Monday, December 23, 2013

CBC Gives Minecraft Club a Media Lesson

School is over for 2013 but I have enough fodder and education-based anecdotes to carry me through the rest of the calendar year.

On November 28, 2013, Julia Pagel came to my school to meet my Minecraft Club members and interview them for a segment on CBC's Spark radio program. The great thing about Julia's visit was that it gave us some real-life learning in return.

My club for October - December 2013 was reserved for the intermediate division students (in Grades 7-8) and they were excited when they heard that "the media" was interested in speaking to them. The group declared that they were going to produce a "behind the scenes" video of the experience to be posted on YouTube. Since they had signed special media release forms for this particular event, I saw no problem with creating and posting this video, especially since this was all their idea.

Julia explains the process to the Macphail Minecrafters

I think my boys (and for some quirky reason, for the first time ever, my Minecraft group this time around consisted of all boys) were a little surprised to see just one person with a microphone and boxy device show up to our school. On the students' behalf, I pretended to be the paparazzi and spent time taking photos and video clips of the club interacting with Julia. She taped intermittently for the entire club session that afternoon and stayed until after 6:00 p.m. to interview the three teachers behind GamingEdus (Liam O'Donnell, Denise Colby, and me).

This link will take you to the segment that appeared on CBC Spark on Sunday, December 15, 2013. (It was replayed, with a slight correction, on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.)

My students don't listen to the radio much, especially CBC, but teachers do! I received some nice emails and some Twitter shoutouts, like this one.

When the club members met again, before the radio interview aired, I reminded them that they needed to take some time from their Minecraft playing to compile their YouTube video. This news wasn't received too happily.

"Can't we play first?"
"How about we do it for five minutes and then play?"

I shouldn't have been too surprised - quite a few of our club members tend to under-perform in school-related literacy, numeracy, and social tasks. However, I had the perfect, real-world example to use. I asked the guys how long Julia recorded audio footage and how long the radio clip was going to be. (Julia recorded for two hours at our school and a little less than an hour at Denise's school. That's three hours of sound that she had to condense into a four-minute slot.) I also talked to the students about how long after the recording she was going to spend on choosing and editing the data she collected - Julia revealed during her visit that it would take about two weeks or so to listen and decide.

"So, do you think five minutes will be enough time for us to make this video?"

The boys grudgingly accepted that they just *might* have to put a bit more time into the project. They had some technical difficulties the first time around, and Mr. Ngo, our dance/drama teacher and technical wizard, gave them an impromptu lesson on uploading files and taking control of technology. We met at lunch for some exclusive play time in the PvP zone, and the following week, the gang finally got around to viewing and selecting the photos and video clips they wanted in the mini-film. They had some more technical difficulties and so I promised to help them take the items and assemble them using video-creation software over the holidays. If I finish the video prior to this post going live, I'll embed it here.

Teachers can talk until their faces turn blue about the need to take time to work on projects and establish reasonable deadlines, but this doesn't translate into reality until students see authentic examples. Thanks to Julia and the CBC, this experience became a great media lesson on the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to create quality programming. Julia also did a fantastic job of telling the students in advance that, although she appreciated all their contributions, due to time restraints, she would not be able to use all of their quotes in the piece. In the end, two of our boys were featured: Hassan, explaining the mob arena, and Leo, with a memorable quote about Minecraft freeing his imagination despite his age. Leo was particularly excited. He has only been playing Minecraft for three months (and only speaking English for a couple of years) and he was keen to access the radio archives. This was another unexpected learning bonus - exposing students to another media form they may not pay attention to but is valuable. I want to thank Julia Pagel and the CBC for taking the time to teach us while we had the chance to share our Minecraft story.

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