Research: Minecraft Supports Social & Emotional Learning For Students

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A selection of quotes from teachers that have been using Minecraft Education Edition with their students.

The team at Getting Smart have released a new post showing research into game based learning and how this can promote social and emotional development among students, in this instance, through Minecraft Education Edition.

Download The Full Report Here

The researchers pulled information from a number of listed sources:

  • A global online teacher survey
  • Several onsite observation and evaluation sessions of educators using Minecraft: Education Edition in classrooms
  • Existing SEL literature reviews
  • Phone interviews with experts in K–12 education
  • Informal data gathering via several popular social media channels such as
    Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

The concept of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) was new to me, but the report does give a definition up front about what it is:

In the context of K–12 education, SEL is the process through which students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

From my perspective, this is really interesting as I would previously have associated some of the attributes around gaming as isolationist and less focused on the “soft skills” in life such as those involved in collaboration, participating and contributing and emotional resilience and empathy. It’s fascinating to me that research is showing that some game based learning can actually support the development of these critical skills in students.

The report indicates that the benefits of actively teaching SEL to students can include:

  • Increasingly positive attitudes toward self, others and tasks including enhanced self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, connection and commitment to school, and a sense of purpose
  • More positive social behaviors and relationships with both peers and adults
  • A reduction in conduct problems and risk taking behavior
  • Decreased emotional distress
  • Better test scores, grades and attendance

Unsurprisingly, the report clearly states that unless SEL is implemented with clear, robust learning goals then it is likely to be ineffectual. This, of course, is true of most initiatives and serves as a reminder that the integration of technology into curriculum must always be well planned and thought through. Technology is a great servant of pedagogy, but when implemented poorly, can be a hindrance and distraction.

Comprehensive SEL goals include developmental benchmarks across five key social and emotional competency domains, encompassing: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills.

How Does Gaming Boost SEL In Education?

The report has some extensive quotes from various educators and again, I encourage you to read the original report here, as I will only be pulling a few of the quotes that really stuck out to me to include below.

In New Zealand’s Curriculum there are five “Key Competencies” and it’s interesting to see how these align with the SEL concept. One of those KC’s is “Relating To Others” and the quote below shows how Minecraft can support this:

Cultivating empathy through gaming isn’t a given; rather, it occurs as part of a guided experience.
“As educators, we have the opportunity to help students develop empathy through gaming and imagine how they’d like to be treated, talk through scenarios in gaming and in their personal lives, and discuss how they would do something differently (or have wanted to be treated differently), then practice those skills.”

Another of the Key Competencies is “Participating & Contributing” and this quote shows just how much inter-dependency and co-operating is required to succeed in Minecraft:

“It isn’t a secret that games are popular and engage students. They’re able to fail forward in a risk-free environment. When playing Minecraft, students must have a level of coordination and cooperation in order to accomplish shared objectives. They’re  negotiating with one another, strategizing about resources and next moves, and delegating responsibilities. It’s really quite remarkable to see.”

Research Findings:

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School Case Studies:

The report finishes with three case studies from schools of different ages:

  • International School Bellevue School District
    • Years 6-12
  • Bryant Montessori
    • Years Pre-school to Yr8
  • Renton Prep Christian School
    • Years 1-10

I am thrilled there continues to be significant research into the ongoing benefits of eLearning and effective and purposeful integration of technology into education. If you’ve not seen it, I suggest you check the NZCER Research into eLearning use in New Zealand primary schools that I posted about recently.

Aotearoa Awaits – Māori In Minecraft

The following Minecraft content has been posted with the permission of it’s creator Lt_Peanut.

It seems almost every day I’m having conversations with schools or education partners about Minecraft and how this can be creatively used to teach students across a wide range of curriculum areas.

Today I was super excited when my colleague pointed out to me this story on the Minecraft.net website showcasing the work of Minecraft & Twitter user Lt_Peanut:

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Lt_Peanut explained their creation in Minecraft on this Minecraft Forum posting in both Te Reo Māori and English:

Maori:

Kia Ora, Ko Taylor toku ingoa, i kore anake toku tamataraa mo Octovon engari ahau hanga ano hoki tenei hanga te reira rite te kanohi o te tikanga Māori. Tatou Maori, ko te iwi Kiwa taketake o Aotearoa. hiahia ahau ki te tohu Aotearoa ki tenei whakairo i roto i tūmanako o te faaururaa iwi ki te ako e pā ana ki to tatou tikanga. Tenei hanga whakaatu he rangatira Māori, mau ana Korowai me te piupiu me te hapai i te taiaha i roto i te ngahere tikitu Aotearoa. Kua tamata ahau ki te waihanga i tētahi tikitu waho te whakamahi o te rakau kia rite ki e haere ki tua atu i te rangi i nga rakau, pera hei utu kua hanga e ahau te manu taketake o Aotearoa, te Kiwi, me te ponga, to tatou whakato tino tohu, e hua te koru.

Te ti’aturi nei e ahau ki a koutou katoa oaoa i.

English:

Hello, my name is Taylor, this build was not only my trial for Octovon but I also created it as a representation of the Maori culture. We Maori, are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. I wanted to represent New Zealand with this build in hopes of inspiring people to learn about our culture, as recent studies have shown that fewer than one million Maori people are on our earth today. This build showcases a Maori chief, wearing his Korowai, piupiu and wielding his Taiaha in a New Zealand rainforest. I have tried to create a rainforest without the use of trees as the trees would go beyond the build limit, so instead I have created the native bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi, and the silver fern, our most symbolic plant, that produces the koru. To represent a New Zealand rainforest instead.

I hope you all enjoy the build. 🙂

In my mind, this is a classic example of how students can connect their passion for their heritage and culture with their creative passion in Minecraft and then share this with their community online (both school and wider users). Providing an explanation of the motivation such as Lt_Peanut did above deepens the learning and allows for cross-subject applicability and even potential assessment opportunities.

Tino pai rawa atu Taylor!

Intune For Education Announced at BETT

This week Microsoft has released some major announcements at the annual BETT Show in London. You can read the full announcements on the official blog here, however the one that caught my attention the most was Intune For Education:

microsoft-tries-expelling-chromebooks-from-schools-with-intune-app-and-low-cost-pcsFor me, this is a key solution for schools to consider to simplify the management of Windows 10 devices, particularly for those schools that may not have dedicated ICT staff. The things that impressed me were:

  • It’s cloud based, there is no need to install locally as it is hosted in Azure and is scalable, making it suitable for schools of any size whilst remaining simple enough for part-time ICT admin staff to use.
  • There are a number of school-specific policies pre-configured to promote security for school devices (there are over 150 settings you can configure if you choose)
  • There is an express setup for schools that allow for quick deployment of new devices for different groups of users.
  • Your list of purchased applications in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business are automatically synchronised to Intune For Education allowing to easily choose which apps you wish to deploy e.g. Minecraft licensing in the Business Store.
  • There is an auto-enrollment feature meaning students or staff automatically receive the apps specified by the school when they first log in.
  • intune-for-education-set-up-pcs-100705444-largeFor super quick deployment there is free access to the “Schools Setup PC App” that creates a USB key to quickly configure common settings on a new device with a single key press – no need to get it on the wireless network first!
  • Intune for Education supports Student Data Sync to automatically create groups of students/teachers for customised group permissions allowing more granular control over policy.
    • Policy will “follow the user” so if you have different policies for different year levels, these will automatically apply as a student moves from year to year.
  • There is a test/assessment mode. Students can log in with a special account to be used when taking assessment which will lock the device down to pre-defined access levels.

These features represent a significant leap forward with technology offerings for managing Windows 10 devices in education. To learn more, check out Microsoft Education.

Update: A couple more videos showing how Intune for Education can be used, along with the benefits of Digital Inking:

Minecraft Education Edition – Buying & Managing Licenses

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Students playing Minecraft Education Edition

UPDATE 2: Nikkie Lang, from Opaheke Primary School, has published a fantastic blog that shows the process from a school’s perspective from start to finish. This is well worth reading by clicking here.

UPDATE: Since making this blog I’ve come across an authoritative step by step guide on TechNet that you can view here. I do encourage you to check that out as well. It shows how to assign licenses purchased from:

  1. Directly in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business, and
  2. Purchased as part of an EES  Agreement through Volume Licensing

Unsurprisingly, more schools are exploring Minecraft Education Edition as an easy way to managing licensing for students, and developers are already creating and sharing new Minecraft worlds for the Education Edition.

The homepage of Minecraft Education Edition is the best place to start for those new to using Minecraft for their students, but if you’re interested in how to buy / manage licenses (including assigning/reclaiming) then I’ve made a step by step guide for you below.

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  • Make sure you sign in with your school O365 account – this will need to be an administrator account:

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  • Once you’re signed in, search for “Minecraft” in the search box at the top right hand corner and then select “Minecraft Education Edition”:

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  • You will then have an option to “Buy” or “Manage” your licenses:

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  • minecraft-3-5UPDATE: Schools in NZ can purchase licences from Datacom via the MoE School agreement (this is recommended). If you’ve not purchased any licenses already (&you want to get them directly from the MBSW) then select “Buy” and you will be presented with pricing and quantities. You will need to pay via credit card to purchase these. Step through the purchase process to complete your licensing procurement. REMEMBER: you can assign/reclaim these licenses between students so you may not need to buy one license for every student in your school (see below for how to manage this process).
  • When you are ready to assign licenses to students click on the “Manage” button to the right of the “Buy” button and you can start to assign licenses. The easiest way to do this is click the “Invite People” to the bottom right of the screen and then this allows you to easily search for the names of students in your class / school and assign them  (You don’t need to type the full email address, only the name of the student). See below:

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Teaching STEM? Think Imagine Academy

imagine-academy-bannerAs more schools shape courses around the acronym of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), they are also looking for innovative ways to create curriculum that is relevant and has ‘real-world’ application for students.

One easy way this can be achieved is through using Microsoft’s Imagine Academy:

What impresses me about these courses is the diversity of options available to teachers and students, all under a single institutional license – read more on the official Imagine Academy website here. The areas of study within the Academy are laid out as follows:

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For more technically skilled students, or those that have already decided on a career pathway in IT, the Computer Science and IT Infrastructure courses certainly provide early access to training for industry recognized qualifications. Schools that already have effective Digital Technologies teachers can use this as an additional support resource, but for many schools that may not have any qualified teacher in this curriculum area, students can work self-paced through the online materials independently.

Additional benefits include the ability to get Microsoft Certification on the completion of courses through the Imagine Academy, along with linking into world wide initiatives like the MineCraft Hour of Code

It’s instructive that the Netherlands have added the Imagine Academy to every secondary school in the country as a way to support STEM education:

Check out the Microsoft Academy homepage to learn more.