I have had the absolute privilege working alongside some incredible educators during my decade inside the Education Sector and in my role with Microsoft I get into a truly wide and diverse range of schools now.
I shared a lot of the stories of my time at St Andrew’s College in the StAC eLearning Blog – Innovative & Engaging eLearning from St Andrew’s College highlighting the incredible work of the teachers across the primary and secondary schools there.
One of the very first blog posts I wrote back in October 2013 featured Tam, at the time the assistant Head of English, that explored using technology with a Level 3 English Standard. It’s a great post (with some amazing student work being displayed) showing how fearless she was in introducing technology that she freely admitted was not something she was an expert in:
What came through from both teachers during our discussion was there was no need for the teacher to be the expert in the technology, rather by guiding students towards various options and encouraging them to ask discerning questions and collaborate with their peers, then they would be able to learn the necessary skills themselves to complete the assessment. By using tutorials available online through sites such as YouTube, it was the equivalent of bringing experts into the classroom to teach particular skill-sets.
An example of student work from the Level 3 Standard Tam taught
I concluded the blog post at the time with this summary observation:
- Student choice around technologies and content for the assessment increased engagement in the teaching and learning.
- Students collaborated to find the best tools and tutorials for their presentations
- Cross-curricular links were made, with students using content from classes as diverse as Agriculture, Geography and Media Studies
- Teachers recognised they did not need to be the experts in every piece of technology used by students
- Using online tutorials was the equivalent of bringing experts into the classroom to facilitate the teaching and learning
That was then, this is now:
Since 2016, both Tam and I have moved on to different roles, managing to keep in touch with our shared online communities and occasionally crossing paths at various eLearning and EdTech events.
Yesterday, I saw her post online her first attempt at integrating Minecraft:Education Edition into her classroom and with typical boldness she went straight in and let the students lead the way. You can read her great blog post reflecting on it here. Tam commented:
After avoiding it due to to a lack of understanding and confidence, I thought, ‘lets give it a go!’.
Well, I was blown away with the students and Minecraft Edu.
A key strategy to ensuring successful take up was allowing the students an initial class to simply “play” in Minecraft – the results were positive:
- Students were all engaged and talking about what they were doing
- They were soon creating and several were exploring the Science elements
- Tam was asked by the students if they could work on it at home, or stay in at lunch.
- Students that had previously preferred to work on their own were now collaborating with others in the class
That last point is particularly important as it affirms what I’ve seen from other schools and teachers. Some students, who previously have little contribution to class discussions, suddenly become more engaged and willing to work alongside their fellow students when co-operating inside Minecraft:EE. This is a central part of the New Zealand Curriculum, called the Key Competencies and are:
- Relating to others
- Using language, symbols, and texts
- Managing self
- Participating and contributing
It’s easy to see how all of those competencies will be utilized through Minecraft:Education Edition.
I did chuckle over Tam’s final comment about the effectiveness of the classroom controls in Minecraft:EE, that include a global “Pause” button on game play – this must be the most effective “full attention cue” a teacher could ever ask for!
A Personal Perspective:
Last month I introduced my 7yr old son to some Minecraft:EE at home. He’s not played any other games before so I was interested to see how he would approach the game. I’ve taught and trained many adult teachers on how the game works and in basic to medium game play and watched as some of them have become frustrated and given up.
It was therefore fascinating to watch my son just “give it a go”, watch him fail, stop and think, and then give it another go in a slightly different way. He was determined to master the gameplay and now we play for 30-60mins each Saturday working away at building various things like an animal petting zoo, circus or tree houses in Minecraft:Education Edition.
I wonder if adults, like Tam has demonstrated over the years, need to let go of some of their concerns about being unskilled or failing with technology, and simply “give it a go”, and also be prepared to be led by students in this area. When it comes to technology, the younger people are less inhibited and worried about failure – they’re used to failing and just keeping on going.
When I observed to my 7yr old son that he had certainly learnt a lot about Minecraft over the last month or so, he looked at me seriously and said:
Dad, I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I think I probably definitely know more about Minecraft than you do now!
I love it!