Student-led learning in Puerto Rico
28 Oct 2021
28 Oct 2021
Staying ahead of the latest edtech can feel like a difficult task—especially in a region hit hard by the pandemic. Find out how educational technology teacher Lisvette Flores Quiñones implemented Minecraft: Education Edition for her students in Puerto Rico in this guest blog. Starting with the basics, she was able to engage students in topics like sustainability and math. She shares insights on helpful tools like Immersive Reader and Flipgrid for all types of learners, and driving student-led learning through Minecraft: Education Edition Subject Kits.
As a technology teacher, I always have to stay at the forefront of educational changes. From the time I bought Minecraft for my children at home, I'd always known it was a tool that helps stimulate critical thinking. I could see their incredible ability to be creative and build fascinating worlds.
I like to innovate in the classroom by using educational tools that are relevant to young people. Learning through play is one of the most exciting strategies for modern teachers, and exploring the resources available for Minecraft has allowed me to be more accessible to learners. Minecraft: Education Edition helps me work through concepts with students so they can reinforce their academic skills.
I support a population of 115 students in grades six to eight. My role involves working with teachers and helping them integrate technological tools that enrich their academic curricula. That includes the responsibility for professionally training administrative staff, teachers, and other officials.
To get started with Minecraft in the classroom, I attended a professional training where we were shown the game's educational resources and went through the process of building worlds. For me, the most significant challenge has been getting acquainted with the inventory items and resources. It took some time and practice, but eventually I decided to implement the platform in my classroom. For an adult who wasn't used to the game, building worlds wasn't easy to master. But I managed to build a scenario where students could explore different areas and start learning about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Since some learners had never used Minecraft, I started slowly with them, beginning with the basics of movement. As a result of exclusion from gaming, I noticed that girls hadn't had the same opportunities as boys to build Minecraft skills. Fortunately, the library has special modules that help students master the keyboard, understand assessment tools like Boards and the Camera, and explore the inventory. When my girls had the chance to immerse themselves in their worlds, they showed tremendous enthusiasm and quickly developed strong capabilities. They proved to be incredibly creative when it came to solving problems and stimulating thinking.
After these initial efforts, I decided to implement Minecraft as my primary learning tool. I believe it's a powerful vehicle for strengthening students' skills across all academic areas. As their teacher, I make sure to work through each lesson and identify any difficulties they might encounter.
In mathematics, learners build worlds to reinforce multiplication tables. For Spanish, they use Boards to practice proper writing. Because you can embed a Flipgrid link in your Minecraft worlds, we're even able to work with oral communication. I've addressed inclusion and artificial intelligence, and watched students practice concepts using simulators. They've come to understand that they can explore any subject they like in their worlds.
When you're training your new students on Minecraft, it's helpful to work with them step by step, from logging into the game with their school email to exploring the worlds and templates built into the platform. I actually showed my learners the Minecraft subject kit page so they could find their own learning resources and take the initiative to teach themselves. We support our work in Minecraft by using Microsoft Teams to manage synchronous and asynchronous classes.
One girl I work with is highly intelligent but has always been shy about revealing her knowledge. Using Flipgrid, I was able to provide her with a safe space where she could express what she learned. There, she shared that she hadn't been able to master the multiplication table for the number nine until she could visualize it by combining blocks in Minecraft. This same student struggles with English, but she uses the Immersive Reader integration as a translator to work through lessons that aren't available in Spanish or to use the English-language Code Builder.
Our work with the Sustainable Development Goals was particularly important because students need to recognize the importance of working collaboratively to improve the quality of life for humans and the rest of the planet. Sourcing information from different parts of the internet, learners conducted research to investigate the significance of each goal. Each of them identified the most relevant SDG with the aim of becoming advocates and creating proposals for solving global problems. Learners then built worlds to illustrate their proposals, engaging their critical thinking and problem solving. Students are remarkably in touch with world events, so they even implemented COVID-19 security measures and safety protocols for virtual visitors to their worlds!
Increasingly, students strive to create worlds that solve the problems affecting their daily lives. They get especially excited for Earth Day celebrations. There are many ways to assess students, but having them present their creations orally and visually through Flipgrid videos enables interaction and collaborative learning. My learners' reflections were amazing! They'd never seen a way to integrate subjects into world-building before. You can see some of their incredible work on sustainability here.
For the future, I'm certain I'll continue to use Minecraft: Education Edition. I've seen a measurable increase in student interest and motivation as they build worlds and solve problems within the digital environment. It's everyone's responsibility to work toward the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to the planet we live on and what we want to leave to our descendants. With Minecraft, students are the ones building a promising future, and the game helps them make their ideas a reality.
Lisvette Flores Quiñones is an educational technology teacher with 20 years of experience in the Puerto Rico Department of Education.
Looking for help getting started with Minecraft: Education Edition? Explore training opportunities here.