October 10th, 2014 By colingally Categories: Minechat, Minecraft

It’s been a while since I last dived in to another teacher’s Minecraft world!

Thankfully James York has been constantly evolving his kotobaminers.org Minecraft server to expand upon his language learning experiences. His most recent addition is to create a quests area where NPCs are dotted around an area asking questions (in Japanese) and giving quests.

James is leading the way with innovative uses of Minecraft and language learning. Put your feet up and watch what he’s getting up to.


October 1st, 2014 By colingally Categories: Procrastination

I’m just finishing up my second week back at work since coming home from a fantastic week  at ICS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
I don’t know if you have ever been away from school for a week with a solid focus on best practice…but it’s really hard to get back in to the swing of things at everyday work. Call it jet-lag or call it something else. It’s jarring to the senses.

Learning 2.0 Africa

From getting off the plane this conference was the model of organization and support. Being part of the leadership team I had had many months of communication before the conference dates and everything was smooth sailing once in Addis Ababa. Kudos to John Iglar and team.

We spent roughly two days together planning and prepping before the attendees arrived for the main conference.

I want to talk about the major challenging aspect for me in these two days. As a Learning2 leader, you must conduct two 3-hour workshops, a mini-keynote called a Learning2 Talk, and a condensed 1 hour session of the 3 hour workshop. You are kept busy!
It was the preparation of the Learning2 Talk that changed my approach to public speaking. I never thought I would come away from a conference with any advancement in my public speaking abilities! I usually create slides to prompt me and get on with it. I never structure anything too much. It has worked in the past…*cough* TEDx *cough*

So firstly, you are required to run through your Learning2 talk before the organizing committee; the very lovely people that are Simon May, Madeleine Broookes, and Kim Cofino. I was my usual casual and rambling self with a little bit of dry humor thrown in for good measure. Feedback was mostly positive but a few notes to structure more and to, perhaps, tone down some commentary that might offend certain teachers(!) I agreed and went away to structure some more.
The next day we ran through a sound check of our Learning2 talk in the main hall with about 6 people there. I bombed. It was brutal. I searched for the words, and the delivery of the talk was all over the place. Simon noted that I had lost the humor from the previous day amongst other things. Kim and Madeleine said not to worry as it’s hard to get a vibe from an empty hall. It would be fine the next day. I had lost something in my half baked structuring of my presentation. I was caught in the middle of casual presentation and scripted monologue.

I had a pretty restless day and night. I came away from that second rehearsal adamant that I would know the structure of what I was going to say on each of my slides. I stayed up way too late reading through a script of sorts and I kept adding things I thought were either humorous or funny or somewhat informational. The presentation ended up being way more structured than I had ever done before.

The following morning I was the last of 4 presenters. To say I was confident of what I was going to say would be a lie. I had experienced this previously speaking at TEDx when I knew I knew what I was talking about but my brain just couldn’t get going until up on the stage. I began to trust myself and keep calm.

I got up on to the stage and it all melded together well. I remember talking about something on stage and thinking to myself at the same time “Yeah, this is good, this is going well”. The jokes were right, and the content was pretty solid (not world changing). Nothing high brow but relative enough for the audience that was there. I had a lot of people come to me during the conference to say how much they enjoyed it. Which was nice.

My formula for any presentation from now on will follow these guidelines*:

  • Plan to a point; but plan for your own voice to be heard above the script.
  • Integrate feedback in my preparation for my presentation.
  • Involve humor but assess the crowd for type of humor that will work.
  • Pay attention to wording. Amend, revise, and sound the sentences out.
  • It’s okay to be nervous. Use it. Invite it in. It sparks some reactions that may work for you.
  • Be yourself; don’t change once you get up in front of a group of people.

Here’s my talk:



May 26th, 2014 By colingally Categories: About Me, Minechat, Minecraft

Yowsa, time flies and all that. The last batch of Minechats I uploaded here on my blog went up to Episode 22. We are now up to Episode 25! With Episode 26 being filmed (on location!) this week.

So whats new in Minecraft world? Well, the entire country of Denmark was created recently. And was promptly attacked and vandalized by..the kind of people who do this type of thing week in and week out around the world on Minecraft servers. I wonder what mass vandalization of a country is called?! It’s less than war but still destructive…hmmmm…

I’ve been busy using Minecraft with our Grade 1 and 2 students within their respective curriculum units but I will write up another post about that soon. I have to think about that one. It was fun though, I will say that!

I will be presenting at the Digital Education Show Asia in Kuala Lumpur at the end of May. I’ll be hosting a round table with Adam Clarke about Minecraft  in education and also presenting on how we leverage Google Apps for student portfolios at my current school. Come September, I will be making my first foray into Africa with the Learning 2.014 Africa conference. There I will be leading an extended session on Minecraft in education (or actually two of them I think).

Anyway, on to the Minechats we have to catch up on!

Minechat Episode 23: John Miller
John has a great project going on in his school. His students learn about the Tang Dynasty and so what better than to learn about it creating appropriate ancient Chinese buildings in a Tang Dynasty Minecraft world. Adding on to that, students place information blocks outside each dwelling describing life inside and outside the building. Really engaging, really appropriate, and really relevant.


Minechat Episode 24: Nick Patsianas et al

Nick is a Grade 11 student in Australia who got his STATE’s Department of Education to open Minecraft for every school! He saw the need for teachers to learn about how to use Minecraft in education and has built a world to talk with and teach teachers.
We were joined by two of those teachers; Suzie Feodoroff and Vivienne Tuckerman.
Nick is a fine example of a self-directed and passionate young adult who enjoys nothing better than showing off what he loves to do.


Minechat Episoe 25: Andre Chercka

Andre is a teacher based in Denmark who uses Minecraft in teaching with special needs students. It was really great to see and hear what Andre was doing.


Mincehat Episode 26: David Lee

David Lee has started out his Minecraft in Education adventure by using Minecraft PE on iPads (we’ll hear more about that in the future I’m sure) but now he has made a world in regular old Minecraft.

His world is made to help teachers understand and learn about Minecraft. His world also has a recreation of a project he undertook with Minecraft PE about volcanoes and layers of the earth. He also has a electronic circuit area where he runs an after school club.


February 17th, 2014 By colingally Categories: Minechat, Minecraft

The most obvious question a teacher could ask about Minecraft in education is: “Well, what can you do with it?”. I always found that the answer would be ever-changing due to who was asking the question! With that in mind, I wanted to create a living and breathing archive of what has been done with Minecraft in education so teachers could find out for themselves and see some real-life examples that were relevant to their subject area.

So Minechat was born!

Just a quick reflection on the Minechat journey so far. When I thought about doing this around a year ago, what I wanted was to create an online depository for teachers to see, actually SEE, what is being done with Minecraft in Education. Talking in Skype and screencasting myself and the guests walking around their Minecraft world was the most obvious method to use. I knew as a by-product of that I would be learning something too, and making meaningful connections with like-minded individuals. I’m pretty happy with how it has gone and long may I find teachers (and students) willing to share what they are doing. Episode 23 and 24 are on their way!

So with that being said, it’s about time I caught up with my Minechat playlist on Edutechniques! The last episode I blogged about being Episode 17 and there have been 5 episodes since then!


Episode 18:

My guests Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski have a great space created in Minecraft where teachers and students alike drop by, play, and create teaching and learning spaces. I enjoyed this episode immensely; it’s always easier when there are more voices to learn from!


Episode 19:

Always nice to chat with Adam Clarke and see what shenanigans he is up to! In this episode he showed me some basic Redstone programming and then unveiled a massive scanned in human torso!! Oh and this was the episode where I lightened the main text on the intro screen to make it stand out more and changed the colors of the lower font!


Episode 20:

This episode I chatted with Maria Cipollone and Rick Moffat. We were in a world that Maria used with some students about structures. This episode was really interesting as we got into a wide-ranging conversation covering games in education, stereotypes about gaming, and education in general. Very enjoyable.


Episode 21:

This was a great little episode (maybe the shortest!) in which Dan Bloom showed me around his single player world in which students go through the process of extracting DNA from a cell! Not knowing anything about this, I could tell right away the way in which this would help students grasp some complex subject matter.


Episode 22:

It all started off way back in Episode 1 with Joel Levin so when I saw that he was involved in setting up a MinecraftEdu world using QCraft I had to get him back on to explain what it was all about. Katya Hott also joined us. Quantum Physics is not something that is easily grasped but having gone through the QCraft mod with Joel and Katya I actually did come away with a fundamental knowledge of some aspects of quantum physics. I wonder what Joel will get up to next…?

December 9th, 2013 By colingally Categories: Digital Safety, Procrastination

Every year I do a workshop/presentation to parents on living in a digital home with tech savvy children. The first year was a sell out and what I took away from it was that I needed to give parents more time to speak and share stories and strategies. The second year I planned for just that and…3 parents showed up. We still had a good conversation but we were very disappointed.

This year we publicized our workshop well in advance, put the poster up on our classroom blogs, and on our campus TV. We also sent, I believe, 2 email reminders to all parents. This year about 12 showed up. Both my principal and I were disappointed but it went very well and the parents that showed up were very appreciative.

So in the run up to the presentation I shared my vision with our principal that the majority of the workshop would be led by parents and she agreed. I would organize the presentation around CommonSense Media’s 10 Rules Of The Road For Parents In A Digital Age. For each rule, each table of parents would discuss amongst themselves and then we would open it up to the floor.

Here’s my Google Presentation I used to guide our workshop:

Because we didn’t get the numbers we wanted we just had an open discussion after each point and that worked well.

I wanted the parents to be provoked and to react to each prompt. I didn’t want arguments. It would be a total failure if there was ONE argument.

I started off with the two quotes; one from The Shawshank Redemption because it resonated with how the world has changed in a hurry and some parents/adults are struggling to keep up and to stay informed. I added Louis C.K’s quote because he’s awesome and even though he’s saying it to make people laugh it’s got something to it. Why do children (and adults!) act differently online than face to face?

Just this week I had a Grade 5 incident where digital communication between two Grade 5 students was blown out of proportion and misunderstood and warped by the online media they were using. This was all done at home. What we are trying to get through to the parents is that school is the most monitored and moderated place when it comes to their child’s interaction with technology. We can learn together, we can monitor behavior, and we can moderate the exposure. This needs to be mirrored at home.

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