Leveraging Student Voice | Showcasing Student Work to an Authentic Audience

by Steve Isaacs @mr_isaacs   Our goal for students is for them to demonstrate their learning. Student expertise should be celebrated and shared. I have become increasingly interested in how students learn in informal settings. Minecraft serves as a perfect example. The game comes with no instruction manual. Who knew how brilliant that would be! Essentially, all of the content for this game is user generated. The official minecraft wiki contains over 5,000 articles and close to 11,000 files all contributed by members of the minecraft user community. When you do a youtube search with the query minecraft it yields a modest 147,000,000 results. Other sites like Instructables, Snapguide, and Pinterest will prove my point further regarding the plethora of user generated minecraft content out there. I believe strongly in student voice, student choice, constructivist and constructionist learning. I am committed to providing opportunities for my students to contribute to this growing knowledge base around the game. It allows them to demonstrate their understanding while writing or producing for an authentic audience. It is safe to say that our students perform better when they know their work is out there and available to the public. They typically take more pride in their work when this is the case. In this blog post, I will share my approach to showcasing student work and making the meaning relevant to them and the global minecraft community. My game design and development course is choice / quest based. I use 3dgamelab and students choose the quest lines that appeal to them. Quests revolve around many learning pathways including coding, analyzing and reviewing games, writing step by step tutorials, learning skills related to game design, and of course creating their own games. Many of the quests are submitted in a public manner so they can be shared with the world, We have a class YouTube channel. Student projects are showcased throughout the channel. Currently, my 7th grader cycle class is working on a project where they are using Minecraft to Reimagine Timeless Fairy Tales We have started to post walk through videos of the stories as well as 8th graders games in progress: A while back, we created a number of redstone tutorials to demonstrate the use of redstone when it was released in the Windows 10 Version of Minecraft. Microsoft featured these videos on the Minecraft in Education Blog :) My students were super psyched to create these knowing they would be available on youtube. They came in for many lunch periods as well as before and after school to record and edit their videos. We have a number of other Minecraft related videos on our YouTube channel. One of my favorites (I apologize for the poor video quality) is a walk through of the student created mini game Cart Wreck. It includes a conversation I had with the students about the development of the game. I'm blown away every time I watch this. The thought and planning that went into this is amazing and it is a great demonstration of student expertise. A few years ago I was introduced to Snapguide and Instructables, two DIY sites designed for users to create step by step tutorials complete with images and text. I love this as a way for students to teach others while demonstrating their understanding. If they can write a guide that others can replicate from their directions, it is quite evident that they understand what they are explaining. This activity is a quest that repeats as I am happy to have students submit multiple tutorials and receive credit for them. When they are completed and worthy of sharing, I pin them on one of my class showcase pinterest boards. One board is dedicated to Minecraft Tutorials and Videos and is full of great snapguide tutorials. This particular snapguide tutorial teaches you how to use noteblocks in Minecraft to play the Mario theme. I especially loved this one as I sat with the student for him to explain the process to me and was thrilled to learn how to do this. Hearing his explanation was great as it served as a terrific authentic assessment and opportunity to hear how enthusiastic he was to share his work :) I love the way the completed tutorials come out and really love sharing them with the world! The process of sharing student work has become a natural part of my workflow. I use the pinterest chrome extension and while evaluating student work, if it is worthy of publishing to a wider audience, I simply click the extension and add it to the appropriate board. It's been fun to see the showcase evolve as I currently have close to 300 student projects shared. I hope you will share my enthusiasm for student choice and student voice as we can really amplify the great work our students are doing.