So I have been in a pretty stressful situation these last couple of weeks. I was told the other week that there are some areas of my teaching practice that I am not up to scratch on, little things, but things that are expected of me in my role as a teacher in this school. Now this in itself is great for my own personal development. It is giving feedback on things I can do to improve my own teaching practice.
The stress has been caused by a request to provide “hard data” to prove that Minecraft is assisting my students in their learning. I have anecdotal evidence that supports the value of Minecraft as a teaching tool, but collecting “hard data” has never been a goal as I use Minecraft as a teaching tool. So after gnawing on the meetings and discussions I have had, I requested a follow up meeting to clarify the reason for seeking this data, and why my professional opinion was not enough to allow me to continue using it in my classes.
It seems there is a perception in my school that I use Minecraft in my classes ‘a lot’. Now over the weekend I actually did some calculations to show how much class time over the year I have spent with each of my classes in Minecraft. The results surprised me, the percentage of time spent in my classes using Minecraft is way lower than even I thought it would be. Excepting the Pre-CAL Numeracy Project, which sits around 50% of class time spent in the game, all my classes used less than 10% of available class time in Minecraft.
Now about 4 or 5 months ago I asked my admin at the time whether I could share the work I was doing in Minecraft with the staff at my school. My hope was that of removing some of the misconceptions about using games in classrooms, and also to see if any other staff at my school would be willing to have a go at using this tool in their classes. I was told back then a flat out no, and to work with a small group of interested staff.
Now, given the large misconception about the time I spend using this, my current admin is suggesting that perhaps it is time to share. I will be surveying my year 8 students, as they have used it more than most of the classes. The survey will focus on their thoughts about Minecraft in class, and how they feel this learning tool has assisted them in learning. I feel that the relevance of this data would be enhanced with a greater understanding of what we actually did in those classes.
So to increase understanding I look forward to a sit down with my admin to go through the lesson, “Path to Percentage Perfection.” During this process I hope to talk about the learning goals, the planning involved, the research based foundations, and what the students were required to do within the lesson. Then we will explore and discuss the data I collected from discussion and student surveys after that lesson. My hope is that my admin will see what is happening in my classes, the real learning that is happening, and hopefully provide evidence that this is indeed assisting my students with their understanding.
So back to the ‘hard data’ collection. After these meetings with my admin, I have had quite a few discussions with members of the MinecraftEdu community about how all of us can benefit from this. How can we get some solid, data based, evidence that using Minecraft assists students in their learning? We already have a few ways, the EduCrew MC Answer System, in-game journals, worksheets that fit alongside the learning in Minecraft and pre- and post-testing. I think, however, there is definitely scope to increase our options for data collection that proves to those not using this tool what those of us who are see clearly during our lessons.
I keep emphasising in all these discussions, that Minecraft is only one tool in my repertoire I use to engage and educate the students in my classes. It is no different than any other teaching practice I undertake in my classes except that it has been tagged a game. It has great engagement power, but it also has great teaching potential. Much like the clickers I used intensively last year, and will use again in the same manner next year to improve my students ability to interpret and answer multiple choice exam questions in a timely manner. In the end, Minecraft, like any other tool, is only as good as the teacher using it to teach lessons. So in reflection, if you see someone doing something new in their class, ask them to show you what it is, spend some time trying to understand it... who knows, you just might find a new tool for your teaching toolbox.