Week Six represents that line of demarcation for me. Up to this point, I was hanging on. My lack of experience with Minecraft and personal/scheduling struggles were manageable; I was still able to compensate for what I did not know about Minecraft. I missed the Week 6 Hangout, had no recorded Hangout to refer to after the fact, and...well, there was really no going back.
I continued to log onto the MinecraftEdu server and wander around in #Givercraft from time to time, having no idea whatsoever what I was doing. I teetered between "I can do this!" and "I don't know HOW to do this!" for too long...and then days became weeks...and before I knew it, Givercraft was wrapping up and we were moving on to SurvivalCraft. I still had no idea what I was doing in Minecraft, and it felt as though every junior high student and adult in the world was a Minecraft aficionado...and, by that point, I was too behind (and embarrassed) to attempt a recovery. I demonstrated exactly the kind of fatalistic behavior I have been encouraging K-12 students and teachers to avoid for nearly two decades. I gave up.
Back to Givercraft: A chance conversation during one of our DTI Team meetings had to do with a teacher involved in the Givercraft (and now SurvivalCraft) project talking about what he wished would have happened prior to the beginning of each MinecraftEdu portion of the project. We were preparing for Blackboard Learn trainings when the conversation shifted to the MinecraftEdu projects, and how the teacher wished students would have had more opportunities to connect with each other and talk about the text before jumping into the game and the scenarios.
Wow. Opportunity for differentiation! As a former junior high and high school ELA teacher whose students were constantly involved in online discussions of literature, my radar went on high alert and I immediately began thinking about ways to create access points for the literacy components of both Givercraft and SurvivalCraft -- long before students ever encountered the scenarios involving Minecraft play. The crux of the project (either related to The Giver or related to Maze Runner and Lord of the Flies) is, obviously, THE TEXT. However, students could probably fake their way through having read the books to be successful in participating in the Minecraft components of the projects. The teacher's comments during this chance (serendipitous) conversation led to a really significant understanding of a component of the experience that both legitimizes the game and helps ensure that students really are gaining a grasp on the story before diving into the MC scenarios. And there is a LOT out there to support online lit circles and discussions to help students understand text!
As a result: How can I create greater opportunities for differentiation in #Givercraft and, later, in #SurvivalCraft? By providing students (and their teachers) with more authentic opportunities to connect with each other and with the text before embarking on the "game" portion of the project. We're talking about text...so let's provide participating classrooms with the textual support they need to fully engage in the story before engaging in the game. Online literature circles are a great place to begin.
Hardy, M. (2011). Book Blogs: Interactive Online Journals for Literature Circles. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/hardy101/book-blogs-interactive-online-journals-for-literature-circles
Lamb, A. (2007). Literature Learning Ladders: Encouraging active reading through book-technology connections. Eduscapes. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/ladders/themes/circles.htm
Larson, L. (2009). Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions. ReadWriteThink. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/thoughtful-threads-sparking-rich-1165.html#overview.
Larson, L. (May 2009). Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Online Learning Communities. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), pgs. 638-468. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1598/RT.62.8.2/abstract;jsessionid=68CFC41F3DD06BC84F600D2F20331B15.f01t04
Rucker, J. (2008). Effects of Online, Collaborative Discourse on Secondary Student Writing: A Case Study of the History and Ecology of an Electronic Exchange. Electronic Theses & Dissertations. Paper 506. Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies (COGS) at Digital Commons@GeorgiaSouthern. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1506&context=etd
Van Wyhe, T. (2000). A Passion for Poetry: Breaking Rules and Boundaries with Online Relationships. NCTE The English Journal, 90(2). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/821219?uid=3739512&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21106616060413