Minecraft world

Evidence: Video of Minecraft world created

Learning Outcomes:

  • Plan learning opportunities most suitable to the strengths and challenges of a variety of mobile learning and gaming environments
  • Develop skills to optimize learning experiences through personalization based on characteristics, needs, stages of development, current personalized learning mandates, and misconceptions

I was very much a newbie to the world of Minecraft before this assignment. I had heard of it, seen people dress up as characters from it, but never so much as looked at it. For this assignment we had to ‘play’ in the Minecraft world and determine how it could be used in the classroom. In order to figure out how to use it in the classroom, I had to play with it my self and evaluate it with the rubric that Jay, Corina & I built. After all, how can I evaluate a tool for use in the classroom if I could not use it myself?

What I discovered is that Minecraft is a very flexible, creative world that has tremendous applications in the classroom. As you can see on the video, I tested the world for use in Math and Biology. I am especially happy how my labelled ‘cell’ turned out. For visual learners, students who love gaming or creative people, the ability to create three dimensional structures to illustrate concepts (or for example calculate volumes and areas in math) really personalizes the learning experience. Students can work collaboratively or individually, this can be done in the classroom or from a distance. the key word is personalization.

Are there some challenges to having Minecraft assignments? Sure. I work with adults. Not all of them will be interested in this or could afford to buy the program. In the k-12 systems there are also challenges (though MinecraftEdu eliminate a bunch of them!). Overall Minecraft scored very high on the game evaluation rubric. While it is certainly a tool that I would use in the classroom I would likely make it an optional assignment or alternative way of presenting a project. Participating in this assignment really opened my eyes to what games can do in education

Digital Learning Conference

digital footprintI recently had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Digital Learning Conference ()put on by Randy LaBonte (@rlabonte).

Charlene Stewart (a colleague & OLTD cohort member) attended with me. We were also fortunate enough to see two other instructors Mary O’Neill (@maryjoneill) and Avi Luxenburg (@aluxenburg) and several other OLTD students. It was wonderful to meet so many people that I had only connected with online. It definitely felt like meeting with old friends.

The keynote speaker Dave Cormier (@davecormier) spoke to us of Rhizomatic learning. Learning like Rhizome plants, does not come from nothing but is rather part of a large, complex, underground root system that is the sum of our being. It is a new way to look at the idea that student are not empty vessels but have experience & knowledge and are linked to a wide community. Curriculum is not the content of the course but is other people and your connection to them. My favourite Quotes: Learning for uncertainty in the age of abundance & Divergent thinking is much more important than convergent thinking.

My theme for the conference was community building. So I attended a fabulous lecture by Avi and another by Avi and Mary on building community. For all the details, check out this site: https://sites.google.com/site/aluxenburg/. Some key thoughts (in images):

4D learning wordleJo Axe & Samantha Wood from Royal Roads presented all about tools for student engagement. They shared this wonderful resource with a list of terrific digital tools: http://set.royalroads.ca/technology-tools (really, check it out).

The presentation that Charlene and I did went fabulously well. I am very proud of us that we presented at a conference FOR THE FIRST TIME. Our topic was Mind Mapping – Harnessing the power of student collaboration (link below)

Other Links:

Virtual vs Physical Labs

One emerging or disruptive innovation in education right now is Virtual Labs. I just completed a seminar on Virtual Labs and wanted to capture my thoughts here.

Virtual labs create opportunity to:

  • Play – it is safe to mix, try, combine online in a way that it is not possible for students to do in real life (as explosions can be very bad). Curiosity can be satisfied safely virtually
  • Practice – students can review what they need to do in a lab through an online lab. This gives them confidence in their abilities. A procedure, especially those requiring expensive or rare chemicals, can be repeated many-time virtually so students feel prepared to do it in person.
  • Participate – not all students have access to a lab or lab materials. Virtual labs can allow these students to have a lab when previously they may not have. Also, in the case of very expensive lab equipment, students can book time in a physical lab for the experiment to be conducted. The experiment is performed and the results are reported back in real time.

Virtual Labs also have some challenges:

  • Replacement – some cash strapped schools may see virtual labs as a way to replace costly laboratories. Virtual labs serve a different purpose than physical labs. If possible, the experience of hands-on learning should be remain. Mixing two chemicals together and feeling an exothermic reaction is different than mixing two chemicals online and seeing a thermometer change temperatures.
  • Access – most virtual labs require reliable broadband. In many parts of the province this can be difficult. While virtual labs can permit many students to experiment and participate without requiring a physical lab, without reliable internet, participation is still difficult.

In my teaching practice I do have some virtual labs. The reason that my colleague, Charlene Stewart, and I started to have some virtual labs (about half) in our blended Biology is limited class time. As our lab only permits 12 students and our classes are double that, we would have to use two days a week for all our students to participate, severely limiting our face-to-face class time.

One challenge we had in implementing virtual labs was prep time. It takes quite a long time to fully prepare labs so they are suitable for the grade/students. There are a lot of great sites with prepared virtual labs (https://sites.google.com/site/virtuallabessential/) but they still need to found, tried & altered. Last semester when we were implementing the shift to half the labs being virtual, we were lucky if the labs were ready to go more than three days before the students attempted them. Having dedicated development time would really have removed much anxiety around implementation.

The results so far? There have been a few ‘hiccups’ but overall I am glad that we have changed from just physical labs to half & half. Students seem to learn from them, perhaps because they can take as long as they need to do them and can work when they feel like it, not when they are told to. Having only virtual labs would not permit the skills development that students need. By using both virtual and physical labs, students get the best of both worlds. They get the benefits of virtual labs while are still are in the physical lab enough that they can practice the lab skills that they need to continue on in Sciences.

Further Readings:



Cloud Tool Analysis

Evidence: Cloud Tool Analysis Form

Learning Outcomes:

  • Critically assess and evaluate resources for best practice in online learning
  • Identify appropriate use of cloud tools in an online course
  • Create assessment and evaluation methods/tools most suitable to the strengths and challenges of the specific environment

I have created a very simple word table to analyze cloud tools in an education setting. This form is not designed to state whether or not a tool should be used but to give an overview of the tool itself. To assess the viability of the form I have assessed 7 different cloud tools of a variety of types using this chart. Overall I found the table to work well, especially for the type of student that I teach. I teach in adult education so my typical student is between 20 and 60 with low computer skills. My on-line classes are run asynchronously with both collaborative and individual components. Here is the analysis of the 7 tool: Cloud Tool Analysis – 7 tools.

When the decision is made to use a particular online tool with your students it is important to analyze it fully. A tool that is suitable for one set of students may not be suitable for another as there are many factors that will affect whether or not it is appropriate, such as:

  • The policies in your district or educational setting
  • The age of your student
  • The goal of the assignment
  • The logistics of the class

Thus having an analysis form should help you to make a quick decision as to whether or not you wish to pursue using the cloud tool. If the tool seems appropriate given the student population then a lesson can be developed.  An analysis form prevents educators from spending time developing a lesson when the tool used may have a critical flaw in it. By saving any analyzed tools in a document, educators can quickly find a suitable tool for a particular lesson rather than having to search for a new one every time (or using an old one that may not quite ‘fit’).

In my own personal practice, I tend to use the same tools over and over again. By having a list of analyzed tools I am saving myself time, preventing my students from becoming bored, and am able to use the correct tool for the lesson that I wish to teach. Pedagogy is driving the lesson, rather than the tool.

Here are some of my top picks from the seven tools that I analyzed


Edit: After using some of these tools I would move TEDEd up to the number 1 spot for students. I really is a great way to develop online lessons that are interesting for students

Cloud Tool Analysis

Anytime you are interested in using an online tool with your students it is important to analyze it fully. I have created a simple word table to analyze cloud tools in an education setting.  This form is not designed to state whether or not a tool should be used as that depends on many factors such as:

  • The policies in your district or educational setting
  • The age of your student
  • The goal of the assignment
  • The logistics of the class

Thus this analysis form should help you to make a quick decision as to whether or not you wish to pursue using the cloud tool

Cloud Tool Analysis Form

cloud tool analysis chart(Here is a link to a word doc. of the form: Cloud Tool Analysis Form)

I have assessed 7 different cloud tools of a variety of types using this chart. Overall I found the table to work well, especially for the type of student that I teach. I teach in adult education so my typical student is between 20 and 60 with low computer skills. My on-line classes are run asynchronously with both collaborative and individual components. Here is the Cloud Tool Analysis – 7 tools.

While analyzing the tools, I identified my ‘top three’ tools for both students and instructors. I currently an only using one of these tools in my class (Coggle) and one tool personally (Symbaloo). I chose to analyze one of my personal and professional cloud tools in order to assess my cloud tool analysis form. I was quite pleased with what I discovered about Easel.ly which is why I choose to use it to create my ‘top three’ infographic. I am planning to use TEDEd next semester as I was extremely impressed by what I discovered. As I only try to use one new cloud tool at a time, Remind will be tried next year.


Cloud Tools in Online Courses

Right now I work at Vancouver Island University (VIU), teaching Math and Biology in adult education and love it. A few years ago, I decided to teach my Biology course in a blended format (part online and part face-to-face) as there was just so much content and so little time! VIU has a Learning Management System (LMS) that is recommended and supported, Desire2Learn (D2L). Most of my lessons and assignments have been in that framework. D2L is limited to what it can do so while I intend to continue using it as a framework, I have been expanding outward into cloud tools. Thus the question I must ask myself constantly is which cloud tools should I incorporate (what are their advantages and disadvantages) and how should they best be integrated in to the LMS that I currently use so that the online learning experience of my students is enhanced.

In Biology, on d2L, one typical lesson is students first watch a video or read notes, then they participate in a discussion, do something creative (a concept-map or a comic for example) outside of D2L and post it in a discussion, and then take a quiz. In D2L this can unwieldy as each one of these is a different entry in the same concept. It can be easy for students to get lost or miss something important. While checklists can overcome this a bit, it can still be confusing.

I had the opportunity to try a TED-Ed lesson. The structure is to watch a video (one of theirs or one from YouTube), take a quiz, look at other resources recommended, participate in a discussion and then read any final words of the instructor. Everything is in one place, neatly organized. While students do not have to flow through the lesson in this order, it suggests that they should. One advantage to having everything in one place is it makes it easy for students to see where they are in the lesson. It is also easy to move between components without losing your place or your work. I like the idea of putting the quiz right after the video. By putting it here, instructors can highlight the key points or ‘take-aways’ from the lesson.

One disadvantage I see is the lack of creativity. The lesson format is fairly standard, much like you would see in a classroom. However, I feel that this would work well for a flipped classroom (here is a good description of a flipped class: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf) as a collaborative, creative activity would work well in person. If the lesson was to be solely online, having a creative learning opportunity at the end, after the TED-Ed component was completed would be an excellent summation of learning. I personally like to use concept maps (Bubbl.us, coggle, and mind42) and comic builders (comix) as a formative assessment piece.

By using TED-Ed, the lesson would be far more streamlined and organized for the student. In the D2L lesson there would only be or two places for the student to go, rather than many, while still allowing for discussion and both formative and summative assessment to occur. The creative aspect of the lesson, that I like to include, is now a summative of what they have learned, emphasizing its importance, rather than just being another thing in a long list of things to do. I am excited to try it out but may have to wait until next semester as final exams are very soon.

Mind42 Resource Package

Evidence: Mind42 resource package with risk analysis

Learning Outcomes:

  • Develop emergent expertise with at least one social media tool for education.
    • Develop 2-3 developmentally appropriate activities for tool.
    • Create content for student training to address tool use and management of risks
  • Develop and design intentional learning activities suitable for the appropriate environment and the learner


When asking students to use a digital tool it is important to not only analyze the tool with a few potential lessons in mind but to perform a risk assessment and policy alignment check of the tool. Once done, a student user agreement for students to sign outline all the information needs to be generated.

In my teaching practice, I really like to use mind-maps so students can see the key concepts and connections in a topic. Generally I ask students to create the mind-maps as part of their on-line class. One of the mind-map sites I like to use is Mind42.com. For this site I created a comprehensive resource package. As I teach adult learners, all information is aimed for that age group and no parental permission has been included.

Resource Package: Lewis_Lisa_oltd506_Resource Package_mind42

Social Networking Platforms

In my personal, professional, and educational life I use various Social Networking Platforms (SNP). According to Wikipedia (Social Networking Service, 2014) SNP are a place to build networks or relationships, connecting people with similar interests or activities. These usually global platforms often have modules (or apps) that allows users control to join or form groups with common interests (Social Networking Service, 2014). SNP are the tools that allows virtual social interaction, what is generally thought of as social media, to happen (Wikipedia, 2014). There are a range of types of social media such as collaborative wikis, blogs, content-driven communities, networking sites, games, and virtual social worlds but the lines between these types are becoming increasingly blurred (Social Media, 2014).

I have used SNP personally for a number of years, Facebook and Instagram being the two primary ones. In my readings I discovered that social media through SNP are an extraordinary way to connect with people all over the world who share similar concerns. Indeed when I performed an analysis of where my friends were, I was surprised as there were more countries represented than I thought.

friend map
Figure 1: location of my Facebook friends. Data generated through Wolframalpha.com

More recently I have started using SNP both in my professional and educational life. In my reading I discovered one aspect of social media and SNP that I had not previously considered. Groups are formed based on common interests and ideas which can thus limit exposure to other ideas and ways of being, a form of social isolation (Social Media, 2014). Policies of the SNP that choose what news stories are in a person’s news feed, such as is done by Facebook, only emphasize this limiting of exposure. Recently Facebook manipulated news-feed to affect the emotions of users (Kramer, Guillory & Hancock, 2014). As an educator, this idea emphasizes the need to use a variety of social media in class to ensure students are exposed to a variety of idea and thought.


Kramer, A., Guillory, J., & Hancock, J. (2014).  Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111 (24), 8788-8790.

Social Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2014 from Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media#Exclusiveness

Social Networking Service. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2014 from Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking_service