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Experimenting with learning spaces #etmooc

March 28, 2013

Flat world for a Minecraft design challenge

I’m planning to lead a couple of different learning opportunities online in my school district and planning for them makes me think about the flexibility of virtual spaces to meet the needs of learners.

The first thing I’ve got in the hopper is a professional learning course for teachers about using iPads for “monitoring.” This four-session course will meet an expressed need in my school district since a few schools opted to purchase iPads for their teachers to aid them in their efforts to conduct formative assessment of student learning. Administrators, too, want help using the iPad to keep notes during classroom observations and to provide feedback to their teachers based on the observations. I’m planning to lead the course online, so participants can join us in the live webinar in Adobe Connect, or watch the recorded session, where they  can watch a recording that includes the interaction of the live group. Whether teachers join our sessions live or asynchronously, the images, video, sound or typed discussion that result from each of the four sessions will land in a Schoology course. Since, professional learning opportunities offered through webinars are still an emerging practice in my school district, so experimenting with these learning spaces, I hope to create some a (rough draft) model for a responsive, accessible form of professional learning. Ideal models? Maybe not. Responsive and accessible models…I hope.

Another learning opportunity I’m planning is our district’s yearly Girl’s Tech Camp. Here, we partner with a technology company to plan a 1-day event where we bring together sixth grade girls from all across our district to raise their awareness of and interest in technology as a course of study and career path. On this day, I’ll lead a Minecraft design challenge. The girls will watch a 3-4 minute tutorial video about how to build a cabin in Minecraft before they log in to our server and build houses in the sandbox game. They’ll construct their houses quickly, then revise and improve their designs during the remainder of the time we’ve allotted.  Because our students, especially girls from low income communities, have to see themselves as creators and designers who can use digital tools to draft, collaborate, and make, this learning opportunity has to inspire and engage. The virtual space for this work is a Minecraft server I’ve created in collaboration with my director and my seven-year-old daughter. We’ve got a flat world with designated plots for building. To make sure the space was inviting and also felt educational, we built a school and library. My daughter is building a house in one of the construction plots to serve as an example of what the girls might do. Right now, virtual spaces for learning in my school district are found in course management systems or Google Apps. By experimenting with Minecraft as a learning space, I hope to help generate some thinking about how virtual spaces can promote engagement, collaboration, design, and innovation.

The common thread in the planning I’m doing for the Minecraft build and the iPad monitoring course, is that in both cases I hope to foster some thinking about the kinds of change that technology makes possible for all the learners in a large school system.


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