Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Minecraft Edu

I have heard about Minecraft Edu, followed the tweets, blogs and general buzz around the use of Minecraft Edu in the classroom. But, I am not much of a gamer and whilst I'd seen my 10 year old play Minecraft wasn't really sure what it was all about. At the recent MIE Expert Hui in Auckland, NZ - Minecraft Edu was again raved about. After avoiding it due to to a lack of understanding and confidence, I thought, 'lets give it a go!'.

Well,  I was blown away with the students and Minecraft Edu.

First up, I spoke to some MIE's last term about using Minecraft. I asked my Year 10 Social Studies class if they would like to use Minecraft Edu, "Yes" was the general consensus. Right, next step, off to IT - how do I do this? They made it super easy, loaded it onto our class devices and stayed with me for the entire period! Did I mention I know nothing about Minecraft or Minecraft Edu!  But it reinforced for me the idea that if we as teachers stay away from what we don't know, we could deprive the students of some cool learning experiences. 

I gave the students a lesson to play - just play. This was so that I could see the level of expertise in the class, and M from IT and I could see how it worked.
Students were all engaged and talking about what they were doing. They were soon creating and several were exploring the Science elements. I was asked if they could work on it at home, or stay in at lunch. Students that preferred to work on their own were now collaborating. 
They are using Minecraft Edu to share their understanding of Sustainability. I will share how we go in a couple of weeks time in another blog post.
The Minecraft Edu resources are great and I really appreciate the lessons others have uploaded for a place to start. There is a course in the  Microsoft Educators Community

Whilst I don't yet fully understand how to use Minecraft Edu the students are great teachers! and our IT department are brilliant with their support.

p.s the 'Pause' function is brilliant - the most effective way ever to get everyone's attention!!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sustainable Development Goals

It is great to attend a conference, workshop or hui and be able to implement what you learn straight away and that was the case with both events that I attended in the recent school holidays.

I was very lucky to attend the face to face MIE Hui weekend in Auckland (two blog post worth a read by Microsoft Education NZ and Sam McNeill). This was an amazing weekend of learning and reconnecting.  I came away with a number of great ideas that I could put into practice on day 1 of term 3.
Prior to the hui  I had come across and completed the  Sustainable Development Goals in the Microsoft Educator Community. At the hui these goals were again mentioned in a skype call with Koen Timmers (Global Teacher prize finalist 2017 & 18) who is an ambassador for the SDGs. He spoke about the SDGs and the work he has been involved in. I was also found very interesting the program he has set up where teachers around the world are teaching refugees in Africa. Project Kakuma is where  over 175+ educators around the world teach Kakuma refugees via Skype.

Back to what is happening in my Year 10 class this term week 1:
This term with my Year 10 Social Studies class we are looking at the Level 5 Achievement Objective: Understand how people’s management of resources impacts on environmental and social sustainability. We are linking this AO to the SDG 13 Climate Action. Students are also working on the skills of maker mindset and thinking. Social Science is connecting with Science for this unit of work.
I developed this Sway using resources from the Microsoft Educator Community. This was to give a context and understanding of what the SDGs are,  where they have come from, as well as what sustability is:

This generated a lot of class discussion around the role of the United Nations and those involved. Questions on what needs to be done to make the world a better place was particularly interesting. Students then created a visual poster or diagram in their books on what they understood sustainability to be eg.

This student was looking at the before and after e.g poverty v wealth
This next student created a diagram to illustrate their understanding:

From here we looked at another Sway about Climate Change:

We spent a lot of time discussing the Greenhouse Effect. Students drew a geographic diagram of the Greenhouse Effect. 

Our next step is look at fossil fuels and renewable resources. Ultimately the students are going to work in Minecraft Edu and combine their knowledge gained in Science (e.g.wind turbines) and Social Studies. I will blog about this in a couple of weeks. The students are very excited about using Minecraft - I've never played in Minecraft. However, there is a good course in the Microsoft Educator Community to get me started. I will definitely be the teina (learner) with Minecraft and the  students will be the tuakana (teacher) (tuakana/teina relationship).

NB: The Sways contain minimal student activities this is because there is a quite a lot  of student choice/input into how we show their understanding based on the discussion and direction the learning takes.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Blog post 2 of 2: Curriculum integration

 An Interdisciplinary approach to Social Studies and English

Term 2: Stepping it up to a Interdisciplinary Approach
The next step for English and Social Studies was to develop a teaching and learning program that ran seamlessly over the two subjects. This meant that instead of 4hrs of English and 4hrs of Social Studies a week, students would have 8hrs of learning. This Year 10 class is very much a mixed ability class.

Faith (English) and myself (Social Studies) met and discussed what skills and learning objects were important to our subjects. For me, I was interested in students working on their collaboration skills, goal setting, reflection and managing their learning.  In Social Studies  the focus was on concept of:

"Identity, Culture, and Organisation – Students learn about society and communities and how they function. They also learn about the diverse cultures and identities of people within those communities and about the effects of these on the participation of groups and individuals."(TKI)  

The Achievement Objectives at the focus were:

  1. Understand how cultural interaction impacts on cultures and societies.
  2. Understand how people define and seek human rights.
To help us with our planning we used a Word document and the 'shared' function within it. Both of us being able to share what was important for our specific subject areas.  

The task: Create a documentary on how 'Hagley College is a tolerant/accepting community'. Take a specific aspect (student choice) such as: Accepting people for they are, sexuality...
Time-frame: 3 weeks in class activity and a further 2 weeks out of class.
SS focus: research and understanding of the specific topic, human rights, understanding of tolerance, what we can do to support, range of opinions...
English: techniques used in film making, creation of a visual text, sound, editing...

Week 1: Planning the documentary, who to interview, where, topics, storyboard
Week 2: Production - out and about gathering footage,
Week 3: Putting it together
Week 5: Viewing of docos with invited guests.

How did it go?
We had documentaries on the following: Bulling, LGBTQ+, Acceptance,  and homophobia. Students interviewed, students, teachers, guidance staff, and senior leaders. The documentaries ranged in content. Students did all the filming on cellphones which did affect some sound quality. This was overcome by some students using subtitles. Students had to teach themselves how to use editing software. Some groups used Adobe Premier Pro, others used an app on their phone or Microsoft photos app.

Students were given checklists and had to reflect and set goals for the next lesson to help keep them on track. This was done in Social Studies through OneNote. At the end of this task students completed an evaluation through Microsoft Forms. The aim to reflect on the development of their skills such as collaboration and to capture their understanding of key learning ideas. Last Friday we had the viewing of the docos. This was a key part of the process. Students had gone through a variety of emotions through the process but after viewing it in class they all enjoyed it and thought it a worthwhile experience. A number of students had really gone out of their comfort zone by appearing on camera or just having to collaborate. 
Their overall feeling about their school community is that it is a very tolerant one, where students can accept themselves and others, and like anything there is still room to improve.

Student reflections on the integration of Social Studies and English:
  • we had way more time to get stuff done so we weren't really stressing
  • it gives you more time to work on something really big and meaning full and gives 2 different teachers with different looks on things to help with your work 
  • that there is more time to work on it more  things to learn from two different sides/ topics 
  • Is that I have more time to understand and learn the topic other than having less time and not knowing much about the topic
  • It did make me relax so I can continue with the work I did in the last class
  • More time and being able to focus on different things in each class. 
  • We had more time and weren't confused about what were were going to do in that class.
  • you get more time and it feels less stressful, because you aren't worrying about 2 things (2 different subjects)

My reflection
Time is used very differently when integrating subjects. Students managed with more curriculum time, could go deeper and produce a product to a high standard in a shorter amount of time. It was relevant to them and their world, it was current and resulted in a presentation of their work. It was also beneficial for their well-being with an number of students commenting on feeling less stressed. Students used inquiry and created a product they were proud of. The learning that took place around collaboration was brilliant. Students became a lot more aware of their role within the learning taking place. As far as teacher planning, the time needed to be put in prior to the task  and then a check-in each week to make sure we were heading in the same direction. I created a rubric for Social Studies to evaluate their learning and a reflection.  It was important to start with the curriculum document, skills and then work on the task to scaffold it appropriately. We used technology readily available such as student cellphones and Office 365 tools. It was a great experience all around. 

Next step is looking at an integrated learning task in term 3 with Social Studies, Science and Health on sustainability. With more than 2 subjects involved I have set up a Microsoft Team to help with planning.
If your school is a Microsoft school I recommend joining the Microsoft Educator Community  This site is invaluable when learning how to make the most out of Microsoft tools, resources and seeing what other teachers around the world are doing.

Blog post 1 of 2: Experience with Integrated Curriculum

Blog post 1 of 2

After a year out of the classroom I am back and loving it. At the end of last year I was offered the HOD of Social Studies at Hagley College. One of the many things that appealed to me was the journey they were on to rethink the way curriculum is structured. I have been working on my doctorate through The University of Otago focusing on curriculum design, specifically integrated curriculum. So, after discovering that the HOD of English (Faith) was also interested in curriculum integration I asked the timetabler if it was possible for both of us to have the same Year 10 class. 

Curriculum integration is a continuum:

Term 1: Multidisciplinary Approach
The concept in Social Studies was 'Tolerance, and Acceptance' and we were looking at Refugees: where they came from, went to, reasons why and experiences they had and so on. In English their learning was shaped around the topic of refugees and they explored opinions and texts on this topic. This was a Multidisciplinary approach where we had the same topic but different tasks. Faith and I would meet for about 30 mins a week and discuss where we were at in our respective subjects and connect the learning taking place. For me, it was exciting to see students bring there learning from English into Social Studies. It meant we were able to delve deeper into the issues as the students already had an understanding.

Student feedback was that they: "enjoyed learning about stuff that was happening now", "Could use what we read about in English in Social Studies research", "Continue discussions from one class to another".