Teaching during the pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate how we approach instruction. Trying to "do school" in a remote format is a recipe for failure. For those of us that have focused on a project based learning approach to the classroom, remote learning was not a terribly difficult switch to make.
One of my favorite parts of project based learning is giving the students the freedom to create something that demonstrates their understanding. There are so many different ways that can be done, but remote learning has limited those a bit in the makerspace. One tool that has not been hurt by remote learning has been Minecraft Education Edition. MEE has been a wonderful tool in my design class before the pandemic and during the pandemic. It allows students to collaborate from home and engage in creation.
One of the projects that I have students in my 6th grade design class work on focuses on the design thinking process. I ask students to build me a house, but they are not allowed to ask me any questions. They are not given any information on how long they have either. After a couple of days working on the house, I tell them that time is up and I inspect their homes. The houses are nice, but none of them ever fit all of my needs. I tell them I would not move my family into any of the houses and they tend to be very frustrated. When I ask them why, they say it is not helpful to build without a known deadline and without any information about me and my family. I ask them if they want to try again, but they will be allowed to ask me two questions each and I will set a deadline. They agree to this and get to work.
After taking notes on the answers to their questions and working on a set schedule with a hard deadline, here are some of the examples that students created for me and my family.
These students did an amazing job creating something that meets the needs of my entire family. They discussed the advantages of being able to ask questions and how it impacted their designs. As part of the building process for this project, I wanted students to see that when they are designing something, they are designing for someone. That someone will change, but it is important to keep that in mind when focusing on the entire process.
Using Minecraft Education Edition during remote learning gave students the chance to connect and collaborate to create something awesome. They have great skills in Minecraft, but they were able to focus them and create something specific based on their ability to ask questions and listen to the answers.
Project Based Learning allows for the flexibility in the classroom if you are in person or remote. It gives students the power to focus on creation, instead of sitting behind a screen focusing on consumption. We need to give students a chance to create amazing things if we want to keep them engaged. This is true if they are in our classroom or in their bedroom. If you have any questions about project based learning, please reach out. I'm happy to connect!
Hugs and High Fives,