Going further with Minecraft in the classroom

T2016-11-22_07-00-37his is the second year I am using Minecraft in my classroom. As I did last year, students are creating the community/civilization from the literature they have read in their ELA classes.

This year I wanted to take the Minecraft build a step further. Many of the students are already very proficient in Minecraft. I wanted them to think and problem solve while they built the Gibb Street Community from the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. The best way to do this is by allowing students to use ComputerCraft to program turtles to mine and build for them.

2016-11-18_11-10-43I’m no expert when it comes to programming turtles, but I found some great tutorials on YouTube and sent the students there. (I did watch each video to make sure it was appropriate before giving students the link.) Students watched and learned. I learned as well as we worked through the process together. (The picture on the left is a student standing behind his turtle while it mines.)

2016-11-23_11-29-53I also allowed students to automate parts of their build using redstone. (Redstone is a fictional mineral in Minecraft that acts as an electrical wire to build electronic circuits, circuitry gates, pistons, dispensers, and other machines.) Students built all kinds of cool things. My favorite are street lights that actually work when it gets dark.

To watch students engage in work so deeply is incredible. They demonstrated their understanding of the text by what they were building. It is a good day when you can have a blast and learn a great deal at the same time.
For more on what I have been doing with Minecraft in the Classroom, check out these past posts.




The diary of a FLL coach

animalalliesFor years I have been interested in coaching a First Lego League robotics team. This year I finally get a chance. Through this blog and twitter, I plan to document each step of the way. For those who want to create a team but don’t know where to start, I hope my ups and downs during the season will give you the courage to try coaching a team yourself.

I am lucky. My team was already set up before I decided to coach. My daughter’s school was looking for someone to coach a third team they were creating. All I had to do is say yes. I excited that my daughter will also have the opportunity to be on the team. We ordered the materials, so it’s official. I am coaching a FLL team.

For our first meeting, we spent time coming up with a team name. We didn’t actually agree on a name yet. I didn’t want to spend all of our time debating, so we will leave that until next week. None of the students have been on a FLL team before. I guess we all will be learning as we go.

We also spent time discussing the project and the robot game. This led us to discuss how we interact with animals.

Before we knew it, our time was over. Until next week…

Using Twitter in the Classroom Final Thoughts

Twitter_logo_blueI hope that the Twitter in the Classroom series has been helpful as you start to use Twitter to impact your teaching through the connecting with other teachers from around the world. If you are have stumbled upon this post, you can get to series through the links below. Please follow me at @techlane.


Using Twitter in the Classroom

Customizing Your Twitter Account

Tweeting and Following Others

Twitter Chats



Twitter Chats

Twitter (3)You have a customized Twitter account, posted tweets and you have started following others. Now it is time to start interacting with other teachers. You do this through something called a Twitter Chat. A Twitter Chat typically has a topic for discussion. There is a moderator that posts a series of questions. Those participating answer the questions. The crazy thing is lots of answers will filter in all at the same time. You stay connected with the chat through the use of a specific hashtag. Here is a great list of Twitter Chats on a variety of topics geared for teachers. When in a Twitter Chat I like to use a website called TweetDeck. This seems to allow me to follow along better than using the Twitter website. I also like to use my laptop. It can get overwhelming trying to use my iPad or iPhone. Watch the latest video as I participate in a Twitter Chat. You’ll see how you can learn a great deal and become inspired by those in the chat. These are teachers from around the world.

Tweeting and Following Others

Twitter (2)Now that you have a Twitter account and you have customized your page, it is time to start connecting with others through tweeting and following others. One way to connect with others is to search for topics you are interested in following. You can do this by searching topics or by searching a hashtag (#). You also need to start tweeting yourself. Being a teacher is all about sharing our ideas with each other. Watch the next video for a tutorial on posting tweets, searching for topics of interest, and using hashtags. I will further explain hashtags and how to use them also. Be ready to grow your PLN exponentially.

Scratch and Makey Makey

IMG_3082 I recently got the Makey Makey out of the drawer to teach my 8 year old how to program using Scratch. She has had some experience using Blockly with her Dash robot by Wonder Workshop. She has also used Scratch Jr. for the iPad, but this is the first time programming for herself.

The program was simple, but the impact was great.

The program used the “when a key is pressed” event to play a note. Each key played a note in a song from my daughter’s song book she uses for her piano lessons. She had to know the keys and read the music just like when playing the piano. We wired the Makey Makey to match the program. She had to change the half notes (0.5 beat) to quarter notes (0.25 beat). That gave us the opportunity to talk about fractions and decimals.

IMG_3089When using the Makey Makey, you have to connect yourself to complete the circuit. This gave us the opportunity to talk about electrical circuits and why our large piano works.

We also had a problem solving opportunity. Two of the “keys” had aluminum foil touching. This made two notes play at once. We talked about why the aluminum works to conduct electricity and how the tape and cardboard kept the electricity from one key from connecting to another.

To finish our programming, she got to play her song and others. This was a quick 30 minute activity, but we both had a blast and she learned a great deal.

Customizing your Twitter Account

Twitter (1)I hope you checked out the last post on using Twitter in your classroom. If you watched, I hope you set up your account. You are on your way to being well connected with others. It is time to customize your account to give it an unique look that lets others know who is behind the account. Customizing doesn’t take that long. Take a look at the next video in the Twitter in the Classroom series.


Using Twitter in the Classroom

TwitterIn our twenty-first century world, it is easier than ever to connect with other educators from around the world. There are still some teachers who don’t see the value in expanding their Professional Learning Network (PLN). I am hoping not only to show you why connecting with teachers outside your school district or surrounding communities is important, but how to grow your PLN as well.

One of the easiest ways to connect with anyone these days is through Twitter. Lots of you have never considered Twitter, while others might have signed up and created an account only to abandon it a week later.

I have created a series of videos on how to setup, customize and use Twitter in the classroom.

I hope you’ll keep and open mind and check out this series. The first video is below.

Minecraft in the classroom

minecraftBack in April I posted about using Minecraft in the classroom. (You can check out that post here.) At that time I was taking an online course on using Minecraft in the classroom. I learned not only about the game itself, but how to integrate it into the classroom.

Since April I was awarded a grant to integrate Minecraft into the curriculum. We started the program in October. I would like to share the knowledge I have gained from this experience.

To start with, I found I could ask students to do just about anything and have it completed with little complaining and with a high percentage of completion if I tied it to getting to build in Minecraft.

To elaborate, I’ll explain my project. Students read the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in their Language Arts classes. They also studied the characteristics of civilizations in World Studies. So, students knew about Hunger Games and what makes a good civilization. I decided to have the students create a “secret” District 14. This would be the ideal civilization, unlike the rest of the country. But, the students had to keep the civilization probable compared to what they read in the book. With that knowledge, students had to write a one page plan explaining the various aspects of the district and why, with evidence from the book how it would fit into the overall theme of Hunger Games.

Most seventh graders would be complaining about typing a one page paper, but not these students. They saw it as a means to and end. If they got the paper typed, they got to play Minecraft. Some tried to write the paper quickly, without much time and effort. These students found the paper being returned. They did a much better job the second time.

Students, in most classes, worked very well together. They had to collaborate and work in teams to build the various areas of the district. Minecraft experts helped the beginner and novice players. I could hear students tell another, “You work on the wall and I’ll build the roof.” Or I would hear one say, “They wouldn’t use diamonds to build a house.” It was exciting to watch.

We integrated math by building structures to a prescribed size based on the plan. Students really had to comprehend the literature to prove the accuracy of what was planned. Many times we would stop and look around to critique what was being built.

Over all students had a blast and didn’t realize how much they were demonstrating their knowledge. Students really got into the literature compared to years past. Later this year I will get to evaluate how much better students learned the characteristics of civilizations when they complete a civilization project in World Studies.

So, if you have been tempted to try a little Minecraft in your classroom, give it a shot, you won’t be sorry.

(I’ll post some technical information soon on how you can set up your own server in your classroom.)


Twitter_logo_blueI know Twitter has been around for almost 10 years, but in eduction, it takes a while for things to work its way into the classroom. I am finding more and more educators using Twitter to connect with students and parents. I love seeing my colleagues tweet pictures and videos of awesome things their students are doing in the classroom.

One use of Twitter that I find teachers still are not embracing is the ability to create Professional Learning Communities (PLC). I know, we don’t need one more acronym. I get some awesome ideas from those I follow on Twitter.

Another place to connect with other educators and build your PLC is in a Twitter Chat. If you haven’t participated in a Twitter Chat yet, you should try it out. Here is a great article about Twitter Chats. I suggest you try one out.

The only way to get better at using Twitter is by using it often. I try to tweet at least a few times a week. I would love to tweet every day or even multiple times a day. But sometimes I get so busy with my students, I forget.

So, look for awesome things your students are doing and tweet them out for the world to see. Suggest your students tweet what they are doing as well. Don’t forget to also connect with other teachers through Twitter Chats.

Happy Tweeting!