Evidence: Sandbox Assignment using Minecraft (video) and comparison of Minecraft to MinecraftEDU (blog post) (April 12, 2015)

Learning Outcome(s):

  • Plan learning opportunities most suitable to the strengths and challenges of a variety of mobile learning and gaming environments
  • Develop practical and technical skills in all phases of concept, development, design, implementation etc. within mobile learning and gaming environments

Reflection to Support Evidence:

For my final assignment in OLTD 508 I chose to create a lesson for my literacy math (Grades 1-9) learners in Minecraft. The assignment required that I build a lesson based on chosen learning outcomes and show my lesson through a 5-10 minute video walkthrough of what my students might see. I was also to discuss whether Minecraft was a good fit for my class or students, how it may allow for various ways to ‘show what they know’ and how it might be personalized for each student’s learning needs.

Although I have watched my children play hours of Minecraft, I had never attempted to play the game myself. Creating a lesson in Minecraft gave me an opportunity to see how it might be used as an educational tool. I initially found the game to be overwhelming, as I played in creative mode and was faced with a wide blank area that needed to be filled. I was also skeptical about how Minecraft might work with adult learners, as I had associated the game with younger players.

I began by choosing what learning outcomes I hoped to meet and then explored various tools within the game that would help me communicate with my students while they were playing. Minecraft does not have the same supervision features as MinecraftEDU, so I needed to be sure that my instructions were clear. After creating a first draft of my lesson plan in my Minecraft world, I moved through as if I was a student which helped me correct any confusing pieces in my design.

What I discovered was that Minecraft is so flexible that you can create just about anything you want. The interface allows players to build to the best of their own abilities – those with more practice can build more elaborate constructions but new players can still meet learning outcomes by building basic structures. This game empowers learners, which James Gee (2013), in his Thirteen Principles of Game-Based Learning, describes as allowing players to co-design, customize, manipulate and take on an identity. I was also reminded of Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2015); Minecraft provides multiple means of representation, expression and engagement, all positive features of good educational games.

If you choose to use any mobile learning or gaming environment in an educational setting, it is critical to ensure the learning draws on the strengths of the tool. Poorly planned activities can cause frustration in the learner or see them move off-task. It is simply not enough to just choose a game; educators need to plan a clear lesson that has been carefully thought through and meets the chosen learning objectives. Being familiar with how the game works and potential challenges students may face is important when designing the lesson. I am currently exploring math games to use with my class, and with these OLTD learning outcomes in mind I am much more critical in my assessment of whether the game meets my needs and the needs of my learners.

References

CAST. (2015). About Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved April 28, 2015 from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html

Gee, J.P. (2013, Nov 13). Jim Gee Principles on Gaming. [Video file]. Retrieved March 23, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aQAgAjTozk

 

Evidence link(s):

Video tour of Minecraft lesson (VIUTube)

Comparison of Minecraft and MinecraftEDU (blog post)

So many choices! How does one decide? You just get used to one tool and then a new, shiny tool flits into view. You begin to chase it down and soon you are mesmerized by all the bells and whistles it has to offer. The next thing you know you have spent hours figuring out how it works. But is the tool even useful? Will it help you meet your learning objectives? What should you know about a tool before you make that commitment?

As part of the first major assignment in OLTD 507, I spent some time figuring out what criteria might be important in helping decide the applicability of a cloud tool. I found it challenging to put into words what I felt I intuitively knew, and struggled with making a list of questions that would produce the final summary I was looking for. The following screencast introduces you to my tool (created using Microsoft Excel) and walks you through one example to see how it works. The screencast was created using ActivePresenter, one of my Top 3 Tools for Teachers!

Excel spreadsheet (template and seven tool evaluations): Tool Evaluation Form seven tools

 

Top 3 Cloud Tools for Teachers and Students

Many cloud tools are great for both teachers and students. Even though I have yet to incorporate TEDEd into my courses, I can see that it is a useful instructional tool, and students would benefit from the variety of ways they can interact with the content. I look forward to exploring this tool further. I have used Quizlet with my students; they really enjoyed having an online study tool, especially for challenging biology vocabulary. Students can also share their flashcard stacks. As an instructor, I like that you can create word lists or math questions that students can practice in preparation for a quiz or test.

Mindmaps are a powerful and somewhat underutilized tool. If I had to choose one mindmapping tool for students, I would lean towards Bubbl.us. In addition to a variety of color choices and an intuitive interface, Bubbl.us puts the text in boxes (or other shapes) which I find helpful if you want to create an empty mind map skeleton. As a blended learning instructor, creating screencasts is becoming a larger part of my class prep. ActivePresenter is my favourite screen capture tool. It has many features similar to software such as Camtasia but it is free!

The infographic below summarizes my Top Choices. It was created using Piktochart. I know that as I continue to explore new cloud tools, this list will keep changing, but my goal is to keep my learning objectives in mind. (OK, so maybe some tools are just for fun!)

Piktochart of top cloud tools for students and teachers