MineAcademybr: In-game management Q&As

Aside

On February 07th, I presented my full MineAcademy English Club project to EVOMC21 participants in a live session. Here are some questions that the presentation covered and also the in-game challenges raised by the participants regarding managing learners in-game.

📣Here is the recording of the live session:

MineAcademy English Club Project Presentation (Rosemere Bard, 2021) – CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

💭Before getting into the questions, let’s reflect on different learning spaces:

I have been especially curious, since the beggining of the pandemic, about comparing what happens in a virtual environment versus what used to happen in-person classes or physical classrooms. Of course, we lost the physical human touch that is so important, especially with kids. Moving around the classroom and looking at a kid in the eye and being interested on what they are doing/saying can sparkle all kinds of positive outcomes. Like everyone else, I got stuck in Zoom and Google Meet with kids and teens for months until I decided to focus on MineAcademy English Club. The difference between in-person, webconference softwares and Minecraft as I pointed out in the presentation is the space itself and its affordances. We should ask ourselves what each space can offer to foster or hinder learning so we can make sound decisions to create more effective learning spaces.

⚠️Instructional designers when choosing the most appropriate environment for a learning situation, they start by asking questions:

1️⃣ What is the space like? What type of environment is it? Formal? Informal? Is it suitable for the intended target audience?

2️⃣ What does it offer in terms of resources for teaching and learning? Would you need to bring anything else into this space? physical classrooms, for instance, are just a room with walls that you can hang things on, a door and window(s). We need to bring some specific things into it to turn it into a teaching/learning environment. When we compare with ZOOM/MEET, there is also nothing there other than communication tools. Although Minecraft offers more than a physical and webconf software, we still need to map out the resources it offers to make decisions about what else we need to bring in or how to use those resources.

3️⃣ Then, we need to take into account the goals we are trying to achieve. If there are no goals and specific objectives, then the environment and tools serve for nothing. So, last question would be are the resources aligned with the teaching and learning goals? Are there any affordances in particular that can contribute to what we are trying to achieve?

Questions and Answers connected with the presentation:

🔊 How do you manage the social side of the interactions (Tilly)? 16:07 – 19:00

🔊 How do I manage in-game interactions (Rose)? 20:02 – 21:17

🔊 How do I promote learning community (intro, community)? 21:17 – 21:56; 45:24 – 51:41

MineAcademy English Club in-game Pedagogical Cycle (Rosemere Bard, 2020) – CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

🔊 What do students do in-game that aligns with our educational objectives (Rose)? 32:13 – 35:38

🔊 What challenges would you think we could face while running a class with children and teens in Minecraft (participants)? 37:16 – 44:53

🔊 Do you do any role playing? Do you use with them any stories to role play or use role play in general? (Maha Abdelmonein) + why phase 1 was so important for me 52:43 – 57:32

🔊 What happened in game? A tour in-game of GG383 creations, an overview of the resources available in Bedrock realm and bits and bits of what was discussed with visual examples. 00:57:46 – 01:18:14

Expanding on the discussion of Q5, I have grouped the responses into cognitive and affective domains. Cognitive relates to the knowledge building and linguistic competencies and affective to their attitudes and behavior in-game that can affect community building and learning. In order to see participants’ responses, click here.

Categorizing participants’ answers as either cognitive or affective challenges (Rosemere Bard, 2021)

💭Managing class versus controling discipline

One of my fav books is Behavior and Discipline Management in the classroom by Walters and Frei (2007). It might sound outdated but it is one of those books that you read from time to time and reflect on your practice. One lesson we learn straight away is to look at Classroom management (CM) and Controling discipline (CD) separately to see how they are inter related. I’ve seen Classroom management definitions in ELT that focus heavily on keeping the discipline. According to the authors, CM is about the general organization of the activities in the classroom and CD is about managing students’ behavior. My book version was published in Portuguese in 2009. So, I’m just going to point out some key ideas that the authors offer us and have helped me back then.

First we need to establish efficient procedures and routine, then, we have parameters to set expectations and manage behavior. So before jumping into Minecraft with your students, design well what your Minecraft class will be like. Imagine the possible issues you can encounter, or use the chart above as a starter and think of what procedures and routine you need to establish with them head on. Once your identify the challenges you might be facing, focus on reflecting how you usually react to them. Do you simply take it personally? Or do you deal with it strategically?

✅Be respectful to all students and control your emotions. Keep your voice tone as calm as possible and believe they can develop and become more than what you see when issues arise. Remember that your goal is not to control them, which is counter productive, but to help them develop towards a better self. Listen to what they have to say. Refrain from making quick judgements. Give appropriated attention to all students in your class and make sure that you compliment when compliment is due and talk to students in private about their bad behavior/attitudes. Even the most difficult student, do something that deserves praising. In Minecraft, all of these should be applied.

✅One of my favorite parts of the book is when the authors point out how important is for students to feel safe. It is much more effective than giving rewards. Feel accepted and appreciated as a person rather than labeled by their behavior. There is no doubt that we need to be accountable for our actions, but these actions can become learning opportunities for us to grow/develop. How do we, as teachers, help students reflect on their attitutes/behavior? The authors suggest also giving instructions indicating expectations.

✅Conflicts between student and teacher are usually power struggles. It is not worthy turning the classroom into a public battlefield. I personally like to take things into group discussion, when possible, without trying to win the battle, but to understand the situation better. But sometimes that is a terrible idea. If a students is craving for attention, it is better to talk to them in private. If it is a new student, that might be due to his own personality and I need to learn how to deal with it. If my student change their attitude towards me, something must have triggered that. So, I try to identify what I have done to trigger that and find ways to deal with it. There will always be students who will behave in a way that we don’t find it appropriated. It is pointless to try to use threats and authority figure to control them. Work on developing their respect towards themselves and others.

Aim to create a positive environment that is conducive to learning. Keep them active and with a sense of purpose in everything they are doing. Let them help out and why not giving suggestions of activities and themes for classes as well as participating in the class decisions.

📣Here is a short talk I gave back in 2015 (sorry about the quality of my camera/images) about how I give students reign in my classes. Planning is setting learning goals and defining how we are going to help students achieve them, but those goals are pointless if learners do not value them. Through dialogue, we can co-construct these learning moments.

Recommended reading:

💡 Learner Autonomy: A guide to developing learner responsability by Ágota Scharle and Anita Szabó (Cambridge 2000).

Pedagogia da autonomia by Paulo Freire (Paz e Terra, 1996)

📣Unfortunately, the book that has impacted my work so much does not exist in English. However, I lot of what I apply in my own practice was because I understood my role beyond teaching the language. Freire divides this small book into three chapters: 1) There is no teacher without we become learners ourselves; 2) Teaching is not transfering knowledge. Most people of those who read my blog will have heard about the Bank Education; and, 3) Teaching requires knowledge but also affection to be done with competence. We should not value the silence of our students, but provide space for their voice to be heard and autonomy developed through agency and a sense of responsability towards their own learning.

Declaring goals: Now and then

Featured

EVOMC21 7th edition

Before sharing my goals for 2021, here are some reflections from 2016 when I joined EVOMC for the first time and what I have developed ever since!

The beginning of the journey starts 👉 HOW I GOT INVOLVED WITH EVOMC (2016.).

In week 2 reflections (2016), I wrote that I could see at that point, from the articles and presentations that Minecraft offered plenty of possibilities. I realized with time that Minecraft was more than a tool. It was actually an open-ended universe. So open that we can sometimes get overwhelmed.

YOU CAN USE MINECRAFT WITH STUDENTS IN AT LEAST 3 WAYS WHILE IN-GAME:

  • Free play – while they can enjoy the possibilities given by the game, they can use language to communicate through writing in in-game chat or voice chat in Discord (or through other voice program).
  • Presentations or Discussions about the game – Presenting and discussing experiences that they had/are having or the ideas for the future will not only develop their linguistic knowledge but also improve their communication skills. They can show and tell, explain, create tutorials, etc.
  • Create, Produce and Design – Minecraft is a very flexible environment. They can use the resources available to build amazing buildings and mechanisms. They can go more advanced with the command blocks to produce minigames and automatic farms or design experiences in-game for others.

In MineAcademy, my current project, I want learners to have the chance to explore the world, have adventures, overcome challenges, complete missions, create, produce, design and share their ideas and experiences. From challenge-based approach to project-based, the most important goal is to create meaningful interactions (with the world, with peers and the learning tasks) for them to develop their language knowledge and skills. So the goal from the classroom we are so used to didn’t change, what has changed, however, is the space and the resources available which are limitless.

Back in 2016, my goal for that session was to learn as much as possible about Minecraft through playing and exchange ideas with other teachers. Writing these blogs posts to keep track of my learning journey was essential back then. In Week 3 post (2016), I wrote about my experience in public servers. That helped me a lot when I set up my own server with students in an after school project called the TNT club. Here is a tour I gave to EltSandbox inside the server TNT and the link to Dave’s blog, one of our past EVOMC moderators.

T for try it out

N for network

T for teach others

Have fun!

I wanted at the time to create a space to understand how students play and interact with others in Minecraft. So, as I mentioned in the video, it wasn’t about teaching but about me learning about them. I have to say that apart from a couple of situations we had in the server for the 8 months or so that I ran it actively with the students (from grade 6 to 9), most of the time they were very responsible and willing to contribute. From public servers I learned how to set up the in-world in a way that expectations about how to interact with the world and others were clear and if any problem came up I would talk with the student to understand what the problem was to figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

SOME USEFUL SUGGESTION TO GET YOU STARTED:

🔑If you are not sure how to get started. Start by finding out a) what edition of Minecraft your students have; b) whether they like to play it or not; c) If some students don’t like Minecraft, explore with them why they don’t like it; d) let those who like it share why they like it… that might spark the interest of others; e) After that, show them the possibility of learning English through Minecraft and ask them to give their opinion about learning language through games; f) ask if they play games and collect the list of games they play so you understand what game preferences they have. As I have said, Minecraft is quite flexible and you will see with time that you can create different experiences for different types of students/players.

🔑Start with an after school club. Don’t be afraid to open a space for you to play with your learners. As long as you have clear community rules, you should be fine. Just like you do in the classroom. Renting Realms from Microsoft is the easiest way to start your own server.

🔑 You can start simple. Connect your pedagogical skills to the content knowledge of Minecraft . As you develop more skills and continue develop on how to apply Minecraft for educational purposes, you will come up with pedagogical solutions that is more aligned with immersive learning spaces. In 2017, I created lessons based on communicative approach and Minecraft as theme for my 6th graders. They loved it! Bring Minecraft stories to read or watch, tutorials, questions like what is your favorite mob and why, etc. For younger learners, Minecraft is more appealing than older learners. Bring not only Minecraft as theme but other games they like and they will certainly appreciate the opportunity to talk about what they like or don’t like.

⚠️ Although the post is getting a bit long, I hope it has been an interesting reading so far and you can bear with me a little longer. I’m reposting a video and some reflections I made at the end 2016 EVOMC after researching more about Learning through games. Paul Gee‘s book is a must-read.

“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 in 2015 that are important in my opinion to foster meaningful learning. You can find out more about my journey adapting, creating or adapting games here and here.

  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 foresee 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.

Thanks for reading up to here! 😁👏

SO WHAT DO I WANT TO DEVELOP THIS YEAR THROUGH 2021 EVOMC EDITION!

🎯 Create a Java and a bedrock server running with plugins again. Java and plugins have being installed on a hosting service. ✅ Bedrock ❌… not yet!

🎯 Experiment with Discord, learn more about how the different bots can help us manage the Discord server and create a space for teachers in MineAcademy Discord server. 🔍Almost there… If you are a teacher looking forward to learn more how to use Minecraft, let me know.

🎯 Design quests in Minecraft using NPCs and Quest plugins.

Here is the presentation Jane Chien and I gave on Jan 17th for teachers interested in learning about the key aspects for teacher development in Minecraft.

How about you? Where are you in your journey to implement Minecraft in your teaching practice? What do you still need to develop? Have you set your learning goals yet?



🚀 How about continue your adventure in MineAcademy English Club by reading the next post?

Different contexts, same tools: sharing the floor with Gisele Cruz

I’m extremely happy to introduce Gisele Cruz in my blog, an EFL teacher who works in a private bilingual school (Arabic-Portuguese) in São Paulo. She works with students from the age range of 5 to 11, and with classes that varies from 20 to 30 students when in school. This is the first time, I have collaborated in writing a blogpost with another teacher for my blog and I have to say that the process has been really enlightening.

As I have always thought that connecting to teachers is really an important part of my PD, connecting to Gisele added another level to it. I met Gisele through the Active Learning Inner Circle on Facebook. Check it out if you are a Young Learner teacher. Claire Venables and James Taylor are doing a wonderful work there.

After connecting our accounts and having a long chat on FB messenger, I invited her to write a blogpost with me. I was delighted when she said “YES”. It is really nice to share this moment with other teachers. It makes me feel I’m not alone. Our chat over messenger, covered some topics, including managing learning using only Whatsapp and Zoom. Our aim, as teachers, no matter what context we are working in, is to keep learners improving their linguistic knowledge and developing their skills and competencies in the target language, as well as managing that effectively. But we both feel that there is a limitation with the tools we have at the moment. So, we are going to share a bit about our contexts and reflections so far, and we hope that it helps you reflect on yours. Let us know if you relate to any of these situations and how it is being for you.

MANAGING LEARNING com fundo (2)

Regular bilingual school context

Regular schools administrators are playing “the administrative part” on choosing the online platforms for teachers, not always giving their faculty a choice, which can mean a weight lifted from one’s shoulders or a new challenge in an unpleasantly situation already.

One of the schools I work for has decided to work through two main apps – Whatsapp and Zoom, since they believe that would be the fastest and easiest way to reach all families. So, assignments are sent every day, via text message and learners are to meet their teachers once to three times a week via online meeting.

As days go by, listening to other fellow teachers within the community, it was important to adjust as well as lower expectation since the learning curve now includes the means of learning and teaching. Lesson planning plays a huge part in reaching new goals and expectations. So, in preparation for my lessons, I found really useful to anticipate problems and possible solutions, as well as look at groups as unique, with unique needs.

Even though there’s a new environment teachers may not be comfortable in, old strategies may apply. Establishing rules and letting learners and families know what goals for learning are seems to be a good way to go. Also, especially during live sessions, concept questions (ICQs and CCQs) will come in hand in groups of 20+ students at once. Also, as in real life, there’s an affective factor to teaching that shouldn’t be left out. My most successful sessions were the ones I showed interest in learners life during quarantine, before starting the today’s lesson, after all, as I have listening many times during these hard weeks, sharing is caring.

Working on Zoom specifically, there’s also a really useful tool called “breakout rooms” in which learners can be split in smaller groups and teachers can enter those to monitor and give feedback. Mind you that learners should have a task as they go on these smaller groups. Tasks can be something really simple as compare your answers, read to others, dictation, or else, Also, with really young learners, 5-7, it will work better if it’s fast and well-guided. Feeling the group you are video-conferencing with will tell you to use the breakout rooms or not.

On a different aspect, but still talking about Zoom, learners ought to benefit from the use of the chat too, especially the shy ones, since they can talk to you privately, avoid exposure, and we teachers should encourage that.

Teaching and learning remotely will bring groups close together and it feels good. However, teachers might really benefit from a written record of their lessons and impressions as they go, because that may lead to more intentional, purposeful and assertive interventions towards designing future lessons.

Finally, speaking personally, I must say that, although, I am keeping in touch with learners on a daily basis, via text message, sometimes I wonder if I am reaching my goals, mainly because the production that is often sent to me doesn’t actually reflect how much support they are getting at home. I understand I can look that one’s assignment and often tell if they did by themselves or not, but considering our social situation, I must convey that’s likely to happen. For the time being, I think it’s ok, but I shall write this down and check on that when we go back. And we will! Hang in there.

#staysafe #stayhome

Gisele

  • Do not only care ONLY about teaching your lesson, care for the learners well-being. Create space for learners to share their concerns, needs, fears and beliefs;
  • Plan well your lessons by predicting the problems you might have in a live session and write a handful list of possible solutions;
  • Learn as you go with your lessons by reflecting on it. Your class today can bring insights that help you prepare even better the next one;
  • Teaching face2face is not the same as teaching through a webconference tool. Do not take it for granted. Watch webinars, participate in a community, connect with people who has some experience in teaching online and take courses. But remember, we are talking about kids. Kids have very different needs, wants and competencies. Take all that into account.
  • Managing learning effectively depends on a well-planned course, not lessons alone. There is a need to consider a number of things, from medias and tools available to learners and teachers, to digital competencies and the educational objectives to be reached. We are not dealing with a distance learning course but trying to deliver, to the best of our abilities, lessons that are engaging and meaningful to students for the time being. Patch yourself on the back, teachers. You are doing the best you can, be kind to yourself. But also, continue developing and taking care of yourself.
  • Managing learning online requires much more than just a communication tool combined with an videoconference tool. It requires a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and teachers with digital competencies to make the most of it. Interactions in a virtual environment, be it synchronously or asynchronously, require learning more than just the technical aspects of the tool.
  • Keep a journal or another form of record of your impressions on lessons and learners during these time. It would be a valuable tool when you go back to school and have to refer back to this experience.

Although we use the same tools and the contexts are different, the challenges we face are similar in a time like this:

  • What is more important right now? The syllabus or well-being?
  • Is it really possible to effectively manage learning with the tools we have right now?
  • How to overcome the challenge of keeping children engaged and learning in live sessions?
  • How to support others in a time like this while taking care of our own well-being?

To read my previous post about moving to remote teaching, click here

Recommended reading/vídeos section

Getting started with teaching English online webinar with Hellen Allen and Ollie Wood. Cambridge English Channel, Youtube. 2020

English teachers, are you asking the right questions? article written by Declan Cooley. British Council. Website. 2015