So on March 22, 2014 my School Board Upper Grand hosted their first Digital Saturday Open House.  Our board’s tech coach and a mentor of mine named Brenda Sherry, suggested that I apply to present on Minecraft so I did.  The format was a variety of short workshops for parents, staff, students and the community that were repeated throughout the morning as well as displays highlighting the use of technology as a student learning tool in the Upper Grand District School Board.

As this was the first of its kind for our board, I was curious to see who the clientele was and what the response would be.  It was a great success and provided a unique experience with a diverse audience.

To get some students engaged, I had a couple of networked laptops running on the server in Minecraft Edu.  These were students who were not in my class and had never been in a server environment but who were great at respecting the rules of admiring and respecting the work of others.  They also loved exploring and building.

For my first session there were a few parents but as the day went on the place was hopping and I had visits from a Superintendent of Education (whose son and daughter got some good time on the server) 6 students of mine and their families as well as many parents, principals and teachers from other schools in our board.

The group that I found the most interesting to talk to was the parents.  Almost all of them had children who love all things Minecraft so they were excited and curious about how something that to them looked like a solo game of 8-bit graphic block men killing zombies could be an an effective educational tool.

It takes hard work to build a community.
It takes hard work to build a community.

I started off explaining the what and why of game based learning with quotes from the Institute of Play.  I then went on to the primary focus in my club and class activities which are the Learning Skills expectations in the Ontario Report Card, namely Collaboration, Self-Regulation and Initiative.

I talked about how students were given complex tasks that required working together and how that process involved; failures, disappointment, frustration, problem solving, compromise, consensus building and in pride in what they accomplished and learned, parents quickly understood that Minecraft in a server environment made perfect sense in a school environment.  Anecdotes go a long way, and while I don’t have time/room for them in this post I know I will share them in upcoming posts/conferences as they always provide the ‘Ah HA!’ moments.

While the Learning Skills are my primary focus as a Minecraft/Gaming Edu teacher, I also explained that other than Physical Education, students could do work on/show their knowledge of any and all aspects of the K-8 curriculum. (I actually dared them to challenge me on this claim…nobody did though :))

The biggest highlight of the day was getting to see my students help the visitors and to show off their work and knowledge of the Minecraft Edu server. Kids who had never met each other and who weren’t necessarily your go-getter leader types, were enthusiastically and effectively facilitating and to an observer the feeling was so positive and natural you would have thought they were a group of best friends or siblings.

I am thankful for this opportunity as I am sure that the positive exposure will do wonders for the future School Minecrafters in our board and beyond.

Game Based Learning with Digital Blocks
Game Based Learning with Digital Blocks

For a look at the Google Presentation click here