The latest app that we have pushed out to the kids is Minecraft. If you have kids, or work with children then you will be familiar with this game. It is a sandbox style game that has both survival and creative modes and has become a prominent tool in education (see here, here, and here for examples.) We will be implementing this app as part of a Design unit in Term 3 but we have given it to the students early so we can establish their skill set with the app before they require it for their learning.
This action by us is what this post is all about. Training the students in particular skill sets has been common practice for us as we have used the iPads this year. Obviously, we can’t expect the students to do stuff if we haven’t explicitly provided them with the skills to do so. With Minecraft though, we will not be explicitly teaching the students how to use the app. (This has nothing to do with the fact that most of them know far more about it than we do…) For this app/game, we are tasking the students themselves with devleoping their own skills. They will do this through playing.
The beauty of Minecraft in our eyes is that it has so many uses. As it is a game, we figure that it should be played. As the students become skilled in playing, they will certainly be better equipped to apply the world of the game to the specific learning tasks that we give them. (Andy in fact created a preliminary task for the students that you can read about here. It was an extension on some Engineering work we were doing earlier in the day and it was a natural extension of that task to have the students replicate their work within Minecraft.)
We are very interested in hearing from others who have used Minecraft in schools, especially in Upper Primary and with iPads.
As part of our 1:1 iPad program, our Year 6 team are constantly reviewing the best practices for running our learning environments. Today I have come up with the term DAFA (Digital Anecdotal Formative Assessments). I got the idea from Andy Peartree (@anderspearz) who was using the app Explain Everything in his Maths group. I saw the students using the app to demonstrate their learning. They were engaged with the process and the Maths itself was not being compromised.
I decided to adopt the practice myself, but thought that I could formalise it to provide me with legitimate formative assessment. My maths class has just finished looking at converting fractions, to varying levels of success. I created a task on Edmodo asking my students to create an Explain Everything showing their understanding. I was able to quickly see who really understood the process without the need to troll through all their workbooks to establish their competence.
This is not a new process by any means, and I must stress the role my colleagues Andy and Jade in beginning this process. However, by formalising DAFA as a formal part of our teaching strategy, we have actively used technology to enhance our teaching.
I have seen two different items on the Internet recently, and I have formed a link between the two. I’ll pop them here and let you see if you can find the link…
First, this image that turned up on my Facebook feed
very clever stuff, and certainly the type of thing I like seeing on my feed when I am desperately seeking distraction from reality. Second, this video that came up in my Twitter feed (via @SunnySouth12)
It’s amazing what kids can do if we give them the chance, isn’t it?
Can you think of the link? What connected these two things in my mind was the old maxim, less is more. Now, the Navy officer is hardly someone to idolise, but his laziness showed there is always more than one way to solve a problem. I would argue that the gross effort required to reroute a ship, as opposed to shifting oneself down the bench a little negates the creative effort, but it cannot be denied that creativity is present.
The clip involves children engaging in Art activities, and clearly demonstrates the nature of children to engage their creativity more freely when they feel there is no consequence for ‘getting it wrong’.
This got me thinking about my students – how much amazing material are they not producing, because they are afraid that it will be ‘wrong’? Hopefully very little, as I try to make my kids feel comfortable in that regard, but a lot can be said for task design. How can I design my instructions to students so that it maximises their inclination to be creative? Do I get too caught up in multiple curriculum considerations, that I lose sight of the forest through the trees? This is going to be a goal of mine, moving forward.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has given this extensive thought.