|Interior Screen Shot of Art Gallery from Minecraft Deigned by Devon|
It's mid April when I mentioned to Devon a neat game I had downloaded, Minecraft and explain it is a game where you build a world and work to survive.
He's a bit skeptical and asks, "Is it educational?"
"Not in the way you mean," I assure. "Take a look if you want."
That was Friday, mid April. By a week later, he had built a multi-room and leveled home that included a waterfall and an elevator that opened into a glass room located above the clouds. Survival was no longer a marker of progress.
|Screenshot of Farm (Growing Wheat) in Minecraft, by Devon.|
A week after that he began to build intricate designs that included lava and water flows, a house that included an art gallery and had electricity, a gigantic electrically powered roller coaster that ended where you started, farming, and controls to make the place, peaceful and multiple trips to the Nether world.
It was about this time that Devon and a friend, Damian, decided they needed to show what they were doing to others.
I mentioned Jing as a way to capture what he was doing in Minecraft.
"J-i-n-g? Is it an app or on the Internet?"
"You can download it from the Internet."
Devon and Damian set about making their first two Jing movies about how to build a transport to the nether world and by dinnertime were waiting on the films to be processed so they could be uploaded to YouTube. Neither child asked for my assistance. They did not need instructions to download or use Jing. Now and again I could hear when they reached a dead end and had to retrace, abandon, or figure out the problem in some new way. The language I heard was not defeatist, but rather words and tone that suggested curiosity and encouragement of one another, and lots of laughter. Some, No no and a lot of Yes, like that. What I noticed is that they did not outline their movie before making it. They dove in.
I noticed that after their first attempt at Jing, Devon said to Damien, "I think we should skip the whole beginning and just get to the part about making obsidian. Who's going to want to sit through all that?"
"Yeah you're right. If they're making a portal, they know all that stuff already."
|Screenshot of Portal.|
|Screenshot of the Nether World|
We might label that idea as revision and narrowing the focus. For the boys it simply made sense as they were doing what Aristotle said writers need to do, consider audience. They did not need to define vocabulary terms or use terms in a sentence. They did not need to outline the steps they would take before taking them. They didn't need to do a lot of what gets privileged as important learning in school and I am hoping that gives you pause.
What they did need was some relevant prior knowledge about the way "how-to Jing films" work. Having watched a fair amount of how-to films about Minecraft on YouTube, they had some models in mind and were delighted to find out that those movies were made using Jing. They had to have a sense of the audience for whom they were creating the films. They needed to understand what they were going to demonstrate, but not fully. Perhaps most important though, they needed to be willing to experiment, fail, and retry--to collaborate and to be self-directed.
Will Richardson via his post, Have Schools Reached Their Limits? shared The Right to Learn: Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change, a white paper generated by Bruce Dixon and Susan Einhorn and informed by those who attended the Big Ideas Global Summit 2010. About halfway through the report I stopped as I read this:
What is becoming better understood is what personal computing in the hands of learners allows. The emphasis is more about who controls the learning than about content. It’s about learners learning through the lens of topics and issues that are of interest, relevant and purposeful to them; it’s about them constructing knowledge; it’s about connecting to an unlimited resource of people, ideas, and conversations that gives all learners unique insights, insights that underpin deeper understandings about the world in which they live, and how they might act collectively to influence their world and their lives. It's about having the freedom to learn in a way that is appropriate in a modern world. It’s about acknowledging a learner’s innate drive to learn about, and understand, his or her place in the world (p. 11).The very thinking dispositions we continuously attempt to engender in students at school are the ones I see and hear occurring as I watch my son and his friends playing Minecraft. Through self-directed and collaborative play, they continuously demonstrate what it means to be adventurous, to persist, to problem solve, to sustain intellectual curiosity, to clarify and seek understanding, to be strategic, to be intellectually careful, to seek and evaluate reasons, to be metacognitve. When they need assistance, they seek it out from resources they discover: videos about Minecraft, a Minecraft Wiki, and Minecraft apps. What's equally interesting is that not all of these resources remain valued as they learn. Much like Lev Vygotsky describes, these scaffolds are self-destructing.
Empowering students to determine their learning matters. In talking with Devon about what he had created in Minecraft, he explained, "People don't give people enough credit. It takes a lot to put things together and to figure it out. The roller coaster is more than a 1000 pieces of rail. It was hard to figure out slope to make the roller coaster keep going and eventually I figured out how to power it. It took a few tries."
|Screenshot of Roller Coaster, Designed by Devon|
|Screenshot of Roller Coaster, Designed by Devon|