In the course of our conversation, however, he presented a number of really great ideas from his perspective of a classroom teacher who is juggling a group of about 25 students in the middle school (team of three teachers with about 80 students total), and he is teaching five different content area classes throughout the day. "Extra" stuff is just that for him: It's extra. He suggested that differentiation tools for Givercraft and for Survivalcraft would have been useful to him if they would have helped to:
- * connect students between and among participating classrooms BEFORE students engaged in playing Minecraft
- * provided PD for teachers related to gaming in the classroom, in general (I told him that I knew there had been some teacher training, but he either had not been able to participate or his schedule wouldn't allow)
- * ensure that the FIRST emphasis is on the text so that when students come together to play MC, they have already connected over the literature.
A powerful diffi-tool for Givercraft could be a series of online conversations between and among classrooms involved in the project requiring students to do nothing but talk with each other about the text...and nothing but the text. A prompt or two for each online discussion (which could happen via a variety of platforms) would help the students get to know each other. They could work in small groups of two or three to engage in discussion with peers of like-size groups...or they could have been partnered with one student from each of the other classrooms so that each group could have gotten to know each other and connected with the other schools/classes. The effectiveness of this differentiation could have been measured by analysis of the students' conversations: Were they talking about the text? Were they responding to the prompts? Were they referencing specifics from the literature? Were they helping each other to develop knowledge and understanding of the stories?
The teacher also talked about how much time he was spending helping students gain historical understanding of the setting in Lord of the Flies. This would be another great access point to engage students in authentic conversations about the text, as well providing all of the students and teachers in the project with a means to gain understanding of the historical context of the plane crash, the society in which the boys lived, what was happening in the world at that time, etc. While the online conversations would have had nothing to do with Minecraft, they would have provided teachers with ways to help students better understand the context of the novel and to engage in the scenarios with a better understanding of the story, setting, and characters.
Larson, L. (2015). Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions. ReadWriteThink. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/thoughtful-threads-sparking-rich-1165.html
Wolsey, T.D. (2004). Literature discussion in cyberspace: Young adolescents using threaded discussion groups to talk about books. Reading Online, 7(4). Available: http://www.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=wolsey/index.html