During a Postgraduate paper last night we were asked about the purpose of school (education) and what is knowledge, as a small cohort we come up with some interesting but reasonably predictable answers. So today I thought I would pose the question to my class. Here are some of their responses:
From the perspective of ten and eleven year old students.
“Get smarter, learn and get a job” – Student 1
“Get an education, to get a job” – Student 2
“Learn how to be confident and talk to others, build relationships” – Student 3
“Meet new people” – Student 4
“Learn about the world” – Student 5
“Learn about new sports” – Student 6
“Find new strategies and ways to solve problems” – Student 7
“You won’t end up dumb like a baby” – Student 8
“So you get more intelligent (sic) better when you are older” – Student 9
“Teach us good decisions so we don’t go to jail” – Student 10
“Learn about friendships and how people behave” – Student 11
“Learn how to be healthy” – Student 12
What is knowledge?
“It is knowing things, the how-to, do coding…” – Student 1
“Learning new things” – Student 2
“Knowledge is power, the more you know the more power you have” – Student 3
“Talking, helping others is knowledge” – Student 4
A global push for more computer science in classrooms is starting to bear fruit
“LET’S do it again,” calls a ten-year-old. Once more, pupils clasping printed numbers follow tangled lines marked with white tape on the floor of their school hall. When two meet, the one holding the higher number follows the line right; the other goes left. Afterwards they line up—and the numbers are in ascending order. “The idea is to show how a computer sorts data,” explains their teacher, Claire Lotriet.
This was the scene at a recent event in London to promote “Hour of Code”, an initiative organised by Code.org, a non-profit, aimed at rousing interest in computer programming—or “coding” in the language of the digital cognoscenti. In September, when computer science becomes part of England’s primary-school curriculum, such games are likely to become a common sight in the country’s classrooms. Many other places are beefing up computer-science teaching, too. Israel was an early adopter, updating its high-school syllabus a decade ago; New Zealand and some German states recently did the same. Australia and Denmark are now following suit. And the coding craze goes far beyond the classroom: more than 24m people worldwide have signed up to free tutorials from Codecademy, an educational website.
When computer science was first taught in some American and European schools in the 1970s, generally as an optional subject for older pupils, computers did little unless given instructions in a specialist language. So classes focused on programming. But the advent of ready-made applications and graphical user interfaces in the 1980s saw a shift to teaching “ICT” (information and communications technology): how to use computers for word-processing, creating presentations and the like. The result was that pupils left school with little idea how computers work. England’s ICT curriculum has come in for particular criticism. It “focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made,” said Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman (and a director of The Economist’s parent company), in a lecture in 2011. “That is just throwing away [England’s] great computing heritage.”
Digital technology is now so ubiquitous that many think a rounded education requires a grounding in this subject just as much as in biology, chemistry or physics. That is one reason that the pendulum is swinging back towards teaching coding. Employers’ moans are another. The shortage of skilled programmers is clear from the high salaries they command. The shallower the pool of people who know the basics, the smaller the number of potential tech entrepreneurs. According to Judith Gal-Ezer of the Open University of Israel, who was part of the team that put computer science on the country’s high-school curriculum, a growing share of jobs in developed countries require “computational thinking”: the ability to formulate problems in such a way that they can be tackled by computers. But bosses complain that workers lack such skills—and politicians are listening. Mr Schmidt’s public criticism is credited with prodding Britain’s government into action.
In many places, enthusiasts have moved faster than governments. The sorting game described above comes from “Computer Science Unplugged”, a collection of activities compiled by Tim Bell of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand that teach programming concepts using “cards, string, crayons and lots of running around”. Scratch, a simple language created by MIT’s Media Lab, allows youngsters to develop computer games out of on-screen building blocks that have been compared to “virtual Lego”. In America, where computer science features on the regular curriculum in just a tenth of high schools, the Computer Science Teachers Association produces teaching guides and supports several foreign groups, including the one that wrote Britain’s new curriculum.
But the subject is so young that teachers and curriculum designers have little pedagogical research to guide them, says Peter Hubwieser of the Technical University of Munich. How best to explain a concept as abstract as recursion to non-specialists? (Your correspondent has tried several ways, without success.) Which programming language should come first? How to teach mixed-ability groups that will range from self-taught app developers to those who struggle to find the “on” switch?
Even basic matters, such as striking the right balance between conceptual exercises like the sorting game and actually writing programs, are still not settled. Doing some coding is essential, says Michael Kölling, a specialist in computing education at the University of Kent: it motivates pupils and means they find out whether their algorithms work. But should pupils start with programming and leave principles till later, or the other way round?
How a country answers such questions depends partly on what its economy needs. Estonia is short of programmers for its burgeoning tech industry; it puts great emphasis on programming, with some schools teaching it to pupils as young as six. Denmark devotes more time to topics such as the design of user interfaces, which interests its big firms, and the impact of digital technology on society. “We wanted the curriculum to be meaningful for all pupils, not just those who go on to study computer science,” says Michael Caspersen of Aarhus University.
Above all, the new subject will require teachers who know what they are doing. Only a few places take this seriously: Israel has about 1,000 trained computer-science teachers, and Bavaria more than 700. Mathematics and computer-science graduates generally choose more lucrative trades; the humanities and social-science graduates who will find themselves teaching coding will need plenty of support. Britain is skimping: it is introducing its new curriculum in a rush, and preparing teachers has mostly been left to industry groups such as Computing at School, which helped put together the syllabus. If coding is to take its rightful place in the classroom, it cannot be done on the cheap.
There are whispers that such a push is happening in New Zealand, how does the average teacher include coding in schools into their already crowded programmes?
From the age of five, children will now be taught about coding, logic, problem solving, if-else statements, app making, social media analytics, and probably hacking as well.
But there is a lot, a LOT, of apprehension about this, even as a techie myself (for instance – I design websites, and have coded for much of my adult life). Put it this way; I’m not jumping up and down about this announcement.
I don’t know about you, but the first thing I asked was who is going to do this? I have met many a good soul who dedicate their lives to teaching students, but who’s computer literacy is extremely limited.
And while the content knowledge required to for Level 1 of the curriculum will be very basic, it still requires a great deal more teaching knowledge to be able to teach it effectively. What are students getting stuck on? What are the next steps? How do I solve the next problem?
Take for example Level 1 of the Reading curriculum. It’s fairly straight forward. Most, if not all (fairly presumptive, I know) adults could achieve this. Now think of the teaching knowledge you would need in order to teach it effectively. The sounds, the blends, the phonics, digraphs, vowel sounds and rules around their usage, the common pitfalls and sticking points as well as the various strategies required to assist and help students to progress to level two. And that’s just scraping the surface of teaching students to read.
Imagine the level of teaching knowledge that is going to be required to effectively teach digital literacy.
And now take that to level two, and level three of the curriculum.
My current estimate, based on my current place of employment and the various other schools I have worked in, would be that about 10% of teachers would have the skill set required to teach digital literacy if it was introduced tomorrow. And that 10% is probably generous. Most of what makes a good programmer, coder, or even just a ‘tech guru’ is the ability to solve problems. When something goes wrong, you need to know what to do to fix it, systematically, step by step, eliminating variables as you go. From experience, many teachers struggle to problem solve why their projector isn’t connecting, or why the sound isn’t working on their laptop. How do we then get to a place where teachers are teaching students even more complex problem solving when you introduce if-else statements that don’t work!
Many non-tech-savvy people turn to one demographic for help. Young people. Why? Because they’re already up with the play on technology. Their desire to explore, to learn, to develop skills with technology seems to happen automagically, and I can only see teachers and schools getting in the way of that. As well as this, I read an interesting post about ‘future-proof’ learning, predicting what the future holds for our students, and how we can’t and shouldn’t be including things in the curriculum that are a phase, or a fad.
(Note: I realise that schooling exists past primary school; but we already have specialist subject teachers at Intermediate and High School level, and so schools would merely employ a specialist ‘digital literacy’ teacher.)
Another aspect that may or may not have been considered is how schools are going to teach it. You know, the practical side of it. You see; I’ve only once had to write down a piece of code on paper (during a Comp101 exam I took in Uni). It was nigh on impossible not being able to check and edit the code to improve it or to see if it worked. A lot of coding is trial and error.
Essentially, if digital literacy is to be taught, then students will need devices. Doing it with pencil and paper will only last so long.
Now I’m not sure about your school; but our decile 2 school has only just got to the point of having 1 device between 2 in the senior school, and 1 to 4 in the junior school. Yes; we can combine sets of these devices to allow every student to have access to one, but my point is, there are lots of schools out there who wouldn’t have this level of technology in their school yet.
With more devices comes more problems. More students who run into connection issues, which in turn requires the teacher to know how to solve that problem (many of which once again, don’t know how to go about doing this on their own laptops as it is).
Ultimately though, when are teachers going to fit this in? Or is it going to be integrated throughout the day? I guess that comes down to the individual teacher. But I know for one, I would love to spend more time teaching students how to use the Chromebooks, how to code a website, and more; but the reality is that I have a hard enough job covering the rest of the curriculum sufficiently, as well as the ever increasing demand on Maths, Reading, and Writing, without adding more to that workload.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not having a go at my colleagues or other teachers. They all have strengths and are all marvellous teachers. I merely see a massive gap between adding a subject to the curriculum and the current knowledge of those that have to deliver content about that subject. Massive gap.
I can see my job as a tech-savvy teacher becoming more than it already is, as I can see me having to assist with other classes tech problems more than I already do, provide support for when tech devices go wrong, and provide ongoing P.D. as teachers encounter problems or inspiration that they want to explore.
Once again – not sure when I’m going to actually get to teach my own class.
I was fortunate enough to have been a programmer before I became a teacher, so I guess I have a huge advantage when this new curriculum area comes into play. I am excited by the potential inclusion of coding, I have been teaching computer science to my students for the past year and have seen noticeable increases in their achievement levels across the board. The struggle will be for the 95% of teachers out there who have no experience with coding, this is were the 5% of us have to step up and support our fellow colleagues.
HE LOOKS LIKE a Minion, one of those yellow, cycloptic creatures from Despicable Me, except he’s brown and pear-shaped. And he wears what appears to be a fanny pack.
So, really, he looks more like a middle-aged, middle American Minion who spends too much time in the sun. And right now, he’s on my iPad, ambling across an airborne tropical island in search of spinning, sparkling, levitating red rhinestones. His name is Byte, and I have to say: he’s a rather endearing little cartoon. Plus, I can control him with software code.
With one-line commands or nested functions or while loops or conditional code or logical operators, I can make him to walk, leap, turn around, flip a switch, and all sorts of other stuff. And if none of that means anything to you, well, you’re in luck. Byte is here to teach you.
This is the new Swift Playgrounds app, the next step on Apple’s path towards a new breed of computer programming. If you’re not a coder, that may seem a tad esoteric. But you’re the app’s target audience, along with everyone else. With Playgrounds, Apple pretty much wants to turn us all into coders. And considering the code-centric way the world is moving, that’s not such a bad idea.
Two years ago, Apple unveiled a programming language called Swift. Like various otherlanguages created over the last several years, Swift aimed to simplify and streamline the art of coding without sacrificing the speed and power needed to build apps and online services in the modern world. Part of this push was a tool called Playgrounds, which until now only ran on laptops and desktops. It gave Apple coders a new way of looking at code. As they wrote their code on one half of the screen, they could watch it execute on the other.
That’s not exactly a new thing. Other tools operate in similar ways, including IPython (aka Jupyter) and Mathematica. But this is Apple, the company that makes the iPhone and the iPad. It has a certain out-sized influence over the rest of the computing world. According to some estimates, Swift is already one of the world’s most popular languages—mainly because it’s a way of building stuff for the wildly popular iPhone and iPad. Now, with the new Playgrounds iPad app, Apple is hoping to push the language into the hands of everyone, including your kids.
“Swift is not just a thing that pro developers can use,” says Wiley Hodges, an Apple product marketing manager that helps oversee Swift and Playgrounds. “It could be someone’s first programming language.”
Due to arrive in the App Store this fall, the app is an educational tool. Through Boris and his levitating rhinestones, it teaches the fundamental concepts of programming, from commands and functions to loops and algorithms to variables and types. Other tools do similar things, including a seminal language for kids called Scratch. But Playgrounds teaches you to program not just through visual metaphors but with real code.
Minutes after launching the app, you can learn to string together a few commands. Then you can watch them execute. You can move Byte forward with a simple “moveforward ()” command. You can pack three “turnleft ()” commands into a function and use that to turn him right. You could move him up and down and across the floating island with several nested functions. Playgrounds teaches real problem solving without skimping on the syntax. It shows you what it means to “debug” a program, to find and remove mistakes. This problem-solving is so real, it can get frustrating. But that’s a good thing. As I played with the app, I got caught up in making sure that Byte behaved exactly the way I wanted him to.
The clear yet powerful lessons the app bring to the iPad are especially suited to kids, who are growing up with touchscreens, not keyboards, as their standard computing interface. Fareed Quraishi, a coder at a Swift-centric shop called Perfect, sees the app’s built in feedback loop—write program, see it run—as an ideal way of teaching programming to his young niece and nephew. “This could be used to teach almost anything,” he says.
But at the same time, this is an app that can serve experienced coders. Byte inhabits a “playground” for kids and novices. But you can also build your own playground—a place where you can see the results of any of your own code. Quraish, for instance, used the original Playgrounds to learn Swift, and he still uses it to test snippets of code as he writes, ensuring that a particular algorithm will work before pushing it into a larger application. Now that it’s on the iPad, he says, he can write and test code wherever he might be—even places unsuited to a laptop.
This is what Apple is aiming for: Swift everywhere.
Others outside the Apple universe don’t quite see this as a revolution. “Apple Swift Playgrounds is a tool for learning Apple’s Swift programming language,” says Daniel Greenfeld, a coder with Internet consultancy Cartwheel Web who specializes in a language called Python. “Nothing new, just created and maintained by Apple.”
For him, the real education won’t come from Playgrounds or any other new coding tool. “The thing that really teaches you how to code is wanting to build something,” he says.
Polishing the Apple
The Apple faithful see Playgrounds eventually evolving into a system where coders can build anything for an iPad on an iPad, where creating apps is as visual and interactive as using them. “I feel like playgrounds are hugely important for the next generation of devs,” says Matthew Palmer, an independent 21-year-old coder based in Australia. “Not just the next generation in terms of young people learning to code, but what development will actually look like in a decade.”
Umberto Raimondi, a coder based in Italy, believes Playgrounds still needs improvement. He wishes it was more like IPython. But eventually, he believes, it will help far more people become coders. That’s a grand vision. But considering how rapidly code is winding its way into every corner of daily life, via phones and tablets and watches and the Internet itself, it’s a good thing to push for. Byte is a cartoon with a fanny pack. But he’s also just what the world needs.
The next wave of the digital revolution arrives next year, with every child in the UK being taught computer programming. But is Britain ready?
In just under a year, England will become the first country in the world to mandate computer programming in primary and secondary schools. Children will start learning to write code when they enter school the age of five, and will not stop until at least 16, when they finish their GCSEs.
By the end of key stage one, students will be expected to create and debug simple programs as well as ‘use technology safely and respectfully’. They will also be taught to understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions.
By the time they reach key stage 2, pupils will be taught how to design and write programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems. They will also learn how to understand computer networks and use logical reasoning to detect and correct errors in algorithms.
Upon entering secondary school, key stage 3 students will be taught about Boolean logic, given an understanding of algorithms that reflect computational thinking and be taught about the different hardware and software components that make up computer systems and how they communicate with one another and other systems.
Read the article in full here.
Credit: Sophie Curtis
This is the week when a revolution begins to sweep through schools in England. It involves a whole new way of teaching children about computing – but I suspect many parents, and even some teachers, know very little about this important moment in education.
As children from five upwards return to school, they are going to have to start learning how to program – or to “code” to use the trendy term which seems to upset some old-school programmers. This is the result of the new national curriculum for computing that is being introduced in England this term.
In the words of the curriculum document, the aim is to “ensure that all pupils can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science”. Before considering just how well-placed schools and teachers are to make this happen, it is worth remembering how we got here.
The social and economic impact of technology is widespread and accelerating. The speed and volume of information have increased exponentially. Experts are predicting that 90% of the entire population will be connected to the internet within 10 years. With the internet of things, the digital and physical worlds will soon be merged. These changes herald exciting possibilities. But they also create uncertainty. And our kids are at the centre of this dynamic change.
Children are using digital technologies and media at increasingly younger ages and for longer periods of time. They spend an average of seven hours a day in front of screens – from televisions and computers, to mobile phones and various digital devices. This is more than the time children spend with their parents or in school. As such, it can have a significant impact on their health and well-being. What digital content they consume, who they meet online and how much time they spend onscreen – all these factors will greatly influence children’s overall development.
The digital world is a vast expanse of learning and entertainment. But it is in this digital world that kids are also exposed to many risks, such as cyberbullying, technology addiction, obscene and violent content, radicalization, scams and data theft. The problem lies in the fast and ever evolving nature of the digital world, where proper internet governance and policies for child protection are slow to catch up, rendering them ineffective.
Moreover, there is the digital age gap. The way children use technology is very different from adults. This gap makes it difficult for parents and educators to fully understand the risks and threats that children could face online. As a result, adults may feel unable to advise children on the safe and responsible use of digital technologies. Likewise, this gap gives rise to different perspectives of what is considered acceptable behaviour.
So how can we, as parents, educators and leaders, prepare our children for the digital age? Without a doubt, it is critical for us to equip them with digital intelligence.
Digital intelligence or “DQ” is the set of social, emotional and cognitive abilities that enable individuals to face the challenges and adapt to the demands of digital life. These abilities can broadly be broken down into eight interconnected areas:
Digital identity: The ability to create and manage one’s online identity and reputation. This includes an awareness of one’s online persona and management of the short-term and long-term impact of one’s online presence.
Digital use: The ability to use digital devices and media, including the mastery of control in order to achieve a healthy balance between life online and offline.
Digital safety: The ability to manage risks online (e.g. cyberbullying, grooming, radicalization) as well as problematic content (e.g. violence and obscenity), and to avoid and limit these risks.
Digital security: The ability to detect cyber threats (e.g. hacking, scams, malware), to understand best practices and to use suitable security tools for data protection.
Digital emotional intelligence: The ability to be empathetic and build good relationships with others online.
Digital communication: The ability to communicate and collaborate with others using digital technologies and media.
Digital literacy: The ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share and create content as well as competency in computational thinking.
Digital rights: The ability to understand and uphold personal and legal rights, including the rights to privacy, intellectual property, freedom of speech and protection from hate speech.
Above all, the acquisition of these abilities should be rooted in desirable human values such as respect, empathy and prudence. These values facilitate the wise and responsible use of technology – an attribute which will mark the future leaders of tomorrow. Indeed, cultivating digital intelligence grounded in human values is essential for our kids to become masters of technology instead of being mastered by it.
What a thought provoking article. I had to share it.
Credit goes to Yuhyun Park of the World Economic Forum (Link Here).
It comes as no surprise that schools have lots of technology to choose from. Do we use Apple, Microsoft or Chromebooks is often a real predicament schools face. I know of a lot of schools that go the Apple route, because being an Apple school is cool, isn’t it… I also see a number of schools going the Google route, with their Chromebooks….is this just another fad? or what about those schools that have cemented down with Microsoft, the good old reliable favorite that many schools keep to appease their aging staff. In this post I look at each scenario, researching the benefits and shortfalls of each and discussing in some detail why I choose a certain allegiance. This post is based on my own extensive experiences with devices, it is no way sponsored by any brand or manufacturer.
First up for discussion is the technology range provided by Apple. This consists of Apple Macs, Macbooks, iPads and Apple TVs. To begin with, Apple is the most expensive line of products by a significant margin compared to the other options out there. Apple products run on their own operating system (Mac OSX, iOS). The Apple Operating system is generally responsive, safe and comes with free updates. The App store contains thousands of free and paid apps, both for personal use and use in the classroom. Apple products are sturdy, made of good outer quality materials and are often responsive when navigating through the system.
Using Apple in the Classroom is an expensive outlay, and more than often I find schools have hundreds of Macbooks only to use them to access free apps provided by the likes of Google (Classroom, Drive, Docs, etc). Something a $300 Chromebook could do. In my opinion Macbooks are a huge waste of financial resources to have in the classroom, and often are not used to their full potential. iPads on the other hand are a handy resource to have. I use iPads everyday in my class, you can download some really effective and useful digital tools for use with your everyday programme. Apps such as Google Classroom, Seesaw, Explain Everything and PuppetPals are in my opinion essential tools for the digital classroom. Apple Macs (Desktop) are again another waste of money in the primary classroom. Apple TV’s on the other hand are another useful tool if you have iPads in your class, you can AirPlay students work/presentations/videos onto a TV and showcase it to the whole class.
Verdict: Mixed emotions (Apple Macs & Macbooks are a definite NO in the classroom, while iPads and Apple TV’s prove to be worthwhile).
Google / Android Range
A relative newcomer to the market, Chromebooks have started to gain some traction within the New Zealand education system. Chromebooks are cheap, fast, virus free and run on an operating platform that has been around for some time. Chromebooks allow users to use the Google App store, which like the Apple App store contains thousands of free and paid apps. Creating a 1:1 Chromebook classroom would work out hugely cheaper than a Macbook class, and slightly cheaper than an iPad class. Chromebooks are all set to us the Google ecosystem of applications, such as Chrome, Drive, Classroom, Docs and all the other Apps from the Google Applications for Education suite. I am strongly in favour with the use of Google Chromebooks in the Classroom. At present I haven’t any real comparison to make between the iPad and Android alternative tablets, iPads are much more advanced and better quality than any other tablet competition in my opinion.
In comparison with the Apple TV, Google have the Chromecast, which was half the price of the Apple TV when I last checked. The Chromecast does everything the Apple TV does, just at a significant price difference.
Verdict: If your school uses Google Apps for Education then you would be silly not to implement Chromebooks into your school. Chromebooks get a big thumbs up from me!
Microsoft / Old School
Microsoft is still a big player out their in the field of education technology. They sport the most widely used Office suite (Microsoft Office) which is used by over 97% of businesses* in New Zealand. Microsoft is the old familiar, everybody knows Microsoft and how to use their products. Most older generation of teachers are somewhat comfortable in using Microsoft products, and a large proportion of New Zealand families have a Windows device at home (Laptop or Desktop).
Microsoft products (laptops and desktops) vary in price, however they are cheaper in the most part than Apple products, but generally more expensive than Google Chromebooks. Microsoft Windows the operating system is somewhat buggy, can be unreliable, slow and suffers from an enormous virus/malware threat.
In my opinion Microsoft products don’t really fit into the classroom of today, there are much better options available.
Verdict: Give Microsoft a miss.
There you have it, a brief to the point review of the three big players in today’s education system. In my ideal classroom all students would have a Google Chromebook, these devices open lots of opportunities for our students at such a fantastic price. However, don’t rule out the runt of the pack which I haven’t mentioned yet…Linux! Linux is a stable, virus free, security heavy operating system that is much older than all the other three. Linux is used by major businesses worldwide, is the choice of server for almost all of the Fortune 500 companies and with my help will become a big player in the education system here in New Zealand.
Discussion: What devices do you use in your school and why? What do you use the devices for?
Further note, if your school wants some free advice on its technology pathway then feel free to drop me a message.
* This percentage is based on my own experience when I was a computer business owner. Almost all of the businesses I serviced used Microsoft Office. This figure is based on the statistics from 168 visits between 2013-1014. 163 of these businesses used the Microsoft Office suite.
To put this post into context I have been using Minetest (Free and Open Source version game, pretty much identical to Minecraft) within my classroom for the past year. So why a post about using it in the classroom? At first I had the same misconception as many others, that it is simply a game that students find fun, it is full of violence (zombies, etc) and generally had no value in the classroom. I proved myself wrong.
It started as a lunchtime club that I offered. Students would come along to my classroom, pull up a laptop and start building these amazing structures. Nothing special really. That was until I started really listening to their conversations and watching what they were doing.
It was a normal chilly winters afternoon, with about 15 students working around my classroom on their Minetest structures (I was running a competition). While sitting on my laptop, adding notes to my planning from the mornings teaching, I overheard a conversation between two students. That conversation went something along these lines (Bare in mind these were two year 4 students):
Student 1: What are you building?
Student 2: Just a Sky Tower. Student 1: That will be hard. Student 2: Nah it won’t, I just have to keep it to scale. Student 1: What do you mean scale? Student 2: It’s a way to make sure that I create it the correct size and it is in proportion. Student 1: Can you show me how to do it? Student 2: Yeah sure when I have finished.
The fact that these two students started a discussion about scale and proportion did take me by surprise as both these students had not be taught this yet. On later questioning, student 2 told me how he had used Google to research the actual size of the Sky Tower then he came up with a scale in which to then build it. To be quite frank i was anticipating that the students would be talking about zombies, and devising creative ways in which to kill them. This conversation got me curious about what other students were talking about, again I was blown away at the rich vocabulary and technical language in which students were communicating. Talk of symmetry, area and shape was most common, however the social interaction between the students was rich and meaningful.
9 months later, these students are my most engaged students. They use Minetest and other digital tools to explain complex ideas to me. Minetest in this case was simply a vessel to spark creative thinking within my students. I am still in the early stages of utilizing Minetest more efficiently into my programme, however the evidence is there that it can be used as an effective digital tool in the classroom to introduce lots of concepts (geometry, measurement, etc).
Has anybody else used Minetest or another game to engage their learners?
Important note: Minetest is free and doesn’t contain any zombies or violence by default.