Inquiry into Collaboration the Minecraft Way

minecraft-house

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

goals-2

 

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.

mete-2

 

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.

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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.

 

7 thoughts on “Inquiry into Collaboration the Minecraft Way

  1. STEPHANE VERMEULIN

    Hi Suzy,
    Your project is not only collaborative and engaging, but it is also one of the most well designed and thoughtful I have ever seen.
    Stéphane

    Reply
    1. Suzy Ramsden Post author

      Dear Stephane,
      Thank you so much for your comment. One of the biggest takeaways from this project for my students I hope will be how much they can influence and lead their own learning, which may seem a contradiction looking at how much behind the scenes planning I have put into it. We use the word collaboration a lot these days as educators and I wanted to see how the students themselves unravel this word themselves through their own inquiries. Unless they understand what it means and how it can inspire and help them, why would they want to collaborate? The last session in the Ron Ritchhart PD, Back to the Future protocol has stayed with me because it was about the teachers leading the way for change. I want the same for my students. What do they want to learn/change and how will they get there? I am enjoying the creativity that is coming out in Minecraft and watching the students achieve that flow, overcome difficulties and persevere. It’s a good lesson for me to observe this and reflect on the variety of options that we offer our students.
      Thank you again Stephane for your comments. Great that you are so behind and supporting all these projects, it is really appreciated.
      Suzy

      Reply
  2. Shane Gower

    Hello Suzy.

    When I saw the title of your post I was drawn to it immediately. I Love minecraft and the endless possibilities it creates. Im new in the tech role at my school and would love to get it up and running but I already know the feelings it induces in some people. Some are very resistant to Minecraft, and I have decided for the moment I need to choose my battles wisely. This one will keep for another day.
    But as I mentioned I was very eager to read your post and learn something for when the time comes to battle. By the way, I worked with Colin Gallagher in Hong Kong and it was interesting to see the progress he has made from introducing iPods to the junior school to becoming MR Minecraft!!
    I thought the way you involved the parents from the start was a superb choice. We have started using Seesaw at my school and because the parents can see whats going on every day, they seem to question less.
    The use of the mnemonic “Wait” is an excellent idea to incorporate into your goal setting activity.
    There were two particular sentence that struck me as “GOLD”………….” we have hit highs and lows, obstacles of time and technology. These have all been teaching moments and part of our problem solving.”
    This is so true. The highs, lows and obstacles happen on a daily basis when integrating tech into our daily educational program. Instead of seeing as a problem its far better to see it as a teachable moment. Less stress maybe.
    I was wondering, did you have any other problems with other staff/Admin or parents that weren’t mentioned? I just saw saw you have written a pt2, so Im looking forward to reading the rest. Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Suzy Ramsden Post author

    Hi Shane,
    Thank you for your comments. My decision to start using Minecraft in the classroom really came about intially by joining our ETC’s after school Minecraft club a few times.I couldn’t believe the buzz in the room and the learning , negotiation and collaboration that was going on. I asked myself why I wouldn’t want this is the classroom. My concerns were using MinecraftPE as we use i-Pads in the Lower school but I wanted to see if my first graders could take on this responsibility, and if I could cope with the letting go. I honestly can’t believe how much learning has been going on. The students know that their goal is to write our classroom /community guidelines based on their experiences using Minecraft. I can really see that are collaborating purposefully and respectfully now- they get it and are now ready to lead the way into how we build our classroom community.
    I have involved parents from the start and have not had any negative feedback. Recently we have used Minecraft to cover some of our maths benchmarks-both parents and other teachers are interested to see the possibilities. As well as blogging about our project, we also tweet out what we are doing in class .Our classroom is very visible to both parents, Admin and colleagues. When I have finished the project, the rest of the Grade have asked me to share, thinking we might add it to the Grade 1 curriculum.
    How lucky to have worked alongside Colin Gallagher. I read his book over the summer and it really helped me to see the possibilities. If you read part 2, the students think I’m doing ok on my goal and most of the students have achieved theirs and have already thought about their next steps .
    We are coming to the end of the project now, but I like the fact that the students have had another learning opportunity offered to them, which they may choose again throughout the year. After the project finishes, I will start a Minecraft club for the Grade 1 students and offer it as a 20% option.
    Thank you again for your comments. I totally ‘get’ Minecraft as a platform for learning, I like that I have been doing my own inquiry alongside the students.
    Suzy

    Reply
  4. Wendy Foreman

    gosh suzy, you’re doing this so well. i tried minecraft as an ASA and am really detesting it. i’m not sure what minecraft PE is; can you tell me more about that? perhaps the problem is that i don’t know enough about minecraft, nor am willing to take too much time to learn at the moment (like shane, picking my battles!), and our minecraft platform runs slowly. additionally, since i have really varied ages of kids, it’s challenging to keep them all engaged in different ways, from the experts in grade 4 to the newbies in grade 2. i’m keen to know more about your project, especially the finer details about how you laid things down in the first place and how you started. regardlessly, well done!
    :)w

    Reply
    1. Suzy Ramsden Post author

      Hi Wendy,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I hope I can enlighten you by answering questions about how and why. Firstly, I was interested in introducing Minecraft as a 20% option to the students after spending time in our after school Minecraft club. The excitement, collaboration and peer-teaching that was going on made me make my own inquiries. This project was one of 3 options for my final project and I am so glad I chose it, even though I had the most worries about it. Over the summer I read MInecraft in the Classroom , Colin Gallacher and also Teachers Craft- Teachers Learn to use Minecraft in their Classrooms by Seann Dikkers. I also played around with the App, MinecraftPE ( pocket edition) and started building so that I had some skills myself before we started. We only use iPads in grade 1, so couldn’t have the option of using Minecraftedu where it might be easier to oversee what the students are building. My goal was for the students to explore how powerful colaboration can be in their learning and used Minecraft as part of this. The students also had plenty of off line inquiries to explore as a build up to using Minecraft. I can share my unit with you how I planned each stage in our learning. My first step was to involve the parents and share my project with them, giving them the opportunity to ask questions, and question why I was using Minecraft in the classroom. We have been sharing our learning as we go along on our class blog and in a week’s time I have invited the parents in. The students will be coaching the parents in Minecraft . They will set tasks for their parents. They will also be sharing what they have learned throughout the project and how they can apply this in future learning.
      We started at the beginning of the school year talking about communication and how communication helps to build relationships. The end task was to build their own class community ( including writing class guidelines) by reflecting on their learning in Minecraft. At the beginning I included quite a lot of work on digital citizenship and small whole class tasks in Minecraft before letting go and asking them to chose groups and design and build their own community. At the beginning they also had to set their own goals based on transdisciplinary skills after watching themselves in group and collaborative tasks, eg sharing ideas more or listening to other group members, etc. We had Minecraft newbies and Minecraft masters when we started out, but the goal was to develop collaborative skills . Developing their Minecraft skills has been an amazing bonus. What happened was those that didn’t have any skills started to ask questions and seek help from the Minecraft ‘experts’ , developing a very positive peer coaching kind of learning . I found it is a wonderful platform for collaboration and differentiated learning as well as the more academic content that can be covered. As we went on in our Minecraft inquiry I could see the potential to use this for maths and literacy. The students are currently showing their understanding of 2 and 3D shapes and later will be using Minecraft for scene setting in Literacy. I wanted to offer the students at the beginning of the year more options in their learning and for their own personal inquiries for the rest of the year.
      We are about to start our next unit on structures and materials- I will be offering the students the option to show their understanding through Minecraft .
      We have had some awkward, messy, uncomfortable moments when things did not go to plan, when some students found it difficult to build or when someone in the group changed something in Minecraft without collaborating. These have all been important opportunities to talk about responsibility, respect, problem solving and perseverance. Listening to the students take advice from one another, collaborate and recognise individual skills and connect with each others thinking has been a privilege. I am so happy with the community of trust they have built in the class which has influenced all areas of their learning.
      Happy to share step by step in my unit planner. I’m totally convinced about using Minecraft and I started with quite a few doubts and uncertainties about how this would go. We are blogging with Abigail Moore’s class in Kuwait and hoping to do a collaborative project in Minecraft later on in the year.

      Reply
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