In order for a student to be considered college and career ready, a few of the essential overarching skills they need to embody include: creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. At Pioneer Middle School, the Pioneer MineCraft club, led by advisor Gio LoBianco, provides students with the opportunity to practice these essential 21st century skills in a game based environment.
The Pioneer Minecraft Club meets once a week in the Library Media Center. This club is exceptionally popular, and often times, has a wait list of two to three weeks. Over forty different students have joined the club this year alone. So, what exactly is Minecraft? Minecraft is often referred to as a “sandbox game,” meaning that the world students create within the game is based on their own imagination; there are no levels and no directions. Students break down and mine resources (blocks) that allow them to build personalized structures that look and function in the ways they desire. The more resources a student gathers, the more elaborate the structure they can build. Additionally, they can create circuits to build working machines such as automatic doors that open and close when the character approaches it, or creating a catapult. Ownership and self-efficacy are developed within this student driven, constructivist environment.
Every week students can play in different ways. The only hard and fast rule is that students cannot destroy something another student has made. Students set personalized or collaborative goals and depend on the expertise within their peer group in order to teach one another. The club also supports the development of social skills, as students work together in an environment that relies on communication, resilience and decision-making. Another exciting aspect of this gaming environment is that many students who aren’t traditionally successful in the classroom, have found engagement and success in this learning environment, and positioned themselves as leaders with their peers.
There are multiple opportunities for classroom teachers to extend the learning derived from the Minecraft Club and integrate it into the classroom curriculum. Teachers could create assignments for students to demonstrate understanding of the setting within a novel, develop math challenges, or represent geography skills by utilizing Minecraft as an instructional or assessment tool. “Minecraft develops creative thinking in the same way that chess develops logic and systems thinking- by promoting intense, focused mental engagement” (Spencer, 2017). In this digital age, Minecraft provides a platform for students to construct personalized understanding, utilize their creativity, partner with their peers, and foster creativity. What an outstanding opportunity for Pioneer students!
By: Colleen Root, CA BOCES Professional Development
Second Wave: CA BOCES will offer Teaching All Kinds of Minds (TAKOM) during the 2018-2019 School Year
Since 1996, All Kinds of Minds (AKOM) has served as the preeminent organization advancing the use of a neurodevelopmental-based approach to help all students learn and thrive. Now a part of QED’s suite of initiatives, it will continue to play a pivotal role in helping educators and students understand how individuals learn, discover unique learning profiles, and personalize both teaching and learning.
The Neurodevelopmental Framework for Learning (NDFL) developed by AKOM and taught in its programs involves:
The available resources are numerous, and all serve, ultimately, to foster learning communities in which students have personalized learning plans, understand their unique learner profile, and can leverage their strengths and assets to passionately pursue their life aspirations. Toward this end, educators interested in building their capacity to better serve and empower students, will be able to register for the 3-day TAKOM course starting in the 2018-2019 school year. Join us as we catch the second wave.
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
The end of June marks the beginning of a unique season for educators. We are given the opportunity to reboot after ten months of instruction, assessment, and exhaustion. If you have not yet established a plan for your summer reboot, feel free to use the URER model:
Since the summer months, seemingly, pass much more quickly than others, it is important to have a plan for managing your time and learning during this season, so you don’t find yourself unplugged come the end of August.
Take some time to set your professional goals temporarily aside to meet your personal needs. Whether that includes 24-72 hours to literally unplug from technology or it is a family vacation, your social, emotional, and physical needs should be met if you expect to find success in your professional life.
If you have been in the world of education for any length of time, you have most likely heard of John Hattie or, at the very least, his meta-analysis of 138 influences and effects on student achievement, Visible Learning. If effect size is something new to you, then it is important to note that effect sizes of 0.40 or more represent a growth of one year or more when you examine the updated list of factors related to student achievement. Effect sizes of less than 0.40 indicate less than one year of growth. Whether you are reevaluating your instructional practices by removing ineffective practices or refining your skills with larger effect sizes, Visible Learning is a great resource to reference as you prepare for the upcoming school year. However, regardless the resource(s) you reference regarding effective pedagogy, it is important that you reevaluate your instructional practices. Are your practices effective? How do you know your practices are effective?
One amazing aspect of being an educator is also being a lifelong learner. In addition to reevaluating and refining our skills, we are able to explore new technologies, assessments, and instructional strategies among other things. Furthermore, the summer months are ideal for exploring new strategies since most educators have more time in their schedules to be flexible, reflective, and responsive. Whether you explore a new conference such as the International Society for Technology Educators (ISTE) conference, you independently research a topic, or you attend a workshop through CA BOCES, there are numerous avenues ready for exploration this summer. For a complete list of workshops through CA BOCES, visit the CA BOCES Registration System.
The ISTE Annual Conference that took place in Chicago marked the first of many summer explorations for me. This year’s conference broke all of its records for membership, conference attendance, and vendor sponsorship, and with hundreds of presentations and several thousand people in attendance, learning opportunities lurked around every corner. In a few short days, I was able to embrace sessions and conversations focused on increasing accessibility through Universal Design for Learning (UDL), becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator, empowering educators to share their best ideas in a TED & ISTE partnership, and a variety of others.
My favorite learning experience was when I attended a session on accessibility with Kendra Grant, Chris White, and Keynote speaker Luis Pérez. The presenters provided a great means for thinking about UDL with clear goals (it’s as easy as your ABCs). When creating learning opportunities, we need to explore options for authentic Access to all aspects of the lesson prior to Building anything to ensure everyone is able to Capture the intended message and construct a path forward. In addition to the definition of UDL, the presenters shared some challenging questions such as “Bicycles are designed as a one size fits all, so why would your lessons be?” And “Are you providing the appropriate tools for all students to have access to deconstruct and construct the content provided?”
The most difficult aspect of summer break for most educators is moving past step 1. Too often educators find themselves unplugged for far too long, dreading the notion of plugging back in before summer comes to a close. However, if we can convince ourselves that learning isn’t on a ten-month time schedule, if we enter a cycle of evaluation such as the URER model, then I believe we will all begin to notice a vast improvement in the world of education. We will want to unplug less, improve our educational practices, and become better able to serve our educational communities.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Digital Badges or Micro Credentials are small rewards given to students for mastering a skill, completing a task or good behavior. Badges are often an element of gamification. Some teachers assign students XP (experience points) based on classroom activites and award badges when certain XP thresholds are met enabling students to "level up" in class.
Many digital learning tools have badge options built in such as Moodle, Canvas, Schoology, and Power School LMS. Or use a standalone badge tool such as Open Badges and Class Craft.
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