“Ireland’s Future Is MINE” – How Microsoft Dream Space Empowers Schools in Ireland
28 Jul 2022
28 Jul 2022
Ireland’s Future Is MINE: The background
Microsoft Dream Space is an immersive, research based, STEM learning hub located in Microsoft Ireland headquarters. Dream Space aims to provide powerful pedagogical experiences to teachers and students to inspire them to see the role STEM can play both in curriculum and our everyday lives. Minecraft: Education Edition often features in these experiences as it showcases the power of games-based learning in education by providing the students with an activity and associated learning outcomes that can be reached in a variety of ways through the sandbox environment of Minecraft.
During the COVID pandemic, Dream Space provided on-demand STEM lessons to Ireland’s state TV and radio broadcaster, RTÉ. As schools across Ireland returned to their classrooms, both Microsoft Ireland and RTÉ wanted to excite, support, and engage schools across the island of Ireland with a new and exciting experience and thus, Ireland’s Future Is MINE was born. Working together, both parties had a clear ambition that every primary school (K-6) in Ireland would have access to Minecraft: Education Edition. This would allow for new worlds of learning to be opened in Irish classrooms across a series of TV style lessons and would ultimately culminate in an island-wide competition that challenged classrooms to create a sustainable version of their local community in the future, hence the name “Ireland’s Future Is MINE”.
Of course, this was not without its challenges—on the island of Ireland we have two different education systems. In Northern Ireland, all schools in K-12 have access to Minecraft: Education Edition through their system-wide tenancies. However, in the Republic of Ireland, we have a breadth market, which means most schools have to individually source licences, and without dedicated IT supports or technicians in these schools there can be a huge barrier to engagement. But who doesn’t love a challenge? We overcame this through the building of trust, strong collaboration, and hard work from all parties involved: Microsoft Dream Space, RTÉ, and the team at Minecraft: Education Edition.
Ireland’s Future Is MINE: The roll-out
The roll-out of Ireland’s Future Is MINE can be broken down into the three phases:
Phase 1: Schools claim their free Minecraft: Education Edition accounts
Each primary school across the Republic of Ireland was given to opportunity to redeem 120 Minecraft: Education Edition accounts to use in their classrooms. They did this through a bespoke website and system that automated a communication flow from registration of the school leader/teacher to the supply of unique account credentials for schools to then take part.
Phase 2: Support learning with Dream Space TV
Providing access to digital learning resources is one thing, but meaningful integration of these in classrooms is another. A key aspect for the success of Ireland’s Future Is MINE has been through the provision of teaching resources (curriculum guides, handbook, worksheets) that aligned to a new series of Dream Space TV. This six-episode long series of on-demand lessons brought teachers and students on a journey through Minecraft: Education Edition that saw them place their first blocks, utilize build commands, create coding programs, and explore some of the amazing worlds found within the in-game library, which supported areas of both the Irish and Northern Irish curricula. Each episode posed teachers and students a weekly build challenge to consolidate what they had just learnt and to foster collaboration, problem-solving, decision making, empathy, creativity, and communication. These skills were going to be critical for students as they prepared to enter our island-wide competition that was detailed in episode 6.
27% of primary schools in the Republic of Ireland registered their schools to take part in the Ireland’s Future Is MINE initiative through our bespoke website. This means that 897 teachers or school leaders could see the value that this could bring to their schools, with an estimated 27,000 pupils using Minecraft: Education Edition and Dream Space TV to support new worlds of learning.
One school that took part was Breaffy National School, a school located in county Mayo in the west of Ireland. Colin Syron, the lead teacher for this programming in the school, wrote to the Dream Space team to outline the powerful impact that this experience had within his classroom in the academic year, so the team paid him and his class a visit to find out more.
Phase 3: Enter the island-wide competition and become the “All-Ireland Champion”
The island of Ireland is divided into four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Schools submitted videos from these provinces across Ireland that showcased the incredible versions of their sustainable future local communities. Following a thorough judging process, four schools were crowned provincial champions and moved to a head-to-head eSports semi-final which took place in Microsoft Dream Space and challenged the students to build the “accessible transport of the future”. From this, our two finalists from Leinster and Connacht progressed to the final and being one step away from becoming the first Minecraft: Education Edition “All-Ireland” Champion.
Ireland’s Future Is MINE: The Final will be Ireland’s first ever TV broadcast of an eSports competition and aired live in June 2022. These two schools will be relying on all they have learnt from the start of their journey to build a fun, sustainable, and accessible funfair of the future! When school communities across the world see the incredible skill, knowledge, empathy, and creativity of these young people on their TV screens, there is no doubt that it will improve the understanding of the power of games-based learning and why it should be integrated into educational settings.