Monday, 22 September 2014

Educamp Minecraft 20 September 2014

Minecraft is a term more and more frequently heard in education in New Zealand and overseas. I was introduced to Minecraft about 3 years ago by my oldest son who abandoned his Lego for Minecraft. But where's the learning in this? 27 educators plus some lovely minions = students explored just that on the weekend at #EducampMinecraft

Similar to other Educamps around the country we started with a Smackdown:

Twitter brought many of us there, so Twitter we used to share some of the Minecraft Magic with each other and with those who could not make it on the day (thanks to +Annemarie Hyde for creating this Storify!) [As Storify is not playing nicely today, here is the link to the collection of tweets].

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We were lucky to have educators from around the country join us, travelling from Whangarei, Auckland, the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Napier and even Wellington! Technology allowed +Shaun Wood to join us via Skype from Christchurch. After a delicious lunch catered by the PTA, teachers under the guidance of students set off to actually 'mine' on laptops, tablets, while another group created a Google+ Community Minecraft in NZ Classrooms - feel free to join!

The conversations during and via Twitter after the day were the most important features of this day for me, we were definitely not just talking about Minecraft!

Everyone in the room agreed that Minecraft can be an important tool in a teacher's kete. However, there is much more than just 'mining' we took away from Educamp Minecraft, including the following:
Let's bring learning to where students are.
Students are experts - teachers do not need to be the experts in Minecraft.
Think about the learning in your class, then be the "Guide on the Side".

We also went away with many questions:
How to practically set up servers at our school?
What is the most suitable platform for our particular environment?
Where do we start?

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I was particularly impressed with the examples of using Minecraft in the classroom shared by +Kassey Downard+Steve Katene+Natalie Dodd and +Michael Fawcett. Particularly Steve's reference to SOLO Taxonomy intrigued me, I have looked at SOLO before but I really want to get my teeth into it some time.

BeLchick1 in Minecraft
Where to from here?

  • Find a keen 12y old and you will be running Minecraft in your classroom in no time!
  • Coincidentally, #aussieED chat discussed "The Importance of Play" on Sunday night which +Brett Salakas collated in a Storify.
  • +Sonya Van Schaijik will host a GHO on Minecraft on Tuesday 30 Sep, 11:00 - 12:00.
  • At Ulearn, come and join us for Minecraft Magic - It's all about the learning! Breakout 4, 1:45 - 3pm at Rydges Hotel, Rotorua
  • Join Minecraft in NZ Classrooms and share your thoughts, experiences or ask questions.
What are you waiting for?
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I would like to thank +Annemarie Hyde+Kassey Downard and the Mokoia School PTA for hosting, all parents of our minions for their permission to attend school on the weekend and all educators for giving up their time to share some Minecraft Magic!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Write about this NZ

+Brad Wilson is creator of Write about this, an iPad app that inspires student writing with images and prompts at 3 levels. What makes this app particularly interesting to me is that it includes the prompts as text and as audio, it allows the students to audio record as well as in writing and it allows the user to creator custom prompts from their own images and with their own written and / or verbal cues. This ticks all the UDL boxes in my book!

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+Allanah King and I got involved in creating a NZ version of this app, substituting some of the 'very American' images such as yellow school buses and air craft carriers with images we believe are more relevant for our Kiwi children, such as Kapa Haka performance, Otara markets, fishing etc. We rewrote the prompts using NZ spelling, and Brad got a Kiwi voice artist to record the prompts. The app was released weekend before last and while I am reluctant to do self-promotion, I think it is pretty cool! Please check it out on the App Store ($4.99)

Monday, 8 September 2014

What can schools learn from the MythBuster?

Last weekend saw the last weekend of the MythBuster's 'Behind the Myths Tour' with two shows at Auckland's Vector Arena. Our family have been MythBusters fans for many year, and when my 11y old told me he had seen their show advertised, we booked tickets the next day. If you have not heard about them before, please check out the Wikipedia article on them here

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are special effects experts, not trained scientists. They test 'myths' from movies and the internet, or common beliefs, using scientific methods. There are plenty of 'things that go boom' but there is much more to their success than merely blowing stuff up.

Masters 9 and 11 before the show;
do you see in the background
"Failure is always an option"???
What makes the show so special in my eyes is that the MythBusters are inherently curious. They are wondering about the myths, wondering how they can prove these are 'confirmed', 'plausible' or 'busted, and if the latter, they wonder how they can achieve a similar result to the myth with different means. As Adam Savage said, rather than looking for 'Eureka", they are always looking for results that make them say 'Huh! That's funny!' (in the sense of unusual). At the same time, they are not afraid of failure, in fact there are plenty of failed attempts in every episode, sometimes even a whole myth revisited in another episode. Throw in scientific explanations and you get a show that has my hermit-apprentice 14y old get up well before 9am on a Saturday morning to spend 4h (one way) in the car to get to this show.

Jamie Hyneman answering questions
During the show both Jamie and Adam answered questions about their favourite myths. Both stated that their favourites were not myths involving 'blowing stuff up', they were episodes where they had to think hard and very creatively to solve a problem, e.g. "Lead Balloon" and "Penny Drop".

Amongst jokes and fun there were a number of profound statements; Adam Savage explained at the beginning that:
and towards the end he answered his own question about superpowers:

Vector Arena looked full to me (but I wouldn't call me an expert on such things), lots of young and older adults and parents with children. At $280 for the five of us in the less expensive section it wasn't cheap. Inherently it was all about science, not the biggest drawcard for some people. So what made it so attractive? What can schools learn from the MythBusters?
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  • The MythBusters are engaging and have fun doing what they are doing.
  • They present the topic in a way that makes us wonder with them - cultivating their and our curiosity.
  • Their myths are 'real life' or from movies - which makes them almost real for many people. Rather than explaining the scientific method, they recreate myths and let us take part in it - which very much reminds me of Dan Meyer's approach to real life maths.

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Ask yourself:
  • Do I have fun doing what I am doing, and do I show this?
  • Do I cultivate my own and my learner's curiosity?
  • Does the content have a real life connection, and do I and my learners take actively part in the resolving of the problem?

I can honestly answer yes and yes to the first two questions for me for pretty much all I do (ask me again on a different day when I have spent all day completing forms lol). I think I can work more on the real-life connection and the actively resolving of problems, I'll give this some serious thought how I can make this happen - do you have any suggestions for me? And what about you?

Note: I would like to acknowledge the three other long serving MythBusters, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tori Belleci, it has been announced in August that they are leaving the show. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Moving beyond the $500 pencil

A lot of the schools I work with have heard me talk about $500 pencils; what is the point in spending $500 (or more) on a digital device if we are just using it as a pencil? (One of my friends has called her son's iPad Mini the most expensive dictionary she ever purchased!)

Far from just learning how to use 'the tool', schools nowadays need to look at how they are using digital technologies to support learning and teaching. I keep on coming back to the Golden Circle: 

To implement the school vision, teachers apply effective pedagogy. With new research on learning and the needs of our students, our ideas of effective pedagogy keep on morphing (I can thoroughly recommend reading Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching, also available as NZC Update 26, which identifies 6 themes: Personalising learning, Rethinking learners' and teachers' roles, A culture of continuous learning for teachers and educational leaders, New views of equity and diversity, A curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity, and New kinds of partnerships and relationships.)

While all these ideas are very important, many teachers are looking for hands-on examples of what this means in the classroom. How do I make sure that I provide opportunities in my classroom for students to use their digital devices beyond a pencil?

For some time I have been using the SAMR model to explain to teachers how they can augment, modify and redefine learning in their classroom with digital devices:
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Lately I have moved to a different model, introduced to our team by our lovely colleague +Esther Casey :

How have you or will you move beyond using digital devices as $500 pencil in your learning and teaching?