Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bodies in Motion

I had mentioned in an earlier post that 7th grade science was doing a second project in Minecraft.  This time, they have been tackling the entire human body. Students have been studying various systems of the body and are now modeling the concepts they have learned about in Minecraft. 

The assignment was to model at least 3 systems (nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, etc.) together. They first planned the models on paper and then began implementation.  We found that it helps it the students know a bit about Minecraft tools, especially redstone.  This knowledge enables them to add interaction to the models and allows them to work at a quicker pace.

We started this project last week.  We have only one computer lab so classes had to double-up to get in.  But it's been working - teams of 2 or 3 work together on one computer.  Two classes (Mrs. Arcaya and Mrs. Collins) met for 3 days last week and 2 more classes (Mrs. Taylor and Mr. Bedford) are meeting for 3 days this week to build the models.

The students are engaged and we have had very few incidents of not being on task.  It helps to lay the ground rules for behavior in the virtual world before they get in.  Otherwise some might know it only as an entertainment device rather than an education tool in school.

The final piece of the project is to use a web-based tool called Screencast-o-matic to record a tour of the project.  It's so easy to use - just click Record, select the area of the screen to record and start talking.  It saves to your disk drive. This allows the other students to look at peer work, and learn a little more about Minecraft and it's capabilities. It also assists the teacher in grading the projects.  The videos are stored where the teacher can grade when time is allotted and the teacher can then share the videos with other teachers.

Mrs. Arcaya has been sharing her work in Minecraft with other teachers in our own school as well as schools in the district and out. Also, other teachers have stopped by the lab to see what it going on.  Look for an upcoming Spanish project where the kids will be building villages incorporating Spanish vocabulary. It is with great pleasure I can post our successes with this playful learning tool.

One thing to notice from looking at the pictures, the kids are focused.  They are helping each other. Quiet kids open up.  They work together to get tasks accomplished.  They ask to come in to work extra and have asked about doing other projects with Minecraft

Friday, April 11, 2014

Breaking it Down

Mrs. Arcaya
The Digestive System project completed a couple of weeks ago, and I am remiss for not posting earlier, but the teacher, Mrs. Arcaya, was so happy with the success of that project that we started another one right away. And it was her eagerness to try new things in the classroom that prompted us to buy MinecraftEdu in the first place. She is truly an early adopter.

But this post is dedicated to share some pictures of the digestive system in Minecraft.  The teacher had surveyed the students and found about half had Minecraft experience. The students made the decision that a team of students would build a model and the other students would take a tour of it.  

Enter through the chomping teeth in the head.

The model creators

The four young men decided they would turn it into a scavenger hunt. They built teeth into various places of the body where you would not expect to find teeth.  They also relocated stomach enzymes in other places.  It was up to the classmates to find the teeth, return them to the mouth and return the enzymes to the stomach. (Return areas were chests.) The boys put signs everywhere describing the kinds of digestion one would find in each area and they placed chests of books for their tourists to read more about digestion in the model. 

One problem though - we found out that MinecraftEdu in single player mode deletes the text off signs.  It is a known bug. They really want students playing together.

We ended up playing in multiplayer and the students just listed on the accompanying worksheet where they found the teeth instead of digging them up and taking them to the chests. As they went through the system, students completed a worksheet about the various forms of digestion, and what kinds of digestion took place in each.

The four young men who created them model monitored the student 'tourists' to get feedback on their creation.

Mission Message.

Saliva is represented by water. Climb the ladder to the brain.

Users rode the rails to get to the body.

Students taking the 'tour'.

Informational Signs inside.

Let me also introduce you to my biggest helper getting started with MinecraftEdu. Ryan is an 8th grader and has started many servers in the public sector and has been an avid player for many years. He showed me many possibilities of what this sandbox game has to offer.

Sunday, April 6, 2014