Minecraft: Learning By Doing

I recently helped a friend put his IKEA kitchen table together. After half an hour or so of building this table, the ever-so-simple directions walked us through to having a table that stood mostly upright. We beat our chests, reveled in glory and life was good. Hurray for us. Hurray for dinner. End of anecdote.

Maybe you can’t relate to my built-it-yourself adventure, but here’s the idea: the instructions and the table are a perfect pair – but separate them and they’re practically useless.  Without the directions the table goes unutilized. While on the other hand, if you have all the table’s parts but no directions, the process can easily be stifled.

Author James Paul Gee, PhD, illustrates the same idea with the example of a video game.  A prepackaged video game normally comes with two main features: the game itself and the instruction manual. While you can get along just fine without the manual, it does come in handy every now and again when help is sought or needed.

 4th grade students use MinecraftEdu to build and design a shop for classmates and friends.

4th grade students use MinecraftEdu to build and design a shop for classmates and friends.

But don’t try giving someone a game manual without giving them the actual game. Why? Because no one wants the manual without the actual game. What’s the point of reading about the game if we never get to play? What’s the point in memorizing facts in the manual if we never get to simulate or experience it?

You can see where this argument eventually leads when it comes to school. One could argue that we spend far too much time concerning ourselves with content rather than working to blend it with experience. In other words, we take the time to read all the manuals but never leave any time to play the game. We leave out one of the most essential components of understanding: learning by doing.

What if after we read the manual, we could actually play the game? What if we actually gave kids a chance to simulate newly acquired information and turn it into knowledge? What if we could synthesize the information in such a way that kids found it relevant to their lives? What if rather than just learning about the Transcontinental Railroad, a Sioux earthlodge or the Eiffel Tower - what if we could just build the them from scratch?

 1st Graders Gomana and Andriana explore ancient lands with MinecraftEdu's World of Humanities

1st Graders Gomana and Andriana explore ancient lands with MinecraftEdu's World of Humanities

Well, there is a way. It’s called Minecraft. It’s a game and it’s awesome for learning.

With Minecraft, students aren’t just consumers of manuals, they’re artists. Artists that innovate, imagine and create. Eiffel tower? We could build that (we have built that). We could build a pirate ship, a Pilgrim village, explore the Coliseum or whatever else we wanted. We could even build that table.

With Minecraft, students can craft their own understanding using mediums they actually find applicable. Minecraft is a language kids speak; it's a part of their culture. So, why not tap into that? Why not meet the kids halfway? Why not take an environment primed for learning and blend it with what we're already doing? What could be so wrong with spending some of the school day letting kids control their own learning? Just think of how pumped kids would be to actually create the manuals rather than just consuming them.  

It's not a stretch. It's not some crazy idea. It happens in my classroom everyday. It's happening in a lot more classrooms and the idea is starting to explode worldwide. We educators know that actual learning happens when we start connecting information with experiences and/or simulations. Manuals, instructions and directions - they are only part of the whole.

The other part? Well, that is up to crazy people like you and me - educators who are looking to make school more about kids by using mediums and platforms kids find relevant. It may look messy. It may not be perfect. But isn't that what learning looks like?

With Minecraft (and wonderful platforms like MinecraftEdu bringing it to schools) kids get opportunities to collaborate with partners and team up with classmates. They learn to set team goals, talk things through, work through conflict, and learn a lot of valuable real-life skills. They are learning about servers, IPs and setting up local area networks - again, all real things that our world uses to connect and share information.

Minecraft is more than just some computer game. Minecraft is a pixelated powerhouse for digital play. It is a virtual environment where ideas run wild and opportunities arise endlessly. Minecraft is a meeting place of potential and a common ground for kids. It is an arena for creativity and collaboration, of partnering and mentoring. Yes, it's a game, yes it comes on a electronic screen, but Minecraft just might be the next best educational tool for the classroom.


For more on using Minecraft in the classroom, feel free to check out my Minecraft page or the socials below. Gracias!

On Being Named an Apple Distinguished Educator - Class of 2015

A few weeks back, I was informed I had been accepted into the 2015 class of Apple Distinguished Educators. It was an honor to say the least. A few days after the announcement, I sat down to write a piece for my school district, Lincoln Public Schools, about all what the ADE application involved, what it means to me personally, and how it will affect my classroom. The original article can be found here, but I have also copied the text below. Additionally, I have included my 2 minute video required for the ADE application.

What did you do to be considered for this award?

One Wednesday night in mid April, my wife and I were just finishing up dinner when I received an email notification on my phone. I looked down to see “Congratulations! ADE Class of 2015” appear on my screen. My heart skipped a beat or two as I fumbled to punch in my code on my cracked iPhone screen.

Back in February, a colleague encouraged me to apply for the 2015 class of Apple Distinguished Educators. In all actuality, it wasn’t the best timing as I was trying to finish up the final course work for my degree in Educational Leadership. Nonetheless, after doing a bit of research about Apple Distinguished Educators, I realized that passing up the opportunity was not a choice I was willing to make.

The application, which only comes available every two years turned out to be extremely competitive. Applicants all over the world are required to answer four essay questions and create a 2-minute video featuring the educational highlights of their classrooms.

So, I got to work. I spent my days teaching at Campbell and came home to work on the application for hours every night for about two weeks. I wrote essays on how I have used technology to leverage learning, my philosophy on creating a positive classroom climate and how I have attempted to influence the broader educational community.

It was within the writing portion of the application where I described how the experiences I’ve had thus far in life have helped to shape my understanding of the world around me. I wrote about how traveling to places like Central America, Israel, China and Pakistan have impacted my worldview and taught me a lot about what life can look like within cultures very different than my own. Additionally, I shared about my multiple ventures to India to labor with and train teachers working in highly impoverished areas. I explained how all of these experiences have impacted my understanding of education and have helped shape my ever-evolving paradigm of pedagogy.

I also noted my five-year involvement as a founding board member of The BAY, an ever-growing youth advocacy non-profit based here in Lincoln. I went on to highlight that I hold two master degrees, am a soon-to-be published author (on teaching with MinecraftEdu), a $10,000 Code.org grant recipient, and a contributor to our district’s new Computer Science curriculum. I shared how I seek to influence the local educational community through speaking in university classrooms, presenting at conferences like UNL Tech EDGE and NETA and blogging my thoughts about things like Flipping the classroom, programing with Logo, all the way down to insomnia-curing educational philosophy.

In addition to the essay questions, I also got to create a film showcasing what the creative minds at Campbell were doing in the computer lab. Within this portion, I tried to weave in my own philosophy and pedagogic beliefs and how they find their way into my computer lab. I highlighted Campbell kids learning with MinecraftEdu, using web resources like Code.org and how the kids use our mini Makerspace to learn about robotics and engage within STEM activities.

 

More than anything I tried to convey my chief aim as a teacher: The more we listen to kids and let them have a say in their own education, the more we empower them for the encounters the face today. I explained that as an educator, it’s my responsibility to see all these kids as individual people with individual makeups.

To me, this means meeting kids where they are. It means getting to know what kids find interesting, what they find relevant, and what they find meaningful. I think the best way to do this is to treat them like people; listening to them and being authentic with them, talking with them and making an effort to recognize their humanity and individuality.

So far, in my journey as an educator, I have surrounded myself or put myself within environments that have forced me to reflect and realign my understanding of what education can and should look like. All in all, the more I learn, the more I hesitate to lay claim that I have a corner on any of it. Nonetheless, it is my hope to continue down this path of investigating what learning looks like in such an exciting time of exponential change.

What does this mean to you personally?

Currently, I am the Computer Science teacher at Campbell Elementary and finishing up my eighth year within LPS. Prior to this position, I was fourth grade teacher at Saratoga Elementary for six years. Just like Saratoga, Campbell and every other building in this school district, there are loads of amazing educators advocating everyday for the children in our community.

So, to be singled out amongst this group is humbling to say the least. There are veteran teachers with whom I work alongside that have been serving this Lincoln community for decades longer than I have been walking. Much of the credit goes to these teacher leaders: the heartbeats of school culture, the giants of education. All real praise should go to them.

But more than anything, I think the lion’s share of the credit really goes to my kids. The good little souls that grace my classroom make me look good – real good, apparently. My role has been to create a space for that student creativity and infuse real world connections. When schools like Campbell set aside time for relevant and engaging learning environments, good things will inevitably take place.

All in all, I’m grateful, a little nervous, but all-around delighted for the honor. Opportunities like these seldom come our way, and I am overjoyed to get to represent all the good things happening here in Lincoln. It means a great deal to be recognized; it means even more getting to advocate for my neighbors and community.

How will this impact students that you teach?

For the 2015 class of Apple Distinguished Educators, Apple selected 646 individuals from 48 countries worldwide. Being a part of this group, I will have the opportunity to attend the ADE Institute this summer in Miami, Florida. At the gathering, I will be honored to be meet and work alongside some of the most influential and innovative teachers on this side of the globe.

Undoubtedly, I will have the opportunity to showcase what my Campbell kids are doing and share it with these top-shelf educators. To think that the goods and creative works my students have produced will actually spread more ideas than I could ever do alone is staggering. What I hope to convey to my students is that my role will be as an ambassador to highlight what they are doing and how we go about learning in our classroom.

Lastly, I am looking forward to Apple’s ADE Institute to simply learn, play and discover. A great deal of teachers use their summers to attend professional development, seminars and conferences. They do this because educators know the value of continual learning and the perpetual development of their practice. I am looking forward to the ADE Institute for this very reason. I will be able to grow my network of learning professionals, share my own experiences, and be able to display the amazing works of the wonderful kids at Campbell Elementary School. The platform I have been given is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I hope to represent Lincoln Public Schools, Campbell Elementary and the Lincoln community well.

About Apple Distinguished Educators, from Apple's website

ADEs are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. They explore new ideas, seek new paths, and embrace new opportunities. That includes working with each other — and with Apple — to bring the freshest, most innovative ideas to students everywhere.

ADEs advise Apple on integrating technology into learning environments — and share their expertise with other educators and policy makers. They author original content about their work. They advocate the use of Apple products that help engage students in new ways. And they are ambassadors of innovation, participating in and presenting at education events around the world. Being part of the ADE community is much more than an honor — it’s an opportunity to make a difference.

There are now more than 2,000 ADEs worldwide, from the United States to China, New Zealand to Turkey. And they gather every year at ADE Institutes and education events around the world as well as online in the ADE community to collaborate on solutions to the global education challenges of today and tomorrow.

Campbell Students create a "Thank You" for Code.org

To Hadi Partovi and all those at Code.org,

From all of us here at Campbell Elementary school wanted to say, “Thank You!” For one reason or another, you took notice of what these amazing little minds where up to and blessed us with $10,000 in new computer science resources. Thank you!

Because of the Code.org initiative to get computer science in more classrooms, we now have 27 iPads in 27 classrooms, in the hands of 27 teachers who didn’t already have one. Additionally, my computer lab has seen the addition of new goodies, including MakeyMakeys, KanoKits, Raspberry Pis, and some friendly looking robots named Dash and Dot.

More than just dollars, you have provided our school and students with opportunities. The possibilities you have given through this gift are incalculable. We already have kids creating games, learning code and minds excited to be working and programing with the new computer science materials. You are growing creative minds, programmers, engineers and impacting many lives within our pocket of the Lincoln community.

Your generosity has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. We took a little break from our everyday explorations to create a video to say thank you for all you’ve done and all the good you have brought about. Thank you for your vision, thank you for your cause, and thank you for this hope.

With gratitude, appreciation and excitement for what is to come,

Jason Wilmot and all the good little souls here at Campbell Elementary School

 

Turtle Power, Hour of Code and $10,000

 

A few weeks ago I woke up, checked my email, and neatly snuggled in between all those fun work messages I read the following: “Congratulations Jason and thank you for organizing the Hour of Code school-wide! We’ve selected your school to win $10,000…”

So here’s the story on how that rolled out.

Code.org is a non-profit organization on a mission to put computer science on the map for millions of kids. Code.org was founded by Hadi Partovi, a computer science advocate who began his career at Microsoft and from there went on to become a strategic advisor or early investor in startups like Facebook, Dropbox, airbnb and Zappos. His new organization, Code.org, suggests that if we are to prepare kids for their future, then we must start placing a greater emphasis on computer science in our schools. According to Code.org, computer-programing jobs are growing at 2x the national average. This means by the year 2020, we will have 1.4 million jobs requiring computer science skills.

But another problem is that computer science is not even recognized toward high school credits in many states (including my home state of Nebraska). That means youth within my Lincoln community are not receiving this experience or preparation for the future, or even if they are working toward programing, they’re not getting any credit for it.

This is where Code.org steps into play. During Computer Science Education Week (Dec 8 -14), Code.org challenged the world with their “Hour of Code.” Their goal: Get 100 million students worldwide to spend just one hour learning about computer code. In addition to providing web-based learning activities for kids to learn how to program and code, the organization also incentivized schools to get on board by giving away money to schools who came up with plans to get their school involved with the Hour of Code.

Now to be honest, I have no idea why Campbell and I took home the $10,000. But this is what I do know: One school in each state was awarded a $10,000 prize from Code.org to be use toward computer hardware and a focus on computer science. So, how did I end up winning? Maybe it was because we got a head start on coding earlier in the year, or maybe it was because my school district is actively creating and working toward implementing computer science curriculum. Maybe winning the 10 grand was shear luck, or maybe it was because I tweet a crazy amount of cool things that the kids are doing in our computer lab. You can take your pick; I kind of like the last guess.

So how did my kids at Campbell spend their time during Hour of Code? Three weeks prior to the Hour of Code week, I had my students on Code.org Course 1 learning introductory coding. Here students dragged and dropped simple code to preform basic algorithms with familiar characters, including those from Frozen, Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds.

From there, we talked about programs, loops and repeat features built within coding languages. We had some unplugged coding activities like using x and y coordinates to program movements and we conjured up some pretty crazy whole-class dances with custom moves (our algorithms) and loops.

y the time the weeklong Hour of Code rolled around, Campbell students were ready to take all that we had learned and use it within MinecraftEdu. I used a Minecraft mod called ComputerCraft. Basically, the mod harkens back to the days of the Logo turtle, but blends this logic-based programing into the learning-friendly medium of Minecraft. With this turtle mod (ComputerCraft), students programed their own ideas and even recorded them on a sheet of paper - making the learning more concrete and enabling them to program at home without a computer. Students used drag and drop movements and actions so that the turtles mined into the earth, built stairways into the sky, and dug a series of holes only to have the turtle turn around and fill them back in. One student programed a hide-and-go seek turtle, another had the turtle build a rectangular house foundation, while another even synced up their turtle to drop materials onto a pressure plate which activated a redstone circuit, which ever-so-awesomely was programed to launch fireworks into the air.

Here are a few of the student-created goodies I shared via Vine and Twitter.

 

Lastly, I will leave you with how Campbell is planning on spending the $10,000. Ultimately, my principal and I decided on two initiatives: 1) Get iPads into every classroom that didn’t already have them, and 2) Computer Science goodies that will probably find a very comfortable fit within my computer lab. Below are the three pending purchases for my lab:

Makey Makey 

Makey Makey is a device that enables a user to program computer inputs with everyday objects. It is a brilliant (and super cheap) way to help kids start thinking like programmers.

“The MaKey MaKey Standard Kits are an Arduino-based device that lets you turn nearly anything into a computer key. Just attach the included alligator clips to food, people, liquids, Play-Doh, or any other somewhat conductive material for a whole new level of interactivity and fun. Imagine for a moment that you could turn nearly anything into a game controller or keyboard. What would you do? Create a drum kit from oranges? Play Doom with your alphabet soup? With the MaKey MaKey, it's possible!” – From MakerShed.com

Dash & Dot Robots 

From MakeWonder.com - “Kids can define how they want to play. Whether your child is into having make-believe tea parties, building elaborate forts, or adventuring with friends, Dash & Dot will be there every step of the way. Empower your child to program Dash & Dot into anything they imagine.

We set a low floor but a high ceiling for coding. Blockly is a drag-and-drop programming language that snaps together like puzzle pieces. Start by sending simple commands, learn programming concepts as you play, and progress to creating more complex algorithms.

It’s a big world out there, and Dash & Dot are ready help you explore. Program them to squeal when you pick them up, navigate around sharp corners, or be on the lookout for approaching siblings or pets.

Dash & Dot are even more fun with add-ons. Play a song on Dash’s Xylophone, take videos using the smartphone mount, and add bricks (including LEGOTM) to them with Building Brick Connectors. Transforming Dash & Dot is easy with accessories and a small dose of creativity.”

Kano Kit


Kano kit is a computer you build and code yourself. It is built from a Raspberry Pi and customizable for a variety of coding and programing experiences. It is portable, it is programmable and it provides for powerful learning.

Make sure to catch the next blog post by pressing the Follow button below and keep up with the day-to-day via my Twitter feed, here.

Cheers!

My about me page

I thought it was time to update my 'about' page. Here's my attempt to convey who I am, what I've done and to steer clear of narcissism and too many commas.

* * *

I am a teacher, blogger, author, traveler and an all around believer in good. I was a classroom teacher for six years and currently teach 650+ K-5 kids each week as their computer science/creativity ninja specialist. 

I am a 2015  Apple Distinguished Educator, a founding board member of The Bay and try to be a good neighbor. I have traveled the world, met beautiful people, and know we are far more alike than we are different.

I am married to a talented and gorgeous lady who has made everything about life better. Especially breakfast. I like my job. I like to bike. I like to make music.

I hold masters degrees in Educational Leadership and in Historical Studies, and a bachelor's in Education & Human Sciences. Yet, I'm keen enough to know that deeds and actions trump a resumé any day.

I make an effort to write about the things I care about. I believe in questioning everything (especially myself). I believe in beauty, humanity and sometimes even science. I believe that things are getting better and that good ideas, will ultimately win out.

What Kids Are Saying About Minecraft and Learning

Most people recognize the power in feedback. Whether we are selling company goods, conducting a meeting or teaching in school, a dialogue centered on “How are we doing?” behooves the organization and all its stakeholders. We feel valued and validated as individuals when we feel our voice is heard.

But harkening back to my days as an elementary kid, I do not believe I was asked to opine all that often about my school day. And I get it: There is not a whole lot of wiggle room for 9-year-old’s opinion with compulsory attendance, obdurate curriculum and legislative mandates.

Yet, John Hattie’s work shows the dramatic effect size of learning when we utilize meaningful feedback. Now, I am a firm believer that kids engage more in their own learning if they have a say in their school day. Knowing this, as the first quarter of the school year came to an end, I asked my students for their opinions; their feedback. I offered them two simple questions to be answered. The first, “What was your favorite part of computer class this first quarter?” The second, “How did I do as your teacher? In what way could I improve?”

As the answers came in, I not only felt encouraged and affirmed in how I was doing as their teacher, but also felt a profound understanding of how vital it is to simply ask kids what they think. It is their education, after all, wouldn't meaningful feedback include their opinions as well?

 GR3 Mason programs an arrow launcher

GR3 Mason programs an arrow launcher

I use Minecraft as an educational platform in my classroom. So, when I asked my 3rd-5th graders what they liked most during the first quarter, a majority (like 99%) of students wrote about Minecraft in their response. Most responses centered around student creativity, engaging imaginations and things along that vein of thinking. Yet, as I read the responses, I found that some were so meaningful and amazingly articulate, that I wanted to share them. It not only brought a smile to my face reading their words, but gave me all the push (and feedback) I needed to continue down this venture of using Minecraft in school.

So, I leave you a glimpse of what kids are talking about when it comes to Minecraft and learning:

“The best part of computer class was doing Minecraft because we got to express our creativity”

“When I got onto Minecraft, I realized that it was just like Legos. It is like drawing, but on a computer.”

“The best part of computer class was Minecraft and ButtonBass. Because u can be creative and actually think. Not just follow directions.”

“The best part of computer class was MinecraftEdu. Even if we have to build the same thing, no two buildings are going to be the same.”

 “Minecraft was the best part because we use our minds. We use our skills. We also use our imagination.”

“Was MinecraftEdu because it helps people use teamwork. It can help people communicate. People can be creative”

“The best part of computer class this 1st quarter was minecraft because we were trying to encourage other schools to get it!”

"1 the best part about computer class was minecraft because i love to play with my friends and build amazing things!!!!!!!also i love exploring other peoples stuff."

"The best part of computer class this 1st quarter was playing survival mode because I don’t like monsters but I do like to have to find things."

“The best part of computer class this 1st quarter was minecraft because I like creating things with my friends and making up new ideas”

“The best part of computer class this 1st quarter was being able to play Minecraft. Because I like architecture and interior design.”

 GR1 Chris & Yousif creating a puzzle for classmate

GR1 Chris & Yousif creating a puzzle for classmate

If you are interested in teaching with Minecraft, you can check out my past posts, or JasonWilmot.com/minecraft for some other goodies that I've put together. Cheers!

4th Grade Fire Maze

This week I had two fourth graders create something I just had to share. Kids can create almost anything with Minecraft and because of that I end up seeing crazy-original ideas everyday in my classroom. This Fire Maze is a prime example. Two boys created a maze and tested the difficulty before letting their friends play it. Throw in some fire for dramatic flair and you see why kids love learning with Minecraft.

 

Minecraft has a whole bucket load of features that attract all styles of play. Some kids build castles while others would prefer puzzles. Some kids would rather engineer contraptions while others devise mazes. Anyway you look at it, the more I use Minecraft the more I can see student creativity. These kids are showing just how unique and individual the creative process can be. They imagine a concept, come in with a plan and manifest amazing things like this maze.

The Fire Maze Race – created by Chris and Hamzah

For more follow along with the links below

Featured on MinecraftEdu

Last week I dropped by MinecraftEdu.com to see their new and improved website. Upon scrolling down I happened upon some familiar looking tweets - mine! If you're interested in teaching with Minecraft then you should definitely check out MinecraftEdu.com. They provide teachers with a great tool to get started and are continuing to grow the idea and community. While it won't be absolutely everything you'll need, it will provide for some great first steps. Check them out either way.

JasonWilmot_MinecraftEdu


 



Why I Started Teaching With Minecraft

I was recently featured on the Lincoln Public Schools doing a Q & A about teaching with Minecraft. If you want to read the article on lps.org you can click here

Here's the Q & A:

Jason Wilmot is the computer teacher at Campbell Elementary School, and he uses Minecraft as part of his curriculum. Minecraft is a relatively new element in education, and was recently purchased by Microsoft in a deal for $2.5 billion. Wilmot - and his students - explain the benefits of Minecraft and why it works in his classroom.

 

What is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a digital platform that can be used in a wide variety of ways. It can be played on a number of devices including computers, Xbox, PlayStation, the iPad and some Android devices.

First of all, it can be played as a game centering on strategic thinking and deductive reasoning. The user must prioritize; set goals and problem solve to explore the in-game world. Throw in an optional threat of danger (monsters) and this fosters a need for security and necessitates preservation strategies.

Secondly, Minecraft can be played in a creative mode. This mode provides for an endless virtual sandbox of creativity (think digital Legos). Here kids can imagine, design, build, engineer, program, develop, code, and simulate almost any type of learning environment. Users can play individually, in small groups or can play on servers holding hundreds of players.

On top of all that, the game also allows for virtual field trips. Here, a teacher could drop the entire class into a pre-created world. There are ancient Roman dwellings, China’s Forbidden City and Egyptian pyramids. This feature is called Adventure Mode. It gives students the ability to visit a world but disables their ability to break anything within it.Basically, it’s a class trip to the art gallery with no need to worry about oily fingers.

 4th Grade Solar System Project

4th Grade Solar System Project

How do kids use it in class?

I started using Minecraft in my classroom last year with the help of Dr. Trainin of the University of Nebraska. Since then, I’ve used it in several different ways. I’ve used it for individual, whole-class, and entire-school builds. Our most complex project to date was building Campbell City: a 500+ student project where each student was given a creative space within the city to build whatever they could imagine.

We’ve learned about digital citizenship, computational thinking and connected everyday classroom curriculum into student creations. Kids have solved math problems, created digital dioramas, and have built projects like the Great Wall of China, the Orphan Train, our solar system, water conservation tutorials, and everything in between. We’ve simulated learning goals from Language Arts, Junior Achievement and extra curricular activities. Really, I could keep going, but I think you get point: with Minecraft the possibilities are endless.

 Castle Campbell

Castle Campbell

What are the Educational Benefits?

When people ask about educational benefits, I often ask them to clarify what they mean. Yeah, I’m pedantic like that, but “Educational” can mean a lot different things to different people – and really, that’s probably right where we should keep it – amorphous and all. I subscribe to the idea that education can happen anytime and anywhere. Learning is like breathing. We breathe in oxygen - we grow cells; we take in impulses - we connect dendrites. It’s natural, it’s normal and it’s done best when there’s an intrinsic interest.

Before I was a computer specialist at Campbell, I was a classroom teacher for six years at Saratoga. I made the move for a number of reasons, but one of my primary motivations for the switch was to learn how to further embedded technology into education. But it was more than that – I didn’t just want to sprinkle in techy gadgets or electronic worksheets - I wanted to find where curriculum, creativity and student desires could meet.

Maybe I’m old skool, new school, or something in the realm of other – but as an educator, what I hold onto more than anything else is this: learning must be meaningful, and it must be relevant. That means content must be presented in real world ways. It should make sense and whenever possible it should be simulated, not just presented in information-only forms.

Our job as educators is not to provide the dots, but to facilitate the connecting of dots. This means taking student experiences and building into that specific knowledge base. It means getting to know the students on an individual basis. It’s discovering what they find interesting, what they believe about the world, and where they find significance. And for all these things - for this affinity space – the best place to start was Minecraft.

 Roller Coaster built by Kindergartener Chris

Roller Coaster built by Kindergartener Chris

What do the kids think about Minecraft?

So, rather than just hearing my opinion on this, I decided to throw this question out to my Campbell Elementary students on Google Classroom. I asked students if they thought Minecraft should be in more schools. Here are a few responses:

Minecraft belongs in schools because it helps kids be creative and different. Minecraft also helps kids learn about objects in the world....we get to EXPLORE! 

Minecraft belong in school because it helps kids think and be more creative. Its also makes them think and focus on what they’re building in Minecraft.

Minecraft belongs in school because you get to create things people haven’t before. And kids can think more and be creative and can use their imaginations.

Minecraft belongs in school because it helps kids learn to build things. And it is fun for some kids.

Minecraft allows you to express your feelings. And it’s something for you to be creative.

Kids want to play Minecraft because they want to have fun.

It lets kids express their feelings and brings your imagination to life.

Because it is a fun building experience to build whatever you want. You get to have fun and build with your friends.

It is fun to create creations and it is creative and awesome. It’s cool that some creation can be used.

Minecraft teaches kids to be creative. The kids will be happy and learn stuff.

 * * * * *

 

This basketball arena was created by Cameron, a 5th grader. He eventually had to recruit his friends to come in during recess to finish the project but finished it the last few days of school.

If you'd like to see more student creations follow the social links below


Because I Say So

So, if kids are actually real-life people

then here’s where I find this idea gets a little tricky: We’d have to drop our act of “because I said so” and actually try to hear kids out,

or slow down to explain things in an understandable way.

And that would suck.

Because nothing about that sounds right. And nothing about that seems normal.

But what if it was?

And what if that – was our normal?

Would I be crazy if I think that would be awesome?

And if we could orchestrate our schools that way,

then wouldn't I have the best job on the planet?

* * *

If you missed my opine on Are Kids People - prepare for mental flossing.