So this is it. 4 weeks of serious research; 2 weeks of planning; 6 weeks of teaching; And too many hours of reflecting have all resulted in this. An integrated Farm to Table Minecraft unit.

The unit is done and it was a whopping success!! The parents were confused but pleased with the engagement and learning, our grade 2 students were psyched, the elementary school was jealous, and now it’s time to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of this unit with you…

Let’s start with the negative stuff first and get it out of the way:

The Ugly

  • African power outages got the best of us on a few occasions. Because of this, sometimes students lost valuable work which caused a bit of heartbreak (particularly when they had completed their designated tasks).
  • Because Minecraft Edu doesn’t work on the our Samsung Galaxy Tablets, we had to borrow laptops from 3rd Grade. Negotiating a swap schedule, charging routine, and sharing devices was not always the easiest of tasks. But we made it work.
  • We didn’t do a great job explaining to parents what we were doing. Though we had written it on our classroom blog (which few read), parents didn’t have a clear understanding of the academic value of Minecraft as a learning tool. At the beginning, there were a lot of questions. See also: the good

The bad

  • There was an incredibly steep learning curve for teachers (and some students). Because we are a team of 6 teachers and 2 Technology Integration Coaches (across 2 campuses), there were a lot of people to get up to speed. We all had to learn a great deal. And… since this Social Studies unit had never been taught before, we had to learn a lot about the unit objectives as well as how to use Minecraft to meet those objectives.
  • Set-up, quite honestly, could be a bitch! I don’t know if it was our class server or a Minecraft Edu glitch that proved the most challenging, but logging in could be complicated. Sometimes, it could take 1 teacher a 40-minute lunch break to complete the task. That said… this would have been an even more daunting task if we had asked the students to do it.

the good

  • Everything else! The students were already so passionate about Minecraft, that the use it just played right in to their hands. The engagement level was at it’s peak and the students far exceeded our learning expectations.
  • Connections between the real world and the virtual world made sense to kids. But as soon as the students began sharing their understanding with their parents, we had a huge support network.
  • The Grade 2 Essential Agreements for this unit were awesome–students followed the rules and were so principled when it came to helping one another (both in the Minecraft Edu world and in real life).
  • Our reflection journal was outstanding (if I do say so myself)! This journal was the “proof” that parents and administrators appreciated to justify the use of Minecraft Edu as learning tool. Using the journal also helped teachers look back on the process of the learning and understanding of the unit concepts.

See below for useful resources including the UBD and supplemental materials.

reflections

This unit was a resounding success. Despite the occasional headaches and hiccups, the unit, the learning, and the students’ conceptual understanding far succeeded our expectations. That said, we’d consider these few changes next year:

  • A video to explain to parents why we’re using a “video game” to teach.
  • We’d get enough computers to make sure that some students (mostly our Minecraft experts) could work independently while others could continue working with a peer in the Minecraft world.
  • I’d join the Minecraft Edu Educator Community to get ideas, share experiences, and challenge myself to make this unit even more meaningful.
  • It would also be pretty interesting if we could share Minecraft servers with another another Grade 2 class somewhere in the world. How cool would that be? What do you think @mikehoffman?

Resources