Hi, my name is Dean Vendramin and I have been teaching High School in Regina, Saskatchewan for 20 years. I teach at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. During this time I have taught a variety of classes and I'm currently the Math/Science Education Leader. Using Minecraft in my classroom has been a game changer both figuratively and literally. I have been using this dynamic tool in my classes for a few years now and it has evolved and provided a wider range of possibilities and opportunities. When I reflect on the use of Minecraft in my classroom I see that it has helped me redefine lessons based on the SAMR model, met and exceeded 21st Century skills, offer STEM experiences, and embrace ISTE teacher and student standards.
My journey down this path started many moons ago with my own love of Lego. Building and creating with Lego was always a good time and I realize now how much it helped be recognize patterns, understand structures, and more. The ability to play is one of the fundamental ways people learn and I can attest to this personally. Fast forward a few years and having my own children. We still played with Lego but now there was new ‘kid on the block’. My own kids introduced me to the world of Minecraft. I was impressed that they were not playing something that kept score or had a quest to follow, they were in a ‘digital sandbox’ where they crafted their own journey. When I saw this I thought ‘I gotta get me some of this into my classroom!’ Now I wasn’t as adept as them as playing (and I’m still not even close) but even the way they explained the game and took pride in showing me a thing or ten was also inspiring.
My Minecraft journey into the classroom wasn’t a full blown, ‘Ok everything we do in class will now be in Minecraft and you will be expected to build Rome in a day’ (although with some students skills this might be possible in Minecraft). I started by giving students and option to show their learning using Minecraft as a tool in a Grade 9 Social Studies class I was teaching and had students submit reconstructions of Mayan pyramids and a scale version of the Coliseum. Later in a Grade 9 Math classroom, I had students show understanding of surface area using Minecraft Pocket Edition. It was great to use a tool like Minecraft to help students understand a concept like this and actually create a 3D object that they could walk around and explore to understand the topic rather than memorizing a formula. I have found many more uses for Minecraft to ignite creativity, curiosity, and collaboration in my Math classes.
I currently teach a Work Place math class to students that are 16-17 years old. Unfortunately, many who take this class are labeled ‘not good’ at math and so much that they actually believe it. But when I have incorporated Minecraft to complete the projects, I quickly find out not only are they good at math, but what the wicked problems that they can solve is impressive. I have these students building amusement parks with rollercoaster to show understanding of slope, water parks to show understanding of surface area and volume, park features to show understanding of scale, and fencing to show understand of trig concepts. The engagement and excitement level are intense and have students that want to be the first to leave now begging to stay a little longer. I constantly have request from students to ‘come into their world’ and check out what they are working on. The students that are not ‘gamers’ or ‘crafters’ quickly find that the tool is easy to pick up and there are many mentors willing and eager to help along the way. I have also used Minecraft as an option in Genius Hour / Maker Projects (a student of mine did a prairie portrait for a Microsoft Canada/Minecraft Canada 150 contest and won the grand prize of a class set of laptops) , done Battle Builds, made a staple in our Technology Club, and more.
I have shared my Minecraft journey locally, nationally, and internationally. I have put on a variety of workshops, attended edCamps, offered an online session on #MADPD, and spread the good news at Microsoft’s amazing international E2 conference. Earlier this year I applied to become a Minecraft Global Mentor and thankfully, I was selected to be part of this amazing network of innovative educators lead by a caring and supportive team at Minecraft Education Edition. I have the good fortune to have met, both online and in person, many of the educators from this group. The sense of community and passion I have felt is truly inspiring. So no matter where you may be on you Minecraft journey, there are many resources (human, worlds, how tos, lessons) out there to get you started or take you to the next level. I would also encourage you to reach out to your students, as they are a great resource and watch the magic happen.
I am excited to continue my journey and look forward to where it takes me next. I am excited to infuse and explore the coding add-on, mixed reality, global projects, and more. Here is a link to a Minecraft resources page I have put together with lessons, articles, videos, and more (http://deanvendramin.weebly.com/minecraft-in-the-classroom.html). Find amazing resources and mentors at https://education.minecraft.net/. My twitter handle is @vendi55 feel free to follow. My advice to anyone is to take one good idea, turn it over to your students, and have the courage to go learn with them … you will be glad you did.
After reading the book ‘What Connected Educators Do Differently?” by Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas, I started to reflect up the contents of the book and how it has reflected my teaching career to date. On one the main reasons I got into education is that there is always a chance to learn, grow, and get better. I feel there is really no limit to improving yourself as a lead learner in our esteemed profession. I reflect quite a bit on the quote I once heard and use often … “Did you have a 30 year teaching career of 30 one year teaching career?” The tools and opportunities that technology has provided educators to get better not only for themselves but ultimately for those we serve are exciting, expansive, and challenging. There are so many sayings and research into the power of ‘we’ and being ‘connected’. I feel educators owe it to our profession and the present/future of our youth to harness the power of connectivity.
I have been active in the area of using technology in my craft basically since access to the internet and other tools have been accessible to us. I have recognized the opportunities and obstacles for a long time and continue to examine how to best use technology as a way to improve instructional, professional, and personal growth. The reason I enjoy this pursuit so much is because it has provided me with so many opportunities to connect and get better. I enjoy taking risks and failing forward. There is always room to get better and I feel the examining how technology, pedagogy, and content (TPACK) can work together and bring forth empowering, engaging, and exciting learning opportunities like never before.
Being connected is a vital part of growing personally and professionally. We cannot grow if all we do is talk to ourselves or just communicate with those who share the same outlooks and are fine with the status quo. I have had many great face to face interactions with a variety of educators and non-educators that have challenged me and affirmed the desire to innovate and get better. Face to face interactions are still the most important way to communicate, but are not as readily available and also limited to time and location. This is where being a connected educator on social media (especially Twitter for me) shines. I have grown an amazing Professional and Personal Learning Network. I have also benefited from reaching out, sharing, and even just ‘lurking’ through this medium. Using Twitter had become a great source of professional development (it took me a bit to get ‘hooked’ but once I did it’s been a fantastic source of knowledge, advice, and reflection), a chance to share success, and a look for comfort and/or solutions to problems that arise. The sense of community is real and meaningful relationships have formed as a result of being connected. I try to model the importance of being connected and a not only a contributing digital citizen, but citizen in general as the lines between the types of citizenship are transparent.
I look forward to continuing the journey of being connect as it has made my career more meaningful, evolved, challenging, and rewarding. I have learned and shared much, but it still feels like there is so much more. I will continue to advocate the importance of being connected and creating a growing one’s professional network both on and offline. Being connected has made my career feel new, refreshing, and dynamic … not wash, rinse, repeat.
I was very fortunate to do a couple of presentations last week on Minecraft in the Math Classroom. On May 1st, I drove up to Saskatoon for the Saskatchewan IT Summitt and did an hour workshop on using Minecraft. I was an early morning and a couple of long drives i one day, but it was totally worth it. I enjoyed sharing my Minecraft journey to date and sharing the work my students are doing in my class. We even had a chance to do a build battle and it was fun to watch teachers explore and build with Minecraft. I also had chance to check out other great presentations on STEM, Coding, Genius Hour, and Minecraft. It was a short but sweet day for sure. On Sunday May 7th, I had the chance to participate in another cool PD opportunity. I was a presenter in the #MADPD initiative with other educators from across the world. Make A Difference PD gave me another chance to share my Minecraft journey. MAD PD (https://mrcssharesease.wordpress.com/m-a-d-p-d/) was an initiative started by Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer as they came up with a great way to bring together and connect over 60 educators and their big ideas with fellow educators who could get world class PD in the comfort of their own home. I shared my inspiration, the rational behind why I use Minecraft, lessons and student examples, resources, and more the video of the Google Hangout can be found here http://youtu.be/9POUF6kYbDo. and my presentation can be found here http://deanvendramin.weebly.com/minecraft-in-the-classroom.html. I was also luck to have Minecraft Mentor Garrett Zimmer @pbjellygames join me and offer so much insight and support. It was a busy but great week of sharing and I'm glad for these opportunities to share, grow and learn.
Just thought I'd share a little bit of what is happening in my class with you ...
I'm working on a Minecraft Project on Surface Area and Volume with my work place 20 student ... they are to build a splash/water park with different geometric solids ...excited to see what they come up with.
Here are a few examples of student projects from grade 9 math we've been doing ...
Symmetry (pixel art project) - https://sway.com/EBJwumIUQ6tqfjf1
Surface Area - https://sway.com/OfhR1JOoCBvMbmlg
Here's a couple of videos I have produced that promote what I do in my classroom
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_tq6X2ufsM (used this to enter a contest for a maker space)
and here's a blog I wrote on rcsdconnect
Here's a great project I've been working with our division tech coach Genna Rodriguez on tapping into Entrepreneurs for my business tech 9 class https://flipgrid.com/bt09 (password bt09)
and here's a student blog entry on this project http://doyouevencurlbro.weebly.com/tylers-blog/cj-and-kelly-flipgrid-learning
Using goformative.com has been a great addition to my teaching tool box. Students love it and being able to get a read on class and individual performance is amazing. Instant feedback is game changing.
Got outside and had kids measure the height of the school using similar triangles ... nice to do a math lab and get outside.
I love my job ... always ways to learn and get better!
The last couple of weeks have been hectic but so amazing and full of learning opportunities. I have totally been enjoying the new group of students that I have been working with this semester. There have been many moments both planned and not planned and positive and not so positive that have occurred. Even though I have taught for many years there is still much to learn from each situation and there is always a chance to get better, meet the needs of my students where they need it, work with colleagues to improve each other, and also look after personal and family life. I have also many opportunities to grow professionally during the last few weeks with SIOP training, institute and teacher convention, looking a privacy protocol, teacher issues, take on a pre intern, and all the goodness that was Microsoft Education Exchange.
I plan to write separate blogs on these events/experiences but I just thought I'd collect some of my thoughts and see where they take me. There is always something to reflect, share, challenge, and grow from. I feel very fortunate to recognize this and hope to this to another level and share with and hopefully have something to offer that would at least make one person stop and think and even make them better too.
I have been using Minecraft in my Math classroom for the last few years now and I continue grow in my understanding and engagement in it. My math classes have been using it a lot lately .... my math 09 has been using Minecraft to understand symmetry through a pixel art project and surface area by building structures - my work place 20 has been using Minecraft to create roller coasters to learn about slope. I have enjoyed students be creative and being able to be engaged and creative in forming their own understandings of these concepts. I saw some students who aren't always 'thrilled' to be in Minecraft really get into the assignment and some who like getting just the notes and questions get out of their 'comfort' zone. There was some great collaboration going on and saw students plan and share responsibilities. I also saw some students get distracted ... some play was encouraged but some took it a little too far. There were those who unfortunately didn't practice positive digital citizenship that we talked about and actively went into people's projects without permission and with destructive intentions. Still over all it was great for me as a teacher to pop into their 'worlds' and see them create, collaborate, communicate and use critical thinking as they showed understanding of concepts taught (which are 21st Century Learnng skills but I would argue just preset day learning skills). I would say that this be R rated on the SAMR model as it has Redefined how students look at and work through math concepts (also great to be able to show these concepts in 3d instead of 2d). I got my Minecraft Certified Educator badge this week and have been working on my Marketplace presentation for the Microsoft E2 conference in Toronto happening in 10 days (very excited). My lessons can be found here https://education.minecraft.net/user/dean-vendramin
Last week was a good but busy week at the school. I have been doing an introductory unit in my new Business/Technology 09 class on digital citizenship. I found many good sources but the one that I liked most was a program called Digital Bytes (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/training/9-12/digital-bytes) put out through @commensense media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/). Students looked a videos from a variety of digital citizenship view points from footprints (I prefer concept of tattoos) to cyberbullying to business ideas and more. Students were engaged in the materials but more importantly shared and posted reflections and images to show their learning (http://oneillbt09.wikispaces.com/Digital+Citizenship). I was really impressed with the quality of the work the kids did and was impressed how they used the tools of Sway (https://sway.com/) and Adobe Spark (https://spark.adobe.com/) to create reflections and images. I would highly recommend checking out this activity and looking into becoming a common sense media certified digital citizenship educator. This unit couldn't have coincided better with a presentation we have last Monday through Sask Tel's I Am Stronger project (http://iamstronger.ca/). We were lucky enough to have Dr. Sameer Hinduja (http://www.hinduja.org/)c ome and address our student body on the pitfalls in our digital lives. This also kicked off our school's Titan Acts of Cyber Kindness (#TRACK2017 - https://twitter.com/i/moments/831387255973351424) campaign. Student response has been great and it is great to see the positive messages getting out there. Our digital lives are important to examine and reflect upon as there are many challenges both positive and negative that are out there that shouldn't be ignored or left to chance.
Almost a year ago, an invitation was sent out from my school division (Regina Catholic Schools) to participate in a Connected Educator project. This invitation involved not only the acquisition of technology (in my case one to one laptop access in my classroom), but also and more importantly to becoming part of a Professional Learning Community and look at innovative and best practice with technology integration. There has been access to skype, social media, and face to face growth opportunities and a chance to share experiences and lessons learned. This experience has improved my understanding and utilization of not only technology, but of pedagogy, 21st Century Skills, and redefinition of my classroom. I'm grateful I was chosen to participate in this project and truly believe that it has improved digital, critical thinking, creative, reflection, and learning skills for the members of the project and the students we serve.
From a strictly technology/device perspective, the project was been successful. With daily access and continued improvement in wifi, the access to these digital tools has been excellent for all involved. The laptops that we have access to have been more than adequate and the students have respected and taken care of the devices. Before issuing each student their device we talk about respect, digital citizenship, and have device labeled and organized in the cart. The manner in which the students have looked after the devices has been impressive. I am grateful for the equity that the one on one access has provided and each student in my class has the ability to draw upon a variety of resources provided in class to help them with their learning goals and objectives.
There has also been promotion, discussion, and reflection on the learning opportunities that these tools can provide for all learners. We have done a book study and examined The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/the-innovators-mindset-book) A must read for any teacher in my opinion. A twitter chat was employed to have participants share reflections, memes, and questions to the various chapters in the book. We also read and shared our thoughts on David Geurin's 9 Ed Tech Essentials post (http://www.davidgeurin.com/2017/02/9-essential-edtech-ideas-to-share-with.html). These activities put the main goal of the project into perspective … it was not about the devices but the opportunity to innovate … to try new and better approaches to engage and empower students.
We also reflected upon TIM (Technology Integration Matrix), the essential skills of 21st Century learning (7Cs), and the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) Model of Technology Integration. The process of filling out the TIM (http://www.azk12.org/tim/) allowed us to reflect on both teacher and student progress with technology integration. We also created and based lessons on the 7 Cs of 21st Century learning (http://gennarodriguez.weebly.com/7-cs-of-21st-century-learning.html). We also used the SAMR Model (http://hippasus.com/blog/archives/227) to examine what transformational changes are we doing with technology in our classrooms if any. The use of these three reflection models gave all participants an opportunity to develop a growth mindset and improve upon out integration of technology in our classrooms.
The RCSD Connected Educator initiative has been a successful one in my opinion. My students in semester one were successful at meeting curricular objectives laid out in the curriculum, but more importantly for me they did so in an enriched, empowering, and engaging atmosphere that still has room for growth and improvement. The Professional Learning Community that has developed as a result is also a tremendous benefit (loved our edCamp style sharing). It has raised the bar for professional development and collaboration (follow and join the conversation #rcsdconnect). It is hoped that the program will grow and a mentorship process will also develop, connecting more ideas and best practice. I look forward to continuing my participation in this program and improving the learning possibilities for me and my students. If you have questions on this please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on twitter @vendi55.
After two days on Monday and Tuesday of wrapping up semester one with meetings and prep time, semester two kicked off on Wednesday. I truly believe that it is important to build relationships with your students right off the bat. I invest the first few day letting the students get to know me, I get to know them, and we build a positive classroom atmosphere together. I made a very deliberate effort to get to know every students name right off the get go, try to learn and remember at least one thing about each student, greet and dismiss each student at the door, and try to understand as much as possible where each student is at and ask them questions on what a class and school looks like to them. Together we create mission statements, procedures, and a class prayer. My hope is to invest in a positive classroom atmosphere, have a unified approach to managing our class, instill family concept, and promote respect for each other, ourselves, and our classroom. It is very much an approach to be proactive and develop positive relationships that hopefully lead to a great learning experience for all. We had some good discussions about what school looks like, how relationships are important, and what it will take to be successful. I'm looking forward to working with these new groups and the journey we will take over the next five month together. I am excited about trying some new ideas, making new relationships, strengthening existing ones, and enjoying the blessing of learning. I am also blessed to work at a place that respects and loves all people, has a vibrant extra curriculum program, a love of learning, many dedicated professionals, and just an over all feeling of family and improving mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Also happy to be published in The Variable - Volume 2, Issue 1 http://smts.ca/variable-volume-2-issue-1/ … I submitted an article found on page 34 #codinginmathclass and in our division newsletter with my article on video analysis.
Another semester is in the books. I had another great semester filled with many opportunities to learn, laugh, and grow. I truly do love my job and the school I'm at. I tired once again to strengthen relationships with my students and really enjoyed the groups that I worked with this year. The new room was also fantastic ... what a difference! I was also very happy to 'ditch' my desk in the classroom ... I definitely felt more connected to my students and didn't miss the urge to sit behind a desk. Working with an intern again was a rewarding and growth experience. I hope I was able to provide some sage wisdom, a chance to develop positive teaching practices, and help install a growth mindset. I thank my intern for helping me reflect on our profession, sharing new approaches and ideas, and fostering my own growth mindset. I once again really enjoyed the TIFA experience and really fell there is a need for video analysis in education. This was the first semester as a RCSD connected educator. The access to the technology was quite welcomed and I felt gave many new opportunities to innovate and incorporate 21st Century skills. The use of One Note in the classroom was a positive experience and allowed the opportunity to share information, new ideas, and better learning opportunities. I was able to expand upon my use of coding and Minecraft and was very happy with the results of using both. I loved seeing students create, take risks, and learn in new ways. I know I reached some students who are usually not as motivated to try something new. The play, struggle, and collaboration I witnessed was worth the time spent for sure. I will continue to hone my use and understanding of the flipped classroom concept. It worked well with my work place 20 math class and really gave me an opportunity to connect with the kids building relationships and delivering content. Still a ways to go with this including getting more students to watch the videos. Hour of Code, Bread Out Edu Boxes, Skype opportunities also added to the fun and learning. I'm still trying to work on effectively using technology tools like Formative and Plickers for formative assessment and the mini whiteboards continue to get more students sharing work and providing feedback opportunities. As I corrected the CFD exams it left me with more questions than answers of how to effectively get students motivated and measure understand and objectives met. Sometimes I feel I'm stuck in two worlds. I would like to be more innovative and provide students an opportunity to grow and challenge themselves, but sometimes the current system does not allow for som of the changes I'd like to see. I tired to grow my education leadership position by providing support and offering resources. The basic requirements have been met for this position, but I'd still like to see it grow into a tru PLC with more talk and sharing of best and innovative practice. Still a good challenge. I have enjoyed my work as part of the Communication Committee trying to spread and share the great things going on at our school through our digital signage, twitter, and our web site. The new semester should provide some new and exciting experiences with reboots to the website and in door digital signage. Working with the assembly committee was once again fun and challenging always interesting to put on a 'show' for over 800 people. Our TEDed group is moving along slowly but surely and hopefully we can pick it up a bit in the next semester. I'm also going to try and boot up a Titan News team and get some strong content going for the digital signage and school you tube channel. The O'Neill 50th anniversary is coming up and there will be lots of work with this too. Got some positive feedback from parents with the efforts I made to stay in touch through e-mail and Remind ... was happy that my efforts to do a better job of communication had positive results. Second semester should be great. Really enjoyed going to lunch masses once again ... really helps put things into perspective and always good to feed the soul. Look forward to a new challenge with a new class business/tech 9 ... we are going to have some fun and try lots of new ideas out with this class ... stay tuned. Have some great PD opportunities coming up this semester too as well. So blessed to have a great family and health too. New semester ... new adventures ... bring em on
Dean Vendramin. Educator for over 20 years. Currently Education Leader for Math/Science at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. Have a passion for all things in education with emphasis on technology integration, assessment, professional development, and 21 Century Education. Posts are articles he has written for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation monthly newsletter The Bulletin, Saskatchewan Math Teachers' Society The Variable, blog requests from memberships he is a part of, and his own thoughts.