Sunday 18 March 2018

'Children are being challenged and they realise they can achieve more' - Young people are using Minecraft to tell the story of Ireland

The MindRising Games competition for schools and youth groups, is calling on young people to use Minecraft to tell the story of the island of Ireland, looking back to 1916 and projecting forward to 2116.

Recognising the potential of digital technologies to transform teaching, learning and assessment, the free toolkits are now being used by teachers across the country who are aiding the design of learning activities for their students with sample lesson plans, tools and suggested teaching content.

The Mindrising Games aim to transform the teaching of history in schools, using Minecraft, design thinking, digital storytelling and games based learning to enrich the learning experience for students.

Reassessment of the traditional learning system continues to gain momentum globally and Dr Deirdre Butler, Senior Lecturer in Digital Learning at St.Patrick’s College is championing ‘Mindrising’ as an initiative to be supported because it aids the development of communication, collaboration and problem solving skills.

It also enables entrants from first class primary to second year in secondary schools to construct knowledge and understanding in meaningful authentic ways leveraging a wide range of digital technologies in innovative and creative ways .

Dr. Butler’s collaboration with the team involved in building is now beginning to yield practical examples of the skills students are developing to enable them flourish in today’s complex globally connected world.

Laura O’Shaughnessy, a teacher at a DEIS school who has recently embraced the free toolkit has talked of her experiences this week.

Laura teaches at an Educate Together school in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin and says she was initially apprehensive due to her only high level awareness of minecraft and her keen interest in sport and preference to get children outside and ‘active’.

She says she quickly learned the benefits as her students worked with her alongside two colleagues.

“This has a huge interest among children that we have never tapped into in school. Many children already play at home and because they are using a computer or console feel like they are having fun and learning.

"We bend backwards in primary schools to include ICT, drama and art and to try make learning fun. In sixth class we were preparing the children for entrance exams and practising cognitive ability tests.


"When doing the sample papers on spatial awareness and non-verbal sections, my ‘minecraft boys’ were appearing stronger in this area and I realised the connection straight away.

"I identified that this was most probably as a result of their time spent looking at and working with shapes and trying to reason and make a decision”.

Laura says when she asked for feedback from her students, it was all very positive.

“For me, it’s good to hear the children are being challenged and even better that they realise they can achieve more as a group…isn’t that what the current curriculum is all about as it’s challenging children through investigation and collaborative learning”.

Laura also speaks of growing friendships among the boys who worked together who while not particularly friendly before are now spotted at lunchtimes chatting together.

She has also shared an example of how the whole experience has seen a student’s attendance and schoolwork improve as with increased confidence he now feels he has something to contribute to the class and these strengths have been noted by other teachers.

She says as a teacher it has been a huge learning curve on the technical side and also on collaborative working and improving problem solving skills using ICT.

Laura reflects that having recently attended the school’s event hosted by an outside agency on positive mental health and the importance of doing something daily that is enjoyable, for some of her boys that can be time using computer games. “I now see the value these initiatives can offer and look forward to seeing how this continues to unfold for the boys”.

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