Reflections on #MinecraftLA part 1
If you follow me on Twitter or are connected to me via Facebook you will be aware that I attended the #MinecraftLA summit in mid March. It was wonderful to be in a room of educators who have used Minecraft as part of the learning experience they offer. For an insight into the twitter conversation that was connected to the summit visit this storify:
I was most humbled to be asked by Mimi Ito, who has written the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, More and is currently involved in Connected Camps with Minecraft, to be part of a panel on the day. We fielded questions from those in attendance, along with being provided the opportunity to describe how we (the panel) have used Minecraft as a learning tool or game in the classroom.
It is this concept of tool or game that I found particularly interesting. And it is at this point that I digress away from Minecraft and consider teaching and learning, pedagogy (the art and science of teaching), our journey as educators and those of our learners. During this panel session it became evident to me that there were a range of educators present, with a range of experience, who employed a range of pedagogy for particular reasons. No one was more right than the other with regard to how they employed Minecraft within their environment, each teacher is provided a unique circumstance that provided differing variables. It was through these discussions that I realised how strongly I felt about my own pedagogical approach regarding Minecraft, which employs a very student centred approach that sits within Constructivism and employs aspects of Vygotsky’s theory with regard to Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and More Knowledgable Other (MKO). Reflecting on this have I realised that this is supported with my history as an educator in the Foods and Textiles area that has been well-situated in a Design Make and Appraise model and has focussed on student centred and directed learning, along with my time teaching within the VET area and the Big Picture model. I have also had the opportunity to take risks in my teaching practice due to Principals who were willing to provide safety within the risk – they encouraged, they supported, they took away that sense of failure as a negative and they viewed learning as a holistic ongoing concept for the child and me, the teacher.
It was during my time at #MinecraftLA summit that this incredible support that I was provided as a teacher to take risks really stood out to me. This had a particular impact on me as I listened to one teacher who expressed the inability to employ a model similar to the one we set up at Riverside High School due to it not being viewed as providing the learning required in his subject area. As a result he focused on setting up worlds that the students walked through and where he controlled their experience to adhere to the script required to ensure the required outcomes where achieved. I saw in this teacher the desire to be innovative, yet the constraints that created frustration were evident. I felt pained by his frustration and concerned as to what forces learning to be orchestrated in such a controlled manner. This has raised questions for me, are there some learning areas and pedagogical approaches that Minecraft is more suited to than others?
Having time to reflect on this I am not only appreciative of the recent freedom I have been provided to take risks in my teaching practice, but also very appreciative of my early years as a teacher where I was provided opportunity also. There is much more to unpack here and learning and teaching is complex, there is no one way to do it and the variables are many. However, one thing I cannot ignore is the importance of listening and understanding another educators story before making a judgement. Listening to the teacher’s experience mentioned above allowed me to develop empathy for him and changed my perception of his use of Minecraft in his classroom as it gave me a greater insight into the whole situation.