An assessment of my diffi-tools

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how I would measure the effectiveness of my diffi-tools in Givercraft; looking back at how my tools were used, I realize that I need more structure to measure effectiveness and impact on teachers and students.  An important factor in whether or not my tools can be effective or have impact, is if teachers know and understand my diffi-tool and there is a tangible outcome for teachers and students.  “Evidence of teachers’ own knowledge and skills so that the evidence about students can be interpreted in terms of the implications for teaching practice” (Timperley, p. 1) is something that I need to figure out for Survivalcraft.

For the Maze Challenge, I was able to observe several students as they were being sent to complete the maze.  Their teacher arrived at the entrance to the maze and teleported each student there before heading back to their zone.  The students were staggered so they didn’t start the maze together.

Student at entrance

student going through the maze

I timed the students and they took about 5 – 7 minutes to complete the maze.  I waited at the exit for them to arrive and I opened a teleport station for them to return to their particular zone; I also put up a sign instructing them to use the teleport block to return.  One student showed up at the exit but turned back and returned a while later with a friend and they teleported out together!

Student reading sign at exit

Another teacher used the maze as a challenge activity rather than a “timeout” for behavioral issues; for students who had completed their work or needed an extra challenge, they could complete the maze as an activity.  One student who was not engaged in the scenario and building was given the opportunity to try the maze challenge.  However, the student was not engaged and became frustrated trying to figure it out; as the teacher learned later, the student was not engaged because of a bossy and controlling team member and not necessarily because of the scenario tasks.  From my observations and communications with teachers, I know that the maze was used but not necessarily if the outcome was effective.  Did taking the maze and losing 5-7 minutes from building in the zone deter students from misbehavior?  I am not sure.  If my maze challenge was simply not used because instances of misbehavior were minimal and did not require the maze as an intervention, I cannot be disappointed by that!  On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised that it was used as a challenge activity to engage more advanced builders or students who wanted to try it out.  I am not sure if I will create another maze challenge for Survivalcraft; the Mazerunner storyline means that having a maze challenge as a behavioral management tool might not be very effective.  For the Lord of the Flies experience, I’m also not sure if it will be a useful tool.

The Secret  & Abandoned Communities – Jon (@bortstc37) did an awesome job writing the Giver’s Secret Journal entries that served as the clues and prompts for students to search for the secret and abandoned communities.  Midway through the first week in Givercraft, I posted “The Giver’s Secret Journal” onto the Student Resources page on the Givercraft Wikispaces site:

 The Giver’s Secret Journal

 These are excerpts from journal entries left by the Giver himself. He kept a regular journal as a way to cope with the memories he received and to try making sense out of everything. They hint at some things not directly mentioned in the book — but they might be in the world, if someone knows where to look.

Entry 1 – February 6, 2015

I am allowed to lie. And I do lie, often, but one lie has been haunting me. I feel that I should not have deceived Jonas the way that I did. It isn’t that I told him anything false–I simply let him believe something that wasn’t  completely true. He thought he’d finally found out what “release” meant, and it shocked him. Should I have told him then? Truthfully, I wanted him to feel shocked. He needed to see something to help him understand why things work the way they do. But I don’t think it had the right effect. The shot was not what he thought it was. The chute was not what he thought it was. That chute goes down, down, down…

I worry what he might do. I do not think he knows how to deal with these kinds of emotions yet.

If Jonas or anyone from the community starts digging for more information they might stumble onto the truth and discover that I lied.

Entry 2 – February 8, 2015

I’ve been selfish with certain memories. There is one in particular–I didn’t want to share it with Rosemary. I didn’t want to share it with Jonas. I told him that I did keep the memory of music, but I’ve also kept this one. It has music, but it is a memory of a place, a place from long ago, a place beyond our borders. It was special, secret, I could go there and sit, listen to music in the air, watch the townspeople tending their crops, playing in the pond, talking by the central waterfall. People lived passionately. It was life as it always should have been. It is a shame, the way that place met its end. I will never understand why. And I have memories of this place from today–but it is not the same place.

What defines a place–its location, or the things that are done there?

I also placed signs in the zones that announced the discovery of The Giver’s Secret Journal.

Discovery sign

Jon (@bortstc37)  also created a screencast video of the physical changes we saw in both communities, which you can view here:  So while we know that students did in fact find and visit (and build and destroy) both communities, we don’t have evidence in the final learning artifacts, their wikispaces pages.  If we were to create another parallel community for Survivorcraft, we could give teachers instructions for including our communities in their implementation of the experience.

The Student Resources page on the Wikispaces Givercraft site had pages for other diffi-tools, and tutorials and guides for students.  The pages were:

  • How to set up a page (in Wikispaces)
  • How to take screenshots (in Mac or Windows)
  • Screenshot Tips (for taking and editing screenshots)
  • The Giver’s Secret Journal (diffi-tool)
  • What Type of Gamer Are You? (diffi-tool)
  • Grammar Boss Badge – Scenario 3 (diffi-tool)
  • Tutorials (for various skills and strategies in MinecraftEdu)
  • Crafting Recipes (for MinecraftEdu)
  • Making String (for MinecraftEdu)

Pages about using the editing pages, taking screenshots, and tutorials were already included on the wiki from the previous Givercraft experience, so I created the Student Resources tag and asked others to include their diffi-tools as pages directed at students (Gamer-type quiz, Grammar Boss Badge, and Giver’s Secret Journal).  I added the crafting recipes page after students were struggling in the game to make items or tools needed during the survival scenarios; I was able to direct them to these pages during the game when students needed a recipe.  After the Giver’s Secret Journal was posted, one of the teacher stopped each of the classes once they were logged in and directed them to the wiki site to read the journal entries.  After students returned to the game, they could choose whether to look for the communities or continue their building tasks.  In each class, several students (about 4-5 in each class), started looking for the communities.  They kept asking for clues and for me to see where they were and let them know if they were close to finding it.  Towards the end of each period, then students who hadn’t explored the communities yet, asked for clues to find them.  Some of the students that did arrive in the secret and abandoned communities weren’t sure “what” they were looking for and kept asking for more clues to find “it” in the community.  I directed them to read the Giver’s journal entries again and to look for signs in the communities that would help them understand what to “do”.

The only diffi-tool I did not use was the Skirmish at the Border.  There did not seem to be an overwhelming issue with Killer-gamer types that would necessitate staging a skirmish.  However, this might be more appropriate in the Survivalcraft experience, especially with the Lord of the Flies scenarios.  I will need to see how the scenarios are implemented to determine if it’s appropriate to stage a skirmish as an “outsider” of their community.  Another idea I have is to create my own LOTF community, parallel to the students’ communities; this would allow students to discover another community that does not belong to their classmates.  They might also “band together” against a common enemy, as described in the current scenarios.  I could also create my own wiki page and basically participate in the experience along with students to model the scenario tasks in real time with them.  I think interaction and feedback on the wiki pages is an important tool for measuring impact, between students and with their teachers.

As I begin thinking about new (or improved) diffi-tools for Survivalcraft, this week was a good reminder about appropriate and effective assessment.  I created tools that I could use knowing that I would be in the game.   I created a resource page because during the previous Givercraft experience, it was obvious that students needed a convenient place to find tutorials and guides that they were able to (technically) access – meaning it wasn’t blocked or unavailable when they need it.   Macdonald (2005) poses simple questions to help us think strategically about our assessment:

  • Why are we assessing the students?
  • What are we assessing?
  • When are we going to assess?
  • Who is going to carry out the assessment?
  • How are we going to assess?
  • Where will the assessment take place?
  • How are we going to grade/mark?
  • What feedback will students receive?

I am going to use these questions to plan my next diffi-tool for Survivalcraft; it will also be very important to include the teachers in the conversation of assessment as they will be the primary instructor and ultimately responsible for assessment during Survivalcraft.  My main goal is to ensure that the diffi-tool helps students meet learning objectives and it should align with the rest of the scenarios being used.  Using time and tools in MinecraftEdu is also an important opportunity for assessment.  We can “observe a student’s sequence of actions, time spent on tasks, multiple attempts at activities, requests for help, communication process, and so on” (DiCerbo, 2014).  Tai and Yuen (2007) reference Glasgow’s (1996) assessment strategies of three areas – content, process, and outcome.  I need to figure out if my diffi-tool will be used by students in gaining deeper understanding of the story and important plot concepts, if the diffi-tool will helps students to take part in the scenario in an appropriate and effective way, or if my diffi-tool will support students to create meaningful artifacts with which to demonstrate and reflect on their work.  Even if we are not directly instructing students through this experience, by creating a diffi-tool, we should still consider Macdonald’s eight (8) questions about assessing our diffi-tool.  There are many ways that we can do this (or at least assist and prepare Survivalcraft teachers to assess) – focus groups, observations in the game, peer and self assessments, presentations or demonstrations (maybe through the wiki but also through other types of media), student surveys, and of course rubrics that help students to also self/peer assess (Gibson & Shaw, 2011).  With the added complexity of two different storylines in the Survivalcraft experience, we need to create diffi-tools that are easily implemented by teachers but also engaging, meaningful, and appropriate for the students.


DiCerbo, K. (October 10, 2014).  All Fun & Games? Understanding Learner Outcomes Through Educational Games.  Retrieved from:

Gibson, K. and Shaw, C.M.  (2011).  Assessment of Active Learning.  The International Studies Encyclopedia, 2010.  Updated 2011-06-13.  Retrieved from:

Macdonald, R.  (2005).  Assessment Strategies for Enquiry and Problem-Based Learning.  Handbook of Enguiry and Problem-Based Learning.  Barrett, T., Mac Labhrainn, I., Fallon, H. (Eds) Handbook of Enquiry and Problem-based Learning. Galway: AISHE and CELT, NUI Galway Funded by: Higher Education Authority (HEA) Strategic Initiatives.  Retrieved from:

Tai, G.X. and Yuen, M.C.  (2007).  Authentic assessment strategies in problem based learning.  CINE, Faculty of Creative Multimedia University, Cyberjaya, Selangor, Malaysia.  Retrieved from:

Timperley, H.  Using Evidence in the Classroom for Professional Learning.  University of Auckland New Zealand.  Retrieved on March 26, 2015 from:

2 thoughts on “An assessment of my diffi-tools

  1. I think the maze was a good idea and the hidden community was also cool. The biggest issue I’m having with the entire set up is that we don’t have direct access to the students. If we knew the students we could design something more effective and know whether or not it was effective. I wonder if there is a way we could create a writing tool. I have noticed that students struggle the most when it comes to the writing. Some students don’t even complete the writing at all or produce some really short stuff.


  2. I like the idea of having teachers include these differentiation options in their implementation plans. I think it would get more students to participate in these kinds of things, and it would also help us gather data (teachers would be more likely to know which of their students chose to explore these communities as a differentiation option).
    I wonder: are all involved teachers checking in with the Google community on a regular basis? I wonder how effective that is as a communication tool.

    Liked by 1 person

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