This week in class, we had the opportunity to learn about Minecraft as an educational tool from a teacher and a group of students from a middle school.
As someone who is not particularly interested in or familiar with video games, I was very surprised by how engaging the game was. In addition, the potential for a teacher to control a game or set parameters that serve a particular task was especially appealing.
As a social studies teacher, the applications for technology like this are perhaps the most direct. We heard about a civilization building class project that allowed students to show their understanding of a particular civilization by recreating it and reflecting important elements of it in a simulated world. The concept of creating and recreating whole worlds is exciting to me because I can’t think of another platform where this could be done so directly.
I was surprised to hear that educational applications are an intentional focus for the people behind Minecraft, and that there is a whole website dedicated to the compilation of educational resources.
I am not sure if this particular game is something I will ever use in a classroom, but the presentation did emphasize to me the potential of harnessing something that students are independently engaged in. Similarly, I was impressed by how confident and comfortable the students were with stepping into a teaching role and jumping in to give us instructions.
This week, I had the opportunity to learn about Ed camps firsthand by participating in a small scale one in class. It was a great experience and doing one like this showed me how small-scale ones can be easily facilitated. The concept of a more fluid structure is exciting, as is the idea of choosing topics based on the interests of who is actually in the room at the time. I found this approach a lot more reflective of reality, considering there’s no easy way to accurately predict what a room full of people will be most interested in. Allowing participants to guide an event like this is an ambitious approach, but I found it worked surprisingly well.
In a more formal setting, it would certainty be useful to have topic experts involved in discussions, but a format where group members are supposed to contribute more than just listen or participate feels authentic. I found that I was comfortable engaging in the conversation even when I did not feel like an expert on the subject.
I was also surprised by how much the format facilitated in depth discussions that went in several directions. For example, my group was discussing aliens and the focus of the discussion ranged from science and math, to philosophy and literature.
I have had the experience before of signing up for a workshop, or activity that was not what I had anticipated and feeling stuck there. The freedom to move around without being a significant disruption was a great feature and I can see how it would create a more dynamic environment for a large-scale conference. However, I did not actually take advantage of this feature, nor did anyone in my group, which surprised me, but was reflective of how engaging the conversation was.
Our recent visit to the Pacific School of Innovation and inquiry was a great experience, particularity because it was so different in virtually every way from any other school environment . The physical design of the space was particularly surprising, especially in terms of how much fit into such a small space. I was also exited about how open they were with their resources, and was very interested in their inquiry process flowchart.
The students at PSII all seemed excited to be there, more so than in any other schools I have visited. This was wonderful to see, but it also made me think about how this education model might be suited to a specific type of learner. Even the choice to attend a school like this is in itself a type of self selection, so the students who attend it have decided that this educational setup might work for them based on who they are and how they learn. I would be curious to see how a program as self-directed as this could work in a public school.
A few of us had an interesting conversation with a student about the issue of accessibility and some of the projects the student had been working on in the local community, from dealing with an inaccessible neighboring business to communicating with local politicians about policy changes. The student was also working on an accessibility themed embroidery piece as part of a collaborative project with another student who was focusing on embroidery more specifically. This was really impressive to hear about, and it sounded like the teachers at the school were doing an excellent job of facilitating these community connections while still allowing the student to take the lead.
One of the main tools I use when stargazing is the Skyview app, which essentially allows you to hold your phone up to the night sky and tells you what you’re looking at in real time.
You can look for stars, constellations, galaxies and satellites, and everything is labeled with the option to click on the caption for more information. This is an amazing tool, especially for a beginner because it gives some context for what you’re seeing when you look up at the sky. The level of detail that it provides is amazing; for example, right now I am looking at a rocket that’s in the sky tonight and I can see it’s launch place and date, how high in the sky it is and a number of other facts about it.
My favourite feature has to be the illustrations of the constellations that appear overlaid on top of the stars. Recognizing constellations is something I have always had difficulty with, so being able to look at the pictures as I look at the stars is amazing.
This app is a great example of how technology can be used to support learning. For me, it’s much easier to make the connection between what I am seeing and what I know about it when I have all the information in one place right in front of me.
In this week’s class, we learned a how to use a few different audio and video editing programs, all of which were new to me.
First, we tried iMovie, which is something I probably won’t use as a PC owner, but it was great to see how easy it was to quickly create movies and even work with some seemingly complicated effects. We also experimented with screencastify, which was also easy to use. This was particularly helpful for me because it’s not difficult to see how a tool like this would come in handy in the classroom.
Finally, we also worked with audacity, an audio editing program which took a little more work to figure out but was also ultimately easy to use. This was particularly helpful for me because I’ve already had the opportunity to use it for an assignment in another course. I recorded a podcast for an English Curriculum class, and but I recorded it in pieces to make it more manageable, and easier to re-record sections if necessary. Initially I was having a difficult time putting the pieces together, but I remembered working with audacity in class and it made the editing process easy. I can see how it could be applicable in the classroom, especially with the increasing popularity of podcasts.
This week’s class had me considering the idea of free, open resources from a new perspective. My undergraduate experience was full of frustration over the accessibility of resources, whether they were articles behind paywalls or were sources I was hesitant to use because they did not offer enough information for a proper citation. I found this week’s exploration of open resources useful in terms of shifting my mindset away from focusing on what can’t be used to the wide range of resources that are available.
(I don’t understand this photo but I love it)
I have come across a number of excellent open resources in other classes, so I thought I would use this blog post to share a little bit about them.
As part of a social studies “Super Resource” project, I found the website Law Lessons which provides a multitude of law and civics related educational resources in addition to an entire Law course worth of detailed lesson plans. The great thing about this resource is that it has been created by the Justice Society of BC with specific consideration to the BC curriculum.
I was also introduced to a website called ReadWriteThink in my Language Arts curriculum class, which is a massive database of resources and lesson plans of all subjects.
In addition, I have been introduced to some simple teaching tools that are far simpler to use than I expected. I was particularly surprised by how easy it was to embed photos from flickr into materials (like these blog posts). I also had the opportunity to learn how to use the program twine, which was shockingly simple to navigate even for someone like me with virtually no knowledge of coding.
A major concern I had when exploring the new curriculum was what I would base lessons on given the shift away from prescribed content. However, I have quickly learned that all the resources I could need are out there, and are far easier to find and use than I would have anticipated.
For my free inquiry, I have chosen to explore the topic of astronomy. I decided I wanted to spend my inquiry exploring stargazing and astronomy because it’s a topic where I feel my knowledge and experience are not as strong as my interest. My grandfather loved astronomy and shared his passion with me as I was growing up. I can’t remember a time I visited my grandparents house when there wasn’t a stack of astronomy magazines on the coffee table. His interest in the topic was mostly scientific, and while that is an important element, I want to focus on some of the other aspects of the topic.
I decided to use this week’s blog post to work through some of the questions I have and consider where I might go with this inquiry. Here are a few topics I want to consider as I develop my project.
Myths and Legends: Where did the constellations get their names and where do the myths about these characters come from? Do different cultures have different stories about the stars? How have these myths been adapted into other stories throughout time? Do they still resonate?
Religion: What do people believe about the universe and how has this been influenced by what we can see in the night sky? How have astronomical discoveries challenged religious belief?
Navigation: When and where were the stars used as a primary means of navigation? How does this type of navigation work? How might it still be useful in light of modern technology?
The History of Astronomy: How did our understanding of astronomy develop based on scientific discovery? How did this change what people believed about the world? What historical factors have influenced the drive and perhaps resistance to explore space?
These topics are all interrelated of course, and I anticipate that I may generate more questions as I continue with my inquiry. I’d also like to document my own experience with observation whenever the sky is clear enough. My overall goal is to learn as much as I can about this topic to ultimately be able to draw some meaning from what I can see and observe with my own eyes.
This week, we explored an alternative model of learning through the film “Most Likely to Succeed”, which followed students from High Tech High through long term, interdisciplinary, and challenging projects.
I had some experience with project based learning in high school where I had the opportunity to put together some mock elections and host local prospective members of parliament at an even for students. This was an incredibly valuable experience, but was done through a class outside of the regular school timetable so the vast majority of students did not have the same opportunity.
Something that I wanted to know more about was the difference between simply doing projects and project based learning. I was able to find a video that provided an excellent breakdown of the differences. In particular, it explained that regular projects are most often used to reflect on what has already been learned, whereas project-based learning positions the project itself as the primary learning experience.
I am super excited about project based learning, not only in terms of its potential to help students explore ideas on a deeper level, but also in terms of its potential to teach other skills like team management.
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