Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Have I Gone Too Far?

I am starting to hit a bit of resistance to my planned project for the PreCAL numeracy course I want to run. Originally my thought was that the students would 'have access' to the world every lesson, that the world design, by nature, would require the students to do some learning to progress. Life in game would be pretty boring if you cannot dig, build or craft anything because you have no money. So I figured that the students, who will want to dig, build and craft, will do 'work' to get paid and hence can move forward with their goals in the world. And it is this work where some of the learning happens, for example the students will be tasked with keeping a weekly budget up to date, each weekend I will check their budgets, and on Monday they will get their pay if they have completed it, if not they will be on 'benefits', enough money to get food but not much else.

However I think perhaps I have gone a little too far out of the comfort zone of some of the other teachers at my school, including admin. There is some concern that students, and parents, will perceive this as 'just playing games' and that there will be no rigour to the teaching or learning going on. I am not sure how I feel about this. I can see both sides, in my head I have a grand plan of how it will look, work and how much learning will happen naturally in the world I want to set up. On the other hand, yes it could quite easily be seen as just playing games.

Can I not be trusted to do the right thing, to do my job? I guess is the real issue for me at the moment.

There have been a fair few posts about this in the past, with some online 'experts' (I do not put experts in ' to be disparaging, only that they are perceived that way) purporting that you should just let the students play, not control them and learning will happen. Each time I think about this I cringe, as a teacher in a classroom (which some of the 'experts' are no longer, again I am not trying to belittle their expertise, just trying to make my thoughts clear) I have curriculum to assess and report on, so it is my duty to ensure that the students get these mandated skills, at an appropriate level for them.

So am I now one of these experts that live in a 'utopia' of education that doesn't really apply in the real world, in real classes, with real students and real curriculum? I guess time will tell but only if I can continue plugging away and get the program up and running.

Speaking to another staff member about my current feelings, they are very supportive, and can see how my 'plan' would encourage these students to learn, and give them real life numeracy skills. Their suggestion is that, perhaps the other teachers and admin don't fully understand what Minecraft is and what it is capable of, and that perhaps I should run a local PD for all staff at my school to show them. This teacher has the advantage of having visited a few of my Minecraft classes, so she has seen what it does in a classroom, and how I utilise it.

Re-reading this post, it sounds very 'complaigny' (I know it is not a real word, but you get the meaning don't you?), that is not what it is about. I take pride in the fact that what I do online is honest, the whole picture warts and all, and I feel that I would not be being true to myself if I didn't share my current thinking and the issues I am coming across as I push the boundaries of my own teaching practice. As always feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for reading.


  1. Elfie, I think the PD is a great idea, especially if you can run various maps including some basics, mathlandia, and this numeracy map so the teachers and admins can see the increase in complexity and the correlations to real life that the students will undoubtedly learn.

    1. Thanks Matt, I think that is a great idea, I was not sure how to go about running it, as most are not gamers, so I was going to start with the tutorial world, get them learning rather than showing them what I have done. Now I just need to find the time and convince admin that it is worthwhile to actually allow me to run it, as if I want it that way it is going to be a couple of meetings at least. Maybe I could run a MinecraftEdu MasterClass for staff :D

  2. See, I'd almost go a different approach. Knowing staff meetings and PD in the area, I'd have to think a number of staff are in the 'what's in it for me' mold. They'll sit, watch, think 'that's great' but not really change their minds.

    Another way would be to get continual feedback and develop a profile over time of their performance and interest. With limited knowledge of VCAL that I have, correct me if I'm wrong but it's compency-based, meaning the assessment of competencies can happen at any time, but usually at the end of the unit.
    Just like anything, show the progress you have made with the kids. Some pre-testing, small and measurable formative assessment tools along the way, then an evaluation of skills to show progression. Combine this with some student feedback survey data and you'll develop a portfolio justifying your approach. Compare it to previous years/classes etc and hopefully it stacks up. If there's one thing that moves the hearts and minds of leadership, it's data.

    But, having said that, hopefully you have enough important people on your side to begin with to get it going (which I'm confident you would have).

    1. Thanks for your comment Thommo, and the PD thing has been taken off the table, admin are not interested. So if I want to push change I need to work with interested staff, in their, and my own spare time.

      And you are dead on with the data requirements, I had a conversation with admin again the other day and that is what they want, but in the mean time I have had some 'restrictions' put in place as to what I am 'allowed' to do in my program. It should not impact too much, I hope, but it is frustrating to be collared so to speak when I was invigorated and excited about the project, now I am feeling a bit flat and unsupported. But the project WILL GO ON!!!! :D

      Thanks again for your comment, much appreciated.