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.
TEDYouth conference at the Brooklyn Museum. November, 2015. Photo by Ryan Lash for TED via Flickr
It was outstanding. Under the soft glow of the mighty brass chandeliers of the Beaux Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum, learning stations — many decorated with a splash of iconic TED red — were scattered about the restored glass tile floor like a handful of strategically tossed jacks. As I bounced about the room, I watched 400 students smile with delight, scrambling to engage, create, and collect the vast knowledge available in the room. They vibrated with energy and I knew in an instant that this conference would be extraordinary.
How can we HACK education?
My family raised leaders. Both my sister and I are outspoken, driven, and in general, change agents. I can remember my sister starting a petition and spearheading a change to a policy that allowed girls to play football with boys at recess (they were afraid we’d get hurt). Secondly, though, we were also raised as innovators. We competed in the self-choreography division at dance competitions when we were little, using routines we created on our own. And I can remember developing my own recipes as an eight-year-old child — potato chip peanut butter cookies were one of my most loved originals. Put leadership, innovation, and creativity together, and the environment was ripe for the birth of a hacker. Read more
As teachers, learning styles aren’t a topic we focus on very often. They have quietly gone the way of other education trends and slipped behind what we know as well-rounded instruction and differentiation. We educators, though, still know that learning styles provide valuable insight and that we need to reach our students via their multiple intelligences.
We strive to teach students in a way that engages them and reaches their minds and souls. And this is only the start of why I sing to my students.
Asking a teacher to do anything teaching related on a Saturday is just as terrifying as being at the wrong end of a firing squad. How can we do this and expect educators to attend? These thoughts, and many others, were racing through my head as I logged off the Skype call with the team planning an upcoming Teacher2Teacher Engag(ED) Exchange Event in Washington, D.C.
But you DID come out on a cold damp winter day. You came from within the city of Washington, from Maryland, and from Virginia. You traveled down from Philadelphia… and even from Mississippi. You came!
It’s a dreary, rainy, Seattle Monday morning, but the spinning disco ball in our room is casting snowball light spots around the room and the lasers are putting on their show. It’s barely 8:45 am and our room is abuzz with activity. School doesn’t start for another 20 minutes, but my students are already diving deep into their work.
Like a whirlwind, Nafiso comes bouncing into our classroom and makes a beeline straight for me. Before I can even open my mouth, her elated screams fill the void.
“Mr. Ewing, Mr. Ewing! They were talking about Andy Warhol on the radio this morning. All about some painting that these people are fighting over!” Nafiso has a big grin on her face. She is so excited to talk art with me.