As I have become more comfortable with applying new type of technology in my classroom I have become quite reliant on knowledge diffusion through networked communities. Just as we looked at webcams and virtual discovery websites in these readings I have focused much of my time over the past 4 years teaching my students to build digital field trips in sandbox environments like Minecraft. I really knew nothing about Minecraft up until 4 years ago when I offered to run it as a pilot project for my grade 4/5 class. Firstly after installing the program I needed to find a place that had a”diversity of expertise among its members who are valued for their contributions and given support to develop, a shared objective of continually advancing the collective knowledge and skills, an emphasis on learning how to learn, and mechanisms for sharing what is learned.” “(Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999). These requirements were through the Minecraft Edu Google group forum that had already had a large group of technical experts and teachers who had been using the platform for years. The amazing thing about these online environments where so many people are passionate about what they are teaching is the welcoming atmosphere that is created for beginners. We had never run a M.U.V.E. before and there were a huge number of issues and problems that arose from such a large task.
My goal was to have students set up virtual field trips in a variety of biomes which they would take their classmates through, explaining the biodiversity in each environment based on scientific facts. Through the Google group I gained a vast amount of knowledge in a short time through experts in the forums that had run similar environments. Not only that but I managed to contribute back to the forum by sharing my successes and pitfalls with the forum group. The open sandbox nature of Minecraft is something that I would have never experienced if I did not have the online community backing my experience. This experience of knowledge sharing is something I have seen time and time again through my foray into digital forums. I want what my students learn to be taken out of my classroom and applied in their lived experiences. Basically I asked myself just as Lampert states “What do my students take away from this activity into the other classrooms they will inhabit? Or out of school into the world of work and family?(Lampert, 1990). The internet and tech tools that we have at our disposal has created huge opportunities for us learning how to create authentic learning for our classrooms.
Bielaczyc, Katerine, and Allan Collins. “Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice.” Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory 2 (1999): 269-292.
Lampert, M. (1990). When the problem is not the question and the solution is not the answer: Mathematical knowing and teaching. American educational research journal, 27(1), 29-63.
Niemitz, M., Slough, S., Peart, L., Klaus, A., Leckie, R. M., & St John, K. (2008). Interactive virtual expeditions as a learning tool: the School of Rock Expedition case study. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(4), 561-580