Week 6: Technology with Children

Ask yourself….what is social media worth to you? Would you spend $1 day to use it? What about $10?

This week Jesse Miller came in to discuss mediated reality. Within the 2 hours talk he touched on many diverse topics within social media and technology. Below I have highlighted a few of these topics and some key ideas.

One interesting idea that he opened with is the negative view technology, specifically social media, has from parents. To them, their children are always on their phone during family movie night or gatherings. From here, we were shown biased articles that were written by mothers for mothers. This the article was written and posted to Pinterest, where we found of that this is the demographic for users. However, these fears are misplaced. This lead to a discussion on biased information and the fake news that society was not prepared for. This shift was completely unpredicted. I think it is very important to educate children on how to see through information and sort through all of the false information. A problem today is that any idea or notion can be confirmed for people because anyone can post anything. It self-confirms beliefs that may not necessarily be true.

For me the biggest takeaway is that although technology has it downfalls, it can be harnessed for incredible things. Even though some use it for mindless streaming, gaming, or seeing how many followers they have. It can be used in prosocial ways, for leadership and learning outcomes. Moreover, even for things such as gaming it is subjective. Prior to this, I thought that gaming was harmful for children and induced more aggression. I now know that I did not have enough information to inform that belief, it was just an assumption that over time became more of a firm belief. This class taught me that gaming can teach important skills such as mathematic, planning, and communication. I think it is also important because, as a teacher, I need to be engaging for my students and that involves creating lessons that are based around cultural preferences. An interesting thought was brought up. There is a reason why children do not check their phones in the middle of the soccer field during their game, but they check it in class. It’s simply not as engaging. Students enjoy gaming and it seems that it is a big part of our culture. Even for students that do not necessarily play games it could become a new avenue within their interests. I also saw how effective gaming was for youth. It became a positive outlet for students. Another factor that was brought up was that Vancouver is becoming a huge hub for technology. In response to this, more people will populate the surrounding areas for more affordable housing. Therefore, it is highly likely this new generation of children that we will be teaching will have technology as a big part of their world.

Children we are going to be dealing with don’t know a world without netflix, cellphones and youtube. How do we as educators mend that and show that we are part of that world. Currently if you were to go into a class and say Ice bucket challenge, students would have no idea what that was. If you said fort night dance, they would all stand up and start doing it! and it will keep changing. I think it’s imperative to stay updated on the newest trends so activities in the classroom can remain relevant and engaging.

Technology as a Teacher

A large portion of the speech was based on teachers and their use of technology and social media. Ideally, one should use a pseudonym to minimize being found online by students. However, through the connections within sites it becomes increasingly harder to not be found. For a teacher there is 3 audiences for social media. First is the public, the parents, and all media should be reflected on how the school district wants technology to be used. Secondly, is the staff. An important thought was said that not all your colleagues will be your friend so even a personal account should be moderated. Lastly is the students, I know from personal experience that if there was news of finding a picture of my teacher while I was in school, it would have been a big deal. Students find pretty much anything amusing, so social media even at a personal level should be kept professional.

It is also crucial, in this age where everyone is accessible by text, not to message children but instead to communicate to parents through emails. This keeps everything to one platform so all parents see it and there is less confusion. Moreover, teachers cannot friend students on social media while the student is still in the education system.

One thing I was unaware of was the how a teacher must receive permission for all media related things in the classroom. It must be brought to the attention of the administrator. This is so everything is transparent and informed on. Before learning this information I assumed it would be ok to create an instagram account solely for a project in a classroom as long as it was private. However, now I see that

It’s crazy to think that this is all new territory for us. This is the first real generation where looking at media is part of the hiring process. That every act that has been done is documented and will follow you for the rest of your life. I wonder if students will embrace the fact that their lives are all online too? Maybe it will gradually become a societal norm so no-one will look at my childhood photos that are online and we can all live in a less judged world. Or maybe we will all have to just learn from our mistakes.

Scratch.com

This week we worked more in depth with scratch.mit.com to create a game. I discovered modules that can be dowloaded with checklists for how to create lots of different games. I started with the basic backdrop and the uncoded “sprite,” which is the character that can be coded.

From there, I followed the instructions for what codes should go where. It goes some-what in depth to outline what the code will do. I thought this was a great way to learn more about coding instead of self-discovery because I could see more advanced, multi-step codes and understand how it works. For Example, to add a timer to the side I needed the block “wait 0.1 sec” above the “go up by 0.1.” If the waiting block was not there the time went up significantly faster by 0.1 because it was not waiting 0.1 seconds like normal time would. The game I worked on consists of a boat that travels along the water wherever you move your mouse. The goal is to bring the boat to the island without hitting the wooden structure. It was cool to see the changes that were being made to the game just by adding more steps and controls to the code.

Although the instructions that were given for the module were clear and easy to follow, they seemed to be missing key points and I ran into some complications half-way through when creating a “hit” boat. When the boat goes through the obstacle and hits a wooden structure, it should break into pieces. I created a second boat and gave it a “broken” appearance, however it did not work when we hit the wooden structure. The instructions for this part were vague and so I were unsure whether or not to add controls for the “normal” boat as well as the “broken” boat. After much time and thought, I thought it was best to move on and add more features to the game.

Some of these features I added include a timer to keep track of how long it takes to move the boat to the island, speed bumps to give the boat a bit of a boost, and seaweed to make the boat spin around. Adding these features made the game more fun and complex.

Overall, completing this module was a great learning experience and a lot of fun!! Not only did we learn more in depth about coding patterns but we also had to use our problem solving skills.

All photographs in this post are licensed by Creative Commons

Minecraft Edu

In this weeks class students from Colquitz Middle School came in with their teacher Heidi James. Heidi and her students were very passionate and knowledgable about how to implement games, like Minecraft, into the classroom. It is common knowledge that online gaming is seen as taboo. This is because on the outside it can look like an individual practice that takes away from developing social skills. However, while playing the game today it was clear that this was not the case. The biggest indicator of this is that the classroom was not quiet! Everyone was communicating while also being productive. There was collaboration, negotiation, problem solving, and communication on where to go and what to do.

An interesting thing to think about is how this shift positively impacts projects. With gaming as a platform for projects it takes the techonolical shift we in our society and implements this into the classroom. It is the essence of taking a clay diorama and, instead, creating online worlds. Using minecraft helps students collaborate not just in school but out of school. This extra time allows them to enhance their project and is flexible if they want to change it. Online also means it is very portable. With a clay model, it can only be done in class and is less portable. It is a more restrictive model to work with. Not to say there isn’t value to using platforms that are hands on, but this post is about breaking down barriers to progressively using technology in in the classroom. Another positive aspect about this shift is that is allows education to connect with this new culture of learners that have grown up alongside technology. Through this, the learners can become the teachers. I personally am ready to learn from the passions of my students to enrich the learning experience. Plus, this helps students develop leadership skills which I think is important. Another interesting thing that was mentioned in class was how a student was scared of dark gradually got used to going out in world within Minecraft. At first they wouldn’t go out at night and would only stay in the lighted house but eventually they ventured out at night. Then in real life it became ok going down the dark hall! Technology has so many benefits in ways we can only imagine.

When we played as a whole class on one server is was very engaging, when the screen was paused for further instruction it was almost jarring. I became so immersed in the game and was having so much fun engaging with all my peers trying to get through the obstacle course tutorial world.

A great feature that helps when using this in a classroom is that the teacher has immense control to aid students and manipulate the game in a desired way, when needed, depending on the project.. They have the ability to freeze individual students or the entire screen; in the chat they can mute individuals that are not following rules or completely take the chat off; and transport to another student or pull them to where the teacher is. The last one is extremely helpful because students can easily wander off and not be able to find their way back to the action in the game. I found this out with personal experience.

A great thing about this type of project is how easy the assessment is. It becomes clear what has been learned by simply walking around and seeing what students are doing, how they are thinking creativity and critically, and what type of communication is happening. This are valuable skills to assess and this type of platform makes it easy to see.

Heidi James explained to what capacity Minecraft can be used in the class. The key point was that the possibilities were endless. Here were some of the examples she gave, along with my own project that I took part in:

Math:

  • In Minecraft if the key F3 is pressed, coordinates appear. These are not just X and Y (2D) but X,Y, and Z (3D) coordinates that students become familiar with through engaged play. These coordinates can be used in the game in serval ways. One, is if a student needs to find another student and they use their coordinates to meet. Another is if the teacher hides an item at a certain coordinate, including underground, and lets the class try to find it. The underground aspect involves 3D thinking and helps students start to comprehend these principles.
  • Another way math can be taught through Minecraft is with coding turtles. These are turtles that can be programmed to do anything. For example they can continue digging until they hit lava if that is what has been coded. This is an advanced learning curve for students and only a few master the process.
  • The class could all be dropped into an area and have to find a treasure based off coordinate clues. Much like a scavenger hunt.

Social Studies:

  • Students can study ancient civilizations. Prior to playing the game, groups can pick an ancient civilization that they would like to focus on. In a class before playing, they would draft what the structures would look like, what the values would be, and other specifics. Then it can be brought to the lab to be build. Each group is given a territory. From there the civilizations must learn how to trade resources with other civilizations (students) and survive. Heidi James even created connections to make it more realistic. For example, if a witch poisoned you then you had died of food poisoning, if a skeleton kills you then you die of starvation. However, at the onset these options would be restricted so there is time to build in an easier setting. As mentioned above, the teacher has control within the game. This makes the project more authentic because the teacher can give sections of the class specific resources and items to start. We saw an example of this in class when the teacher gifted one of the students playing a full diamond helmet.

English:

  • This project is from personal experience. It was one that I did in grade 9, and it is probably one of my most memorable projects I did through the entirety of my school years. We would play Minecraft for one class and then the next class we would write a chapter about what had happened. The goal was to start out the book lost and unsure of how we got there. The rest was up to us. This story took creativity to a whole new level because we got to live the experience not just hypothetically write one up. I also allowed for a more realistic story because there were aspects of the game that one really had to think about, such as obtaining food, building a shelter, surviving.

Other Subjects such as – Arts, Sciences:

  • In the game there is a “crafting table.” This is a 3×3 square grid where items can be placed in specific orders to create new items. For example, the image below shows how 2 sticks and 3 wood blocks create a pickaxe. The use of this teaches how to visualize. Students must get creative when thinking about how an object might be formed. This also teaches how to manage resources and critically think. Wood will have to be used to build a shelter but if some if used to create a pickaxe the overall gathering process becomes faster.
MineCraft Wiki. Vultraz. CC-BY-SA.

Once students get the hang of using Minecraft an advanced option would be letting students build their own tutorial world for others to use. This requires a significant amount of critical thinking and problem solving.

A tip that Heidi James provided was that when creating the project for the class is to never use downloaded world. This is because it has parameters that someone else has set. If a random world is used the teacher has complete control. Animals for food source, time of day, weather patterns, creating structures. The options for what to include and exclude are endless.

A resource that was shown in class was Dan TDM on Youtube. He has lots of videos that pertain to video games. Lots were related to MineCraft! They show other possibilities that can be done with the game.