Sucked into Minecraft: ECI834 Summary of Learning

It is hard to believe that this is the end of the semester and the last course of the five course I have taken from Dr. Couros. This course has broaden my understanding of the importance of connection, UX design, introduced myself to a variety of educational technology tools, and has allowed me to create and collaborate with Raquel Oberkirsch on the Treaty Education and Minecraft project. The course has allowed me to explore the possibilities of blended learning, and connecting two topics that I am passionate about, Treaty Education and Technology.

Be sure to check out mine and Raquel’s and my summary of learning video where we highlight our key learnings in a Minecraft Build, and hear from some of our guests in the class. Everything in the video was created by scratch, including the Minecraft World, the Canva Images, the effects done in Adobe After Effects, all compiled together and produced in Camtasia. We hope you enjoy our Sucked Into Minecraft Summary of Learning.

Treaty Ed and Minecraft Course Walkthrough & Reflections on Creation Process

*This post has been cross-posted with Raquel Oberkirsch.

This post will provide an overview of the Treaty Education and Minecraft Course we created for Grade 6-8 students in Saskatchewan. First off, check out our course walkthrough video: 

We co-wrote several blog posts that document various aspects of the creation process. You can check them out here: 

We also wanted to share some reflections on course design, content creation, assessment, and receiving feedback and collaborating with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and educators as these are all important parts of the creation process for this course. 

Course Design

Our course design was inspired by UX Design, which Dr. John Spencer shared with us. (Be sure to check out this post that Curtis wrote on UX Design). Some of the major adaptations that we made to our course were to ensure that students and teachers who are using this course can easily navigate it.  Some of these decisions around design included:  

  • Hosting our content on WordPress instead of Microsoft Teams to create a more user-friendly experience and enable us to share the course more broadly.  
  • Incorporating student feedback on how we can improve the course design. 
  • Including onboarding resources such as how to use Microsoft Teams, Class Notebook, and Minecraft. This provided opportunities for students to become more independent with the course. (link to videos)  

Piloting the course with a few different classrooms has allowed us to self-reflect on lessons and tweak the course when needed. 

Content Creation

Early in the creation of our course prototype, Curtis had the idea to create the build challenges in Canva. He based this idea on the Minecraft Sustainability Development Goals. We are proud of how they turned out and think teachers will appreciate having this package of build challenges to support the course. 

We had originally planned to include tutorial videos for Minecraft skills but not instructional videos for the Treaty Ed/Social Studies lesson content, since we were going to teach those lessons synchronously anyway. We asked for feedback on that decision during class and reflected on it in this post. Our biggest concern was that if we created all the instructional videos, teachers might use them without digging into this content themselves. We know lessons are often much more impactful for students when they come from their teacher. 

We were originally using some videos from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) for our synchronous lessons, including: 

We would watch the video and ask students to focus on a particular question (Example: What were the reasons the British Crown wanted to make Treaties?) while they watched. This worked okay, but we wondered if having a shorter video focused on the specific topic would streamline things for students. We decided to try it out and created this video using Canva and Camtasia: 

We are planning to create a few more instructional videos to support the lessons and build challenges. We still want to encourage teachers to do their own teaching that supports this content, so we are keeping the videos short and hoping that they provide jumping-off-points where teachers could go into the topics in more depth. 

Assessment

Our course assessment involved student input as much as possible. This included co-constructing expectations in Padlet as well as co-constructing criteria to assess the build challenges.  Students provided ideas on what they wanted to be assessed on, and we turned it into a single-point rubric.   

Students are formatively assessed after every build challenge and provided the opportunity to review the feedback and improve their builds at specific times throughout the course.  At the end of the course, students will be given time to review all the feedback from their build challenges and improve their world. After their group’s final submission, students will receive their summative assessment.  

Students will show their individual knowledge on course content through Flipgrid by walking through their Minecraft worlds and explaining their builds using the Flipgrid Screen Recorder. This will ensure that we have individual student voices, perspectives, and understanding throughout the course.  

Throughout the course, students will complete regular self and group assessments to reflect on their individual contributions and assess group dynamics. After the first self/group assessment, we used student responses to help groups problem-solve any issues they were having. We were clear that students were rating their group as a whole, not grading each other individually. This helped keep the reflections solution-focused. We had students submit their self and peer assessment through Microsoft Forms. You can make a copy of the form we created using this link! 

Receiving Feedback & Collaborating with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Educators 

We have attended several webinars on the Manito Ahbee Aki world and educator resources. In these sessions, the Indigenous Education team from Louis Riel School Division emphasized the importance of working with Elders and Knowledge Keepers during the creation of this world. Raquel was also reminded of the importance of sitting down with Elders to listen and learn before and throughout projects when she watched this video from Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre with Knowledge Keeper Robert (JR) McArthur.  

These are some quotes from Melody Wood and JR McArthur from the video (taken from 13:15-16:25) that got us reflecting on our creation process and the need for feedback and collaboration:

Melody: One of the things I truly appreciate about you is that you didn’t just start creating [Nakota lullabies]. You actually sat down with Elders to talk about what they knew, you did a bunch of research and background into lullabies, before you even started creating about it. I just want people to hear about why that is important to you – to do that before you start creating lullabies. 

JR: Doing that – it was just for me. It’s who I am. I need to sit and I need to hear that from experience. Being able to sit in front of somebody older than you and just sit there and be the student. No matter how old we get, we’re always the student. To be able to sit there and put in that time… It just lets you know that you are doing something good. And when the feedback is more than you expected, it’s great. It makes it even worth more than you thought… to have those older individuals tell you, you’re gonna do something good.  

JR:  …That’s kind of why you do it, you reaffirm yourself and you let people know. And at the same time, you get that feedback. There’s always that one thing. When you put in enough time you’ll find there’s always that one little thing that you’re gonna find that you’ve never heard before, and someone tells you… That feedback that you get by putting in the time is… you just can’t say enough about it. That’s just part of learning.  

We want this course to be authentic, respectful, and done in a good way. We have feedback/collaboration meetings set up with several Indigenous people that we have working relationships with. We are looking forward to sitting down with them, sharing what we have developed so far, listening to their thoughts and feedback, and potentially collaborating with them to improve the course. 

Curtis also did a podcast interview with two members of the Indigenous Education team from Louis Riel School Division who were involved with creating the Manito Ahbee Aki world. We are looking forward to continued conversations with their team as well! 

Building Meaningful Interactions In-Person, Online, and in Minecraft

*This post has been cross-posted with Raquel Oberkirsch.

We are currently exploring the Treaty relationship using Minecraft Education Edition in three different classrooms. The classes are on either Lesson 4 or 5 in our learning plan, where they are working in groups to build something that represents two reasons First Nations peoples wanted to make Treaties.

Screenshot from our learning plan

Student-to-Student Interactions

Students are interacting in multiple ways throughout this course. As students are attending class in person, they typically sit near their group members (masked and distanced) while they work on their build challenges so they can talk and problem solve as they build in Minecraft. If the teacher prefers students stay in their regular desks, they rely more heavily on the Collaboration Space in Teams to plan and collaborate.  

The Collaboration Space is set up so each small group has a section in the Notebook where group members can type at the same time. We populate this space with a planning checklist for students to go through so they can brainstorm ideas, decide who is responsible for what, and upload their blueprint sketches of what they are planning to build. We also include sentence stems to help students get started and encourage meaningful discussion.  

At times, it can be challenging to get students to take the time to plan because they are so excited to start building in Minecraft. We are hoping that using this planning checklist will help students build with purpose and ensure that they have all agreed on the plan before they jump into building. Check out our video for a quick walkthrough of the Collaboration Space and Content Library: 

We chose to use the Collaboration Space because it gives us access to each group’s brainstorm and planning notes, so we can flip through the different groups and see what they are thinking. This allows us to catch student misconceptions early on and redirect the group as needed, or even plan for a whole class lesson if several groups need guidance or reteaching on a concept. The Collaboration Space also allows each group member to contribute using text or audio recording.  

Students also interact in their group’s Minecraft world while they are building. They can use the chat function in Minecraft, but most students do not need to as they are usually sitting near each other while they work, so they can talk instead. Finally, we are planning to have students explain their builds using Flipgrid and then have students from other groups watch their videos and give feedback using video or text responses. We are thinking we will co-construct a simple feedback checklist that students can use as a guideline for giving feedback on each other’s videos.

Student-to-Instructor Interactions

Our project is adaptable to many forms of blended teaching. Because we are currently teaching the course synchronously, there are many types of student-to-instructor interactions. We have used Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Forms, Class Notebook, Padlet, and conversations to connect and collaborate with students. 

Microsoft Teams is the main platform that we have used for student-to-instructor interactions. The platform allows us to connect with the class virtually for synchronous lessons. In addition, students can connect with us 1-on-1 or in their small groups (private team channels) that we have created for the duration of the course. For check-ins, we start a Teams meeting and invite all the group members. Here is how a typical group check-in goes: 

  • How are things going? Are you still using the ideas on your planning checklist? Have you decided to change anything? 
  • Can you share your screen and walk me through what you have so far?  Tell me about your builds!  
  • Give positive feedback on what they are doing well.  
  • How is this build connected to the build challenge? How does it show a reason that First Nations people wanted to make Treaties? 
  • Give constructive feedback and suggestions as needed. 
  • Do you need anything else from me? 

These conversations with small groups allow us to give specific feedback in the moment and guide our instruction for the next lesson. As mentioned in the video above, the Content Library in Class Notebook allows us to upload content that is course specific and “read only” for the students. We use the Collaboration Space to give written or audio feedback directly on each group’s work and add documents or links.  

We used Microsoft Forms to determine students’ comfort levels in Minecraft. This information was then used to help create the student’s groups. Microsoft Forms will be used in the future to compile information about self-assessment and whole group-assessment.  

Screenshot from Microsoft Form

We used Padlet to collaborate with students on expectations in Minecraft and compile their background knowledge on Treaties. This tool provides a fantastic way to group brainstorm and collaborate as a class, educators included.  

Screenshot from Padlet – Co-Creating Criteria for Using Minecraft for Learning

We used a whole class discussion to co-construct criteria for how we would assess the build challenges. Students shared their ideas and then we grouped them by common themes to develop a rubric we can use to give feedback on each build challenge. We will use this as formative assessment throughout the course, so students have a chance to go through feedback with their group and use it to improve their builds and explanations. At the end of the course, we will use each group’s final Minecraft world with all their completed build challenges as their summative assessment.

Screenshot from Build Challenge #1 Rubric

Encouraging Meaningful Interactions

Here is a recap of some strategies we are using to encourage meaningful student-to-student interactions: 

  • Providing a planning checklist with questions and sentence stems to guide their conversations. 
  • Using the Collaboration Space so students can contribute their ideas using text or audio. 
  • Giving time for students to go through comments on the rubric as a group and make a to-do list based on the feedback. 
  • Using Flipgrid for students to explain their builds and give feedback on each other’s explanations using a feedback checklist. 

And here is a recap of some strategies we are using to encourage meaningful student-to-instructor interactions: 

  • Co-constructing criteria for using Minecraft for learning. 
  • Collecting background knowledge on Treaties in Saskatchewan using Padlet. 
  • Co-constructing assessment criteria for build challenges. 
  • Frequent check-ins with groups for students to explain their builds and receive feedback. 
  • Consistent formative assessment through conversations and comments on the rubric. 

Moving Forward

John Spencer highlights leveraging UX Design by having students take a quick survey based on course organization. We would like to incorporate this to make our course more efficient and user-friendly. Further, we will observe students as they interact with the course, take note of the challenges and issues, and streamline those issues in the future. To increase meaningful interactions, we may adopt Spencer’s “better way to brainstorm” approach as it encourages student voice and reduces groupthink.

For peer assessment, we originally planned to have each student rate their group members on their teamwork and contributions to the Minecraft world; however, we started to think differently after reading this post, specifically this quote: 

“Note that having students grade one another can backfire. This can actually create risk-aversion, where team members are afraid to speak up. It can also introduce an unhealthy power dynamic. Furthermore, students are not trained on assessment theory and practice. You, as the instructor, should be the sole person grading group members.”  

John Spencer – Improving Student Collaboration in remote and Hybrid Learning

After reflecting on this, we decided to have students grade their group as a whole and give them the opportunity to write comments to explain using a Microsoft form. We hope this will encourage a positive group dynamic but still allow the students to reflect on their group’s learning.

What are you doing to encourage meaningful student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions in your course prototype? What are your thoughts on having students grade one another when working in groups?

A Better User Experience with UX Design

This week I decided to learn a bit more about UX Design. UX design stands for User Design Theory. UX Design revolves around users’ experience interacting with the product and being intuitively designed. After having the opportunity to hear from Dr. John Spencer, I looked up John’s blog post 7 ways UX Design Theory Transformed My Approach to Course Design and how he structures his courses. After going through his blog post, I watched his “How to Create Better Classroom Systems with UX Design [Deep Dive]”

“The system should fit the student rather than making the student fit into the system.”

Within the video and blog post, Dr. John Spencer highlights ways to transform our classroom systems. I will briefly reflect on these points made by John Spencer, connecting his ideas to Blended Learning Course on Treaty Education and Minecraft that Raquel and I are developing.

1. Embrace Onboarding

Onboarding… Much like the workforce would onboard new employees when they get a new job to “learn the ropes” and learn skills, knowledge, and behaviours to become successful, we can provide similar experiences for our students. John Spencer explained how we often see the virtual tour when we sign up for a new website. Or using an “Unboxing Video” to explain an assignment from the perspective of a student.

Reflecting on our blended learning course, we did onboard some of the materials for students to access. This was specifically how to use Minecraft EE. However, we did not onboard materials specific to the learning environment (besides a Microsoft Teams how-to PDF document). It is often difficult to get students to access materials inside an LMS and become independent enough to search for documents or how-to guides on their own (Further highlighting the importance of UX Design). In the future, I think that it would be important to have a video of how to navigate the course, how to access assignments, and hand in assignments as a student.

2. Begin with Students in Mind

John Spencer highlights the intuitive nature of some of the apps and websites that he uses, specifically Google Drive, Gmail, and Taskstream. Google Drive is straightforward to navigate; nothing is more than a couple clicks away. Whereas, Taskstream was much difficult to navigate (He explains this well in the video).

This was one of the main reasons for us switching from Microsoft Teams to hosting our material on a WordPress site. Microsoft Teams using Class Notebook can be a mighty duo, but it takes time to learn how to navigate. It is not as user-friendly as it could be. We decided that we wanted our course to be more accessible; WordPress was a way to do that. We want to easily provide other educators and students with the ease of accessibility within the course.

3. Be Intentional with Copy Text

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what copy text or copywriting was. According to Wikipedia, copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for advertising or other forms of marketing. John Spencer explains that it is important that we don’t overcommunicate. We need to have clarity and brevity. As teachers, we need to consider the cognitive load.

Within our course, I believe we need to be aware of the course’s two components, the teacher materials and the student materials. With our student materials, we need to be concise in our directions and allow students to reach out for assistance if needed. With our teaching materials, we need to be considerate not to overwhelm teachers to “give up” on the resource we are creating. By creating a course profile, a course outline, and a walkthrough video of the course would provide teachers with enough knowledge to take our course and use it as their own.

4. Be Linear But Be Connective

John Spencer highlighted the importance of having a linear, logical flow to the course. However, we need to also be connective. Within our course, again, this will be easier to do through WordPress. The menu at the top will feature the course profile, course outline, and the modules. Modules will then drop down into teacher lesson and student lesson. The course will be able to hyperlink back to different parts of the course if needed.

5. Be Consistent

There is a need to ensure that the language used is consistent throughout the course. I believe this will be a challenge as there are two of us completing the course; we will need to be aware of the language we are using. I know we often called our course profile the course prototype. Or we often say “Teams” instead of “Microsoft Teams.” These are slight examples of how we can cause confusion within our course. We also will need to improve our templates; although the template is the same, Raquel and I complete them differently. One thing that we will try to ensure to do is to keep the student assignments structured consistently.

6. Be Simple

We learned our course was difficult to access from our feedback and our walkthrough to Dr. Alec Couros when we sent in the course’s shell. The course had way too many steps to access it. Sign in, open up your class team, go to the general channel, click on Class Notebook, click on a button hidden in plain sight, click on your name, click on assignments, click on the page that we are working on. These were essentially the steps to get to the assignment within our Class Team (Teachers can streamline this for students to minimize the number of steps). However, it was not simple. Hopefully, the switch to WordPress simplifies our course. I will keep in mind how to be as simple as possible in the creation of the build challenges in Canva. The incorporation of icons and short instructions would provide students opportunities to be able to receive instructions quickly.

7. Solicit Frequent Feedback

As educators, we need to have a relationship with our students to provide feedback on what we can do to improve the course. Online/Blended instruction would be even more important to ask for that feedback. We have received this from our peers on the ideas and how our first module(s) and course shell can improve. However, I believe that students provide authentic feedback as they have completed the course. As we continue with our unit’s rollout, student feedback for us as course designers will be important, and we will include it periodically throughout the unit.

Conclusion

The look at UX Design provides opportunities for us as educators to improve our online/blended instruction courses. But provide great reflection pieces that allow us to reflect on how we teach our lessons and run our classroom systems. As John Spencer said, “I want to get to a place where students aren’t even thinking about the course architecture but are so empowered by the learning that they hardly notice that the systems exist.” I think that sounds like a great goal… But I believe I have a long way to go.

Building Off Your Thoughts: Treaty Education and Minecraft

*This post has been cross posted with Raquel Oberkirsch.

During EC&I 834 last week, Dr. Couros put us into breakout rooms so each person could share the first module of their course prototype and we could give feedback on each other’s courses. We received both positive and constructive feedback, which is already helping us rethink decisions and adjust our planning. Thank you to everyone who shared their questions, comments, and suggestions with us! 

Positive Feedback and Affirmations  

Some of the positive feedback we received included: 

  • Having students represent their learning in Minecraft Education Edition seems highly engaging and fun. 
  • Including detailed notes in the lesson plans is helpful for teachers who don’t have an in-depth knowledge of the Treaty outcomes themselves. 
  • Teaching this course as we construct it is a great way to test out the lessons and build challenges so we can improve the course as we go. 
  • Creating the build challenges in Canva is visually appealing and provides another resource for teachers to take and use. 

Constructive Feedback 

Re-Evaluating our LMS Choice  

As other people were commenting in the class Discord, there seemed to be a common theme of difficulty sharing with our school division’s preferred LMS. Many groups using Microsoft Teams were having difficulty sharing their course with the class, including us.  Although it is possible to add a guest to a Microsoft Team, we determined that the steps required to access our course are difficult to navigate if the user has limited Microsoft Teams knowledge. We were recommended to use WordPress to provide easier access to the people we are sharing our course with. WordPress will allow us to share our course openly at the National Congress on Rural Education when we present at the end of March.  We were also recommended to purchase the domain for our website but have decided to hold off until we establish the site further. 

These are some of the main reasons for the inclusion of WordPress:  

  • Easier navigation, 
  • Visually appealing and clean, 
  • Easier to openly share the resource, 
  • Provides ability for others to download and use the resource with their own classes 

However, because we are currently using the course in three classrooms that are comfortable using Microsoft Teams, we have decided to continue to use Microsoft Teams/Class Notebook with them.

Re-Structuring our Modules  

We are currently teaching these lessons to three different classes: a Grade 6/7 and Grade 7/8 classroom in Carievale and a Grade 7/8 classroom in Bienfait. The classes have different levels of experience with Minecraft Education Edition and different levels of prior knowledge about the Treaties, so we will definitely need to differentiate for each class. 

After teaching Lesson 3: Intro to the Treaty Relationship to one of the classes, we realized we might need to slow down and break topics down more. We decided to restructure our modules to ensure each lesson and corresponding build challenge focused on one topic at a time. For example, instead of teaching a lesson on Reasons for Making Treaties for the First Nations and the British Crown, we broke it down into two parts:   

  • Reasons for Making Treaties – First Nations Peoples 
  • Reasons for Making Treaties – British Crown 

Here is what we came up with for our re-structured overview:  Learning Plan PDF 

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Content  

Currently, this is a blended course with synchronous instruction along with recorded instructional videos for students to access if needed. So far, we have created two Minecraft tutorial videos for students, which can be found here

One question we asked for feedback on was: Do you think we should include some instructional videos on the Treaty Ed/Social Studies lesson content?  Or is it okay not to since we are planning to teach those lessons synchronously?  

Dr. Couros said we could include some Treaty Ed/Social Studies lesson videos as a scaffold for teachers if we wanted to, but he cautioned that we wouldn’t want teachers to just take an entire course of video lessons and use that content with their students. He reflected that this content is something teachers need to dig into and teach themselves, as it is much more impactful for students if these lessons come from their own teacher.  

We agree with this feedback and will continue with our plan to teach the lessons synchronously! We might record one lesson or part of a lesson just to share an example, but most of the recorded videos will be tutorials that walk students through different Minecraft skills. 

Extension Opportunities  

Some of the feedback we received is how we can provide extension activities for our students. Dr. Couros gave us a suggestion of looking at the Mojang Commercial Usage Guidelines. These guidelines would provide excellent opportunities to discuss Digital Citizenship, the importance of looking at data privacy, and terms and conditions.  

Another suggestion was the opportunity to explore literacy connections through Minecraft and Treaty Education. Minecraft has become increasingly popular and has extended passed just being a game. There are numerous books that have been written with Minecraft characters and Minecraft worlds as settings.  Students could explore Treaty Education and Minecraft in fan fiction writing.  

Students could also learn how to code using the code builder within Minecraft.  These coding skills could be applied to help students build their creations more efficiently and learn 21st century skills.  

Authentic Representation 

Another suggestion from the class was that we need to be aware of authentic representation.  Within Minecraft it will be difficult to represent an authentic view of Treaties due to the characters that can be used in the game.  The image below highlights some of the choices of characters to be used as NPCs (non-player characters).  

In our search to find characters that could be better to reflect diversity in Minecraft, we stumbled upon this post in the Minecraft Education Community. 

I want to give feedback about the character options (skins?). Most of my students are Black and/or Latino and there is a very limited selection of characters who look like them. There are a few non-white characters in most of the skin packs but a few, including “Town Folk” and “City Folk”, are all white. Characters like the judge, lawyer, pilot, and scientist are only available in the lightest skin tone. I’m wondering what message this sends to my students and other Minecraft players. 

Emma Wingreen

Similarly, we want our students to be able to build representations that avoid stereotypes and reflect accurate, respectful portrayals of Indigenous peoples and Treaty negotiations. 

We are looking into adding more Indigenous representation in our Minecraft worlds, including Indigenous languages and animals, plants, and trees relevant to our area in Saskatchewan.  We know this is possible due to the recent world, Manito Ahbee Aki, which was released by Louis Riel School Division and Microsoft Canada in the middle of February. 

They created an amazing immersive learning experience that celebrates Anishinaabe culture with extremely accurate representations of Manito Ahbee, “a site located in Manitoba’s western Whiteshell area, before European contact in North America”.  

Thank you to everyone who provided this helpful feedback. If you have any comments, questions, or additional suggestions, please let us know in the comments! 

Let me “Explain Everything”: A Screencasting Interactive Whiteboard Tool

Explain Everything an Overview

Explain Everything is a digital whiteboard platform where teachers can present information to students in engaging ways.  Explain Everything would be a staple app in a flipped classroom setting. There are two different versions of Explain Everything.  One is Explain EDU, and the other is Explain Everything Whiteboard. For the sake of this post, we will be looking into Explain EDU because it is currently the version that I have access to.  However, some key differences are explained in this video.

Key Differences Between Explain Everything and Explain EDU

Explain EDU is a one time cost of $13.99 a device, whereas the standard Explain Everything App has three plans.  $0 with limited features and only able to produce 3 projects. $24.99 a year for individual teachers and small groups, and $8.99 per user per year for the EDU Group package has additional features but requires a minimum purchase of 10 seats.

When exploring a new app, I often refer to Commonsense Media for ideas of how to use the tool and how other teachers are using it.  Be sure to check out their review of Explain Everything as well.

Strengths of Explain EDU: 

  • Ability to embed photos, websites, videos, equations, audio easily into the project.
  • Ability to import content such as documents, images, videos, PowerPoints
  • An essential tool for presenting content.
  • Record your screen and export it as an MP4 file, and easily added to an LMS.
  • Interact with the recording, and do minor edits right within Explain EDU, such as fading in and out the audio.
  • Enhance Explain EDU and app smash with another app such as Edpuzzle to create even better interactive content for students.
  • User friendly – I was able to navigate the basics of the program very easily.
  • Great “Quick Tips” section.
  • A “From Our Blog” section that highlights content about Explain EDU: check out the post on Explain Everything and Edpuzzle! (Be sure to check out these great analyses of EdPuzzle by Trevor and Catherine)
  • There is a free Explain Everything Academy – Screencasting and Whiteboarding course through Udemy.
  • Extensive helpdesk.
  • Pair the app with a stylus or an apple pencil and get students to showcase their learning.
  • Ability to create multiple slides.
  • Create GIFs

Potential Downfalls of Explain EDU:

  • Costly – Explain Everything is a costly app.
  • Other tools such as Microsoft Whiteboard, Seesaw, and/or Flipgrid could replace Explain EDU and are free alternatives.
  • Some time needs to be invested in learning how to properly use the app.
  • Many of the examples of projects look professionally done. (Teachers don’t have time for the graphic design that goes into creating a screencast!)
  • A free version is limited to 3 projects.
  • Very few template options

Potential for Use in Education

Explain EDU can be compared to an easy to use PowerPoint alternative easily accessible on the iPad. I would strongly encourage that teachers check out Explain EDU for its ease of use.  This tool would be extremely beneficial in a Flipped Classroom or other asynchronous learning environments.  Teachers would be able to produce content and upload the content to their LMS.  In a classroom with multiple iPads with Explain EDU, students could explore the tool’s use as a presentation tool.  A way to make tutorial videos for students, or even just as a formative assessment tool to highlight student voice in the classroom.  The two examples that I show below are from the Explain Everything blog and deserve to be highlighted again.  This third-grade teacher shows a great example of an introduction of forces of flight in Explain Everything.

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Teachers can use Explain EDU to provide feedback on student work.  Record short, constructive feedback videos and sending them to students.

I have seen teachers utilize Explain EDU in a high school math class.  The program’s ease to record exactly what is written and said by the teacher and share that accordingly.  This provides an opportunity that is not available with a regular whiteboard. Within the Explain Everything (Not Explain EDU) their are further opportunities to collaborate and work on the content together on separate devices in live time.  Similar to how Google Docs would operate.

Final Thoughts

Explain EDU provides educators with a tool that allows them to create explainer videos, constructive feedback, visual presentations, and formative assessment opportunities.  This tool would be a great all-in-one tool for the creation of these types of videos.  However, if I was in the classroom. I would use Flipgrid, Microsoft Whiteboard, or Seesaw tools to explore many of the options available in Explain EDU for free.

Course Prototype: Treaty Education and Minecraft Education Edition

Here we go! Over the past few months, I have been trying to determine how to incorporate Treaties and Minecraft together. Needless to say, I am very excited to develop this course! For this course, I am teaming up with Raquel Oberkirsch. Raquel and I have had numerous opportunities to work together in previous classes and also have the opportunity to collaborate and co-teach often as well.

Image from: education.minecraft.net

A Brief Overview

This course draws upon the passions of both of us. Raquel has a strong understanding and focus and understanding around Treaty Education. For myself, I can easily draw upon numerous forms of educational technology in our course, specifically Minecraft Education Edition. We are designing a Treaty Education experience that will allow the students to showcase their learning in Minecraft while providing assessment choices and a safe environment to learn 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Furthermore, students will be able to continue to develop their understanding and knowledge of the spirit and intent of the Treaties and learn how to become better Treaty partners.

This course can cover a wide range of outcomes in grades 7 and 8 the Treaty Education outcomes, social, math and ELA.

Be sure to check out our full plan below!

Course Overview: Treaty Education and Minecraft Education Edition 

Blended Learning and Online Learning with Special Guests: Dean Vendramin, Matteo Di Muro, and Daniel Dion

Personal Experience with Online and Blended Learning

Looking and reflecting on my role back in March 2020 and the switch from face-to-face instruction to emergency remote teaching, was chaotic and stressful.  As an Instructional Technology consultant whose position is to support teachers with implementing technology in the classroom, I knew from the announcement of school closures that our team was going to be busy.  I remember waking up being excited to support many teachers and encourage teachers to find their comfort zone in the stressful situation. My job became supporting teachers in the transition to online teaching.  This mainly included the startup and assistance of setting up of Microsoft Teams and the training of teaching utilizing Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 for emergency remote teaching. I know the technology well and have the skills and abilities to show teachers how it works. However, as someone who has not physically had my own classroom for the past 3 years and has limited experience teaching online or blended learning it is difficult.

When I was teaching I would run small group instruction for both my math and my English Language Arts classes.  These classes would often involve technology that was weaved purposefully into my lessons. We utilized in small groups Mathletics targeting specific math skills, and those skills would be tracked to determine growth. However, we never had the opportunity to run something like a Google Classroom, Class Team, or even a Seesaw Class that provided more opportunities rather than just the posting of content as a way to inform parents.

What is Blended Learning

When we were posed the question of what is blended learning?” in our recent ECI834 class. I immediately thought of kids learn face-to-face at school and then they use technology at home to engage with the class further. However, this definition was quickly altered and changed after our discussion on Tuesday night.

Blended learning is flexible and can take on many different forms.  As discussed in class, Wikipedia provides this definition of Blended Learning:

An approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace.

The picture that was shared with us showing the spectrum of blended learning, as it falls in between the face-to-face and fully online teaching.

This week I had the opportunity to have a  discussion with some of my former colleagues from other graduate courses. A shout out to Dean Vendramin, Matteo Di Muro, and Daniel Dion on a great discussion regarding blended learning.

 

Technology Integration into Blended Learning

We all know of the vast amount of technology that we can incorporate into blended and online learning environments.  It is important that teachers find technology tools and techniques that work for their teaching model and style.  Dean, Matteo, Daniel and I discuss various technology that we have seen teachers use successfully in blended learning environments.

  

Be sure to check out Daniel’s post for more of our discussion, and be sure to check out my Twitter on our most recent podcast further discussing blended learning.

A Bit About Me, Curtis Bourassa

I am a white settler currently living and working on Treaty 4 land in southeastern Saskatchewan. I grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where I went to school, and then moved to Regina to take my undergrad in Education to focus on middle years.  After my degree, I moved to the small rural town of Ogema, Saskatchewan (home of the best Italian style wood-oven pizza and delicious barbeque food).  In Ogema, I taught grades 4/5 and 6/7.  Then moving to an Instructional Technology position I have been in now for the past 3 years.

Working as an Instructional Technology Consultant for South East Cornerstone Public School Division. I like to tell the students that I work with that I think I have the best job in the school division.  My job varies from day to day but often allows me to communicate, support, and collaborate with teachers learning how to best implement technology in their classes.  One of the big things that I am working on in our school division is rolling out a new gradebook, attendance, and communication system. Outside of work and grad studies’ busyness, I like to try to unplug and spend time outdoors.  My fiancée and I love to camp in the summer and are excited to continue to explore our country and our province.  We are trying something new and have decided to invest in some backcountry camping.  Throughout the pandemic, we have also planted a garden from seed, which we are also looking forward to starting in the upcoming month.

My goals for ECI834 are as follows:

  • Engage with each other to a greater extent through the reading of everyone’s blogs.
  • Collaborate with those within the course and outside the course and share the materials found for our courses that we are creating.
  • Learn strategies and techniques to provide engaging learning experiences for students through online/blended learning.

I look forward to learning from everyone this semester! Be sure to connect with me on Twitter.