Minecraft in the Classroom – via @TeachingChannel

Minecraft in the Classroom – via @TeachingChannel

A few years ago, I taught a class called “Storytelling” and it was my students in that class who taught me a great deal about game-based learning. I’d see them engaged in their video games or magic cards, and as a self-proclaimed non-gamer, I had much to learn from them.

A great game combines the art of storytelling, fine arts, music, video production, and appropriate player engagement to create an immersive, memorable experience. Gamers are very much like readers: they like to explore, uncover, discover, and fully immerse themselves in the experience they’re willingly entering. As a book nerd and teacher of readers and writers, it took me a long time to realize my students were reading and writing in games in the same ways I wanted them to do with books. It took me a while to learn from them that games were another form of literacy they were unlocking for themselves.

Around the same time, I read Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. In it she writes, “When you strip away the genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.”

I began to reimagine my class and used the above principles to make learning more engaging and impactful for my students. Was I building in enough time for my students to practice? Were all of my students being appropriately challenged by the work in the course? How can I create learning activities that will make my students willing participants in them?

Turns out, educators have a lot to learn from game designers and I was barely scratching the surface of this topic.

Minecraft & Teaching Channel

Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself serving students and teachers via the Minecraft: Education Edition team at Microsoft. As an education manager on the team, I’m able to create content for our community, lead our research work, present at various education conferences, and help create a community for others who want to start their Minecraft journey. This year, we launched our Global Mentor program made up of 60 educators from 19 different countries who are eager to help others get started using Minecraft in their classrooms. When I asked them their reasons for joining and what they hope they’ll discover about Minecraft, here’s what they had to say:

Kyriakos, Portugal: “The great advantage of Minecraft is how it encourages everyone to fail, learn from their mistakes, fail again, then fail better, until you get it right.”

Katja, Denmark: “I don’t expect myself to be the expert of the game. I plan challenging and innovative activities for my students around the content and standards; that never goes away just because we’re using Minecraft.”

Ben, Canada: “Minecraft allows students to complete learning objectives and demonstrate understanding in a way that makes them feel empowered and safe!”

Steve, United States: “I’ve found engagement to be key, tapping into a student’s interests, and providing an incredible creative outlet.”

In many of our educators’ experiences, you’ll find four common themes emerge again and again:

  • Student engagement
  • The opportunity for collaboration among students
  • An outlet for students to express creativity
  • The ability to connect learning to tangible outcomes

Ultimately, using game-based learning tools like Minecraft in your classroom works because our students already inhabit this world and speak its language. It’s up to us to take their passion and leverage it toward powerful learning experiences.

If you’d like to take the plunge with us, over the next few weeks Minecraft Education — in conjunction with Teaching Channel — will lead a webinar and multiple Facebook Live sessions to help you get started with your Minecraft: Education Edition journey. For now, feel free to peruse the various Minecraft resources on Minecraft: Education Edition, including lessons, tutorials, and mentors, and to start your free trial.

Share your thoughts and leave us a comment about what you’d like to see included in our future webinars, Facebook Live sessions, and blog posts.

About the author:

Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching, is a National Board certified teacher who taught English in Philadelphia for ten years at the Science Leadership Academy and other public schools in the city. The founder of #engchat, an international Twitter chat for English teachers, Meenoo has also been a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project and an educational consultant with The Educator Collaborative. She is also an instructor at Arcadia University’s Connected Learning Certificate Program. Meenoo has also served as a teaching fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she led the portfolio to help teachers refine their practice through collaboration. Currently, Meenoo works as Manager for Minecraft Education at Microsoft, where she helps educators and districts reimagine game-based learning for classroom practice. Connect with Meenoo on Twitter: @MeenooRami.

Guest post via @amystorn, professor at @penn

Guest post via @amystorn, professor at @penn

I had the honor of getting to know Dr. Amy Stornaiuolo when she conducted some action research in my classroom. For many Fridays, she’d watch me strive, struggle, and at times reach my students at SLA and then afterwards we’d talk at length about her observations, her questions, and reflections on the collective work of my classroom. She honored students’ thoughts and opinions and interviewed them privately about their experience in my classroom. I learned so much from those Friday afternoon conversations and have continued to learn from her. Please take a moment to check out a new project she is launching for educators and share your thoughts on it if you check it out.

____________________________________

via @amystorn

I am excited to share with educators the Write4Change community. After finishing some pilot work, we just moved to a new platform and are just about to launch into a new activity cycle, which will bring together teachers and their students in more than 7 countries (and counting). We are working with the National Writing Project and hope to have lots of NWP folks joining in the next year!

 

Write4Change is a global online community for adolescent writers (ages 13-19) to share their writing with others, collaborate with global peers interested in using writing to effect change, and learn from and with one another.

 

Teachers sponsor their group of students, who engage in writing projects that are oriented to taking some form of action. Some of our educators teach history, social studies, or civics classes and are interested in youth developing as civic actors on a global scale. Other educators teach writing, either informally in libraries or camps or formally in English classrooms, and are interested in connecting their writers to broader audiences and purposes for writing. And still others are media, art, or enrichment teachers interested in issues of social justice, equity, and artistic voice.

 

As you might imagine, with all of these different partners, we think about writing and change very broadly. Change can involve more individual and local change (as young people think about themselves, their schools, and their neighborhoods) or broader social change (e.g., advocating for girls’ education). Writing may include traditional textual forms (essays, narratives, poems) or more arts and media oriented textual forms (digital stories, movies, films, image, music, etc.). The tools in our community will help writers with these different forms.

 

Teachers are welcome to use the provided curriculum, design new curriculum to share with others, or use or adapt their existing curriculum on the W4C platform. We are very open to teachers customizing the space and community to suit their needs.

 Thanks!

Thank you Madam Secretary

Thank you Madam Secretary

Dear Madam Secretary,

Please accept my apology in how long it has taken me to write this letter to you.

There are many reasons for me to express my deepest thanks to you for your decades of public service. As a former high school English teacher from Philly, your lifelong commitment to create a just, equitable, and inclusive society for all of our children has deeply resonated with me.

But today, I want to particularly thank you for how gracious you’ve been in casting aside your personal feelings about the outcome to the election to unite our country. Despite the fact you’re now leading by more than two million popular votes, you’ve put aside your huge disappointment to unite the country.

I have nightmares about how our country might be torn apart if there is no peaceful transition of power at the end of elections. While many of your opponents have painted you as a villain with unbridled ambition, I want you to know, I recognize how big your sacrifice is to unite our great nation.

Thank you for all your work and I hope to join you and millions of other citizens to continue to work towards a just, equitable, and inclusive future for all our kiddos.

Thank you,

Meenoo Rami

Are you coming to EduCon?

Are you coming to EduCon?

Educon 2.6

If you’ve not attended EduCon before, you’re missing out. If you’ve been here before, I don’t need to explain the magic of Educon to you.
I invite you and your colleagues to EduCon, a conference hosted by my former school, Science Leadership Academy, in Philadelphia. It would be lovely to see you here and a treat to spread the conversations among the wonderful folks that you work with.
This year’s conference takes place the weekend of January 27-29, 2017 at our school. It’s not a typical conference: there are no vendors present, and the breakout sessions are conversations, not presentations. Every year I am reminded of the incredible communities I am privileged to be a part of — both the SLA community and the EduCon communtiy — and feel so proud of the work we do in our conversations about education. I’ve written about our conference many times on my blog; this reflection is one of my favorites.
I hope you can be a part of our community at this year’s EduConRegistration is available on our website, and proposals for conversations are being accepted through November 1. Your voice would be a valuable addition to the mix.
I’d love to hear your reflections or tips for new attendees if you’d like to share in the comments. Thanks! 
New Adventure

New Adventure

 

 

In a few weeks, I will be leaving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to join the incredible team at Minecraft Education. I’m grateful to the Foundation for introducing me to so many inspirational educators and ideas, and I’ll always be a champion of the Foundation’s commitment to equity, optimism, and students.

In my new role at Minecraft, I will be joining a team that helps students unlock their own potential for deep learning. My students at Science Leadership Academy first helped me to learn about the potential for using gameplay in storytelling, problem-solving, and creative thinking. I am bringing that powerful experience with me, and I am excited about the ways in which Minecraft’s creative and collaborative platform can put students at the center of learning.

If you’d like to learn more about Minecraft Education, check out this inspiring video that shows what Minecraft can look like in education and this portrait of a school district that is using Minecraft to transform its work with students. You can even dive in and start experimenting with Minecraft Education right now right here.

Thank you for your support and for the work you do each day that benefits kids. I’m grateful to learn with you, and I hope you’ll continue to follow my journey as I embark on this new adventure.

Hope By Victoria Safford

Hope By Victoria Safford

 

Hope

By Victoria Safford 

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—

Not the prudent gates of Optimism,

Which are somewhat narrower.

Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;

Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,

Which creak on shrill and angry hinges

(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)

Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of

“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”

But a different, sometimes lonely place,

The place of truth-telling,

About your own soul first of all and its condition.

The place of resistance and defiance,

The piece of ground from which you see the world

Both as it is and as it could be

As it will be;

The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,

But the joy of the struggle.

And we stand there, beckoning and calling,

Telling people what we are seeing

Asking people what they see.

Letters to the Next President 2.0

Letters to the Next President 2.0

Letters to the Next President 2.0
While candidates and media concentrate on issues that matter to voters in this election season, teachers and students in our nation’s schools will be concentrating on issues that matter to the next generation of voters. How can they have a voice? How can we support the mission of schools to engage youth as productive and active citizens?
Letters to the Next President 2.0 (L2P 2.0) is an initiative that empowers young people (13–18) to voice their opinions and ideas on the issues that matter to them in the 2016 presidential election. The focal point of the program is a massive, open online publishing platform where any educator or youth mentor give their students a safe place to voice their opinions about key election issues that they believe the next president whomever he or she may be—needs to address. The site also offers a dynamic repository of resources, ideas, how-to’s, and other helpful information for educators to  make the L2P 2.0 project engaging and powerful for their students.
L2P 2.0 is being built by teachers for teachers and students, but you can help us reach
as many youth as possible so that their voices can be heard. Sign up for resources and opportunities.
#2nextprez
Letters to the Next President 2.0 & Civic Values

Letters to the Next President 2.0 & Civic Values

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I often rely on the wisdom of the Kid President to give me enough courage, strength, and motivation to keep doing good work in the world. For me, work of Kid President embodies the values we should all try to lift up in our lives, values such as kindness, generosity, optimism, and inclusivity.

Unfortunately, this is not the current political or civic climate of our country.

If you’re fed up with the current election cycle, or just are looking for more ways to make writing real and relevant for your kiddos, look no further than the Letters to the Next President 2.0 project from National Writing Project. See below the image for more info about this opportunity:

 

 

For many writing project educators, Letters to the Next President 2.0  is an exciting opportunity to support youth voice and civic participation around issues that matter to them. Here are some materials to support this work at your site this coming summer and into the fall.

 

 

  • The L2P 2.0 Promotional Toolkit is a resource created to support you in getting the word out about this project. Find here language for posts, tweets as well as images you can use via blogs/newsletters as well as on social media.

 

  • Coming up soon! NWP Radio on Thursday May 26 at 4pm PT/7pm ET is about Design Thinking for Letters to the Next President 2.0 with teachers and students from across the country including the Hudson Valley Writing Project, Cal State Writing Project in LA, UNC Charlotte Writing Project and more!

 

If you haven’t already done so, please sign up at letters2president.org. Signing up here will keep you in the loop about the youth publishing site when it launches in August. And, until then, you will receive updates on resources and opportunities that support educators in thinking about how to make use of this opportunity in classrooms and in out of school learning spaces.

One last note: Let us know if you will be working with youth to write letters, either text or multimedia, this summer. We are looking for a range of examples to pre-populate the youth publishing site (letters would be selected for diversity from among a set and would need to be ready for publication by early July in order to prepare for the public launch). Email us at nextprez@nwp.org to let us know.