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Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 23 March, 2014 - 21:04

Regular reports hit my radar of the amazing work being undertaken by global kids, as they become knowledge-able, as well as knowledgeable in their gaming interactions. Many kids, supported by knowledgeable elders (parents and peers) are engaging in this amazing platform. Many teachers are also supporting their students to do amazing things.

Just look at this gorgeous build in Minecraft – Babylon in a very new world of our kids futures.  By amazing – I don’t just mean building in a gaming environment! I mean engaging in literacy  and communication; in digital citizenship and story telling;  and above all creativity and global cultures. But it takes dedication on the part of the adults to nuture students this way.

Minecraft in education is growing phenomenon – and people are jumping on board to see how they can integrate Minecraft into the learning cultures of their schools. To be honest – Minecraft is also becoming a minefield of its very own in the ‘grown up world’ (consultant warning) – and therefore making it critically important that we connect with quality users with grounded experience in best practices in Minecraft rather than with consultants.

Project Mist

Project Mist, from Donelle Batty, is one of my favourite Australian leaders – doing with her kids daily that we could only wish for all our kids. Donelle has been running Project M.I.S.T (Minecraft In School Transforming education) for what seems like eons now. Her students have very powerful learning experiences. GMods Experience in Minecraft tells it all!

My experience in Minecraft this year was spectacular; the team work, the efforts, the creativity gained and witnessed was truly outstanding. In the class I got to socialize with kids that have the same interests I have, building friendships throughout the year. Cooperation was the biggest highlight; When there was ridiculous amounts of mobs and high death count, we took shelter and shared supplies. When someone needed help building or creating something it always felt good to teach them how to do so. I’ve also learnt more about the importance of my appearance on-line and how I present myself to the people of the world wide web, presentation is key and your first impression is everything. If you are acting like a tool on the internet people will see you once and think: “Wow, that person seems stupid and rude” And that would be the last time they visit your page/ sever/ profile.

Recently, I followed a tweet to see what Donelle wrote about the 2014 launch of #ProjectMIST.

2014 #ProjectMIST is about to start, it takes a dedicated community to do this! http://t.co/HwGMrUlHI5 #minecraft @natbott42

— Donelle Batty (@dbatty1) March 21, 2014

She reminded us all that Minecraft is a collaborative experience, as is the various stages of learning involved in gaining Minecraft experience. Donelle is without a doubt a global leader, and will be away from her hometown in Tasmania on her Hardie Fellow (Info re Hardie Fellowship and recipients for 2013-14).

Donelle also reminded me of the fantastic work done by Jo Kay who is an amazing colleague I have worked with closely over the years on various projects.  Jo currently builds and supports our work in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) degree here at CSU. We don’t use the normal LMS, but have developed our own for the degree for now.

So in much the same way Donelle explains:

We are really lucky at ProjectMIST as we have one person who has been with us from the start and is always there, even at 12:04am. At this time of the day I am in bed asleep and the computer is asleep too, but Jo Kay is wide awake supporting the students where I can’t. Her support is extremely appreciated by the students and they demonstrate this through building replicas of her avatar on their own servers, one young man did this just the other night when she helped him out after he locked himself out of his server. This student has now just been accepted onto Massively @ Jokaydia Minecraft Guild and he is really excited to be able to build, learn and explore with others from all parts of the world.

If you are an educator, a parent, or just someone who wants to give kids a chance at Minecraft I recommend you visit Massively @ Jokaydia.

The Massively @ jokaydia Guild Website –  a community supported by jokaydia.com -  provides kids and parents with games-based spaces to learn, collaborate and play!

The project is designed for kids aged 4-16yrs who are interested in gaining digital media skills, exploring their creativity and developing online social skills. We are currently using the video game Minecraft to support a safe, whitelisted server and a range of activities which encourage kids to choose their own playful learning pathways and adventures.

You can’t do better than that!  Babylon was a build created by just one of those students!

You will find Donelle on Twitter @dbatty1 and Jo at @JoKay. You’ll also find student Nat, from the TedEX video below @natbott42

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jo Kay

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Filed under: Innovation & Creativity, Maker culture, Technology and Software Tagged: minecraft
Categories: Planet

Shrinking the world after 4000 years

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 23 March, 2014 - 15:06

Quite a while back I read the book by John Freeman called Shrinking the World – the 4000 year story of how email came to rule our lives!  A ripping read, that contextualises email into the early 21st century communication systems as a derivative of human interactions through the ages.

We are now working in an era of constant interruptions. We nearly all have multiple email accounts which we use for a variety of purposes. Some eschew rapid communication still, of course,  along the lines of “oh I don’t want a gmail account, and please don’t expect me to create one so that I can participate in a google hangout for the conference/professional development/learning activity”.  Others of course have moved well on from email, making equally boring comments like “who uses email now anyway”?

If you work for a large organisation – as I do – the likelihood is that you will be using email. In fact, email remains a core professional communication tool alongside other forms of communication – Yammer being one example in my institution.

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with email – when it is used properly!   Ah, but there’s the catch.  Like any media tool, there are savvy users, and there are others.  And it is  the ‘others’ really who just confound the efficiency of the thing :-)

Freedman says:

One of the great paradoxes about email is that although it is created, driven and indelibly marked by ourselves, heavy use of it can leave you feeling emptied out, voided, fractured into a million bits and quips, yet somehow obliterated.

Overall his book is an attempt to step back from the frenzy and the flurry of now – the now we have created and the now we have to slowly remove ourselves from. He suggests that email is good for many things; but that we need to learn to use if far more sparingly, with far less dependency if we are to gain control of our lives.

I don’t agree with this – I think there are significantly  important points at the central purpose and value of email. Of course social media is giving us levels of connectivity across platforms, organisations and devices that email never set out to do.

But email itself, while still at the centre of an organisation, also needs to be used effectively. Let me tell you there are some basic aspects of email that can allow you to manage your workflow AND use the tool efficiently. Here are a few starting points: 

1. Don’t take forever to respond to an email message.  You may be busy, and if you haven’t time to give a considered and full response, have the courtesy to reply and indicate a timeline for response.  Not replying at all is discourteous.  If you can’t reply – put on your vacation message, or your ‘out of office’ message as a quick way to let people know that your inbox is in fact working.

2. Treat your students with respect. If you work in a tertiary institution treat students with the same respect you would accord to any adult you have contact with. I can’t tell you how many times students have been shocked to receive a reply from me the same day – they are accustomed to the (almost inexcusable) approach of treating virtual contact with students the same way as consultation hours with the tutor in a f2f setting – i.e. once or twice a week.

3. Use distribution lists or group lists to hold a conversation about a topic

4. Organise conversations logically. When in a group conversation – for heavens sake reply to the latest message.  The way that people fragment the conversation by simply replying to the first message, or one somewhere in-between is not only inefficient but also transparently discourteous.  If you were standing in a group around the water cooler – how would you feel if everyone simply acted as if you weren’t there.  Same thing.

4. For goodness sake use proper formatting.  We have a wonderful written language. We communicate in proper sentences when we write. We also speak sensibly and courteously with each other.  Yet for some reason, people apply kindergarten rules to email which look like this:

Dear Person I just like to write my comments all in one sentence and/or maybe a paragraph because it’s too hard to apply proper punctuation or even structure the message intelligibly and did you have a nice weekend Judy

While I can accept this in casual social media settings, to my way of thinking professional conversations in corporate email should also utilise the full affordances of the English language and supporting email structures.  I actually find it vaguely rude when a colleague doesn’t.

5. Turn on your auto-signature. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to chase up a person’s contact details because the courtesy of having the full signature file is not utilised.  In a large organisation, transparency of conversation is essential.  If I need to phone you, or forward your email to another for response it should be clear who you are and in what capacity we are having our email conversations.

You’re probably thinking this is all very ‘old school’.  Perhaps it is!   But I’m convinced it’s part of the way to be professional, courteous and efficient with email until another tool arrives.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by consumerfriendly


Filed under: Communication Tools Tagged: email, writing
Categories: Planet

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 19 March, 2014 - 11:01

Sometimes I feel that we as teachers are constantly 3 steps behind because by the time the whole staff are skilled up on a current technology, it and the students will have already moved on to the next thing.

These words and many more are part of the reflections of my students in INF530 Concepts and Practices of a Digital Age, the foundation subject of the MEd degree in knowledge networks and digital innovation I have been teaching in, since it’s launch this year. Three weeks in and the students have launched their reflective blogs, and been engaging in online spaces and places – some more so than others of course!

Three weeks is a short time, but in that time we have hit those cloudy spaces, and even meatballs (blog post title for one of the reflections – cool!).

Our course participants come from all areas of education: teachers, educational designers, e-learning advisors, higher education, Principals and Vice Principals in schools, and more. With this eclectic and amazing mix, we have almost everything we need in a cohort to challenge our thinking – mine included!

Here are some snippets:

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.”

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research.

I hope to learn effective research skills that will enable me to find quality, trustworthy information;  develop a professional ‘digital learning’ network; and also build a solid understanding of how positive change can be implemented to help lift education institutions into the 21st century of learning.

Think more on the repercussions of global social networks and become more conversational about creative cultures and ways of doing, such as design thinking.

Develop a more evidence based approach to my teaching practice.

Share my ideas more openly; and learn by doing so.

We have already covered off the major thinkers in the field.  We are beginning our journey into the scholarship that underpins online environments – both in research and use of digital media and resources. We have an Amazon collection reading list for students to dip into and choose just one of these books to rigorously interrogate against the materials they are engaging with.

In another one of our other degree strands (but also part of the new degree), we have welcomed Australia’s teacher ambassador for Evernote into ETL523 Digital Citizenship in Schools.  It’s worth dropping over to Bec’s twitter feed or her post on “Organising my study with Evernote“.

Bec also wrote a post that included the following observationt:

One of the important messages about digital citizenship that we should be remembering and sharing with colleagues is the fact that we as teachers can not effectively educate students about the online world, digital citizenship or the notion of a digital footprint if we in fact are not partaking in the same social networks or using the same tools as our students.

Another important factor to consider, suggested by Nielsen (2011), is the notion of not confusing managing one’s digital footprint with being hidden or private. It is my understanding that a digital footprint should represent who we are and what we believe in a professional manner.

For some of us this seems obvious, yet not so for other educators – yet! We are struggling to encourage a few to understand the difference between privacy and adopting professional communication channels rather than a hidden persona.  Isn’t this exactly what we don’t want our school kids to do…hide… and then be ready to do whatever they like online?  The worse case scenarios are bullying or hacking.

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs?

You bet – the unexpected is the common denominator in all our encounters in our learning journey together.  Thank you to my wonderful cohort – the world is going to be a better place for the willing engagement and generous learning mindset that you are bringing to your study!

I am so honoured to be able to engage with you all!

Image:cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan


Filed under: Connectivism, Knowledge networks Tagged: education, Evernote, Tom Whitby
Categories: Planet
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