Minecraft: a community of practice.

So I’ve been having a great time in #massivelyminecraft with my boys and hubby. I really haven’t ever been excited about games – especially not the multiplayer, immersive, sword and pickaxe variety. I have been known to get competitive on Mario Kart, Wii Bowling and Lips but they’re probably the lamest games known to gamer-kind. Oh – and Tetris, yeah I dig lining up those little shapes.

So why minecraft and why now? Couple of obvious reasons.
1. Twitter. My PLN has gone a bit games mental in the last 12 months and it’s easy for me to get pulled along with the edu-trend tide. I tried to ‘gamify’ my classroom but felt in my heart that it didn’t work for my kids in the way gaming in edu should. I got frustrated by the focus on extrinsic motivators and it just felt a bit daggy. Good learning design can learn from good game design. Good game design doesn’t begin by deciding on badges and XP – it begins with fun. Finally, two people I admire greatly (Dean Groom and Jo Kay) have a big interest in Minecraft and learning.
2. I have two young sons – 7 and 10. They have been gaming most of their lives – mostly together, sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband and very occasionally with me. Their lives revolve around gaming and that’s no English teacher hyperbole. And if I don’t game with them I’m out of this world. Mostly I master their gaming language second-person. Sometimes I have no idea what they are talking about so I zone out. Not very responsible parenting!

So a couple of weeks ago I jumped into #massivelyminecraft to follow in the footsteps of my two mining boys. Since doing so I have learnt heaps from my boys, my husband and the insane community of miners led by Aunty JoKay ;)

Every morning my kids begin to prattle on about their latest missions into Nether or Skyland. The speak with passion (and volume) about their builds and inventory of diamonds and obsidian. They challenge each other to make houses out of pink wool or ice. They despair over their flooded mine and discuss the best strategy to fly to the square moon. Best part about this? I know what they’re talking about – I am of their community. We share a common language. Both boys have demonstrated to me first hand their impressive mastery of multiliteracies. I’ve witnessed them strengthening these literacies via immersive practice and proximal learning with expert miner JoKay and young expert novice miners.

And because I’m a teacher at heart I can’t help but wonder how this very authentic learning space can be used to transform education as we know it.

Thanks Jo and Dean. You guys continue to rock my world!

Here is the blog post about our ‘Cool 3000 Family’:

http://minecraft.jokaydia.com/2011/09/cool-family-3000/

Here’s Mr 7′s video he made:

This is my classroom …

Over the last twelve months the way I view my (physical) classroom has changed significantly.

I have just completed a post for edmodo (I don’t think I’ve even mentioned on my blog that I’m one of their featured bloggers and have been writing weekly posts for the edmodo blog – check them out here) in which I reflect on how I encourage my students to align their physical learning space with their mental learning space.

I think what’s different about my classroom is not simply the fact that I am flexible with its daily design, but that I use metaphor as a means to help my students develop metacognition. Using the metaphor of ‘mythic’ or ‘archetypal’ learning spaces, my students are actively engaging with their own learning. So whilst my last post was about my fear that I am too much in control of my students’ learning, upon deeper reflection (and as a result of the comments from my fellow edu-thinkers) I do feel that my students are developing learning autonomy.

Below are some images of my classroom, to give you a glimpse of how I manage to transform a very traditional learning space (4 walls, a door, two windows, a whiteboard, 30 plastic chairs and 30 small desks) into a flexible 21st century learning space.

My prac students Lauren Forner created these posters for my room – I love them! Their bright colours contrast nicely to my Gothic dark purple walls:

Campfire: a place to learn from experts or storytellers. A place for whole-group discussions.

Watering Hole: a space for small group discourse and collaboration.

Cave: a space for individual study, reflection, quiet reading and creative flow.


This shows my classroom set up in ‘camp-fire’ mode:

My students meeting at the ‘waterhole’:

I’ve also been experimenting with a bit of a gaming metaphor – more like a team points competition – to enliven student participation. I have a couple of classes that a rather gender-skewed: lots of boys! Adding an element of competition is a means to reward student behaviour throughout our projects – a type of formative assessment, if you will. Setting concrete goals each lesson, each week and for the project as a whole seems to be working for these boys. Collaborating in small groups of four – mixed abilities groups selected by me – creates a sense of unity and teamwork. Points are being awarded for completion of tasks, quality of tasks, contribution to class discussions, positive group-work behaviours and organisation. Lauren made some points charts for the back of the classroom and each week we update the points to create a kind of leadership board.

This is what it looks like:

So there it is … my classroom!