The course text provides an invitation to,
consider the components of good classroom management and the importance of guidelines and community as they relate to a Minecraft classroom. Record your thoughts in a way that you can retrieve them later.
I’m not a home educator, but I’m not much interested in classrooms. Here’s why. There’s a page in the course titled, “Benefits and Potential Difficulties of Gaming in the Classroom”. It begins,
There are many benefits to incorporating video games into the classroom. Among these are increased student motivation, engagement, and length of time on task. However, the use of games in the classroom might also have negative effects if you are not careful and intentional in the way the lessons are structured.
First and foremost, an effective management strategy must be in place. Without proper guidelines, procedures, and expectations, the video game environment quickly digresses into chaos and difficulty with very little educational benefit. (My emphasis)
Bleurghh. That distils one of the big problems with classrooms: the obsession with control. What does the story of the Minecraft experience and Minecraft community tell us if not that the italicised statements above are simply untrue? (Not that they are the only sources of evidence to refute those statements — Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall studies being just one other high-profile source.)
One of the main pedagogical benefits of Minecraft is surely that it liberates learning from the constraints of the classroom.
One of the touchstones for my thinking about these issues is the book, A New Culture of Learning (2011) by Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown. The book’s subtitle, Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change says more about Minecraft’s potential as a learning environment than the page in the course. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book, clipped from my Kindle. Many of them, I think you will agree, could have been written with Minecraft explicitly in mind.
Children use play and imagination as the primary mechanisms for making sense of their new, rapidly evolving world. In other words, as children encounter new places, people, things, and ideas, they use play and imagination to cope with the massive influx of information they receive.
The new culture of learning is based on three principles: (1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. (2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. (3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.
[O[ne might be tempted to ask how we might harness the power of these peer-to-peer collectives to meet some learning objective. But that would be falling into the same old twentieth-century trap. Any effort to define or direct collectives would destroy the very thing that is unique and innovative about them.
[I]n universities today, as in other educational institutions, learning is happening outside as well as inside the classroom in late-night discussions among students, in study groups, during campus events, and in student organizations. When that tacit dimension is taken into consideration, the value of a university education grows to include the learning that happens when students are immersed in an environment that values learning itself. Being surrounded by academic culture becomes valuable not only because of the vast resources available to the students but also because of the opportunity for them to make connections among all those resourcesconnections that are grounded in experience and deeply personal.
The concept is a certain familiarity that forms through the process of prolonged inquiry on particular topics or from repeated use of skills and techniques. Polanyi has referred to it as indwelling. Indwelling is a familiarity with ideas, practices, and processes that are so engrained they become second nature. Not unlike the notion of inquiry, indwelling is also an adaptive process, meaning that the practices that become second nature have flexibility; they are responsive to changes in the environment and situation.
The new culture of learning nurtures collective indwelling. Until now, we have lacked the ability, resources, and connections to make this kind of learning scalable and powerful. With access to the nearly endless supply of collectives today, however, learning that is driven by passion and play is poised to significantly alter and extend our ability to think, innovate, and discover in ways that have not previously been possible.
When we build, we do more than create content. Thanks to new technologies, we also create context by building within a particular environment, often providing links or creating connections and juxtapositions to give meaning to the content.
Through the process of making, we are also learning how to craft context so that it carries more of the message, which helps solve many of the issues of information overload. Thus, as context begins to play an increasingly important role, it becomes easier to talk about things like visual arguments; expanding the notion of literacy to include images, color, and sound; and how information is transmitted through new phenomena, such as viral distribution.
Much of what makes play powerful as a tool for learning is our ability to engage in experimentation. All systems of play are, at base, learning systems. They are ways of engaging in complicated negotiations of meaning, interaction, and competition, not only for entertainment, but also for creating meaning. Most critically, play reveals a structure of learning that is radically different from the one that most schools or other formal learning environments provide, and which is well suited to the notions of a world in constant flux.
Through play, the process of learning is no longer smooth and progressive. Instead, there is a gap between the knowledge one is given and the desired end result. The gap is apt to widen in a state of constant flux, where stable paths and linear progression are no longer viable, thus making play particularly valuable in our ever-changing world. In Huizingas view, this follows the structure of a riddle.
Hanging out is much more than creating a feeling of presence or belonging. It is the first step in the process of indwelling, which, as Polanyi explained, goes beyond the process of enculturation and an understanding of social norms, roles, and mores. The beginnings of indwelling in the digital world are rooted in the notion of being with. [Mimi] Ito’s work reveals that hanging out is more than simply gaining familiarity with the tools, spaces, and possibilities that the digital world offers. Hanging out, in her terms, is about learning how to be with others in spaces that are mediated by digital technology. Thus, it is building a foundation for learning that transcends the bounds of the virtual.
When messing around, young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.
Hanging out is about acquiring a sense of social agency. The transition to messing around, as Ito describes it, is typically personal and involves the development of a sense of personal agency: &what is characteristic of these initial forays into messing around is that youth are pursuing topics of personal interest. Young people who were active digital media creators or deeply involved in other interest-driven groups generally described a moment when they took a personal interest in a topic and pursued it in a self-directed way.
The process of knowing has moved from being instrumental to being structured by a sense of play. Through that shift, experience is transformed into a process of experimentation, play, and riddling, which reveals the resources and possibilities that are available to a person and what he can do with them.
Messing around, therefore, constitutes the second step of indwelling: embodiment. It asks the question: What am I able to explore?
[G]eeking out extends both the social agency of hanging out and the personal agency of messing around. As Ito puts it: Geeking out involves learning to navigate esoteric domains of knowledge and practice and participating in communities that traffic in these forms of expertise.… Geeking out asks the question: How can I utilize the available resources, both social and technological, for deep exploration?
The richness of experience and social agency produced by hanging out and the sense of embodiment and personal agency created by messing around, combined with the sense of making, produces what we think is the ultimate goal of indwelling: learning. Geeking out provides an experiential, embodied sense of learning within a rich social context of peer interaction, feedback, and knowledge construction enabled by a technological infrastructure that promotes intense, autonomous, interest driven learning.
In our view, mmos [Massively Multiplayer Online games] are almost perfect illustrations of a new learning environment. On one hand, games like World of Warcraft produce massive information economies, composed of thousands of message forums, wikis, databases, player guilds, and communities. In that sense, they are paragons of an almost unlimited information network. On the other hand, they constitute a bounded environment within which players have near-absolute agency, enjoying virtually unlimited experimentation and explorationmore of a petri dish.
Think back to the assertions that Huizinga put forward in Homo Ludens: (1) Play is more than something we do, it is who we are, and (2) play precedes culture. We want to add to those concepts by proposing that play fuses the two elements of learning that we have been talking about: the information network and the petri dish (or bounded environment of experimentation). That fusion is what we call the new culture of learning. The critical idea is that the two elementsof information and experimentationare being brought together in a way that transforms them both. It is that fusion that defines the new culture of learning.
Accordingly, the culture that emerges, the new culture of learning, is a culture of collective inquiry that harnesses the resources of the network and transforms them into nutrients within the petri dish environment, turning it into a space of play and experimentation. That moment of fusion between unlimited resources and a bounded environment creates a space that does not simply allow for imagination, it requires it. Only when we care about experimentation, play, and questions more than efficiency, outcomes, and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination. And where imaginations play, learning happens.