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:
💭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
🔊 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.
💭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.
💡 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.