Reply To: Online Module 2: Minecraft and the Curriculum

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Rachel Harte

Part one: The criteria for an effective lesson in Minecraft education.

A successful lesson in Minecraft would be achieved over a series of lessons, most likely as a project as opposed to a single stand-alone lesson. Minecraft is so detailed and cross-curricular, that a single lesson would not do it justice.

These lessons should contain elements of the following:

• Be hands on (all pupils have a chance to contribute to the project)
• Encourage collaboration => all pupils have a shared responsibility within their group.
• Be accessible and appropriately challenging for all children => Low Threshold, High Ceiling
• The pupils should enjoy researching and doing the project. They should feel a sense of pride and achievement when they have completed their project and that they have learned something.
• Be cross-curricular – not only linking the various subjects, but affording children with different interests to contribute to the best of their ability.
• Teacher is the springboard for the project, but the pupils are the trains that drive it forwards. => teacher does not need to have all the answers and the group itself has to solve problems, overcome obstacles and make its own decisions. (Self-regulation)
• Be Flexible => the teacher challenges, but the pupils are the ones who interpret it, mould it and bring it to a successful completion
• Be interesting and draw the learner in – as a result, projects will vary from year to year depending on the interests and abilities of each individual class and on what is happening in the world around them (real world problems/start points).
• Be manageable for the class teacher => to start off with too big/complicated a project will lead to frustration on all sides. Although the teacher should step into the background and be a facilitator, she will still be called upon to help and guide and if there are too many unanswered questions/hurdles, frustration will happen all round. Start simple, build up everybody’s confidence, add new twists in after each successful project. It is very likely that some pupils will know more than the class teacher, but if the teacher keeps pulling the knowledgeable pupils away from their own projects to help other pupils, then this could lead to resentment.

Part two:
We are a vertical school with 16 classes and a computer teacher (this year will see his job description change greatly. At the moment, it is envisaged that he will be supporting the teachers to provide computer lessons to the children in the building, and support the teachers providing an online curriculum to remote pupils). We have 30 touch screen laptops which are timetabled across the classes. We have a set of older laptops which can be used for extra project work outside of our set times.
Each classroom has a visualiser – we chose not to install interactive whiteboards (and I am quite happy with this decision personally).
Each teacher has their own laptop. We use the Primary Planning Tool for our yearly plans and monthly reports.
The level of interest and usage of teachers varies – as a result, the same holds for the pupils. CPD is needed and necessary, but often it is the teachers who are already interested and invested in technology who attend these courses and push for more ICT in the school. On a positive note though, some teachers who may be overwhelmed by technology are open to team teaching and will swap subjects to ensure their pupils experience a full ICT curriculum. Our computer teacher plays a huge role in this, helping and enabling each class teacher according to his/her ability or interest.
The pupils from 3rd upwards have been set up on Microsoft Teams which we got to grips with during lockdown. The Senior Infants used SeeSaw, and as a result of the success of this, the boys from infants to second class will be enrolled in it this year.
Zoom, Loom, Aladdin, Epic, ThatQuiz, Kahoot, Hour of Code, class blogs and Accelerated Reading are used regularly within our school. I had hoped to push for BeeBots last year, but unfortunately Covid happened and the way things are now, to be able to successfully introduce them, I will need to wait until we go back to our ‘old normal’
I’m unsure as to whether or not we will be introducing Minecraft education this year. I am currently teaching Senior Infants – I joined this course because I wanted to know more about Minecraft and what my boys were talking about (Some of my reluctant writers happily wrote Minecraft stories based on their favourite characters). I was also using the Minecraft theme in Hour of Code and again, was interested in knowing more. At least I will understand what the boys are talking about and possibly introduce
Swapping with older classes to introduce it this year probably won’t happen, but in time, I definitely think it would be worthwhile to introduce it in the near (and safe) future.