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 :
- Something I have wanted to try since last year
- Something that I want to improve and refine
- 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.
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 , iMovie, Touchcast 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.
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
- 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.