Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What a Month!!

Well I have had a half written post reflecting on the Sheep Probability session I had with students about 3 weeks ago. The reason it never was completed, nor published is because things got crazy busy. About 2 weeks ago my main computer had a OS failure, and it took about 3 days to recover all of my data. Following that I had a TEDx talk to write, memorise and present. Then last week I went to Los Angeles to be a part of the first Minecraft Educator Summit, hosted by Microsoft Research.

So things went from running smoothly to absolutely crazy busy over the last 3 weeks. So now to brain dump and reflect on all the things. Sheep probability first.

The map itself is quite client graphical lag intense. More so than I originally thought, so I will be 'removing' half of the sheep in the initial barn area to see if that helps it along a little bit. The actual activity worked well, students were mostly on task and engaged, but with the lag it is a bit difficult to say the map was an outstanding success.

The jeb_ sheep activity was a bit of a let down in my class. I am quite disappointed that we didn't get to it and complete it properly as I really wanted to see the discussions that could stem from that activity. Unfortunately students were a bit out of it by the time we started. The lag had gotten them all unsettled, and in my excitement to try a new activity I forgot that these students are new at learning in this kind of environment. So the students began getting a bit silly and things started to get frustrating for all students. So we stopped playing, had a reflection time on what went well, what didn't go so well and what could be done different next time.

I always amaze myself at how quickly I forget that it take students quite some practice to be able to learn effectively in such a different environment, especially when using the game mechanics so that they enjoy themselves and it is not a boring repetitive task, no different in essentials to a worksheet. I did screen capture the lesson, and will hopefully find time over the upcoming term break to edit it down and publish it to my YouTube channel.

TEDxRosalindParkED was amazing. What an awesome experience to be a part of. Having never been involved in anything quite like it before made it a very new experience for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing my own speech, editing it, making sure it sounded 'like me' and still got the most pertinent information across. In the end I was very happy with the script I had written, and I even think I managed to stick to the script when I got on stage. The video is reportedly going to be uploaded by around the 10th of April so I am really looking forward to seeing how it actually sounded.

Enough about my own speech and presentation, the other presenters on the day were fantastic, and I cannot wait to revisit them when they are uploaded as there were some really cool 'things' that I would like to try out in my own classes. The networking opportunities at the pre-dinner and post-dinner were also highly valuable, being able to pick peoples brains and have others pick mine is something I think I need to do more often.

The Minecraft summit in LA was also an amazing opportunity to meet some people I have been working with for almost 4 years now in person for the first time. It was also an opportunity to meet some of those who I feel I have been working against face to face and have a proper discussion, instead of passing 140 character notes to one another via Twitter.

If there is one thing I hope that Microsoft/Mojang and the community of educators that were there take from this summit, it is that we, as a community of people using Minecraft to educate students need to ensure that we don't tell anyone they are doing it wrong. There is no one correct way to do this, as I have mentioned in the past, people need to start where they are comfortable and evolve their practice from there until it works for them.

If you can do open ended projects where students play to learn, great do it, but if your school, classroom, curriculum or teaching style does not allow that and you want to do some more scripted play, or direct instruction in the virtual world, do so. I think as a group, educators are not that great at sharing what didn't work in their classrooms, they will happily share the successes, which is great, but I think there is also a great deal of valuable information about what didn't work, and why, being left unshared.

So after this insane month, what am I taking away, apart from the need for a bit of a break? Share, share often, share everything (within reason) and talk to people. Remember people are passionate, most educators are not in this job for the money, most are passionate about education, about educating students. Make sure you don't belittle others opinions just because they differ from yours, listen, reflect and share your own opinions freely, try to explain the reasons for your opinions, use evidence if you have it. Most of all, share your passion, if there is one thing that will bring people on board it is seeing your own passion, passion is contagious, it is very hard not to be infected if you really get involved in the discussion.

Well if you managed to get this far, well done, and thanks. Any comments you have would be greatly appreciated.