Students in Ted Coombs’ Grade 3/4 class at Livingstone Elementary in Vancouver are finding new and innovative ways to connect with each other and their learning. It’s all thanks to staff that are interested in trying new approaches with popular technologies.
Ted has a keen interest in exploring how technology can be used to support students who have communication challenges. By incorporating the game Minecraft in his classroom curriculum, Ted has seen even reluctant communicators, without prompting, get up and interact with peers asking about the Minecraft worlds they are creating together.
He recalls how some students, who never had a reason to get out of their desks before are now actively interacting with their peers. “Minecraft is like a physical language. [Students] can communicate ideas and creations at a higher level of detail, share on a deeper level, and make meaningful connections with other students”. Resource teacher, Pat Sykes, is very proud of the growth and accomplishments of so many of their students.
Minecraft isn’t just being used for fun. Mr. Coombs has been inspired by the “Craft Reconciliation Challenge” put forth by Wab Kinew, Canadian hip hop musician and CBC broadcaster. Students are using Minecraft to answer the question, “What does reconciliation look like to us?” Ted’s students have already applied what they have learned about elements of aboriginal culture and architecture by recreating a model of a longhouse as well as other first nation’s dwellings. Recently, they have added a small Viking settlement to their ‘Reconciliation Village’. Students are developing a deeper and more detailed understanding of content than they have in the past.
The influence and focus on including aboriginal perspectives is also evident on the walls and in other project based learning activities. For example, students help grow and tend to the salmon eggs in their classroom. They record and carefully track accumulated thermal units (ATU). There are plans to use iPads and the Clicker Books app to detail and share the important journey of these fish – from eggs in their classroom to the rivers in which they hope the fish will continue to spawn in future years.
While the school does have access to a number of shared devices, a subtle difference has been made by having the half dozen iPads provided by SET-BC being dedicated to the room. “Having this level of access to the iPads is like having paper in the cupboard”, remarks Ted. “It becomes part of the classroom, and that is huge. The availability to tap into online resources for math, or what have you, makes such a big difference”.
With a great deal of diversity in his classroom, Ted is committed to utilizing a variety of technologies to help meet as many students’ needs as possible. We didn’t have to “mine” very deep to see the many examples of his effective technology implementation!