I am honestly not sure who reads this blog anymore now that I am out of the classroom. My class website was created to be a communication tool between myself and my students and their families. I left my classroom to be a teacher on assignment last December…I can’t believe it has already almost been a year. It still feels like only recently that I left my classroom.
The transition was not an easy one. Being a teacher on assignment was a completely new experience for me, and one I am learning from every day. I have been wrestling with what purpose my website would serve now and I am still sorting it out. It bothered me that I hadn’t posted since April, and I had been meaning to post again for a while. What finally brought me back to posting was one of my long time passions…employing Minecraft for educational purposes and showing other teachers how to do that as well.
Minecraft has been around for 6 years now. I have been aware of it since it was 3 years old and a few boys in one of my 3rd grade classes had Minecraft fever. Lots of educators around the world are using Minecraft in their classrooms now, but while many educators are quite skilled in using Minecraft for education, there are still a lot of us who want to use Minecraft with our students but don’t know where to start.
From late 2014 til recently this year (2016) I ran my own Minecraft server as a part of my Master’s practicum. Talk about a learning experience! I offered a Minecraft Club for 3rd through 5th grade at my school. Since Minecraft is not district approved, I ran it as a distance learning experience with students using their own Minecraft accounts and logging in from home to my hosted server. At most I had about 15 students and in the end as things got harder to manage, I ended up with about 5. I closed my server just over a month ago. It really was a great experience for all of us and I was sad to shut it down, but in the end no one was using the server anymore.
Recently I attended Minecon in Anaheim, and that really made me miss Minecraft. I am in a position as a teacher on assignment to propose teaching tools and Minecraft is one I recently brought up to find my directors receptive to hearing more. Both of those factors made my desire to have my own server again strong. I am approaching it differently now. I am not running a club, but running the server for me to learn and experiment, and for Xavier (my 11 year old son & 6th grader) and I (as well as any interested previous club members) to come and create. No agenda, no lessons, just learning, experimenting and playing.
I hope to post at least my Minecraft experiences, as well as other experiences related to education that may be of interest to others.
Computer science, robotics, and coding are very much the hot topic in education these days, so why not make coding accessible for all?? I just know my dogs Fiona, Dot, and Ryker would LOVE to learn to code. Ryker just completed his very first obedience class, so I am sure he is ready for coding! Thank you Wonder Workshop! #dogscancode
It has been some time since I posted on my site. I have wanted to post, but have been uncertain as to what I wanted to post and what direction I wanted my site to go in now that I am out of the classroom.
Adjusting to leaving 16 years in the elementary classroom was an experience I could really not prepare for. I have gone from a highly structured day to one that is much more free form and full of meetings and collaboration. I also left a classroom environment. My classroom was my home way from home, my rather large office, and something that was mine. I had a great deal of control over my classroom. Presently I am in a space that is nothing like a classroom, and while nice, it doesn’t feel the same. I think in making this transition that was something I worried about the most. The space I live and work in is very important and has a good deal to do with my mental well being.
I will have to share more images of what my work space looks like now. It is certainly less sterile and more organized looking. It is a communal space shared with two other Linked Learning TOAs. It is a temporary location and I am looking forward to seeing where we really end up and what it will be like when two more TOAs are brought on to complete our team.
Logistics aside, I have done a fair amount of learning. I hope to get some additional posts up soon focused on the trainings I have attended and how the information learned might work into the elementary classroom. My plan for my site as this point is to post my reflections and learnings and hope it might entertain and/or educate those who care to read.
It has been a whirlwind of activity since I learned that I had been recommended for the position of Teacher on Assignment/Instructional Coach in the new Linked Learning department of Fontana Unified.
I had been encouraged to apply for this position by a few who knew my passion for educational technology. I had hesitated in applying at first because of the timing of the position (I had just spent a good deal of time setting up a new classroom and had just begun the year with my new class) and I was apprehensive. I had applied for positions like this one before and not been selected. That was several years ago, and I had not completed my Masters in Educational Technology, nor my National Board Certification, nor had I been a Doctoral student then either. So yes, a few things had changed, but my desire to teach teachers how to use technology effectively in their classrooms or help my district move forward with innovative ways to use technology had not. So I applied and made the second round of interviews for one of 3 remaining positions on this new team.
I was surprised how quickly the news of my recommendation came, I was shocked really. Then there was the waiting. I had no idea when I would be expected to leave my classroom. That was all contingent upon my replacement being found. Interviews were held for my position at Grant and my principal made her selection. That teacher accepted the offer and I was told the last day I would have with my students would be the Friday before we went on Winter Break. I got that news three days before Winter Break. I was preparing report cards and now had to prepare to move out of my classroom…again. Thankfully, I had my college freshman nephew visiting again, who seems to enjoy volunteering at Grant quite a bit. His help in moving saved my sanity once again (he has helped me move before). I told my students and their families that I was leaving them, and it was very bittersweet. I have been in the classroom for 15 and a half years, I have taught 2nd – 5th grades, and I have always had a passion for innovation and educational technology. I have been at that point in my career where I knew leaving the classroom would be eminent, I just had no idea how soon that moment would arrive.
Therefore, while I am thrilled to be offered this opportunity, to explore the next chapter in my educational career, it does not come without a price. I will miss my students and doing everything I can for them to bring them the latest tech tools to enhance their education. I take solace in knowing that this shift in my position means I will be affecting more than just my own students, I will be helping students in several classrooms at several schools in my district, and I am very excited about that. Dorothy Grant Elementary has been amazing for me. The staff, students, and their families are a wonderful community I am very proud to be a part of and the decade I spent there will be one I always cherish.
This week is Computer Science Week and to celebrate, Dorothy Grant Elementary is participating in the Hour of Code. Yesterday my class had a special lab time to explore programming and they had a blast!
I shared the Code.org website with them and there they got to choose from three tutorials: Star Wars, Minecraft, or Frozen. I had them share their selection with the class via an Edmodo poll and after the hour in the lab, they were to return to my post in Edmodo to share their experiences.
The Hour of Code website has been added to the class website on the “After School Links” page. I also wanted to take a moment to share Tynker, one of the more widely known coding apps for tablets. I know it is available in the App Store (for Apple devices) for free and it may be in the Google Play store as well. I will be installing it on the classroom tablets this weekend for the class to continue exploring coding. I recommend it for any personal tablets for students who particularly enjoyed the coding experience.
This year Dorothy Grant Elementary will be taking part in the Cardboard Challenge. Ms. Matheson and Ms. Belt will be heading up a group of 4th & 5th grade DGE students (selected by a random draw) to create our very own cardboard arcade to be shared at our annual Harvest Festival on October 29th.
This year a group of our students will participate in the “Global Cardboard Challenge.” This is an annual event presented by the Imagination Foundation that celebrates child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it. Students will dream up [creations] using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations ot create a cardboard arcade, inspired by the short film “Cain’s Arcade.”
Students MUSTbe available to stay after school on Mondays and Thursdays in October from 2:30 – 3:30pm ANDwork the Harvest Festival on Thursday, October 29th.
If you are interested and your child did not bring home a permission slip, you can download it here: Cardboard Challenge. Permissions slips are due to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt by Friday, October 2nd for the random draw.
Any questions about this event can be directed to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt.
Our second time meeting on the server went much smoother today. I attempted to deal with any lingering tech issues before we met so I could have the whole time on the server with the kids. I even extended club time from one hour to two hours because one hour just didn’t seem like enough. After two hours today, I felt that was a much more appropriate amount of time and will likely extend the club hour from 4-5pm on Thursdays, to 3:30 – 5:30 pm on Thursdays.
We are still trying to establish our community on the server. I was trying to direct them to build our school, but the kids kept breaking off and building their own homes. I am currently brainstorming ideas on how to bring 20 “lil miners” (as educators in the Minecraft Educator Google+ group I am in call them) into focus. After viewing all of their newest creations, I broke off at the end of the session to try some building on my own. I didn’t want to build our school myself, but perhaps once I give it a footprint, the kids will then be more focused about making it happen.
We are using Edmodo in conjunction with Minecraft and Skype, so I will have to put up some more assignments there, mainly on planning our community, which should hopefully bring them into better focus. I think perhaps assigning them to regions of the school build is a start. I would also enjoy seeing what they have in mind for our Minecraft school, like drawings or blueprints.
Since I am presently unable to use Minecraft EDU, the suggestion of a Bukkit server was made as it allows for more options than a standard server. I am new to not only Minecraft but running a server and mods so it is quite easy to be overwhelmed. This week I plan on focusing my research on what a Bukkit server is like and what additional commands it can allow me and my students that our current vanilla server cannot. I have several experienced “lil miners” who are used to playing with several mods in place and are feeling a bit restricted by our vanilla server. Those experienced miners ask me almost daily (our Skype group is always up and running and chat there is frequent) about when I am going to allow mods and give them more command ability.
Here is a video I put together of some of the kids in the club telling me what they think Minecraft is along with some footage from day 2 in game. Enjoy!