Editors Note: This post is part of a series being developed collaboratively between Minecraft EDU and Teaching Channel.
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.
For many people, the end of the holidays and the beginning of a new year is a time for reflection, setting new goals, and perhaps finally using the gym membership they signed up for a year ago.
Teachers, however, are not most people. Our “new year” actually begins in September, when we return to our classrooms once again to find our furniture flipped upside down and stacked in the corner of the room. We set new goals, reorganize the classroom library, and yes, wipe down every single tabletop surface with disinfectant, several times.
So what does a new calendar year mean for the teacher in you? How are you marking the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016?
By now, you’ve probably worked through the piles of papers and exams that needed grading. You’ve taken a stab at cleaning your classroom, mostly putting things into random boxes. You’re ready to let the tension from your neck and shoulders fall away.
Maybe you’re looking forward to some travel or perhaps you will finally find the time to get to the books that have piled up on your bedside table. No matter what your start-of-summer-break tradition is, I hope you’ll consider making reflection a part of it this year.
After all, summer can provide you with the opportunity to make the most of what you’ve accomplished this year—and make next year even better.
Most high schools have some sort of advisory program built into their ecology—a time when a group of students gather to check in with a teacher. At some schools, “advisory” is referred to as “homeroom” or “study hall.” But how advisory is used in schools to support students varies greatly. Consider these two snapshots of advisories in action:
It’s a little after 8 a.m. and students file randomly into an advisory period, where they are greeted with a sign-in sheet. Most are on cell phones. They rarely take the time to interact with the teacher or other students in the classroom. Meanwhile, the teacher is trying to find a way to make copies for his first period class, remove the coffee stain from his tie and monitor who has or hasn’t signed the attendance sheet. In 12 minutes, when advisory ends, the work of the school day will begin and students will head off into their first period classes.
In October 2012, Pew Research Center published a report on teens’ use of libraries and reading habits. From Christian Science to NPR, media outlets were abuzz with the good news that today’s teens are not just playing video games and watching YouTube videos. But as Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia points out, we may have been misled.
He writes, “One message is that young people are reading ‘a lot.’ What constitutes ‘a lot’ is a judgment call, obviously, but in this study the data showed that 83% of 18-29 year-olds had a read a book sometime in the previous year. That strikes me as a low bar to be considered ‘a reader.'”
Technology Paves the Way for Wider Audience
In late February, Pew Internet and American Life Project published the How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and Their Classrooms report. The results aren’t surprising:
- 92% of teacher respondents say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching;
- 69% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers; and
- 67% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students.
It’s commendable that a majority of teachers are finding ways to bring digital tools into the learning process and help students “access content.” But now we need to work with students to create content as well.