Last Thursday, (March 5, 2015), our TLLP team in TDSB working on the "Digging into Minecraft with Inquiry" project hosted a half-day of learning with a crew of educators. It was a wonderful opportunity to dig deeper with a smaller group of committed individuals. Many of the presentations the GamingEdus team typically conduct are for much larger audiences and are more introductory in nature. I don't want to "steal the thunder" of my incredible colleague Denise, who plans on writing her own reflection on the day on the GamingEdus website but I wanted to offer my own discoveries based on my reflections. The rhyming title of this post ties in with three of my realizations.
The group of invited guests have all heard about Minecraft before, but even with this background knowledge, everyone was at different levels of comfort and understanding. As one teacher said, after listening to a few of us babble to each other excitedly about PvP and mods and servers, "I'm the Penny in the group." (It's a Big Bang Theory reference, so I'm told.) It was a funny reminder that we need to make sure that we don't get too caught up in our world-specific terms that we lose anyone. After that joke, I tried hard to make sure that, in our exuberance, we did not forget to check for understanding in the group. We defined SAMR, clarified the difference between Survival Mode and Creative Mode, and spent some time reviewing concepts such as Gamification and Games Based Learning. When the team first discussed the agenda for the day, we were tempted to delete the GBL/gamification debate, but I'm glad we didn't, because it helped our participants to comprehend our philosophy. It's not as clear-cut a distinction in the minds of others as it may be in our own.
We had a diverse group of people represented at the table, including some centrally assigned educators from the ICT, Assistive Technology, and Professional Learning Departments in our board. We have participants who have been using Minecraft in their classroom for two years, and some who haven't launched it yet at their school site. This diversity makes us stronger. I really appreciated having different voices and different points of view present, because they elevated our discussion and provided insights that furthered our learning. Our SAMR discussion was deeper and more complex because of the expertise in the room, not just as educators but as parents and players.
When we first made our TLLP plans, we thought we'd have some sort of Learning Marketplace / Carousel / Fair where the teachers (or the students) would share their Minecraft-related activities and practices. Thankfully we were flexible enough to listen to our participants, who said that they'd prefer to meet with this core group again in a few months to share their process and progress. It's a lot less pressure this way instead of presenting, having a "final product" or performing for a large audience. Yes, this means that some teachers keen on attending an introductory workshop in TDSB will have to wait, but it means that some of the funds we had earmarked to release TDSB teachers to attend a Minecraft Marketplace will instead be used to release both the protegee and mentor of their choice for half-day co-planning, co-teaching, and technical trouble-shooting. One of our participants also suggested that we could explore alternatives to a face-to-face exhibition, such as creating videos or writing articles for the GamingEdus website, which will last longer and reach more people beyond our board. This relaxing of the time constraints (somewhat) is a big detour from the original plans, which may affect the plans we have with our Hamilton Wentworth District School Board cohort. However, the learning of our teachers (and their students) should take precedent over the plans we hatched months ago without their input.
Big thanks to Liam, Denise, Julie, Moses, Renee, David, Brendan, Paul, Sylvie, Agnieska, Lisa, Anne Marie, Fred and anyone else I may have accidentally missed. I look forward to co-learning with you over the next few months!