In New Zealand it’s been pretty hard to avoid what has become a spectacularly unconventional general election, all culminating with voting happening on this coming Saturday, 23rd September 2017. No fewer than three major parties have had leadership changes in the last couple of months before the voting begins and that excludes the stepping down of the incumbent Prime Minister of the last 8.5yrs John Key.
Exciting times so far!
To further engage the younger population of New Zealand in the democratic process, the NZ Parliamentary Services partnered with Microsoft NZ to deliver a Minecraft: Education Edition solution whereby they could recreate virtual parliaments with their own unique twists on how these 11-13yrs think it should look. This was covered by our local media here, and NZ Parliamentary Services own news coverage here, which includes a good video walk through of one of the M:EE worlds:
It was interesting seeing some of the reflections from the students involved in this project, with working together collaboratively one of the biggest challenges for them according to 12yr old Ben Vickers from Waikanae Primary:
Everyone had different ideas and ways of working and it took about a week for the team to gel, he says.
“It was difficult but we learned to work together.
“I think it was the collaboration with everyone else that made it different from just going home and playing it.”
From my perspective, this is one of the best things about game based learning – there is no manual or instruction book on how to build a project. Instead, students need to communicate, negotiate, assign responsibilities and hold each other mutually accountable to achieve the outcome. To this end, it aligns very well with the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum:
- Relating to others
- Using languages, symbols and texts
- Manging self
- Participating and contributing
As a teacher friend of mine pointed out to me when I was re-training to become a history teacher after a decade in the ICT sector, there are really only two “academic” Key Competencies (Thinking / Using Languages, Symbols and Texts) whereas the other three are really the soft skills, interpersonal and vital to modern workplaces which are expected to be far more collaborative than ever before. If you’re interested in how eLearning can be delivered through the lens of the Key Competencies, have a look at this presentation I delivered to Pukekohe High School teachers earlier this year.
Whilst not an educator, Microsoft NZ’s Director of Public Sector Jeff Healey acknowledged the above when he said Minecraft: Education Edition teaches not only maths and spatial awareness, but the skills of team work:
“Having a plan, people sticking to the plan, working a plan, people not being destructive.
“I know that when we hire people at Microsoft they’re some of the skills: do they have those critical thinking skills? Can you work in a team? Are they open to making mistakes and learning from those mistakes? They’re some of the valuable things that we’re looking for as an employer.”
I’ve blogged previously about the research showing game based learning with Minecraft can grow students’ Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) outcomes and hearing the students from this project share how they had to negotiate to achieve the goal reinforces this.
I was fortunate to be able to contribute in a small way in the background to this Minecraft: Education Edition project with Parliamentary Services through:
- Creating the student account users in our O365 Education Demo Tenant (which actually prompted this blog post about Flash Fill as a great Excel Hack!)
- Assigning the M:EE licenses to the above users, as per the instructions on this blog post from the beginning of the year.
- Providing instructions for how the loan devices to the students (a combination of Surface Pro 4 and HP Laptops) should be configured. In the end, we deployed them using the Set Up School PC App (SUSPC App) as per my reflections on how to do this in the earlier blog post for rapidly deploying devices with modern deployment methods).
It’s really gratifying to see that the methods we know and use internally at Microsoft can be used to support a project like the above and work with students across a number of schools. This really was a team effort with multiple Microsoft NZ staff across a number of business teams working together for this outcome – One Microsoft!