19 Oct 2016

Using Minecraft to Teach Citizenship

During 2016 I took a leap and decided to take my year 9 Social Studies classes in a very new direction. I leant heavily on experience based learning activities.  Teaching citizenship skills was the overarching goal as in the New Zealand Curriculum. I used Minecraft Mobile on the school iPads as the activity.






At the beginning of the year there was no support in the app for multiplayer that I was able to control for the entire class (there was limited iPad to iPad multiplayer).  I used PocketMine which is third party server software.  This came with heaps of features missing from the game but gave a platform that the whole class could get onto.  

Dilworth School Song Training



 So the reason  i did this was so my school could learn this song better listen to its notes and learn to play. I had a great time well doing this it was fun learning how to code and maybe leave a legacy for future school members and find something i may be interested in the future.

How to use this you move the mouse over the notes to follow the computerpressing e or easy would have a lower tempo then h or hard the flag stars the mouse prosses that make the mouse useable it and red sign to stop m e h atervate the computer playing.  From Lucien Benson

5 Jul 2016

Self Directed Learning Version 1 - My Reflection

I have a taken a step out in the wild and unknown this year with part of my Curriculum for Year 9 Social Studies. I have handed over as much control as I could to the students in regard to what they were learning and being assessed on. You can read the beginning story and outline for my Self Directed Learning (SDL) class here. What Would Students Do If They Could Learn Anything.


29 Jun 2016

Developing Citizenship Through Minecraft

I have just finished the second term of Minecraft for developing citizenship with my 3 year 9 Social Studies Classes.  Each class had about 12 eighty minute periods over the two terms engaging with their classes Minecraft world.
Spawn Tower

23 Jun 2016

SeeSaw - Student Portfolio Platform

How I Use It?
I use this in place of a traditional students work book.  It is a place to collate all their work from class as a digital portfolio. Their research, evidence of learning, thinking, reflections, assessments, plans, everything goes up on here.  I organise the different posts according to units using the labels feature.

6 May 2016

How Do You Question for Understanding?

Checking for understanding by asking clarifying or testing questions is not effective and does not produce authentic engagement with the class.  The sort of questions I am talking about are single answer where the audience are invited to put their hand up to give it a go.

I was recently sitting in an audience where there was a presentation being given.  It was a very engaging presenter with great content delivered through slideshows and videos.  The presenter was very good at asking clarifying questions to emphasis his point and rewarding the answers for the ones that put their hands up and got it correct with lavish praise.

11 Apr 2016

World Without Order - Minecraft

I have been using Mine Craft as a Community Simulator during Term One in my three year 9 Social Studies Classes.  We have spent about 5-6 hours in each class’s world, interacting with each other, building, collecting resources, and killing each other.  Now before your imagination runs away killing may not be what it seems so it needs some explaining here.  You can deal damage to another player by attacking them and when their health is gone they ‘die’.  They drop any resources they had collected (free to be picked up by the attacker) and the are sent back to the starting/spawn point of the world.  Essentially it is a way to steal from another player.

10 Apr 2016

What The Students Have Learned Term One

This year, part of my plan to develop student ownership over their learning is to teach them to write deep and expansive reflections about their learning.  I am taking this a step further by taking their end of Term One Reflection and turning it into their learning comment for their School Report.

1 Apr 2016

Self Directed Learning Pilot - Social Studies

I have just finished the first two period Self Directed Learning (SDL) session with my year 9 Social Studies classes. My goal is to teach citizenship and the skills that go along with this.  I aim to increase motivation and engagement in the classroom and with the learning content.

Teaching Self Reflection

I have been developing the teaching of reflection for several years now and I want to share what I have learnt.

30 Mar 2016

Bucket Meetings - A Conflict Resolution Solution

Bucket Meetings are a good way to clear the air with a group.  I have been doing them with my Cabin of 10 year 9 boys at the boarding school I work at.  These boys get thrown in to this Cabin together and need to work out how to get along for the year, keeping the place clean and getting around the busy learning schedule we set them.  Inevitable tensions rise in the Cabin and these need to be resolved.  Bucket meetings are a chance to take ownership of any part they had in issues and talk it out.

10 Mar 2016

Minecraft Community Session 3

This is the third one hour session of the community simulator.  Things are starting to settle down in a rythm a bit for each class.  They understanding the world and the basics of how it works.  The culture and societies that are evolving are different from dog eat dog and survival of the fittest societies to ones that are going through the challenging process of setting up rules and order.

Alpha Group

These guys are starting to get organised the majority of this group want to have progress and create.  There are still some that think it is fun to run around trolling people by killing them and taking their stuff however this number is diminishing as the law of the masses takes over.
Sky houses without doors for protection

4 Mar 2016

Minecraft Community Simulator Session Two

So each class started in their own world.  It was a basic world with some trees, some ocean, some snow, and some desert.

19 Feb 2016

Minecraft Community First Session

Just had the first session of my Minecraft for Social Studies Project today.  I have three classes, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie.  Each had an 80 minute period to do this.  


The main idea is to practice developing their citizenship skills in a virtual world.  I am using pocketmine to host the server and get the entire class on one world.  It is pretty basic in terms of features but enough for them to all stomp around in a world.  The idea is for them to make their own community.  One big thing I have chosen to do is turn PVP on, so they can kill each other in the game and make them respawn at the start again.  I am going to put no rules on how the world and community is to work, if they want order then it will be up to them

Engagment was at an all time high, as you can imagine with a group of yr 9 boys playing games on ipads.

Half way through the session today I stopped the server for a community meeting, something I intend to do regularly.  This is a chance to resolve conflict, make plans, tell stories about what they have been doing.

Alpha and Charlie both started off how I expected by running around killing each other for a little while then people started trying to make progress with mining and building and achieving something more.  There were still some stuck in the killing others phase and this was the big talk during the community meeting of trying to sort out laws around being peaceful.  As soon as they jumped back in the world most of them forgot the rules but they were moving in a positive direction.

Bravo was different.  The majority of this class got into the killing and competition phase and got almost the rest of the class on board.  There were a minority that were getting angry with being killed all the time.  Their focus during the meeting was how do we organise more fighting.  So not heading in such a positive direction for their community.  So we will see how all this unfolds.

I am planning on doing 1 of these sessions every two weeks so will get a few in for during the term.

15 Feb 2016

What Would Students Do If They Could Learn Anything? My Plan for 2016

ULearn15 sparked some exciting thinking for me.  The idea of how students would use autonomous space in the learning programme got me thinking.  What would they be able to achieve if I handed over as much control of the planning and process of teaching and learning as possible.

I quickly realised that walking in on day one and saying, "you can do whatever you want, just make sure you learn" would be a bit overwhelming, however this is what I wanted to do.

I have created a programme for my Year 9 boys that balances the minimum amount of structure to learn how to operate effectively, independently and collaboratively when they are given the space and the authority to do so.

Why Am I Doing This?
From what I have been reading and the conversations I have had with other educators I cannot happily be a traditional teacher that stands at the front the whole time and imparts their knowledge to the students.  I need to do something different.  I am beginning to realise that no one knows the best way forward.  There are a lot of people who are trying to find a way forward and doing some pretty cool things.  I feel it is my responsibility to reimagine or transform, insert your own buzzword here, my teaching pedagogies and practices.  It is also exciting and keeps my role challenging and engaging for me.

I have looked at student engagement and what I can influence which drives that and at what students are likely to need from a Social Studies course at Year 9.  (I only teach year 9 as that is all we have at our campus, we are a bit different).

The core principles I have latched onto are student choice, purpose in their work, space to create, practice or experience, ownership over their learning, showing them how rather than what.

One assumption I have subscribed to is that in 'life' students will use knowledge that they are interested in so let them choose what topics and contexts to pursue whenever possible.  The teacher can guide them on the transferable skills that will increase their worth as a person in any community.  The best thing is that they already know what these skills are.  If asked they will come up with a great list, it wont be well thought out or comprehensive but I bet you it won't be far off a well thought out comprehensive list that group of teachers would create.

The goal has always stayed the same but from there I have revamped my curriculum, with my colleagues, several times in the last 5 years.  So here is what Year 9 Social Studies is going to look like for 2016.

Social Studies Goal 
(drawn from key words in the NZC)
To develop the skills and knowledge to participate as active, engaged, informed, and responsible members of your communities.

Time table
We have a two week cycle and in the that time there are 4 periods of social studies, each period is 80 minutes long. All our periods are 80 minutes long.

3 Strands

Teacher Led Workshops
These are the structured parts of the curriculum.  There will be more periods of this during the beginning of the year with topics such as:

  • What is learning?
  • How do we measure learning?
  • What is a Growth Mindset?
  • How do we reflect effectively?
  • What is citizenship?
  • Design your Own Schooling?
  • What is Hack schooling and how can we use it?



Self Direct Learning
This is an opportunity of freedom in their learning.  To find what they are passionate about and interested in and to pursue that down whatever path they choose.
It will be restricted by the resources and time allowances of the classroom.  I will be starting with brainstorming session of what they could be doing as with this much freedom some can get overwhelmed and the seed is the most important part.  Once they have latched onto something they want to learn more about then it is up to them.

The must haves will be evidence of learning, and a rubric to measure learning.  That will be all.

Community Simulator (Mine Craft)
This is a chance to practice being a citizen in an environment where experimentation and failure have low cost and high reward.  The students will all be put into the same 'world' and have no rules put on them.  They will have the ability to gather resources, build, create, and collaborate just like in the real world.  They will also have the ability to lie, cheat, steal, destroy just like in the real world.  It will be up to them to make their choices in this world and deal with the consequences and ultimatly learn from these choices in the game rather than potentially more serious consequences from making similar choices in the real world.

There will be several things I will be doing to facilitate this, there will be the technical side of getting everyone playing in the world.  I will organise free play time.  I will organise a meeting time, this part is significant.  Meetings will be a chance to bring up grievances or ideas within the class.  If something big has gone down we can sort it out.  As much as possible I will facilitate this and it will be driven by the students.  If there is a learning opportunity about the core citizenship skills then I might lead a discussion eg, self defense, identity theft, breaking and building trust, reputation.


Citizenship skills
We practice these all the time, it is important to raise the practice of citizenship to the concious level to progress and develop in a deliberate direction.  Through this curriculum I intend for the students to develop their citizenship skills particularly

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Creative Thinking
  • Analysing Perspectives
  • Critical Thinking