The training stage of our course is over and now our learners (the Givercraft teachers) are implementing the experience as we designed it. Our pre and post survey results tell us that teachers know the basic steps and tools for using the MinecraftEdu client software, this includes using the client and managing their students with the Teacher Tools. The results also indicate that teachers understand their responsibilities for facilitating the experience including managing the students’ pages on the Wikispaces site. In designing and facilitating the course, we have used several best practices (Boettcher, 2013) to support Givercraft teachers:
- Creating a supportive online course community – We use the existing Google Group “The Givercraft Community” to welcome teachers into the experience, share ideas, ask questions, celebrate successes, and provide resources.
- Set clear expectations of students (and us) for communication and time needed for tasks – We articulated the responsibilities of each teacher and established lines of communication through a variety of tools – google group, email, Hangout calls or chats, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings.
- Flexible grouping – We designed our courses for the entire group but we allowed for teachers to work individually or with us in smaller groups.
- Synchronous/Asynchronous activities – Our trainings were live and recorded for teachers to review again if needed or to watch if they were unable to attend the training. We set aside time to meet teachers in the game but also gave teachers the tools, resources, and access to spend time on their own, learning the game and practicing the Teacher Tools.
- Provide resources and relevant materials (including examples) – We compiled all relevant information and resources into a Givercraft Guide for Teachers and made our training recordings and materials available for teachers to use.
Although we have used best practices to ensure that teachers are able to implement the Givercraft experience for their students, we have room to improve how we support the interactions that teachers might need to be successful in our course.
Teachers have been provided several methods for interacting with the content. The first time occurred through the website when they we can assume they were initially introduced to the content and subsequently signed up for the course. We provided the Givercraft Guide for Teachers to reinforce the information provided on the website. If teachers hadn’t thoroughly explored the information and resources on the website, then the guide organized information that was relevant and necessary for preparation. For the MinecraftEdu portion of the training, Amanda created a handout that identified the Teacher Tools and additional resources for teachers to explore on their own time. The teachers were also added to the Wikispaces upon registration and submission of their student rosters and had access to that website, including teacher and student pages from the Fall 2014 Givercraft experience.
During the training, we focused on facilitating the teachers’ interaction with the course content through lecture, presentation, discussion, demonstration or modeling, and practice. Now we are at the stage where the learners are having to implement their understanding of the content “through a process of personally accommodating information, attitude, or behaviors into previously existing cognitive, attitudinal, or behavioral structures” (Moore & Kearsley, 2011). We encouraged teachers to incorporate the content into their own teaching styles and to accommodate the needs of their students.
As we continue to monitor the teachers’ progress through the rest of the Givercraft experience, we can look in the MinecraftEdu game itself to see how teachers are demonstrating their understanding of the content. We also do this by looking at how the teachers are managing their students’ game experience and examining the student artifacts of learning (in the game and on the wikis).
So far, learner to learner interaction has been indirect because teachers did not all participate in the training; teachers have been working independently to study course content and plan the experience for their students. We have tried to connect teachers through our communication tools but so far, to our knowledge, the teachers have interacted very little with one another (inside and outside of the game). One teacher has communicated interest in observing other classes in the game and hopefully that will encourage the others to interact with their peers and to share common interests, goals, concerns, and strategies for managing Givercraft. According to Roblyer’s Hierarchy of Interaction (Moore & Kearsley, p. 134), our course utilized the lowest quality of social-building design, by not incorporating activities that encourage our learners to get acquainted beyond basic introductions. To address this in our next round of trainings, we need to figure out how to engage our learners and encourage them to make personal connections with our team and with other learners.
And finally, learner to instructor interaction has fallen somewhere in the middle of the other two types of interaction. As instructors, we met with our learners through the training (via web conferencing) but also through 1-on-1 support, provided by Amanda and I (that I know of) for specific teachers. Through our Google Group, all learners have access to the team of instructors, however, interaction between learners and instructors has been minimal. It’s hard to know if “no news is good news” but we also did not assign specific tasks and timelines for reporting progress and communication through the Google Group or other tools, other than asking teachers to report on issues, concerns, or general feedback.
I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to teaching and learning, so while it seems that I have pointed out glaring areas of improvement, I think that is part of our process in learning to becoming online instructors. Lee pointed out that there are three (3) skillsets or areas of expertise when we build online courses – Instructional Design, Administration, and Facilitation. Personally, administration is my strongest area, but instructional design and facilitation is what I want to do and is my goal in this course. So examining and critiquing our first attempt at designing and implementing our course is a necessary step in improving not only the quality of the course but our skills in designing and facilitating an effective and meaningful learning experience for the teachers.
The University of New Brunswick’s resource on best practices for faculty include some useful best practices for communication and feedback that we can use at this stage of our course, to “be available”, “give feedback”, and “be friendly”. Scenario 1 has been completed and teachers should be starting Scenario 2 when they return in another week; we can ask them to share how the first week went and what they are planning to do for the next stage. It is important that teachers are communicating with one another at this interval so that they understand how others are participating simultaneously in the game. The Teacher Tools (including player and world management tools) will used to make changes for the next scenario and teachers will benefit from coordinating with others as they facilitate those changes. We can continue to support our learners by starting a daily check-in conversation on the Google Group and Hangouts; we should be proactive about interaction with others and model the type of dialogue we wish to see with our learners. We asked in our post-survey about the teachers’ preferred methods of training and communication and we discussed in our class meeting about collecting and incorporating that information earlier in our course design process so that we may engage learners more effectively. The tools we use to manage the course are also important to consider, so that our learners are not having to spend considerable time learning and using our chosen tools, solely to participate in the course. As we continue to monitor progress of our current cohort of teachers, we can begin thinking of how to pre-assess the needs of our next group of teachers, not just about the content needed but the tools that would best meet the needs of our learners and enhance our course design.
Boettcher, J.V. (2013). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online: Quick Guide for New Online faculty. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html
Moore, M.G. and Kearsley, G. (2011). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Cengage Textbook.
University of New Brunswick. More Best Practices. Information for Faculty. Retrieved on March 5, 2015 from: http://www.unb.ca/cel/online/info-faculty/best-practices-2.html