There has been a discussion recently on SLN (School Librarians Network). If you don’t know about it, this is a Yahoo Group and a very valuable source of information – most of the information on Heart comes from this group. However, the discussion was about how you could use the extremely popular programme/app Minecraft in schools. Sarah Pavey from Box Hill School in Surrey – one of the most innovative school librarians I know – sent me details of a project that she does with Year 7 pupils. She has created a video which she has uploaded to YouTube for us, and has also included her lesson planning sheet which you will find in the Files section to the right, entitled ‘Castles’. Sarah decided to replace the building part of the lesson where Year 7 pupils brought castles they built at home with virtual reality instead using Minecraft to construct the castles. Sarah told me:
Year 7 do a module on concentric castle design. The subject teacher has already covered the basics in terms of history of design. We begin with a joint lesson between myself and the subject teacher in the classroom. We turn the class into architects for the queen/king (history teacher) and we explain that the ruler is on a generous but limited budget for their new castle and wants to make sure they get the latest features while at the same time it is safe and good value for money. We get them to brainstorm ideas collectively and then to argue why they should have that feature eg if they suggest having a portcullis I will ask them why on earth I want a gate with holes in it when I could have a solid one etc etc. Next we look at the books they might use for information so we give each pair of students in the class a couple of books and they have to explain to the rest of the class how they might use that book for research or why they might reject it. Then I show them a few websites on screen. Third part is that we tell them every good architect has a model to explain their ideas to a potential client but they can opt for a hi tech or lo tech option and there will be a prize for the top 3 in each category and then an overall winner. Each architect has to build their own. So lo-tech is models made of various materials including lego or cake (very yummy chocolate cake last year!!!) and the hi-tech include Minecraft. Basically with Minecraft they build the interior and exterior of the castle and then use something like Screencast-o-matic or their iPad to film it and add a commentary as they walk around it. We do research sessions in the library. Once all the entries are in I go back to the classrooms and award points for research, presentation etc and the class teacher does the history content.