Monday, December 14, 2015

Minecraft for Reading Comprehension Research Study Results

I've finally completed my research paper and case study of using Minecraft to develop reading comprehension.  I had a great time conducting the study and was quite pleased with the impact the activity had on the students.  Although the value did not determine that the intervention was statistically significant, most likely due to the small sample size, the students in the class that used Minecraft on average scored 10% higher on a 15 point comprehension test than the students from the class that used a traditional sequence of events graphic organizer to retell the story.

The most important factor that I saw when observing the students using Minecraft was their engagement level.  The entire class was immediately engrossed in the task from the word go.  They intuitively organized themselves divying up tasks, communicating progress, and researching actual building in Johannesburg.  No one asked them to do this.  They did it because they were interested and wanted to make it the best that they could.

Here is a part of a group's retelling of the Journey to Jo'Burg short novel that they read using Minecraft.

If you would like to read the whole report here is the link.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

App of the Week: Minecraft, It's Uses in Education Part 3

In PYP 7 (Grade 4) the students have been studying Materials and their varying properties.  They have been testing different materials and categorizing them in many ways.  They also had the opportunity to test the "digital" materials that are found in Minecraft.  They tested and recorded their findings on different objects and types of materials translucence, opaqueness, flammability,  hardness, and whether it was a liquid or a solid.
For hardness the students created a measure of how many times the avatar needed to hit an item before it broke.  The students tested Grass, Stone, Nether Black, TNT, Emerald, Bedrock, Obsidian, and a pig.  From the chart we can see that, in the game, Bedrock is unbreakable and that Obsidian is the next hardest substance they came across.  

Let's keep looking for more educational applications for Minecraft!   

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

App of the Week: Minecraft, It's Uses in Education Part 2

I've recently been conducting the study for my master's research project, I will be posting the findings of that soon, but I thought I'd share a bit now.

The students have been using Minecraft to recreate the settings from the book Journey to Jo'Burg, that they have recently read as a class, and then use those settings to retell the story.  The project aims to develop the students' reading comprehension.  The book tells the story of a brother and sister who travel from their village to the city of Johannesburg during the time of Apartheid.  Their baby sister had become very ill and they needed to go tell their mother who lived and worked in the city. 

It was very impressive to see how quickly the students organized themselves, doling out building responsibilities and then speaking roles.  As the teacher I did not have to motivate them or pull them along in any way.  They were off and going.  Since we only had a limited time I had to stop them, do their displeasure, from completing every detail they found in the book.  

One of the boys immediately got on Google and searched for images of Johannesburg buildings in order to recreate the city accurately.

Here are some of the other scenes that they created from the story.
Barn on the orange farm they slept in on the first night

Overview of the entire journey

Johannesburg with 'pink house' where the mother worked 

Working train station where the police raid asking for everyone's passes

Hospital with a long line where they take the sick baby

Orange farm


Soweto arial view
The students loved this project and developed a lot more than just their reading comprehension skills.


App of the Week: Minecraft, It's Uses in Education Part 1

Minecraft is one of the, if not the most popular Apps/Software on the market at the moment.  The game use simple graphic building blocks for players to use to create whole new worlds.  Minecraft is a "Sandbox" game, which means that players can interact with the environment to create their own experience.  

Utilizing the game's open, creative aspect and the amount of engagement that students pour into the activities when they are use Minecraft, there is huge educational potential to impact learning.  Here are a few examples of how we have been using Minecraft with our students.

In Art the students have been focussing on 'perspective' and in particular 'vanishing point perspective', like that in which Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper was painted in.  The students studied the painting and discussed how all the lines of perspective converge to a single point, in this case Jesus is centered at that point, and the windows in the background are smaller than the people in the foreground demonstrating depth. 
The students then were asked to draw a room using 'vanishing point perspective'

Student 1
Student 2

Student 3
Minecraft also happens to be built wholly around 'vanishing point perspective'.  The center of the screen is always the point where all lines of perspective converge, making some things seem far away (smaller) and others closer (larger).  For the activity using Minecraft the students were asked to recreate The Last Supper with certain specifications.

Finally the students were given the task to draw the corridor.  Here are those same three students from the initial room drawings, corridor drawings.

Student 1
Student 2

Student 3

Monday, October 19, 2015

APP of the WEEK: Prodigy Math Game

Prodigy is a game that I have been using with my own kids for about a year now and I have been super pleased with, but up until now it has only been accessible through the website.  Prodigy has now come out with an App for the iPad that works both online and off, which is a huge bonus.  

The game itself has the student create an avatar and traverse a magical land, meeting different guides who give them various tasks to complete.  During these adventures, the students have to complete math problems to battle the creatures they encounter.  

As a teacher I can set up my class view their progress and any areas of difficulty.  I can assign "homework" for my students to "complete".  What's great about this is that the students don't even realize that they are doing an assignment.  The math content that I assign, say "addition of three digit numbers with carrying over", is woven directly into the game.  Once they have completed the specific math problems assigned Prodigy gives them problems from other areas of math at their level.  

They game is very engaging and kids, as far as I've seen, play much more after their assigned "homework".

Friday, October 9, 2015

APP of the Week: Wonder Box

What I love about this app is the basis on the design/creative process.  When kids start a project they first are provided with a wealth of resources from which they can develop their ideas.  My four year old daughter was working on the project of drawing a butterfly and was given all of these resources for inspiration.
As can be seen some of the inspiration comes in the form of actual photos, some of other student's drawings, and some instructional videos.  After watching the videos and looking at the pictures, gathering ideas, she moved to the creation stage and made this.
She even added my wife's name Elizabeth (Lzbf).  

From the creation stage she went on to "publish", by sending me the photo of her work along with all of the process leading up to her creation.  

There are loads of projects found within the app, like "make a penguin talk" where they learn about Antartica and penguins lives then report what they learned through recording their voice and inserting it as the penguin speaking.  More projects come through daily with links to articles to pique kids interest in newsfeed like way.
(Yes, it is an interesting place to put the mouth)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Totally Inspired by Students Today: Minecraft for Reading Comprehension

Yesterday I was completely blown away by the students in PYP 8.  I introduced the project that I am doing for my Masters research using Minecraft to recreate the settings and retell the story of the book they have just completed as a class, and they by far over took my expectations.  Every student, even the ones that forgot their device, was thoroughly engaged in their work.  The ones who didn't have Minecraft to be building on were going through the book looking for details that the others in their group could then build.
The amount and quality of communication within the groups was excellent.  I heard one girl say to the other, "Don't make the road perfect, it was a really rough road."  All I did was explain to them what the project goal was and put them into mixed Minecraft ability groups and away they went. There was no need for anymore instruction.  They were engaged.

The book they have read is called Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story.  Immediately after I set them off onto Minecraft, one of the boys got on Google and searched for images of Johannesburg so that he knew what to build.  He found a picture of a distinctive tower and set out creating it.  Even if their reading comprehension does not show any statistically significant growth, the amount of other skills and contextual understanding that they are intuitively gathering is clearly beneficial.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Get Out of Their Way and Let Them Be Awesome

I had the opportunity to see Scott McLeod and the Innovate Conference at the Graded School last May. In his presentation there he talks about the Trudacot system that he and some colleagues have come up with that helps teachers analyze lesson plans, basically, to see if they are using technology for technology's sake or if the use of technology is enriching the learning and deepening thought. After the conference I was checking out what else Scott has done/is doing and came across his TEDx talk.
To me, he hits the nail on the head.  "We do everything we can to get tech into the hands of our kids and then we do everything we can to prevent them from using it."  The filters we put on are the equivalent of all of the over protective playground rules we now have.  No climbing the trees, they might fall.  No wood chips under equipment they might throw them.  Everything must be sterilized. This deprives them of be self motivated risk-takers.
The fear is what we need to block.  When we blanketly block students from access, flashing "ACCESS DENIED" signs, we are telling them that they cannot be trusted.

We need to EMPOWER them to find out how they can use the internet to express themselves and their ideas.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Online Responsibility and Nearpod

If you haven't checked out Nearpod yet have a look at this presentation I made about online responsibility.  I've been using Nearpod with my MYP 1 students in Design and they love it.  It's great being able to bring the presentation right to their hands and have them interact with it.  I definitely feel like I get more participation and engagement from my students when I use Nearpod.  I particularly enjoy seeing the responses from those students who have great ideas, but are reluctant to raise their hand.


The Resourcerer

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ending the Year with Blogging

In PYP 7 the last Unit Of Inquiry for the school year is Communicating Through Technology.  What a great unit! (no bias here)  Together with the year group teachers we decided to let the communicate openly with only a slight bit of focusing by us.  I came into the classes and gave them an introduction to Blogs.  We looked at some inspiring blogs created by other kids about the same age as them and then gave them the task of creating a group blog about their interests.  Not a class blog with pictures of the work they had done and upcoming parent meeting times, but a class blog that communicates who they are.  We gathered ideas about broader interests that they might share so that the kids could group themselves together, however they also all have more than one interest and we allowed them to be in more than one group.  Then, we let them go at it.

Within a couple of days each of the class blogs had upwards of thirty posts.  The kids were thoroughly engaged (and still are) as it gave them a platform for them to express their authentic voice.  We could have gone through and made each student hand in a rough draft, edits, and a final perfected version before publishing, but that wasn't the objective of our unit, and it probably would have killed most if not all motivation.  I had one student who went home over the weekend and wrote five posts tracking the FIFA scandal.  The posts were so well written that I assumed he had just copied them from another source, but after checking I found it to be his own work.  When I talked to his teacher about the writing he had done she told me that he never does his homework, when he is asked to do writing in school he gives little effort even though we all know that he a bright student. He has found his authentic voice.

There were students who, yes, completely copied information they found on another website, put into the blog and called it theirs.  I was hoping that these things would come up because it provided the opportunity to teach in a situation that is real.  I came into the class and together we looked at how we could rewrite the post so that it was the students own work.  There were many students who after seeing the post that I pointed out that had copied, went back into their own posts and changed them to be their own words.  They were asking great questions like "what if I write someones birthdate or where they were born that I found on another webpage, is that plagiarism?" "How do I write it if it was exactly what someone said?"  They are not being told what plagiarism or intellectual property is, they are inquiring about it and finding out for themselves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"In the future we won't need teachers because Tech will replace them"

I've been thinking about how to respond to this statement for sometime now.  I hear it often, sometimes jokingly, but more than not a real fear that teachers will become obsolete is a hidden wall in progressive educational thought and if we're not careful it will lead to denying children access to technology.

To those who make this statement, I came across my counter argument in a quote by Sir Ken Robinson.

"They saw in me something I did not see in myself."
An algorithm can not do that.  An algorithm can not interpret the look on a child's face when a teacher recognizes their talent.  A personalized curriculum, like Kahn Academy, knows where you should go next in your learning progression, but it can not tell when to push you or when to back off and lend a consoling word.  It is personalized not personal.

We need to recognize that technology provides the tools to give us as teachers more time and information to provide the "personal" to the students.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Professional Development on the Cheap and on the Web

In looking for the best practices in Educational Technology I've come across two websites that have been excellent in developing my knowledge and understanding of technology integration. These two tools are Google for Education Training and  These are fantastic resources to better your teaching practice as well as strengthen your resume.

Our school has been in the process of "Going Google" for a little while now and the expectations for us to be working more and more using Google Apps along with our other software are rising.  Google has created an easy to follow curriculum that covers each of the main areas that teachers can use Google Apps to enhance learning within their classroom.  Each of the lessons are between 5 and 15 minutes to complete and many include step by step videos to help you master each skill.  

 From every lesson I have gained at least 1 thing that has made using Google Apps more accessible and effective.
After completing the lessons, for a small fee of about 100$USD you can take an exam to become a Google Certified Teacher, which would would be highly desirable to many schools.

I'm not really sure how I came across EdWeb, but I must have subscribed to their postings at some point as they send me once a week the schedule for their webinars.  When I see a topic that I am interested in I reserve a spot for the scheduled time and EdWeb sends me reminders of when to log on and join the live webinar.  In the live webinar you have the ability to post comments and questions to the presenter as well as all of the other participants are online.  If you happen to miss the live session you can watch the recorded video at your own convenience.  Each session is around 1 hour in length and totally free.  After each webinar you receive a certificate of completion.

Along with the webinars EdWeb is a social network bringing a community of educators together to share their experiences.  

Stay Calm and Just Keep Learning