Technology Integration

A Venture into the Square Side of Education with Minecraft

minecraft

Minecraft is becoming very popular among educators.  Teachers have begun to see the many possibilities Minecraft Edu (a version with teacher controls) has to offer.  I recently won a grant to install Minecraft Edu on 24 computers at my school.  As I begin to experiment with the possibilities of teaching and learning with Minecraft Edu in the classroom, I thought I would make some notes for those that might be considering a venture into the square side.

Setting Up

  • Minecraft Edu lives on hard drive of your computer, but networks all the computers with a teacher computer.
  • Teachers have controls that allow them to control the environment the students are in.  This includes being able to freeze them, mute them, teleport them, gift them with items and enable/disable them from building.
  • There are 3 types of worlds the teacher may choose from: Minecraft Edu, Creative, and Survival.

Minecraft Edu World Option

    • Students start with no inventory
    • Students have no way to gain inventory unless you give it to them
    • Students can craft in this option

I have only experimented with Minecraft Edu world option thus far, but I can see the benefits.  My latest lesson involved third graders using Minecraft Edu world option to practice their area/perimeter skills.  When students enter the world, they default to start with no inventory and there is nothing that can be found for students to add to their inventory.  This would seem very limiting, so why is this option attractive?

For my third graders, this was a great way for them to be introduced to Minecraft Edu.  They were given a task, create a structure with a perimeter of 12.  I gave them 20 Oak blocks.  Just enough for them to make a few mistakes as they learn.  I also gave them a sign to label the area and perimeter of their structure when done.  By being able to control inventory in mathematical learning situations, you can help students to think about the reasonableness of their answers.  It also stops most of them from being off task.  If they needed more blocks, I made them present me with a valid argument as to why.  

Another great reason for students to not have an inventory- you can offer to give pieces of inventory as incentives for hard work.  When students accomplished a task, or helped a neighbor, I gifted them with inventory pieces they desired, such as glass, gold ingot, doors, etc.

Most Importantly….

Even students who have played Minecraft at home, have probably not played it on a computer.  There will be a learning curve for most students.  Make sure your first assignment is something that gives the student enough space to learn and be creative, without them worrying too much about their grade for the day.  
More adventures from learning with Minecraft coming soon.

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Technology Integration

Can I Offer You an Appy Meal?

Would you like to encourage your students to be adventurous with their use of technology?  All while encouraging them to be explorers, risk- takers, and to nurture their creative talents?  You can do all of this and still teach the standards you need.  This is an “Appy Meal”.

Copy of appymealrefined

Copy of 4cswithspinnerCopy of improvedsamrpic

Teachers can create this to be a stand alone technology center or a whole class activity.  Here is the box design and resources.  See below for instructions on how to use the Appy Meal with your class.

Explore: Use this page to find suggestions of “Apps” (this term is used throughout to include websites) students can use to explore topics.  The teacher can cut these out and fill the Appy Meal with them when it is time to engage students in new learning or have them research for deeper understanding.  These apps can also be substituted with your favorites.

Create:  Use this page to find suggestions of “Apps” students can use to create products.  The teacher can cut these out and fill the Appy Meal with them when it is time for students to synthesize their learning by creating something new.Copy of apps

Resources:  The SAMR image is thanks to Sylvia Duckworth.  I made the Hello name tag on Canva.com, but you could use a real name tag.  I suggest you use one side of the box to paste directions or a QR code that has directions recorded on a voice file that will play when students scan it. The 4 C’s image can be found here.  Credit to http://runteacherrunriley.blogspot.com/  I added an old spinner from a game of Life to this image.  You could also use a paperclip and a brad.

*Author’s Note-  For the use of this box, I would suggest the Critical Thinking piece be used for students to question something they’ve learned during exploring or edit their neighbor’s work while creating.  The activity already calls for creativity, so on the Creativity piece, students can create a question to ask another student about what they learned.

Center Work

The teacher can choose to put the box in a learning center.  The teacher would decide if the apps inside the box are “Explore” apps to explore a topic they are learning about or “Create” apps to create a product about something they have already learned.  There is a die in the box for students to decide who gets a turn to draw an app out of the box first.  The student rolls the die and then draws an app out of the box.  Students then spin the spinner on the “4 C’s” and make sure they incorporate one of the “C’s” into their center work.  By each student having the additional challenge of trying to figure out a new app while still needing to achieve an objective, students are learning to become risk-takers in an environment that is supportive.

Variations on Center Work:

  • Have 2 boxes (explore and create) in the center.  Students draw from each and “smash” their apps together.
  • When doing explore pieces, each group that comes to the center could add to the knowledge of the group before.  This could be digitally or on paper.
  • If creations are posted, students could list the positives and negatives of the app they used to aid others.

Whole Class

The teacher decides to put either explore apps or create apps into the box.  Then every student in the class chooses an app out of the box.  Once everyone draws out of the box, all students will have different apps, but the same intent.  For whole class, the teacher could choose one of the “4 C’s” for the whole class to do or each student could spin for a choice of one as they draw an app.  Think of this like speed dating an app for one class period.  Have students stick with the app they chose, even if they dislike it.*  The knowledge they gain from this experience can help themselves and others in the future, not to mention it builds tenacity.

Variations on the whole class:

  • While exploring, students can add their gained knowledge to a class poster or shared document.  Teachers can make the No Repeats rule if desired.
  • Students can spend half the class exploring.  Then the teacher can reload the box with create apps and students draw from the box again.  Students spend the other half the class creating with the knowledge they gained exploring.
  • SAMR Challenge: Once a student has created a product with their app, they pass their creation to the next student who is challenged to create a product on the same topic, but one level up on the SAMR model.  If redefinition was originally reached, then the challenged student tries to reach redefinition with a different app.

*Teachers should keep in mind the objective of the lesson when choosing the apps to put in the box so that the apps are related to the content when necessary.

The Appy Meal was created to offer the classroom teacher an easy way to integrate technology without a lot of prior planning.  There are many ways to adapt these ideas to fit your classroom.  Feel free to email me your idea at 1hightechteacher@gmail.com.  I would love to present this make and take technology PD to your staff.

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Maker Space

5 Things You Can Do When Your Tech Lesson Crashes

goblins

I often joke with my class that there must be technology goblins that exist in my classroom.  All systems seem to be working fine and then out of nowhere, nothing will work the way it should.  These sudden episodes in the middle of a lesson can completely destroy all learning and create a chaotic atmosphere.  In order to be better prepared for when the technology goblins come for your computer or whatever technology mishap might come your way, here are some tips for any teacher:

Always have a plan B

B is for back-up plan, but this doesn’t mean a basic plan or a generic plan.  When planning lessons, ask yourself, “What will I do if my technology lesson does not succeed?”  Another website may be the answer you need, but I advise always having something that will work without technology.  You need to have something that will teach the same standards you originally planned for, so a minimal amount of learning time is lost.  An activity or worksheet over the same subject or teaching the same skill should be written into the lesson plan as a safety net.

I usually have a plan C too, this is a more generic lesson that focuses on a recurring standard.  A cache of dry erase boards and strategic use of graphic organizers can always come in handy here.

Keep a list of a few websites that serve a general function instead of a specific purpose-

When your original website goes down, use a website that can serve a basic purpose so you can quickly adjust your lesson and the learning can continue.  Here is a short list:

  • http://www.voki.com/– Inspire kids to write those reports by letting them design their own character to give the report when they are done.
  • https://www.smore.com/app/dashboard– Make virtual posters that can be as simple or complex as you want.
  • https://padlet.com/– A virtual corkboard where everyone can post their messages for everyone else to see.
  • https://popplet.com/– Graphic organizers your students create and share.
  • https://www.thinglink.com/– A picture is worth a thousand words- use this site to have students create visually interesting reports.
  • http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/– This site makes short comic strips.
  • Google Docs- Like Microsoft Word, but SO much better.
  • Google Slides- Like Microsoft Power Point, but SO much better.
  • Google Draw- Import pictures, label them, draw, and write.
  • Google Maps- Not just for geography, if it happens on Earth you can use this website.

Ask students how they would like to represent their learning

When the technology goblins visit you in the middle of a lesson, you may be left with few resources at your disposal.  It is at times like this that you can try something truly original: ask your students to decide for themselves how they would like to represent their learning.  They may surprise you with a skit, informational trading cards or a new creation all their own.

Ask students what they can learn from the technology problem that is happening

When you take the technology problem happening in your class and relate it to the outside world, students can easily see why it is important to learn how to correctly handle these situations.  What if all the traffic lights went out at the same time? What if your plane was about to leave, but you were stuck behind all the traffic lights?  Resourcefulness, patience, perseverance, and ingenuity can all be taught with hypothetical situations like these during this time.

Ask students if they know how to fix the technology problem

More students teach me how to fix my tech problems, than I have ever solved by myself.  Do not discount their knowledge, instead, challenge them to be the first one to figure out the solution!

The main point is, technology integration is not a science.  It is a daring art.  You must dare to try new programs and new situations with students who may be new to technology or as a teacher who may be uncomfortable with technology.  Random events will happen that you cannot explain, control, or fix.  Students are amazingly adaptable to every situation.  If they see that the teacher takes setbacks with a grain of salt, they too, will learn to breath easy when technology does not go right.  One of the most valuable lessons you can teach is to be calm in a stressful situation.  Teaching students perseverance in the face of adversity is worth a few visits by the technology goblins.

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