TLLP Update: Few & Deep FTW
Our Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, “Digging into Minecraft with Inquiry”, has been going quite well. In March, we had a half-day gathering with a small number of interested and committed teachers, and now in April we have started to book half-day, one-on-one sessions with individuals. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with “AmTim” on April 8.
(AmTim & Liragrim in-game together)
This meeting was unlike any other professional learning I’ve been a part of before. * Most of the professional development sessions I’ve run have involved large crowds, with a prepared presentation or agenda. Instead, it was just the two of us. I planned nothing in advanced. I played the role of mentor, and the topics were guided by my “mentee”. It was absolutely wonderful, for both of us!
AmTim said she really appreciated the emotional support, knowing that some of the snags and challenges she encountered were very similar (if not identical) to the ones Liam, Denise and I had when we first began. Too many eager students and no fair way to cull the club? Technology acting up and refusing to run the game? Reassuring AmTim that these problems are completely normal and typical made her feel relieved. Even a teacher as prepared as AmTim (and trust me, she was way more ready to run her Minecraft Club than I was four years ago when I began, with pre-printed account cards and organized lists) will run into difficulties the first time something of this magnitude is tried.
Remember that saying, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? We spent part of our afternoon setting up AmTim’s students on our multi-school wiki, where school players reflect on and share their Minecraft experiences for an authentic audience. I could have sent some instructions in an email, but that would be no substitute for having someone right next to you as you go through the required steps. I even took the time to organize my own students’ pages into a folder and tidy things up digitally.
Pedagogical Support (and Mutual Learning)
After we chatted about her efforts to introduce Minecraft at her school and created workspaces on the wiki, we sat down together to brainstorm. We opened up the Ontario Ministry of Education Math curriculum and tried to see how we could use Minecraft to meet curriculum expectations. AmTim was so creative and knowledgeable! The ideas she generated connected to several math strands simultaneously. She thought of the first actual use of Minecraft for physical and health education I’ve heard that makes sense. She saw ways to incorporate so many aspects of the game naturally, like estimating the area of canopies of trees in Minecraft and comparing them to real-life trees. We played together to see if certain activities would work – like a probability activity involving egg-throwing and fishing. We piggy-backed on each other’s ideas. My fishing suggestion led to her wondering about horse breeding, and I learned many new things from reading specific pages on the Minecraft wiki to help us try to find answers.
Implications for Leadership
The title of this blog post could have been a lot smuttier. I wanted to call it “going fewer, longer, and deeper”. Although I see the benefits of speaking to large groups to give overviews, it was really powerful to spend an extended period of time with just one person. We had so much fun working together that we will book at least three more sessions together so we can have more in-depth conversations.
* ETA = After I wrote that sentence, I realized that GamingEdu’s Tuesday Evening Play & Learn sessions count as professional learning and are also one of the most unusual and innovative means of doing so. In that setting, it’s more of an EdCamp feel, where several of the GamingEdus regulars hang around to play, and if any new educator already whitelisted joined and needed assistance, it’s right there. I almost forgot that this weekly event constitutes professional learning too!