#evomc16 and my own learning

I’ve been learning about a world I had no idea existed or I totally just took it for granted. Either way, it’s important to realise that there is a huge community out there which some of our students are part of and that impacts everything they do in their lives. And seriously, if you think being a gamer is a bad thing, well, you might have to step back a little bit on your prejudices before you can actually understand what games are all about. I won’t claim that I have. I’m still taking my baby steps here, but extremely happy that I get why one would spend hours and hours playing a game. In fact, I’m fascinated by how quick they can think and act.

I just watched the video above shared by Vance in his slide presentation and Gee’s point is very simple. Schools make learning all about reading textbooks and answering questions about what was read while gamers are not just playing complex games but also operating in communities where they share expertises and experiences. Most schools I know still operate pretty much under the assumption that academic success is about repeating in a test what was read in textbooks or heard in when teachers lecture them on the subject. As Gee points out, “Words said or read without having any experience are just words.”

“The opportunity to learn is not the book. It’s whether you can bring experience to the book.” Gee, 5:45

Learning a language meaningfully like learning any subject means to do it by having real experiences. Two things I learned from my project with teens last year that are important in my opinion to foster meaningful learning.

  1. a community of learners to be built needs a shared interest to support its development. After all a group of people have different needs, motivation and wants. It important to find something that can connect people to one another in a given moment. This moment of connection create experiences. I wonder though whether we can actually forsee these moments and design experiences for our learners, much like game designers do in a way that we provide positive experiences and therefore it facilitates not only community building but also leverage language learning and willingness to use it.
  2. language is not used in a vacuum. We need an environment that is conducive to language use or opportunities that are meaningful to use the language, not by forcing people to do so which never really works, but by creating the space for them to be willing to give it a try. It’s not easy to try out a language one might feel not competent or confident to use it. After speaking English for almost 25 years, I still go mute in certain situations. Mind you even in Portuguese. Speaking is much about knowing as it is about emotions and how one sees oneself in a given situation.

In about a month, I’ll be in class again. The experiences I am gaining from this MOOC is reshaping my way of viewing my teens. I can’t wait to meet them all. And I’m sure that the games my students created last year will support this year learning experiences. I’m so proud of them and all they are capable of.

Here is the post I wrote for iTDi blog about how creating games with my students changed our game.

EVO Minecraft MOOC posts:

Teachers exploring Minecraft

EVO Minecraft MOOC: Week 1 and 2

EVO Week 3: Networking

#evomc16 Week 3: Networking

Aside

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Reflecting on the 3rd week which the aim is to explore other communities of Minecraft and networking.

I’ve recently connected on Facebook to Francisco Tupy who runs a page on FB called Minecraft Skool. He is also a Microsoft Inovator Educator Expert. Francisco Tupy believes in the benefits of games in education, especially Minecraft. He’s not an English teacher though, but it’s great to find someone in my country already using Minecraft. You can read more about Francisco, here. He was featured in MinecraftEdu tumblr.

According to Francisco Tupy, there are 3 moments we should keep in mind when thinking of using Minecraft with our students:

  • playing time
  • talking about experiences and ideas
  • creating/producing/designing

He pointed out couple of interesting things in the Campus Party event last month. One is that we don’t necessarily have to play in class to be able to bring the game into the classroom. He affirms that talking about games creates an equalizing point in the discourse between the teacher and the students. As I can’t really work with MC in the class yet, it might be a way to start. I know some students play it, and I know I have students that are crazy about games.

Edu or not Edu? Which one to go for when I can actually add it to the curriculum?

I’m all for Minecraft, but not sure how I feel about MinecraftEdu yet. It seems though to have a good supportive community for teachers and a great library and resources. Without really having the chance to use Minecraft with students and/or with MCedu, I have little to say at this point. But I can’t wait to be able to play with students. For now, I have subscribed for a realm where I play with my son. If students become interested I can create a world for us there. We’ll see. :)

Public servers – communities out there!

I decided to look for servers run by parents that welcome families and kids. I didn’t really know what I would find, but I was certainly surprised to see how intricate and organic the system within a public Minecraft server could be. Interesting how the world is filled with regions, different maps, signs to guide us and tutorials within the game. In the first server I visited, I felt completely lost at first. The second one looked like the real world so it was more familiar to me. It was so organized with rules and possibilities. We chose a world in survival mode.

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In our first visit, my son and I were guided by one of the moderators to his donation shop to take whatever we needed and told us to set home there to go back anytime. Couple of days later, I was visiting the shop to leave things in the chest instead of taking. I learned how claim the land to prevent being grieffed. It felt like I was in a new city as I didn’t know where to go, who to talk to and what the social conventions were. I learned in a week a great deal and in every visit to the server, I learn something new from someone in the server I had never met before. Couple of days ago for instance, I didn’t know how to teleport myself to Emanuel. I had tried /tp but it didn’t work. As I had already set home in the most popular mall, I could just tp there, but Emanuel hadn’t. So we went around the city trying to find the mall until we bumped into someone and after a quick chat, he/she asked if we needed anything. As soon as I shared what I was looking for, he/she jumped in to help me find it. In another occasion someone claimed next to my initial claim to extend my house and gave me permission to build on it. It’s pretty nice how it works. How we help one another within the game as well as the possible negotiations to buy and sell. They also run a forum outside the game.

I want to continue learn from players around the world and understand how these communities of practice evolve themselve to the point of becoming what they are.

As for using MC for educational purposes, I intend to continue actively engaging in EVO Minecraft g+ communities, learning from other teachers and sharing what I’ll be doing with my students from March on. 

EVO Minecraft MOOC Week 1 and 2

EVO MC MOOC follows Dave Cormier’s 5 steps to success in MOOCs.

  1. Orient
  2. Declare
  3. Network
  4. Cluster
  5. Focus

Week 1 was all about giving us time to understand how the MOOC worked in practice while getting used to the basics of Minecraft. As I had started in Minecraft Weeks before our first week, I had loads of time to practice the basics. My main aim as moderator was to get the basics so I could support participants who were accessing MC for the first time when needed, but as we are in a community with participants with different levels of experiences and teaching contexts, we’ve had a lot of support going on within the community and I’ve already learned a lot from other participants.

By the end of Week 2, we were able to share our experiences in MC, what we’ve learned and what we intend to learn more. From the articles and presentations, I see how Minecraft offers possibities of tasks and development for teachers and learners in the game as well as outside the game in various areas of content knowledge, and also how it is open-ended and flexible. Moreover, while Minecraft offers opportunities for teachers to set the goals, it also give players (students) the opportunity to come up with their own goals during the play. I see also the potential for students to go beyond the playing by customizing worlds, designing challenges, adventures or games in MC.

As discussed in Smolce & Smolce article, Minecraft does allow for a lot of moves, decision making, creation, skills development, etc. I reckon possibility space is hard to get exausted in MC. So, thumbs up to MC for that. Coming to how much time one will want to spend on MC (game pacing) will depend IMHO on how it will be explored by the individual and whether one has someone to share interest, achievements, goals, etc . According to Sykes and Reinhardt, gameplay is a social practice and a form of literacy and as such, one needs the ability to interpret and generate their own meaningful signs to the community that practices it.

What I find most interesting is that despite being intentionally designed to spawn creatures that can, as Smolce & Smolce states, create unnecessary obstacles which allows players to choose to deal or not with those obstacles.

Minecraft has singleplayer and multiplayers option. We can choose to toy with it on our own or play with others. Singleplayer can be a great place to be creative, train ourselves, explore the world and practice skills before adventuring in multiplayers. The more skilled and literate I become in the game, more eager I am to be in the game with others.

As a player

With the amount of tutorials online, EVO MC community to support me and my own son as my mentor, I had no problem getting the hang of it. I’m enjoying it so much, and there is so much one can do that I get overwhelmed. As a person who likes to have goals when doing something, survival mode seems to interest me more than creative. Even if we don’t really die, just respawn, I like the challenge of staying alive, managing hunger and the thrill of hiding away from Mobs as my combats skills still not quite good yet! I hate skeletons and their arrows!

I’m also having a blast exploring commands, command blocks and redstone. A long way to go before I can create my own adventure maps, challenges and mini-games. If I ever will!

I also thought it was really cool to observe others building and learning from each other how to build mechanisms using redstone. We learn in the game by teaching each other and in another server for kids and parents that my son and I have been to, it’s amazing how players are welcoming, friendly and helpful.

As a teacher

I think there is a lot of expectation from teachers and school adms to make sure that whatever we bring to our class, it meets the course curriculum. In our school, for instance, the main objective is to develop students’ oral skills. But as we work with coursebooks reading and writing is unavoidable. Because developing speaking is important and our course curriculum is still based on grammar, getting MC to fit that would be most difficult. Well, we actually could but it feels like getting in the way of the game. The thing is that games not designed for education has its own agenda. I think we can take advantage of that agenda and our students can learn tons of things out of it, language related or not, but we can’t just force it to be what it is not.

I’m an EFL teacher in Brazil and one of my concerns though is that not all students are confident yet to speak in English with others or really in a level that enables them to have conversations with other players synchronously through voice tools like Skype. Asynchonous tools would work better for these students, so it wouldn’t be realistic to expect MC to make students speak in English when they are not ready for that.

I was looking around for examples of teaching practice using Minecraft to teach/learn English and came across couple of videos where the teacher shows that MC is conducive to practicing speaking and writing. And I agree that it stimulates language production but it’s unlike for low level learners to be able to understand or produce a lot of language in real time communication in collaborative projects and they are likely to switch to L1 if they are in a monolingual group.

Even with this limitation in mind for beginners, from what I heard in Jeff Kuhn and Bron Stuckey‘s presentation, there is a lot of potential to develop language related tasks within the game as well as outside. Tasks such as role playing, creating comic books, presentations, collaborative projects, etc that can suit all levels of English.

Learning about the possibilities of the game and how it works by playing with others is really fun and I certainly, as English is my second language, learned loads of new words in English by accessing books, wikis, pages, videos, chats, etc. I wonder though what would be like for a beginner in German like me to benefit from watching tutorials in German and trying to build my vocabulary in combination with instruction or self-instruction as I am not really enrolled in a course.

My creations in EVO Minecraft 2016 server:

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List of blogs from Week 1 and 2 from other participants:

Minecraft-Mooc, tumbling down the world of cubes by Thorsten Gross

Robert Wachman’s Reflections, Learning and Challenges in EVO Minecraft 2016

EVO Minecraft MOOC – Week 1 by Beth Ghostraven

Week 1 Reading by Mrs. Harrison

My first venture by BEth ESL

A Day in EVO Minecraft World by Mircea Patrascu

InWorld Maps in Minecraft by Beth Ghostraven

Finally getting to play around by Ellen Glegg

EVO MOOC Minecraft server 2 by Mrs. Harrison

EVO MOOC Minecraft server 4 by Mrs. Harrison

Jeff Kuhn on Minecraft: An introduction to what is possible a Reflection by Mrs. Harrison