Lauren Bisset

Ed. etc.

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Coding for classrooms: Scratch

I have been exploring Rich McCue‘s resources on coding and reading my classmates blog posts on different ways coding can be integrated into the classroom. Rich believes that coding should be something that is possible to teach in subjects in addition to just math and science. My favourite resource I came across was Scratch, a website for beginner coders that is extremely user-friendly and accessible. There is minimal text on the screen and the different commands are colour-coded and shaped as blocks that fit together. It is aimed towards younger learners, however as an absolute amateur at coding this resource appealed to me the most. Scratch allows learners to create short animations, stories, and games relatively easily and introduces them to the idea of coding.

While before I was introduced to these resources I would never imagine, as an English and French pre-service teacher I would ever use coding in my classroom, but I can see myself easily using Scratch particularly in either of my teachable subjects. Coding is an incredibly relevant and useful skill that I think can be expanded from technology classrooms to beyond.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

VR

Rich McCue did a presentation in our Education Technology class today on augmented and virtual reality. He explained the use of the Aris app in Kitsilano High School, a project that they did connecting current students to past students in 1944 in the midst of World War II. He made a point of how students could set up something similar as a project for many different classes, rather than a teacher setting it up like they did in this case.

There are so many ways augmented and virtual reality can be used in education, but Rich pointed out particularly that for reconciliation it could be an amazing resource that also links deeply with place-based learning. As I am passionate about doing my part in reconciliation, this idea really appealed to me.

Today I also had the opportunity to try virtual reality for the first time. It was an amazing experience, and it got me thinking how it can be applied to education. Exploring Google Earth in virtual reality I could see particularly relevant to French language learning, which is one of my teachable subjects.

There are a few cons to augmented and virtual reality, including that it is not recommended to children under 13, how expensive putting it into practice is, and how for virtual reality goggles it would often be only one student actively participating at a time.

I am interested to continue learning about how virtual and augmented reality can be implemented in different types of classrooms.

Minecraft for Language Learning: The Final Presentation

On Friday my friend Julie and I presented on our Tech Inquiry project, on Minecraft for teaching language. I was excited to share what we had learned over the course of our project and answer questions! Here is what we took away from the inquiry!

Our inquiry questions were: How can we use Minecraft to teach language?

  • Is it even possible?
  • The limits of the game
  • Engagement or chaos
  • What are the specific needs of a language classroom?

We believe that a language class should be:

  • Fun
  • Loud
  • Creative
  • A community of learners
  • As little worksheets as possible
  • Authentic
  • A space where you can make mistakes
  • Open to all types of learners

We discovered in our research that there was a lot of commonalities between Minecraft and what a language class should be. Minecraft can be a great community game since a class can have a common goal and students can work collaboratively to achieve it. Minecraft also requires a classroom that is a positive and collaborative space before we move to the game. Writer Laura McKenna argues that it’s so popular with autistic children that in a classroom, the game could essentially serve as the great equalizer between autistic and non-autistic students. We also learned while playing that you can change the setting to the targeted language, and you can chat with everybody on the server, so that in itself is an ideal scenario for language learning. 

Minecraft Steve toy

Pros to using Minecraft in the language classroom:

ENGAGEMENT AND MOTIVATION
It has been proven that Minecraft  increases motivation in the classroom.

COMMUNITY
It is a highly collaborative game and a class goal can help build the sense of community.

AGENCY  AND AUTONOMY
Game-based learning offers opportunities to students to take ownership of their education.

CREATIVITY
Minecraft is a blank canvas: you can do and build what you want with it.

LEADERSHIP
Students are the expert since they are often more knowledgeable about the game.

DIFFERENTIATION
For students, Minecraft can help them show their learning in a way they would never have been able to on a paper.

SELF-EFFICACY
Students can be confident using technology independently and take their learning into their own hands.

RELEVANCE

The game is a key cultural influence for their generation.

blue, red, and green Pac-Man wall painting

There are some cons to using Minecraft, however.

MOTION SICKNESS
Some people can get really dizzy while playing the game.

DIFFERENT LEVELS
Students often come with drastically different levels of knowledge of the game.

PREMADE LESSONS ARE LESS INTERESTING
An easy way to work with Minecraft is to download premade lessons and let the students explore and learn from them.  The students are more passive.

DISTRACTION
With such a wide range of possibilities, it is easy for students to get off task and it is hard for the teacher to monitor them.

 

Best practices we suggest for using Minecraft in the classroom:

  1. BUILD A POSITIVE CLASSROOM
    Students are more open to try new things when they feel supported.
  2. START WITH A SHORT PROJECT
    To feel less overwhelmed
  3. PROMOTE STUDENT LEADERSHIP
    So students help and teach each others.
  4. LET THEM BE CREATIVE
    You can use a premade lesson, but it is always better to let students create something

We wanted to provide a mini-unit plan to show how it is possible to implement it into the classroom and within curricular expectations:

group of people using laptop computer

FRAL GRADE 9

Big Ideas:

  • Improving communication skills in a language helps us define ourselves and affirm our ideas.

  • Language is a cultural tool, the common thread of knowledge and values.

Content:

Literary elements:

  • characteristics of the novel
  • characteristics of the fable
  • stylistic elements

Text organization:

  • narrative structure
  • portrait
  • descriptive sequences

Language elements:

  • agreement of past tenses
  • pronouns used as direct and indirect object  complements
  • verb moods and tenses associated with the genres being studied

GOAL
Create a world and tell a compelling story around it.

LESSON 1
Explore the many possibilities of Minecraft

LESSON 2-3
Build the world. 

Review of the principle of storytelling.

LESSON 4
Learn about how a setting can influence a story. Review notions of description, pronouns, verb moods and tenses.

LESSON 5-6
Write the story and present.

More ideas:

There are 1001 ideas to use Minecraft in the classroom:

  • Set the game in Survival mode and give quests.
  • Create a city as a class and narrate a screencast tour
  • Start a new civilization and role-play
  • Download a world (ex. a shipwreck or an extinct civilization)  and have them imagine the story behind it.
  • Create a vocabulary scavenger hunt.

Works Cited

Gallagher, Colin et al. Minecraft in the Classroom: Ideas, Inspiration, and Student Projects for Teachers. Peachpit Press, Berkeley, CA, 2015; 2014.

Irvin, Glen, et al. “How The Minecraft Classroom Can Transform Your World Language Classroom.” Technology Solutions That Drive Education, 5 June 2019, https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/11/minecraft-can-transform-your-world-language-classroom.

“Minecraft: Education Edition- Collaboration.” Youtube, YouTube, 8 June 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=OJzriaJvvLw.

“My Minecraft Journey Lesson One: Why Minecraft: Education Edition?” My Minecraft Journey Lesson One: Why Minecraft: Education Edition? – Microsoft in Education, https://education.microsoft.com/courses-and-resources/courses/my-minecraft-journey-lesson-one.

Willingham, Emily. “Minecraft Is Shaping A Generation, And That Is A Good Thing.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Apr. 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2014/04/26/minecraft-is-shaping-a-generation/#27b6854d66b6.

 

 

 

 

Video Conferencing/Multi-Access Learning

man standing in front of people sitting beside table with laptop computers

Should we allow flexibility in modality accessibility? What are the implications within a classroom context? How is this a human rights and a social justice issue? These are all questions that we discussed in EdTech on Friday.

I think that sometimes, as teachers, we can get locked into our own preferences and biases. The binary that exists in high school and most universities is courses are either taught face-to-face, or online. In online learning, there is not usually a set time and dates for the class and the professor to meet online, even though the resources to have “face-to-face” learning online very much exist, and are actually becoming more accessible and affordable. Students have to self-regulate, deciding what times they are going to go online to do coursework, so their self-accountability is huge.

Another method includes blended learning: a mix of face-to-face time and online learning. There are benefits to this method, but the learning is not increased in this scenario. It does not meet mobility needs.

Multi-access learning is seemingly the best solution. It includes video-conferencing, face-to-face, and online learning. It is inclusive rather than exclusive because everyone’s preferred method is addressed.

There are so many different needs that learners have, including many different physical and mental health needs that some learning styles obstruct. Using multi-access learning can help learners that are normally barred from traditional classroom settings learn like the rest of their community.

Teaching Reflection #2

One day in a Grade 9 English class, I had a great conversation with a few students about their chosen books for silent reading. The teacher allows students an absolute free choice for their silent reading books, and a few students I was talking to were all reading Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games book series. They were so happy to talk to me about their books: how they were liking it so far, how it compares to the other books in the series, how they thought it was going to end. We had a conversation about series books, and how by book 3 of a series it can often get “sketchy” and “cash-grabby.”

I was surprised how the students were so willing to talk to me about their books with such minimal prompting. The conversation was really genuine and I felt such a connection with the students as we shared the experience of having read the same book. I think that this kind of conversation may not have been possible if the teacher had not allowed them to pick their books, which is interesting to me as a hopefully future English teacher. They were so much more engaged in their learning and willing to share about it because it was a work that they were passionate about and that they had chosen with their own agency. I think that moving forward I will definitely understand the value of student choice whenever possible and practical in my classroom. In addition, I was reminded how valuable these little conversations are with students to building relationships and connections, and how easy it is to talk to them about things that they’re interested in.

MinecraftEDU

I have been continuing to do research for my EdTech inquiry the last couple of weeks. One question that I was wondering about was how teachers can assess while incorporating Minecraft, as some projects/assignments with Minecraft require a tangible piece of paper to be handed in that shows their work, but in other cases how can we as educators assess learning?

I found an amazing lesson on MinecraftEdu’s Microsoft website that details all of the different ways educators can organize their assessment during Minecraft lessons:

Here are two examples of lessons that educators detail the ways they use Minecraft’s in-game tools to assess.

In this math lesson, the teacher suggests utilizing the portfolio tool for students to organize and export their work.

In this Social Studies lesson, students put all of their finished work along a timeline so everyone can see everyone’s work. This allows quick assessment on the teachers part, and peer assessment and feedback is also encouraged and accessible.

It is clear that there are many ways to organize assessment even when students are playing a video game like Minecraft, and this assessment seems as if it can take on much more interesting forms than traditional assessment!

Minecraft in the Classroom: EdTech Presentation

Yesterday in class we had the privilege of having a Grade 7 teacher from Colquitz Middle School and some of her former students come in to our EdTech class to teach us about the advantages of Minecraft in the classroom and how to use it!

As I have been exploring Minecraft in education for my EdTech inquiry project, this class was very valuable for me. The teacher explained how much success she had found ever since she incorporated Minecraft in her classroom and shared so many different ways to use it.

The students were so knowledgable about Minecraft, and we had so much fun learning from them, flipped-classroom style. The room was so loud as all of us struggled to figure out the game and our “teachers” running around to help us as much as they could. They were absolutely the experts in that room yesterday, and they seemed to feel so empowered by having the knowledge and the opportunity to share it. One of my classmates joked to me that they were more comfortable and confident up in front of a class than we were as pre-service teachers, but it was actually true. The experience definitely brought home the message that learning from my students happens more often than I may have previously thought and how valuable that can be to a classroom.

Here is a screenshot of a castle one of my classmates made in the minutes it took me to figure out how to place a block, showing me how much I still have to learn in the world of Minecraft.

Cinnamon Buns

This week I wanted to make cinnamon buns. I have never attempted to make cinnamon buns before, or actually anything bread-based. I used this recipe from joyfoodsunshine, which I would definitely recommend. The author gives a bunch of tips and tricks for people making the recipe for the first time.

The recipe says it should take about 2 hours 40 minutes total including rise time, but since it was my first time making them it took me a lot longer!!! I figured out very quickly to use the recipe’s trick to make bread rise by putting a bowl of boiling water underneath the same towel as everything else.

Another one of the hardest parts was spreading the sugar-butter-cinnamon mixture onto the dough. I chose to use the harder method that the recipe suggests because it prevents leakage, but it definitely is really hard to spread the filling on the dough without ripping the dough.

However, I was able to spread everything pretty evenly and get a decent roll. Next time I would spread the dough a lot thinner and try and get more spirals in the buns.

This icing is possibly the most delicious cream cheese icing I’ve ever tried, I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a cream cheese icing.

Once they were done, I packed them all up to take to our Wednesday school visits, and my feedback was pretty good! Til next time.

 

 

EdCamp: Bottom-Up Learning

Today in EdTech we had a mini edcamp/unconference. We were able to write down on post-its some topics we felt we wanted to talk to or to learn about in a small group setting, then we narrowed it down to three main mini conferences that we could choose to attend.

man standing in front of group of men

I chose to join a group that wanted to talk about our favourite teachers and why they were our favourites. I liked that I was able to choose the topic I was most interested in instead of sitting in on something that I wasn’t as engaged with. We had a great conversation, everyone was engaged and contributed a lot because we were talking about something we were passionate about. The more casual, small group, conversational setting I think really lends itself to people feeling more comfortable to share their opinions and experiences. We were able to hear each others perspectives and have deeper debates than sometimes is possible in a lecture setting.

Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry

This Friday, I had the opportunity to explore the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. Jeff Hopkins, the founder of the school took the time to talk to us and explain the concept of the school and how it looks on a day to day basis.

Up until this visit, I understood what inquiry-based learning was but wasn’t completely convinced of how it could be more beneficial to learners than any other method of instruction or learning. Jeff explained how the learning at PSII is completely individual: the students decide what they are interested in learning and have the agency to pace this learning however they would like. Using monitoring services such as Trello, the teachers are able to keep track of each students inquiries very easily. Students who wish to work on one subject all day are able to do so at PSII, instead of being interrupted by bells and refocused into different subjects in 60-minute blocks. There are teachers constantly circulating, so the students are able to get help when they need it.

One aspect I was surprised by was the amount of activity and conversation among the students when I walked in. I expected almost a silent work environment, with each student staring at a screen. Part of the reason why I was hesitant about the school’s philosophy was that I thought students were missing out on this social aspect. However, I was glad to see that this was not the case. Although the students learning is individualized, they are not sequestered and alone in their learning environment. There are opportunities around the school for students that would like to work alone silently, but the main area of the school looked like a lively group of kids working and socializing together. Jeff also explained to us that they strive to facilitate events and activities that involve the whole school, such as group hikes, in order to further establish their school community.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by Jeff Hopkins presentation. He has such a passion for allowing learners to reach their fullest potential, and I commend him for the amazing job he has done setting up PSII. I encourage everyone to explore PSII‘s philosophy and to look into the benefits of inquiry-based learning.

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