Week Eleven Essential Question: What technology will I use to allow students to demonstrate they have met the standards targeted by my rubric? What are the classroom management considerations that I must address?
As you probably know by now, Chip, Colin, Nathan, and I are exploring how we can use Minecraft in the classroom. I believe that students can use simple video tools such as Screencastomatic to show and describe what they have created in Minecraft to model with mathematics and solve real world problems with simulation tools. There are a lot of other possibilities, too, but I am weary of considering new tech tools. I’d like to think and write about classroom management for a while instead.
Without good classroom management, there is a lot of potential for the Minecraft experience to go wrong. The Minecraft wiki has a whole page on griefing, or willfully antisocial behaviors in multiplayer video games.
One approach to preventing students from destroying each other’s Minecraft constructions is to (virtually) physically separate them. I suppose each student could play in a single player world. In a multiplayer world, players cannot jump over fences, but fences can be destroyed with axes. In MinecraftEdu, the teacher can place special blocks that could protect structures or keep players apart. In my own demo world, Proportion World, I used “build disallow” blocks under the models I constructed so that students cannot alter or destroy the models. But, by definition, students cannot build over “build disallow” blocks, so those blocks can’t protect the students’ structures. Teachers could use the special MinecraftEdu border blocks to create a separate area for each student and then teleport the student into that area. That may be the best short term solution for something like allowing students to build a model for a math problem.
But I believe that much of the true educational power of Minecraft lies in the potential for collaborative problem solving, and all of these methods of isolating students prevent collaboration.
So what to do?
I’ve added some links to some articles and blogs that address the question of classroom management in our Pearltrees. Here are my own thoughts, inspired by what I have read and from my own teaching experience.
I think Minecraft offers an exceptional opportunity for students to learn digital citizenship. As with most truly worthwhile undertakings, this is not a quick or easy process. It could begin, as it did in Joel Levin’s class, with one student protesting another student’s actions in the Minecraft world. Joel used this “teachable moment” to launch a class discussion about acceptable behavior in the virtual world of online communities. I believe students are more likely to adhere to a code of conduct they create, and I think the whole process of devising and revising a code of conduct is a valuable educational endeavor. Over time, students might even create their own constitutional government for their Minecraft world.
Carol Tomlinson identifies several principles of differentiation, including respectful tasks, quality curriculum, and teaching up. I think most of the management problems that might occur in Minecraft would be avoided if these principles are fulfilled, but that may be easier said than done, depending on the class profile. The ideal Minecraft project would be intriguing and relevant to the students and would provide enough challenge to stimulate and motivate them, but not so much as to frustrate or intimidate them.
Easier said than done…