Walking into my first year 9/10 ICT class for the semester, I faced high-5s, excitement and high anticipation! What!!! Why???
This was an elective class, students who chose to be there and the name of the class was “Gaming!” I wanted to trial gaming as an elective to see what learning could take place and obtained permission from the leadership team to do so. We have some serious gamers in our school and they are in this class!
However, I am not a at all a digital gamer and have no real inclination to be one. That puts me on the lowest level of knowledge and the least likely to be qualified to teach such a class. I am still working through class content and the way in which learning can be assessed.
MinecraftEDU is on our server and is the one constant game played over the semester. Students just do not seem to tire of it. However, students come up with minecraft challenges and these challenges are given out to the others. Students will bring in hardware including wii, xbox, game boy, play stations, hand held devices etc Are they learning anything by just playing games? Let me tell you more.
The Student cohort:-
- A large proportion of under-achievers and disengaged students
- Excursion and school avoiders
- A lack of girls (although several came in later in the semester)
- High absenteeism
- Students who will be absent from school in order to queue at the shop for the latest games release or in order to make sure they get the limited collectors items.
A collaborative minecraft project: work in progress
- Highly engaged students often working in small groups, mentoring each other, sharing their knowledge and learning, answering each other’s questions etc.
- Students working out challenging projects together
- Excitedly sharing with me the latest things they are trying out
- Searching online for video tutorials or withing online forums to solve problems encountered, best prices,
- Working out budgets to see whether they can afford the latest games etc
- Collaboratively and simultaneously building fixtures in minecraft
Interestingly I can “con” them into learning some associated digital literacy skills using gaming as the theme so that my role as a teacher:
- Teach them how to blog and journalise their progress in games
- Encourage them to write posts on things pertaining to games playing eg game reviews, 5 things I learnt this week, 5 things you might not know about…… , My top 10 computer games, 10 games you should play before you die!, What makes a great computer game etc
- show them how to add links, resources and hyperlings in blogging
- #tags in twitter for favourite games
- how to use a spreadsheet and create budgets etc
- Create online surveys to get games feedback
- Collaboratively build online documents sharing knowledge, ideas and processes etc
- Introduce some free educational type online games and get them to trial them eg logos for business studies, history games, commerce games etc.
- Teach them how to screen casts to show progression over time and
- create videos that will be uploaded to youtube.
- Demonstrate how to upload videos to youtube, change thumbnails, apply tags etc
- Curate favourite sites with diigo, symbaloo links etc on blogs etc
- Look at social issues caused by games eg games addiction, rating of games etc, application to the workforce eg simulations etc
- Organise a knowledgeable student(s) to introduce some games making software eg MS Kodu, and Gamemaker
I asked students what we could do and how I can assess it as traditional assessment methods will not work. They have come up with some great ideas on this collaborative google document. This is still work in progress but their use of blogging etc, stats, comments, youtube uploads etc Evidence of collaboration, mentoring and sharing etc.
This Thursday, the class will go by coach to Quantum in Melbourne (a 4 hour drive each way) for a full day workshop on Games Technology. Many of these students would normally choose to avoid excursions or just be very slack in returning forms. But….. this time, forms are all back and came back the next day!
What does all this say? I am still trying to work through it all but I know that I have engaged students with almost nil behaviour problems in this gaming class. Now, how can I get this in my other traditional subjects?
What experience do you have? What have your findings been?
The makings of a great shelter
When: Tuesday, March 26th from 4-5pm, Melbourne (gmt+11) Check timeanddate for your time and day.
About this session: Heard your students talk about the game Minecraft? Want to know what it is all about? How about a version created by teachers for teachers? MinecraftEdu is exactly this, it is a version of the smash hit indie game Minecraft with added features that enable you to easily leverage the open sandbox nature of the game for education. From easy server management that can have you up and running in minutes to in-game student management and powerful build tools that will make creating and running educational activities in your classroom simple. The only limit with MinecraftEdu is your imagination, and that of your students. Come along to find out more about this fantastic tool and share in the conversations.
About our presenter: Stephen Elford (@EduElfie) is a secondary teacher in Australia, interested in using games to engage students in their learning. Check out Stephen’s blog to read more of his intriguing work with this tool.
Link to the Recording Have you used minecraft in the classroom? Have you talked about minecraft with your students?
Stephen’s Maths Classroom
After hearing so many positive comments about Minecraft, I was keen to introduce it into my year 9/10 Gaming elective. Over the last 5 years, I have chanced upon, deliberately chosen to experiment with and used a network to learn how to immerse technology into the classroom. However, with minecraft, I faced my first real technical, unsurmountable hitch that was completely reliant on the technicians doing it for me and I had now lost control!
There were troubles getting minecraftedu in a useable form, allowing students to log on with individual usernames. Year 7 students were working on minecraft with Quantum Victoria. All stops were pulled out and our technician worked with the games developer from Quantum, but due to the problems, I was told by both my principal and technician “It is only a game!” Fortunately, contact with minecraftedu has now allowed us to use a BETA form and the game was ready to play last week.
Here is how it played out last week:-
- Surveyed the class – 2 of the 10 students who are playing minecraft are experienced – the rest are completely new
- I had a quick 1 hour lesson on minecraft from the technician. That was ‘mind’ overload, but I was really impressed with the nature and potential of this game. As a teacher, I was shown some of the control that I had over the students.
- Quick decisions were made to simply throw my year 9/10 students into the world and just let them go! The night beasties were deliberately turned off to give the newbies are start in life in minecraftedu
- The lesson started by sharing the logging on process. From the newbies the first question was “How do I move?”
What I saw:-
- The newbies simply explored during the 100 min class time – they dug down, killed pigs, got lost, bumped into each other, had to respawn, drowned in water etc.
- The experienced proceeded to build shelters/homes, gather tools for building, hunting etc
- The kindness and generousity of one of the experienced lads who quickly built a house, added light torches, a stove for cooking and put many tools for others to grab in his tool box. The other students made use of his tools and added them to his inventory.
- Another experienced player, went straight to the temple and grabbed all the hidden treasures there for his own inventory. Greed was starting to make a play.
- Students helping each other, sharing what they learnt, answering the questions of others, spending time to mentor.
- One of the newbies, went wandering far exploring (but he is an experienced gamer). Decided to add to huge cactus to his roof top so that he could find his space again.
- Engagement for the complete 100 mins
What I heard:-
- lots of questions initially
- sheer silence at time
- lots of laughter
- shouts of excitement
What I felt
- a sense of pride and achievement in the students
- a sense of collaboration amongst the students
- community building
- collaborative group work
Day two – unfortunately illness in the family prevented me from being with the students for this class. When I questioned them as to how they went:-
- the boy who put the cactus on his house couldn’t locate it at all, so started building again. He does not want to build near or with the others
- the girls excitedly told me that there were creatures that came in the night now that they had to fight off. They commenced a building of their own and were intrigued to see ‘admin’ floating above them and chatting to them in their world. (That would have been our techie). They didnt know what to do next, so started to find tutorials to teach them. One of them spent several nights at home learning online about it.
Overall Result: – I am having problems with the number of students who are wanting to come in at every possible recess or lunchtime to keep ‘playing’ with minecraft!