I sometimes feel like educators don't understand what I mean when I say I'm a Minecraft Teacher. I wanted to have a blog post to send people to, when I see their eyes glaze over, or that ever-so-subtle "oh, you're a hipster tech teacher" look crosses their eyes.
Look, the simple truth is that my students are consuming content, curating their own experiences, and sharing learning in a powerful way. And we do it together. And we do it while playing a video game.
Samples from Term 1 & 2
So how does it work?
This class runs 8 weeks per term, 3 terms per year. The class has 30 students per term, ranging from K-7. I have 2 high school helpers who assist the learners when I'm not online.
Each week my students receive a quick overview of a weekly challenge. It usually contains links to dig deeper and explore the concepts. Usually this is in an email, but I also post a sign in the Challenge Hut. This term we've been utilizing Canada's 150th Celebration and doing a lot of learning about Canadian themes. This mostly tends to be social studies content, but also can include science, language arts, math, and career outcomes. The students do some learning and explore some ideas that are relevant to their ability, and then they log in and begin sharing their learning with me.
Here is the first weekly challenge for 2017:
Did you know that 2017 is Canada's 150th birthday? To celebrate we will be doing Canada themed Challenges all term!
The St. Lawrence river is a vital habitat and shipping lane. It helps Canadians from the interior get their goods to the coastal cities and abroad.
The St. Lawrence Seaway is a series of connecting dams, canals, and passageways that allow ships to go all the way to the Great Lakes. It is more than 3700KM long, and travels a variety of altitudes! It is still a major engineering feat. It was finished construction in January 1959!
You can find out more information at the links below. Your challenge signs are waiting in the Purple Hut!
The students have a week to complete the challenge, and then add their username to The Challenge Hut, so everyone can see their accomplishment, and students have an idea of who can help them if they run into trouble or need ideas. It's the Wall of Champions idea- digitally.
Pictures of the Canals
Overt and Hidden Curriculum Goals
Overt: Meeting educational standards- this term and next term we're learning about Canada. Social studies, geography, government, economics, etc.
Hidden Curriculum: (often taught via situations that arise instead of artificially created conditions) online safety, digital etiquette, digital leadership, community engagement,
I'm so thrilled in how this class has developed and the way that it's encouraging my students. I've had a number of parents email to express their gratitude. Many of my students struggle to make in person connections, so this purely online class allows students to come in on an even plane and develop relationships, leadership, and friendships.
One thing I'll be changing for Term 3 is how I share the information and how I ask students to check in. I'll be using Google Forms for the students to get connected to their content, and to leave comments or share their learning that Minecraft doesn't handle well (text based, video or linked content). I'm not totally sold on this- I don't have Google Classroom, so there isn't a great way for the students to share each other's content and ideas, but I'd like to try
One last thing: If you're under the impression that an Online Class can't have the same community as a face to face classroom, you are very mistaken. I've only met 6 of my students face to face, but the connections that we've forged, the adversity we've overcome, and the learning we've done speaks for itself. Just in case you need proof though, let me share a couple more photos.
I feel like I could write a book about this subject, so leave comments or questions below!
This week I had the distinct privilege of speaking about educational technology to the Victoria Mac User Group. I got to share some pedagogy (SAMR Model), some 21C learning competencies, and mostly I got to share stories about my classroom. I got to tell them of my favourite teaching moment ever- (our class being selected as the first question for a NASA Live Press Conference). I got to tell them about the 7th grader who tweeted and got an immediate reply from a JPL engineer.
There is so much power in sharing our stories. We encourage our students to share their stories and their learning with us, but are we doing an effective job (as a profession) about sharing the great and wondrous that happens every day?
Ask any teacher about their favourite or funniest moment- they'll have a hard time narrowing it down to just one from even that week! One of my favorite Sir Ken Robinson quotes is "A three year old isn't half of a six year old!" and I find that to be true every day. My 10 year olds aren't 'half an adult', they are fully human, with their own thoughts, worries, concerns, cares, passions... they can't be pandered to, condescended, or patronized. A real relationship is what honours the students and me too!
To say it in a different way, if I know and plan and teach and respond to the humans in my classroom then they have an opportunity to grow and explore in a way that values who they are. If I teach content to students, I'm not going to have the same buy in, there will always be some kids who dive in and get it but the ones I'll lose in the process are too valuable.
Jim Iker challenged us at the BCTF New Teacher Conference a couple years ago to go out and share our stories- to let everyone know the joys and (to a lesser extent) the challenges we face in our profession. I hope I did justice to that commission, and will strive to continue to do that every chance I get.
In our new BC Ed Plan there is a strong component of self assessment and reflection for students, so I'm always on the hunt for new ways to bring it authentically into my classroom.
I love using Pixar and Disney shorts to teach with- they are perfect mini lessons, the kids are engaged, and are participating in authentic tasks and building a literacy that is relevant to them. So when I saw "Inner Workings", which can be viewed on the Moana DVD, I was thrilled to see how I could use this for student reflection and assessment in my classrooms!
I created a worksheet (inspired by Kelsey's work with the Core Competencies) where students were asked to think of an event in their life where their head and heart were in a battle. "I can have a healthy life by balancing work and play!" Students may comment on any or all of the competencies in describing the situation. One of my primary hopes for the next few years is that students have a lot of opportunities to experience the core competencies and see how they are naturally a part of life- that they can be cultivated out of authentic and meaningful experiences.
Feel free to get the worksheet here- free!
I am a BC Certified Teacher. I work with homeschool students in a hybrid program- they come to me one day per week and I teach, assess, support, and then send them home with a new week's worth of projects. Technically this is not quite 'school' and not quite 'homeschool'. A lot of people have started referring to it as a hybrid program. There are several on the island that are providing amazing programs!
It's worth noting that not all of my students are what you might consider to be stereotypical homeschoolers. Long gone are the days of isolationist parents who wanted to shelter their children from any challenges or different opinions. The majority of my students are homeschooled because of family or personal health challenges. My own daughter is a prime example- my husband is chronically ill with various health circumstances that mean that getting her up and out the door to catch a bus to the nearest school at 7am is not feasible for my family.
So what does it mean to plan for a hybrid classroom? The first thing is the year plan- you need to have it tight- what are the outcomes you are going to be covering? Are you multigrade? How can you find an overall theme but still get each grade covered? You probably end up with your themes picked in June.
Then you need to abandon all hope for 2 months. You won't come back to planning until you've had time to digest things.
Sometime in August you will wake up and have a renewed and refreshed view on how to tackle things. This will get you through September and into October before the parent feedback starts to roll in and you need to switch things up to support the families that are in your class. You aren't just teaching children in a hybrid program- you're supporting their parents and siblings too!
I started with a planner- every week it has info for my specific subject mandates- (ELA, SS, Sci, ADST). I include a reading, writing, and spelling piece each week. I also include a project box for the weekly assignment- I typically differentiate this project to include abilities or grade specific information. I use a learning question as guided inquiry and let students choose how they want to share their learning from week to week. See the three images for the Space & Planets Unit that we did earlier this term.
Once you have your theme and outcomes you can create your weekly breakdown of projects pretty easily. The trick to differentiating the projects is that you need to leave them open, but still be specific enough that your students meet the learning target. You can see that I use questions as well as guided language, and sometimes give specific guidelines to grade levels. I also narrow down what projects are acceptable some weeks- (Kahoot is amazing!)
Part 2 with the way that I break down and plan for Language Arts is coming up next!
I respond to Sarah, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Smoore, Miss Sarah, (and sometimes Mom!). I have been an DL (homeschool!) teacher for 2 years and am now a proud member of the SD35 team!