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Robust October 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — grannynannycook @ 2:26 pm
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Week 3 Essential Question:

How can we use Minecraft to create a sound and robust learning experience for students?

Recapping the information from the text to answer the question of the week is not my goal.  Instead, my aim is to elaborate on what the reliable media says about Minecraftedu to unpack  the question posed by examining these components: robust, minecraft, how.

ro·bust
adjective
  1. strong and healthy; vigorous.
    “the Caplans are a robust, healthy lot”

minecraft is a sandbox construction game. Gameplay involves players interacting with the game world by placing and breaking various types of blocks in a three-dimensional environment.  The differences between Minecraftedu and Minecraft are explained fairly well here.  Plenty of sites which will elaborate on Minecraft  exist and blogs abound, and several are referenced in this writing assignment.

How

Most Minecraftedu for beginner videos, are helpful, but way too long to recommend.  However, I strongly suggest visiting this great introduction to the game, Getting Started with Minecraftedu, and viewing the video.

Posing the question “What will I need to do to enable my students to create and draw upon powerful digital learning networks?”, one teacher summarizes this way:

  • Provide opportunities to make learning explicit
  • Allow students to form questions to guide their learning
  • Encourage learning from experts in the field
  • Enable connection making
  • Allow students to develop a common language
  • Provide time

The author expands on each point in the article which is worth reading and is linked above.  A wonderful thirteen part guide to games and learning from Mindshift is also a good read for further exploration.

Is it fun?  Is that the ultimate question we should ask about creating learning experiences? It is said that the question, “Why do I need to know this?” disappears when effectively using Minecraftedu. Utilizing this game to help students observe, pose questions, engage in experimentation and error, and learn to analyze and reason, requires the usual skillful research based lesson design process to frame content. With planning, “games provide sequenced instruction blended with practice, feedback, and assessment”.  Before the game is implemented, “start with your traditional lesson objectives and build off those, give them an objective, not a recipe, let them figure it out”, which necessitates collaboration. The Institute of Play professes through games students build skills, learn content, and socialize with others.  Minecraftedu is a great tool for making more meaningful project based learning, open ended projects, and enabling students to showcase creativity through sharing.  It is about the learning process, not the product, i.e., not about what you build, but building it.  How we use it to improve student mastery of content mandated by state or national standards will primarily be in the instructional design and use of formative assessments.  Games and Learning website has some interesting data charts on assessments and should have newer information soon.

Differentiating instruction is made easy with Minecraftedu’s flexibility because the teacher can select how much freedom the students are allowed to have within the game and the level at which the game reacts with them. “As a player’s skill develops, the game’s complexity increases ad infinitum. In multi-player levels, players collaborate on building complex structures, use programming features to build contraptions, games, or compose music. Meanwhile, beginning players use their problem solving skills to scavenge for materials. They learn to mine stone for building, and coal for making fire.”  In addition, the diversity of students such as English Language Learners should benefit from the inclusivity of Minecraftedu, a safe space to engage in constructive learning (an idea spawned by reading Adam Heidebrink-Bruno).

Here are some thoughts from others on the learning experience from using games such as Minecraftedu:

  • “What video games do — better than any other medium,” writes games researcher and author James Paul Gee, “is let people understand a world from the inside.”
  • Game-based learning has emerged as a promising area of innovation in addressing a vital weakness in American educational performance: the need to make academic content more engaging, adaptive, relevant and rigorous for America’s youth.  Growing evidence demonstrates that digital games can be used to advance standards-based content mastery in literacy and math, develop a deep understanding of STEM concepts and build critical 21st century skills that are essential for preparing youth for success in a global and digital marketplace.”
  • Game-based learning is a great classroom tool because it allows for interdisciplinary learning through contextualized critical thinking and problem solving.

Games in the classroom can encourage students to understand subject matter in context — as part of a system. In contrast to memorization, drilling, and quizzing, which is often criticized because it focuses on facts in isolation, games force players to interact with problems in ways that take relationships into account. The content becomes useful insofar as it plays a part in a larger multi-modal system.

One promise of game-based learning is that it has the potential of building comprehension and literacy rather than retention. It does this by combining instruction, practice, and assessment. Teachers become the facilitators of a process where instruction is experiential. Practice is project based, requiring students to solve new problems and address new challenges using the new ideas to which they’ve been introduced. And assessment no longer measures a student’s ability to regurgitate information, or to choose among multiple answers, but rather, to use the content, or subject matter, in context. Even more impressive is that in order to successfully manipulate one piece within a comprehensive and complex system, the students must understand every piece of

The author, Karl Kapp, states: “Game designers do not have a magic elixir for creating engagement, instead, they rely on certain formulas for engagement. These include challenges, stories, effective user interfaces and providing incentives for correct activities. It even includes the counterintuitive aspect of chance or uncertainty. Few of these elements exist in many elearning modules and to engage learners, we must borrow these five elements from game designers to create an engaging and exciting learning environment.”  Which hopefully will result in a robust learning experience for all using Minecraftedu.  I can’t wait for the movie!

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