Terri and I are working together as an administrator-teacher team and taking a deep, close look at how a tool like Minecraft can be used in the classroom to impact the teaching and learning process in Math as well as create opportunities to build an online community.
A year ago, at this time, we were discussing our 6th grade students and their lack of engagement in Math and how this missing piece alone would impact their academic achievement for a lifetime. Students had diverse needs that were not being met in the large group setting and teaching math was not fun for me or our 6th grade students.
A few days later, while in the classroom we were talking about something completely unrelated to Math and distracted by a group of students creating Minecraft paper-nets. The students were very focused and engaged in the process; not to mention very proud to share and show their work; an unusual practice for these particular students.
The focus of our conversation shifted to the students and their engagement in this process. How we could possibly embrace this positive energy and engagement and connect it to our Geometry and Measurement math units? Our question turned into a quest. We would team up to teach math. A new space for learning math was created, new structures and strategies for delivery of content were put into practice, and Minecraft became the creative platform used to engage all students in authentic learning in our Geometry and Measurement math units. The overarching goal was to increase students’ engagement and stamina in a way that would transform their learning and performance in math.
The idea became a reality in my classroom and math instruction time focused around the theme of Minecraft. Outcomes in the Geometry and Measurement strand were taught through small-group instruction. One of the stations was named “Math Build” where students worked in teams to create a paper-net Minecraft world that demonstrated their understanding of the outcomes. Sometimes I incorporated the actual Minecraft game as a demo during whole-group instruction, we didn’t have access to Minecraft Edu and our primary focus was on the papernet creating process. It was an awesome learning experience and from the data gathered, we saw increased Math engagement throughout the unit. Below, you can view the video I created. It summarizes the experience and also gives you a peek into the learning process and our summative performance assessment.
One year later we find ourselves extending this approach to Math by exploring the online version of MinecraftEdu. We plan to leave tracks of the journey on our blogs. We will also find ways to make our students learning visible and give them opportunities to share feedback about their learning experiences. We expect that “Minecraft Math” will continue on well past the end of ECI832, but our project will tell the story of another journey of a teacher and an administrator working alongside one another to find ways to engage kids, increase confidence and their academic outcomes in math using technology. We plan to gather research for the first half of October, and then begin “launching” our unit with students in the last week of October.
How does MinecraftEdu work? What are the ins and outs of the game? How can I use it in Math? What are the ways it is specifically tailored to education? How do I set up my server and actually get things running with my kids?
How does game-based learning impact student efficacy, engagement and achievement?
What was more effective: the hands-on paper build or the actual Minecraft game? What was easier as a teacher? What was more engaging for students?
How can I help my students build positive online learning communities through Minecraft? How can I use social networks to help me learn about Minecraft and also model digital citizenship to my students?
As an instructional leader what can I learn from Harmony at the “grassroots” about what effective use of technology looks like in a classroom setting?
What digital tools are my classroom teachers using with their students and how are they impacting teaching and learning?
How is Harmony providing the 21st century skills that are necessary for the work spaces in the future? How can the “understandings” and “do’s” in the new “Digital Continuum for K-12” permeate the teaching and learning in all subject areas, but particularly in math?
How effective is a game-based learning tool in Math instruction? Can technology be used as a tool in a way that transforms and elevates student achievement and engagement?
How can I build my own capacity in learning about the “public networks” that our students find themselves in and grow in my own comfort level in regards to teaching and learning with technology?
Stay posted to hear more about our Minecraft Math adventure…