Minecraft in the Classroom: A Real-world Example

You may have seen the above video floating around from the PBS Idea Channel, posing the question of whether the video game Minecraft is the “Ultimate Education tool“. With over 200,000 views and over 6500 likes, it got me wondering how many of these viewers have actually seen Minecraft being used in the classroom? Before last week, I hadn’t — which made a recent opportunity even more exciting.  Part of our e-Learning for Educators team was invited to visit a local elementary school to see how they’ve been using Minecraft — and what I saw was pretty inspiring.

To give you an idea of what it is like to play Minecraft, it has been described as “first person legos” mixed with “The Sims” (and maybe with a few other games thrown in). The game is considered a “sandbox” game with an open world, giving players a large amount of freedom when it comes to playing the game.  In the standard version of Minecraft, there are four different modes to the game: survival, creative, adventure, and hardcore. While not all of the modes of the standard version are ideal for educational use, there is an educational version of the game called MinecraftEdu that was created for teachers by teachers.

During our visit, we observed a second grade class using the standard Minecraft‘s “creative mode” to collaboratively build an interactive world. The students were divided into four groups, with each group being assigned a time period to create within Minecraft together — but each at their own computer. When creating their worlds, they had to think about what to include and what to build, making sure to justify why they included what they did.

Students can leave signs for other players.

Players have the ability to leave signs throughout their worlds. In this project, students used signs to ask questions or to clarify what they were building.

Here’s a little rundown of the time periods and what I saw:

  • 1850: I learned from a couple students that they were currently reading the Little House on the Prairie books, which I believe was the inspiration for this time period. This world was complete with a dry goods store, pigs (and other farm animals) and other period appropriate creations. One student in this group was building a “dugout” house and confidently explained to me what it was and why it was there! :)
  • 1950: The school we visited was built around1950, so students had to think about how their city was different in 1950. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of this time period.
  • 2013: Students had to recreate Columbia in the present. I was given a “tour” of the school as it is today (in Minecraft, of course) and the local grocery store (I think it was a Gerbes). I believe I even spotted the local mall!
  • Future: I didn’t get an exact date for this time period, but I think it may have been  around 50 years in the future. According to their teacher, this was the time period the students had the hardest time with. I did see buildings equipped with “solar panels” (while Minecraft doesn’t have solar panels yet within the game, they designated materials to stand in for solar panels) and other evidence of a future of renewable energy, giving you an idea of how this project is getting their mental wheels turning.
future

Future: The glass ceiling of this building was meant to represent solar panels.

Watching the engagement in this classroom was amazing — the students enjoyed what they were doing and, based on my conversations with them, they were definitely practicing some higher-level thinking. This doesn’t mean there were no hitches. At times, it seemed difficult to get them to stop building in their worlds. Despite these minor issues, I could really see the future of this software having a place in education. While I’m not sure about it being the “ultimate tool”, Minecraft is proving to be a unique and rewarding addition to the classroom.

This is just one way of how Minecraft is being used with students. Check out MinecraftEdu‘s Real-world Example page to see more great ways this software is already being used in the classroom.

What are your thoughts on Minecraft as the “Ultimate Education Tool”? In what ways do you see yourself using Minecraft with your students?

[This post was provided by Zoë Hyatt, an instructional developer for the eMINTS National Center and eLearning for Educators.]

Thursday #eC12 – eIS Smackdown!

Such a fun session to attend…with 4 Instructional Specialists tag-team presenting their favorite online tools everyone had to see an interactive website they hadn’t seen before. I walked away with some new goodies to add to my bag of tricks and pass them on to the teachers I get to work with.

What tools would you share?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.

Project-Based Learning – Resource Links

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Yesterday I shared the basics of what Project-based Learning is and key things to include when planning your own PBL units. Today I thought I might offer some resources to help with planning these types of learning activities and tools that may help when implementing Project-based Learning units for both a facilitator (you) and learner. Since a lot of you are eMINTS teachers I also included some extra technology tools you may find helpful.

What tools and resources do you think should be included in this list? Leave a comment and share your favorite PBL links.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Tuesday’s Tool: Evernote – Making Research a Bit Easier

In a recent session our cohort talked about teaching students information literacy skills. The group spent a lot of time dialoguing about how to help student organize and use the information they find online. Most everyone agreed that no matter what age they work with students lack the ability to paraphrase or summarize information, gather information in one assessable place (not left at home on their desk), and properly cite sources.

Teaching skills on how to summarize and paraphrase, is a strategy that can be used on a daily basis. Teaching these skills can be embedded into many types of lessons whether studying changes in the Earth’s surface or Spanish explorers.

The web offers quite a few online tools designed to aide in the research process for both recording research information and the location where that resource came from. Some of these tools also allow for sharing and/or collaboration between students and teachers.

Evernote

Who knows why, but I somehow forgot to share my very favorite tool of all for this purpose…..Evernote. Evernote allows a user to take notes anywhere and sync them with all their devices when they have a web connection. A user can include text notes, web clips, audio notes, and image notes using the webcam on their computer. Notes can be tagged so that searching notes is a simple task and notes can be share with others and multiple users can collaborate on projects. Unfortunately there is no built-in citation builder but those are easy enough to create using sites like Son of Citation or the Citation Maker in Recipes4Success and then can be easily copied and pasted into Evernote.

With Evernote, a user creates a free account and then has access to their Evernote notebooks whenever and where ever through a web browser or downloadable application for Windows or Mac. Evernote is even available on many mobile devices.

What are tools you might suggest students use to support them in researching on their quest to complete authentic projects?

Friday 4ALL: Wikipedia – The Debate Continues

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The question still comes up (as it should)……can/should students use Wikipedia as a resource when researching?

In the past I have read about the peer review process and the electronic programs and systems that aide in the review process that Wikipedia articles go through. I have personally felt it was a suitable source of information to use for quick reference and alongside other resources. More recently it occurred to me that maybe Wikipedia has an opinion on this topic of discussion. So I decided it was time to go to the source…

Wikipedia offers many articles on this topic specifically including Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is so Great, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is Not so Great, and even Wikipedia: Citing Wikipedia.

In a nutshell they suggest “You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia).” (Wikipedia contributors ) Researchers should cite the original source of information and use Wikipedia only as a secondary source to back up that information as they would with other encyclopedias.

Students and teachers must have conversations about author authority and credibility, bias, purpose, and timeliness to completely understand that content on the web can be written by anyone and is not always accurate. Teachers may wish to have their students follow a process or use an evaluation tool such as the How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles (Ayers) a one page PDF with recommendations on how to judge the information found on Wikipedia pages. One other suggestion from Wikipedia, make sure the information is cited properly including the date and time the information was accessed since information on Wikipedia is ever-changing.

What are your thoughts and ideas about how to get students to evaluate  resources including Wikipedia, and how they can be used during the research process?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

*quartermane. Wikipedia T-Shirt. 2008. Photograph. FlickrWeb. 8 Dec 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeeperez/2453225588/sizes/m/in/photostream/>.
*Wikipedia contributors. “Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 nov 2011. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Researching_with_Wikipedia>.
*Ayers, Phoebe. “How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles.” . Wikipedia, 2008. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/16/How_to_evaluate_a_Wikipedia_article.pdf>.

Tuesday’s Tool: PInspiration

It’s almost August!  Ive been browsing the internet looking for some fresh inspiration to get my classrooms ready.  There are many, many things that I love.  I have fun with my camera, I love quotes, I’m always searching for new ideas to make my classroom better, and I love colorful graphics.  When I stumbled on Pinterest, I found a place where I could somehow keep track of all of them little random things that inspire me.  When I read that  Michelle’s Math in the Middle was hosting a Pinterest Linky Party, well, I knew I had to join.  I can’t wait to follow all of the great teachers sharing their Pin boards!

The good news?  You can join, too! Follow Me Pinterest Badge displayed on your teacher blog!  Then, write a post on your teaching blog about the Linky Party and link the post HERE

Happy Pinning!

Pinspiration!

Learn more about how you might use Pinterest in the classroom from Kelly at the iLearn blog in her post Pinterest: My New Obsession. If you leave a comments, she might even share an invite with you.

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original posted July 23, 2011 at TeachFactory.com.

HD_Links: SnackTools Free Web Apps

SnackTools are free and easy to use web applications designed to create and publish multimedia widgets. These widgets work seamlessly with websites and blog sites including Weebly, WordPress, Blogger, Facebook and many more.

To make your own custom Flash widgets, simply create a user account and look at the tutorials and examples. You will see how quick and easily you can be creating your own interactive flipbooks, banners, slideshows, and more.

Below is a complete list of the tools and their features along with preview images. To see the interactive examples I created for my website/blog visit the Helpful Hints Blog.

BannerSnack - A high quality gif and flash banner maker with transitions & effects.

PhotoSnack - Professional quality photo slideshows with as many pictures as you like & templates.

PodSnack - Custom web audio players with playlists, progress bar players, and mini players.

TubeSnack - Custom video players and playlists from your server or YouTube.

QuizSnack - Online surveys & polls embedded into your website or blog with real time reporting.

FlipSnack - Make perfect flip books from any PDF with a customizable look and size.

How might you use these tools to enhance teaching and learning through your classroom website and/or blog?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog. Special thanks to Debbie Perkins, eMINTS Instructional Specialist for sharing this great resource.

HD_Links: Wish I Was There – ISTE 2011:Philadelphia

The largest educational technology conference in the United States is going on right now in Philadelphia, PA. Formerly known as NECC, ISTE 2011 is the place for educators to meet to share what is going on in educational technology and what is just over the horizon.

I have had the chance to attend this conference twice and can say that it is an unbelievable opportunity to network with others that value the use of technology as an educational tool and a key component of 21st century learning.

Even though I don’t get to be there in person this year, there are many ways that I am staying connected and learning about what is new in technology and education at ISTE. Here are a few of the resources available to everyone so that we can all “virtually” attend the conference and stay connected.

ISTE Conference Website – with links to everything you would need to know if you were there like the conference mobile app, the daily schedule, exhibit hall floorplan, but there is so much more.

Another must have ISTE resource:

Tuesday’s Tool: SumoPaint

Sumo Paint is a free graphics editing/painting application, that you can use in your favorite web browser! The application can be used in most operating systems and the only requirement is Flash Player.

The free version allows users to create or edit images/graphics using tools similar to those found in other programs such as Photoshop, Fireworks, and Gimp. Users can save the images to their computer or to SumoPaint (with account) as a SUMO, .png, or .jpg file.

To help you get started, SumoPaint has a help feature allowing users to select the tool they want to know more about and often times see a video that shows how that tool works. You can also find some tutorial videos on YouTube.

Whether you are trying to make minor edits like removing red-eye from a photo or creating graphics from scratch, SumoPaint can help.

Brooke Higgins is an Instructional Specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Tuesday’s Tool: Scoop.it

Scoop.it is an easy to use web tool that allows a user to quickly create a newspaper-looking webpage with links to resources that go together. Each link is displayed as if it is an article in a newspaper with a title, image, and snippet of text. The Scoop.it website says… “Be the curator of your favorite topic” but really it could be the topic of your next science unit or expert topics for your WebQuest.

First you need to create an account (free) to get started. You can include your Twitter and Facebook account information and Scoop.it will pull resources from those feeds that may fit your Scoop topics. To begin your own Scoop click the Create a Topic Button and fill in the title, description, language, and tags and you are on your way. You can add resources as you go from websites you have already found by using the Scoop It bookmarklet or you can include the suggested resources from Scoop.it. Due to the content that may be displayed on the curating page, this tool is a teacher tool. Once the Scoop is created then it can be safely shared with students by clicking “view topic” and then sharing that direct link.

Scoop.it also allows sharing through Facebook and Twitter, visitors to make resource suggestions, or viewing the tags the creator has included. Like a blog, if you like what you see you can always “follow” someone else’s Scoop and see how it evolves over time. Here is the Scoop.it that got me interested – Edu 2.0 created by Steve Dembo. He created a page with what he believes are the best Web 2.0 tools for education. And in just a few minutes I created a Scoop about Constructivism & more.

From their home page get an invite and watch their video on the front page to better understand how Scoop.it might benefit you, your instruction, and your students.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.