SAMR and Minecraft
On Thursday March 5th Liam, Diana, and I had the privilege of talking about Minecraft with teachers in the TDSB who have either been using, or have just started using Minecraft in their schools. Thanks to the TLLP grant from the Ontario Ministry of Education, we were able to release teachers to facilitate a great afternoon of profession dialog about gaming in the classroom. During our afternoon together we discussed many different topics, from gamification vs game based learning, to how to deal with negative online behaviour. One of our discussions centred around the SAMR model, how we understand it, and perspectives on how we apply it.
Moses Velasco, an instructional leader from the Professional Learning, Training, and Leadership Development unit, lead this discussion, sharing the image above with the group. One of the more powerful things he stressed to us was that SAMR is not a hierarchy, but more like a lense to view what our students’ needs are, and how to meet them. This was not a new understanding for me, however it was one I frequently forget. In my mind I seem to have equated SAMR with Blooms taxonomy. This is an easy connection for me to make, given I am very familiar with Bloom’s, and because so many SAMR images represent it as a vertical progression.
Being reminded that SAMR model is not something we progress through is a bit freeing. I am happy to know that I should not feel that my Minecraft lesson on the volume of a rectangular prism is somehow deficient. I believe my volume lesson lands in the Substitution category because it could be a worksheet, the difference being that Minecraft is much more engaging than a worksheet. Although, it was argued that the switch from a 2D sheet to a 3D game places this Math lesson in Augmentation not Substitution -but that it a discussion for another post.
My fear is the only Minecraft lessons I am seeing lately, including my own, are only representative of Substitution. While I remind myself that Substitution is perfectly fine, given the situation and needs of the student, I want to see examples from every category. Is a Redefinition using Minecraft only confined to coding mods, or are there other ways to redefine a task with Minecraft as the tool? If Minecraft is only being used as a cooler, more engaging worksheet, how is it better than any other edutainment program available? Am I putting limitations on the sandbox?
It seems to me that a sandbox game should have a rich bank of example uses that cover every section of the SAMR model. Perhaps I am greedy, but I want to see what educators are doing in all 4 areas of the SAMR model with Minecraft, or any other video games for that matter. I would like to see more examples of lessons and projects that are messy and rich with inquiry and higher order thinking.
What lessons/units have you used Minecraft for that span different areas of the SAMR model?