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.
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.