teaching and learning is going to be social. Schools of the future could have a traditional cohort of students, as well as online only students who live across the country or even the world. Things are already starting to move this way with the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Accessibility for me is key to developing global learning. The World Wide Web Foundation set up by Sir Tim Berners-Lee brings to our attention the digital divide and the goal of universal access for all to the Internet in order to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We live in a time where our social lives and working worlds are more open and shared . Opening our doors of our classrooms  to collaborate with other students around the world, other educators, experts in different fields brings in that diversity of viewpoints and promotes critical thinking.  Encouraging this kind of connected learning will help students to develop lifelong skills to learn  and help them to contribute rather than to remain consumers.

Lifelong skills and the ability to think creatively rather learning a content-based curriculum will serve their needs greater. Sir Ken Robinson’s  ted Talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? encourages reflection on what we should be encouraging in schools to take our students into ” a future we can’t grasp.”

We have to rethink the fundamental principles in which we are educating our children. Children have a gift of the human imagination- our job is to make something of it.

Traditionally in schools success has been seen through imposed assessments and quantifiable results. Students work towards the ultimate goal of their final exams. Will Richards writes creativity, curiosity, a change mindset, the ability to create, connect, and participate in networks…all of those are now required, yet few of those are currently assessed at all. Hopefully in the not too distant future, students will be evaluated more on their ability to think critically and  to problem-solve during projects and on their ability to drive their own learning and interests. Perhaps digital badges will be a way to show a student’s learning pathway, providing more relevant information for future employees. I like the idea of Coetail badges. Whilst schools, for the foreseeable future will still require evidence of degree certification when hiring teachers, adding a Coetail badge, for example, could be a way of sharing my pathway of collaborative learning.

                                 flickr photo shared by brainpop_uk undera Creative Commons( BY-NC-ND ) license

People have a natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation to learn. Daniel Pink refers to autonomy, mastery and purpose as the 3 main elements that drive us to to improve in The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Self directed knowledge and passion- that’s the future Dr Sugata Mitra explains.  Our role as teachers should be

to encourage higher level thinking and questions and use technology to connect and collaborate to find an answer.

My reflections around this week’s post have flipped from the positive to disappointment that we haven’t come as far in education as we should considering that the  World Wide Web developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee was as long ago as 1989.  Or, if I compare how my present students are learning with my very first class of students all those years ago, I say we have come a long way. My role of facilitating, encouraging and motivating students in their learning hasn’t really changed a great deal, but how and what I learn and my students learn has changed greatly because of technology.

In 5, 10, 15 years time I hope classrooms will encourage a more multidisciplinary approach, I hope there will be more flow , play , authentic local and global problem solving. I hope the students will learn equally inside and outside of the classroom , and use their PLNs to a greater extent in their learning. I hope our school offers online courses similar to the American School of Bombay to students, parents and the community in order to build community and networks.

On Friday afternoon, one of my students turned round to me sighed a big sigh and said,

   ” I’m exhausted , I’ve just been on a blogging adventure.”

He had spent the afternoon logging into other Grade 1 blogs and using his network to collaborate. Love that.




A Vision for Radically Personalised Learning by Katherine Prince.

Is this paradigm shift possible in education?














Playing and Learning- Is There A Difference?


If I look around my Grade 1 classroom, the students show me everyday how they want to learn, they give me important feedback about what they find engaging and what they don’t, what motivates them to find out more and persevere and what doesn’t- it’s my job to listen to the feedback they are giving me and facilitate their learning accordingly. My role is also to be mindful of the skills  that my students may need in the future and design tasks and learning with this in mind. What my students show me everyday is the value of play and being playful in the process of their learning.

Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill. We don’t have maps for the territory of tomorrow. As a result, all citizens must become explorers of this emerging world. The best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful. 

Aran Levassur

Creativity along with critical thinking and the ability to problem solve are the top 3 skills needed in the 2020 workforce. When I look at play that happens in the classroom, whether it’s game playing ,play exploration, digital or analogue,  I think those 3 vital skills are happening . The ability for a student to develop their thinking and skills in a creative , playful, risk taking and relatively open choice environment has always been important to me both as a student and educator.

                                        flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I was at an elementary school in the 60’s when active learning, open classrooms, team teaching and project-based learning were new, exciting and encouraged.  I remember loving school, loving the wide perimeters I was given to learn and pursuing things that really interested me. I remember a lot of play and exploration- authentic, student-centred active learning.  Even back then educationalists such as Jerome Bruner were calling for a curriculum that stressed critical thinking, collaboration and questioning of traditional thoughts and values. It was about choice in my learning and having the space to think for myself and develop my understanding through doing, redoing, failing ,persevering and improving my skills to reach the next level in my learning. All motivational elements in learning that Yu-kai Chou talks about in his TEDX talk Gamification to Improve the World
Then I went to secondary school and I felt like I started to fail. There was no exploration or play around learning or guidance about how to learn, just a lot of content to get through with little or no understanding of application or why it was important. No questions asked, no critical thinking developed, no collaborative learning, no place for safe failure, it was just something I saw I had to get through.

flickr photo Matt Peoples Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND )license

What I see now are approaches developing in learning, such as Quest To Learn  to lessen the gap between life skills and interests. I have loved reading about all those innovative teachers and designers who have recognised that game-based learning and gamification can incorporate and develop so many important skills in a students’ learning. They are harnessing the power of play  and our love of games. According to Karl M.Kapp, Professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University, great digital games designers design a successful game by centering on the learning objective and

understanding a lot about how people learn and how people play

                                         flickr photoshared by EricHaines under a Creative Commons (BY)license

I’m an educator that uses games a lot both inside and outside the classroom. I use games to accomplish certain goals and to engage the learner.This might be to build community, or to build specific learning strategies or skills in areas like maths  and language, to target specific content, to problem solve, to explore their cognitive and creative thinking. It might be to help students to deal with mistakes and failures and to recognise successes. We also play games to build fun and play into our day.

I’m also a teacher that may not be using games to their potential so I am especially keen to read more about it and to reflect on game-based learning and gamification . At the beginning of the post I wrote about how my students show me how they want to learn. What they  talk about most when it comes to digital gaming is Minecraft. Our ICT facilitator Tanya Irene, has been running an after school Minecraft club for several years now. My classroom is not far away and every Monday afternoon, I hear a buzz coming from the Media Lab where the club is run. Last year I went in a few times to observe what was going on. This is what I saw:

  • Flow
  • creativity
  • motivation
  • scaffolding and differentiation
  • accomplishment
  • curiosity
  • peer-learning
  • perseverance
  • cognitive flexibility
  • critical thinking
  • negotiation
  • decision making
  • students being challenged and recognising their learning and achievements

Sometimes Tanya would stop the group to encourage group problem solving, encourage peer feedback and remind the group of their responsibilities as collaborative learners and digital citizens. I was a Minecraft newbie and one of the students took me under her wing to explain how I could build my world and join others.  I was exploring through playing, the sheer buzz and collaboration and problem solving that was going on in the room had already convinced me that this is something that we could plan to introduce in our Grade. I was mindful that we should we start with the end in mind. Game-based learning is more than just picking the right game for your classroom. It’s about designing a meaningful learning experience for your students.  I started to work with one of the Grade 1 Teacher Assistants, a keen gamer and Minecraft expert and we decided we could use Minecraft to design a collaborative project during our unit on Structures. The main focus or goal for this project would be to build collaborative skills and roles in creating a building project. Inquiry into structures and different materials would be the subsidiary goal. We started writing learning objectives and guidelines for the project and that was as far as we got.

Watching Jane McGonigal’s, Gaming Can make a Better World, and observing my own kids at home conquering civilisations and creating their own worlds has helped me understand the potential of game-based learning and rekindled my own interest to try this in the classroom.

                                    flickr photoshared byMaggiCraftunderaCreativeCommons (BY-NC-SA)license

So many of these skills that I observed at the Minecraft Club are included on the list of 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. No wonder the principles of gamification are also being used in training and leadership in work scenarios. When I asked my students what they liked about games and game-based learning such as Minecraft they said:

I like games because I’m playing with friends

There are lots of different games and I like learning how to play new games- like                        learning new things

You never know what’s going to happen in games, you might lose, but then you play again and get better

You know what to do to get better

You can learn new stuff in games

I like building and making my own games

In Minecraft, if you die ,it’s not the end, you can spawn another animal or person                                                                                                 and then learn how to survive better

Winning’s fun

Last year, as our summative assessment during our inquiry on Responsibility and the Environment we asked the students to design their own board game to show their understanding of how we can help the environment. I was amazed at the creativity, diversity, and understanding of how a game works . Each group gave constructive feedback as we tried to play each other’s games and the students were keen to get it just right, to improve on what didn’t work so that their game would become a favourite and be played in the classroom. Then I read this article Why Kids Should Make the Video Games They Love To Play  which of course led me to read this Making Games: The Ultimate Project-Based Learning . I’m not sure I’m ready to do this with my Grade 1’s just yet, anyone tried?

Starting my exploration on gamification,  game-based learning and their connection to the importance of play, I’m piecing together my learning and beginning to think game-based learning might be an option for my final Course 5 project. There are so many take aways from my learning so far around this approach. Some of the most powerful are: it can offer the students several routes towards learning success , it can build resilience around failure, and it helps and encourages students to see challenges as a positive part of their learning.  This is not to say that these skills cannot be achieved in any other way, but I’m interested and excited to explore this further.


                                         flickr photo shared by kjarrett under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

In  If all of Work were Gamified there’s also a cautionary reminder that we like games because it’s our choice to participate and engage in them. If we were to gamify all of the students’ learning and make it mandatory, would it still feel like a game of choices?

Thank you to Angela Langlands It’s Time To Mine and Amanda McCloskey A Minecraft Inquiry and all those other Coetailers who have shared their Final Project around game-based learning-inspiring.

Also to Robert Appino for this link