The beginning and the end of the school year are two of the most reflective times for a teacher. I begin Tuesday with students and I’ve never been more excited at the start of the school year then I am for this term. A great deal of that is due to the implementation of Minecraft throughout my history curriculum. Although I’m excited about the idea of immersing my students into the realm of make believe, it is tempered by the challenge to get it right. To develop a template that I can use to build successful, standards aligned, interactive and intelligent lessons is a goal that will likely take time to perfect. As mentioned in a previous post, I intend to build my MineQuest idea on the foundation of a WebQuest.
Traditional WebQuest lessons focus on students, working collaboratively to construct their own meaning by completing a challenging, real world task. It’s similar to project based learning in that students tackle a meaningful question that requires higher order thinking skills to solve. WebQuests do not involve tasks that are directly “Google-able” or where there is only one answer. Students often role play while working as a team to complete elements of each task. Outcomes are expected to be unique, with heavy emphasis on creativity and application of workplace skills.
An example might involve teams of students working to create a documentary film that explores a controversial issue present in a work of fiction or non-fiction read in class. The instructor would provide web links to resources that examine both sides of the issue and students, assuming roles of director, videographer, actor, writer, etc. would collaborate to create a short film on the subject. What may appear as a rather simplistic device for learning from a student perspective, WebQuests are heavily scaffolded by the instructor before being released into the wild.
Goals and context must be defined by the instructor. The adage “begin with the end in mind” is an appropriate way to think when designing a WebQuest. It’s here that intended Common Core Anchor Standards need to be identified as well has specific content standards. Designers must take into account background knowledge and applicable skills present in their students. What is the desired outcome the teacher wants and are the students equipped to produce it?
The next step is to develop the task you wish your students to accomplish, (keeping in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy) and determining how student learning will be assessed. After that, it’s time to record the process so that student teams can independently get from point A to points B, C, D, and beyond. Add performance expectations and web resources and you have a WebQuest. More information, templates, and example quests can be found at WebQuest.org.
I believe this model can be adapted to produce authentic learning opportunities inside Minecraft. The goal of providing an authentic task would remain the same, but should take into consideration the opportunities afforded by a virtual and highly customizable world. Minecraft reigns supreme when confronted with Bloom’s higher level power verbs: construct, design, create, argue, and evaluate. Good teaching strategies require students to use their minds. Minecraft requires players to work with hand and mind.
A challenge for me will be to develop outcomes. I have a feeling that Minecraft will take me and my students beyond what I originally envision. As those of us that use Minecraft with our kids can attest, it is capable of producing unexpected results. Some that need quick attention and modification, but others that are deeply innovative.
My quests will involve Internet resources as well as “traditional” resources found in Minecraft. They may be mined and processed gems or minerals or involve buildings or artifacts. They may require interaction with non-player characters or local economies. Perhaps they will come from other teams or individual students that posses a certain skill and require synthesis and evaluation before they becoming useful. The possibilities for learning here excite me.
Finally, I will need to be open to new methods of evaluation. I will encourage unique and creative outcomes from each group, but I realize this will be new to them as well. It is sometimes easier to copy what another group is creating than think of one for yourselves. This will be a massive shift in thinking and doing for children whose educational experiences include nothing but, what Dr. Bernie Dodge, developer of the WebQuest model calls, “classroom verbs” – list, define, explain, and select. It’s a challenge I look forward to with great excitement as a professional because I get to learn alongside my students.
In the next post I will model a MineQuest lesson I intend to try out and post a work-in-progress template I’ll be using.