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Liam O'Donnell

TTT #293 Exploring Minecraft with Joel Levin, Chad Sansing, Liam O'Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski 4.18.12


45:26 minutes (31.2 MB)

This episode of +Teachers Teaching Teachers was recorded in Minecraft. We were Livecasting from +Joel Levin's / @MinecraftTeachr 's server with +Liam O'Donnell / @liamodonnell , Chad Sansing / @chadsansing , +Diana Maliszewski / @MzMollyTL , and +Denise Colby / @Niecsa .

minecraft3

Watch or listen as newbies +Paul Allison / @paulallison and a colleague of his, James Joseph learn first-hand what's so engaging about Minecraft!

Consider this episode of TTT to be an "in-world" follow-up to these TTT episodes: http://edtechtalk.com/node/5001 and http://edtechtalk.com/node/4980 And also 21st Century Learning's recent interview with Joel Levin: http://edtechtalk.com/ett21_166

This was lots of fun and the perspectives shared by these Minecraft teachers about their students' lives in the game both profound in themselves, and easy to transfer to any classroom or learning situation.

Some ways to follow up:

Teachers Teaching Teachers #275-Walk Out Walk On & Occupy w/ Mary Ann Reilly, Liam O'Donnell, Ann Leaness, Fred Mindlin-12.7.11


65:12 minutes (14.92 MB) teachers275pic

Below the video here are notes and links on some of the threads we weave together on this episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers (Please subscribe: http://teachersteachingteachers.org/?feed=rss2 ). Participants in this episode’s Hangout are: Monika Hardy, Mary Ann Reilly, Scott Shelhart (and his daughter) , Liam O'Donnell, Paul Allison, Ann Leaness, and Fred Mindlin

We begin a conversation about Margaret Wheatley’s and Deborah Frieze’s book, Walk Out Walk On [ http://walkoutwalkon.net ], and we explore how the Occupy movements and Educamps might reflect some of the principles in this book.

Monika Hardy wrote recently that she is “absolutely swimming in Walk Out Walk On.” She goes on to explain:

We have been working on a quiet revolution the last four years in Colorado [ http://labconnections.blogspot.com ], both outside and in the public school system, in order to create the communities the authors, Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze share and describe so poignantly, so beautifully in their book.

Mary Ann Reilly joins us this week. Mary is also be inspired by Walk Out Walk On, and has been trying to get a group of teachers together to talk about the book. Mary is a progressive educator, artist, photographer, and writer of Deepening Literacy Learning: Art and Literature Engagements in K-8 Classrooms. [ http://infoagepub.com/index.php?id=9&p=p4b917a12e9f4a ] We are delighted when she is able to join our conversations at Teachers Teaching Teachers.

Ann Leaness joins us as well. Ann is a high school English teacher in Philadelphia, and she is a member of the edcamp foundation [ http://edcampfoundation.org ] board. Ann’s team began edcamp in Philadelphia [ http://edcampphilly.org ] in May of 2010. Walk Out Walk On is on Ann’s bookshelf too, and recently she wrote about “The Dissenters” [ http://lifewithl.com/2011/12/04/the-dissenters-part-1 ] in her blog:

I wanted to spark some interest and also to make this unit relevant for my students. To get started, I showed the students these two videos: “UC Davis Protestors Pepper Sprayed” [ http://youtu.be/6AdDLhPwpp4 ] and “UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to car amidst protesters” [ http://youtu.be/nmfIuKelOt4 ] These videos sparked some interesting discussion about non-violence and the violent reaction. Some students were shocked by the violence of the direct pepper spraying on the docile students, and the lack of reaction on the students’ part. Why did they just do nothing? Why didn’t they fight back? They also remarked about the silence on the second video. We talked about the impact of that silence and the effect of the sounds of the heels hitting the pavement. Again, someone questioned why they didn’t get up and get in the Chancellor’s face.

Reading Walk Out Walk On, one can’t help but wonder if the Occupy Wall Street movement might a place to find “Communities Daring to Live the Future Now,” as it’s put in the subtitle of Walk Out Walk On.

One of the authors of the book, Deborah Frieze also wonders in a blog post last month, “Is Occupy Our Opportunity?”

In Walk Out Walk On, we found ourselves often in the conversation about “building the world we want today.” The communities we wrote about were walking out of failing institutions and walking on to experiment with new ways of feeding and sheltering themselves, of creating health and safety, of learning together and rebuilding relationships. This has never been about creating utopia. It’s about confronting the reality of our situation with new eyes, being willing to abandon limiting beliefs about what’s possible and who’s qualified to make a contribution. Walking on is an invitation for a different kind of social order to emerge in community. So, too, is Occupy. Dewey Square [Boston] is in some ways a microcosm of our society—for better and for worse, it amplifies our gifts and diseases. It places our social impoverishment under a microscope and invites us to do something different. It challenges us to re-learn what it means to be citizens who take responsibility for one another. [ http://www.deborahfrieze.com/2011/11/understanding-occupy-as-a-space-to-... ]

Also joining us on this episode of TTT is Liam O’Donnell, an award-winning children's author and educator [ liamodonnell.com/graphic-novels-books ]. He will help us wonder about communities and to talk about his work as an educator in the Occupy movement. He writes:

I’ve been bringing the Occupy movement into my work with Grade 5/6s studying government and protest (with videos, twinke fingers in the classroom, etc) As a member of the OccupyToronto Education work group, I can speak to the curriculum we're developing for schools around issues of social justice, and poverty.

Also, in a recent blog post, “How Twinkle Fingers turned my classroom into a General Assembly” Liam writes:

Instead of shouting out agreement or disagreement, students showed their “Twinkle Fingers” of agreement or their down low twinkles of disagreement. Confusion or questions were shown by making a letter ‘C’ shape with their hand. This “General Assembly Guide” [ http://www.nycga.net/resources/general-assembly-guide ] from the New York City General Assembly shows what each symbol looks like. And to ensure all voices were heard, not just the loudest, a “stack” or speakers list was put on the chalkboard. [ liamodonnell.com/feedingchange/2011/11/how-twinkle-fingers-turned-my-classroom-into-a-general-assembly ]

Fred Mindlin also joins us to reflect on his nine years of “living at Black Bear Ranch, one of the original 60's "back to the land" hippie communes, and perhaps the only one which survives on the same terms on which it was founded: radical free.”

Enjoy and plan to join us for follow-up episodes on Walk Out Walk On in the coming weeks.

Click Read more to see a copy of the chat that was happening during the webcast.

Teachers Teaching Teachers #248 - Gaming Questions from Texas, Minecraft, and the "2011 Horizon Report K12 Edition" - 5.25.11


67:37 minutes (15.48 MB)
One of the more inspiring threads of our collective inquiry on Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) has been to explore how to bring gaming into our classrooms. (See some of our shows on gaming from the past 18 months.) With this episode,  we add to that list of shows.

This episode of TTT began with a study group on gaming that teachers Janelle Quintans Bence and Colleen Graveskull have been involved with in the North Star Writing Project (Texas). We first met Janelle in July 2007 in the National Writing Project's Tech Matters workshops.

Janelle and her colleagues in Texas are filled with questions as they plan to bring gaming into their classrooms this fall. She sent me some of them. What better way to jump back into gaming than with a bunch of questions -- the kind of questions teachers often ask when they consider adding games to their classes.

Here are the questions we've been brainstorming in our study group on gaming:
  1. How did you all begin including gaming curriculum in your classrooms?
  2. What are some of your biggest successes? Challenges?
  3. How much game playing goes on in your classroom? Do students only play in social action games? What does that conversation look like? What norms are set prior to this?
  4. I'm thinking about using the games students play on a regular basis as media for students to deconstruct and analyze in terms of influencing identity. Should I be playing all these games to get a better idea? Or will observing the students play suffice? What does a teacher do if he or she is not good at playing those video games?
  5. Designing games really requires deep content knowledge. How much experience with game design did you have prior to letting the students explore that avenue?
  6. Could you tell us about Scratch? What are the benefits of this program as compared to Game Star Mechanic?
  7. What kind of evaluation do you use around gaming? 
  8. Is it all informal discourse based assessment, or do you do something more formal? 
  9. Has your game playing been limited to computer games or have you also used standalone consuls? 
  10. How much time did you have to dedicate to help students understand how to utilize the game design tool before they began designing? Do you feel that this time has been detrimental to fulfilling your ability to satisfy state standards?
Joining us on this podcast to help us to explore these questions is Samantha Adams, the Director of Communications, at the New Media Consortium (NMC).  Samantha is one of the writers of of the recently released Horizon Report: 2011 K12 Edition, which has a section on gaming:
Game-based learning has gained considerable traction since 2003, when James Gee began to describe the impact of game play on cognitive development. Since then, research and interest in the potential of gaming on learning has exploded, as has the diversity of games themselves, with the emergence of serious games as a genre, the proliferation of gaming platforms, and the evolution of games on mobile devices. Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills. Role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and other forms of simulated experiences are recognized for having broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines.
As the lead writer at the NMC, Samantha Adams was deeply involved in the research and writing of the report. We can't wait to see what she has to say about gaming and the other items in the report: Cloud Computing, Mobiles, Open Content, Learning Analytics, Personal Learning Environments.

Given the questions coming form the North Star Writing Project's study group on gaming, we also invited Chad Sansing, from the Central Virginia Writing Project. This June, at ISTE's Unplugged, Chad plans to "take a closer look at student writing and multi-media compositions created in response to game-based learning on Digital Is, the National Writing Project's new media archive and initiative."

And that's not all! Fortunately, we were smart enough to ask Chad who else he thought we might invite. Thanks to his connections, Janelle and her colleagues (and all of our listeners) get to hear about gaming from these three educators as well:

  • Joel Levin, a computer teacher at Manhattan's Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School. Joel decided to start using the game Minecraft to teach an entire unit to his first- and second-grade students recently. (See an with Joel, "Educational building blocks: how Minecraft is used in classrooms," by Andrew Webster | Published about a month ago in ars technica.)

  • Melanie McBride, who also recommended...
    ...my partner, children's author and elementary teacher, Liam O'Donnell for this episode. He's currently using Minecraft with a spec ed class and taking an interesting approach (I'm biased of course). In addition to his experience as a teacher, he's been writing and advocating for games based learning for a very long time. As well he's written extensively about reluctant readers, boys and learning and many of his graphic novels are aimed at those readers - high action, lower vocab.http://liamodonnell.com

    As for myself: I'm currently on a leave of absence from high school teaching to write my book and research *situated* informal learning (the out of school kind) of gaming and virtual worlds. While I still locate myself peripherally to the games based learning in schools/education, I quite intentionally chose to focus on "informal" and "situated" learning contexts rather than school examples.  We're studying Minecraft for use with early childhood educators (post secondary) with small children. http://edgelab.ryerson.ca/2011/05/19/tinkering-with-minecraft-learning-from-the-edge/

  • Liam O'Donnell is on this podcast as well. Liam sent along this link:
    "Here's a post about my first week using Minecraft with my kids. It'll give you a sense of my teaching style and philosophy. http://liamodonnell.com/feedingchange/2011/05/messy-learning-with-minecraft/"
    For me, it was the perfect vehicle to build the literacy skills of seven grade 5 and 6 students who come to me for reading and writing support three days a week. For these students, motivation to read and write is a big challenge. Previously, we had done a writing unit around their Nintendo DSi’s, specifically Pokemon, where they had drawn maps of the game areas, profiled their favourite Pokemon and written strategy guides for specific Pokemon fights.  I knew they loved video games and after screening a few Minecraft videos on youtube, they were totally eager to play.

We think you'll find this to be a provocative podcast!  Janelle and her colleagues in Texas probably got some questions answered, and maybe they were inspired to ask a few new ones. Maybe you will be too!

Click Read more to see a copy of the chat that was happening during the webcast.

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