Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Can't Believe I'm Having This Conversation With You, Mrs. Siwak

This week, we've been back at Minecraft in my classroom.  I have some excellent teachers who are enthusiastic about helping me learn. I've made a craft table, collected wool, and now have a bed so that morning can come faster. I've learned the benefits of collecting cobblestone and of building a very tall tower so I can find my way back. I am the proud owner of, a spade!

Today we decided to move out of my classroom and into the computer lab for our Minecraft club as our group is expanding and there are not enough computers in my room.  In the lab, two grade 8 students were working on a language assignment and joined our conversation once they realized we were playing Minecraft.  The best way I can describe what happens when students discover that I am gaming is that an ignition fires and they come to life - the passive, uninterested, meaningless conversation that passes for dialogue between teacher and student is eliminated and real discussion occurs - the kind of discussion they might have with someone outside of school.  It is at a much more sophisticated level than anything I have experienced previously with students - and I have been teaching for 20+ years!

I learned a great deal from these students.  When one of them explained how to access the game from a different computer, I was pleased that I was able to follow in my head the sequence of steps he was explaining. There, tick it off the expectation list: student is able to give directions. Level 4 - the explanation was sophisticated, complex and sequential. It made sense.  Why should he have to bother writing directions for an invented assignment when he can do this already?

As the conversation continued, this student recognized the role reversal and remarked on it - that I was just another student learning to do something.  His estimation and respect for me went up, as did mine for him.  We were connecting on a level that does not usually happen in "school".   "I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you," he said.  I invited this student to join us on Day 5's at first and second Nutrition Breaks and to bring anyone else who might be interested.  Once again I am moving into new territory.  I am learning how to build relevant relationships with students - relevant to them and me!

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