Gathering student voice about existing and possible spaces has been a big part of a consultation phase prior to designing more learning hubs. Finding out what children like or would like to improve about current spaces is valuable information that is really going to help inform what happens next.
Ensuring that we’d got a variety of media for children to work in was important, so we’d gone into spend the afternoon with a group of Year 5-8 students, armed with large sheets of paper, cardboard, marker pens, scissors, templates of existing rooms, Lego, cameras and the like. Sketchup was available on a number of devices too. However the very first request I got when asked to put some possible ideas forward was ‘Could we do this on Minecraft?’
Fortunately we teach in a time when it’s ok not to be the expert and this was certainly the case here. I’d seen children using Minecraft – there’s often a group in the library exchanging ideas at lunchtime- but hadn’t recognized the potential as a means for expressing ideas about space. Because that’s want I believe this phase of the consultation is about. It’s allowing children to engage in discussion about space using a media that they are fluent at working in.
Whilst the drawings or constructions students produced are important artifacts, it’s actually the dialogue that accompanies them that is the critical part of the learning. Freeman and Mathison (2009) consider when drawing as a research tool, that “Drawings are especially valuable when combined with additional interpretation provided by participants” (p. 114). Dixon and Senior refer to the fact that they took notes of conversations while children were engaged in drawing places they learn at school (Blackmore et al., 2011).
The same concept can equally be applied to using Minecraft. It’s not about just what students constructed, it was about the conversations they had during and after. So it was left to a group of Year 6 learners to show me the light! And they certainly did. Learning spaces were quickly modeled and remodeled, constructed and improved. Screenshots were taken from multiple angles and pretty soon my email was overflowing with images. This, I am assured is just the start- just wait for the narrated 3D flythroughs!
Blackmore, J., Aranda, G., Bateman, D., Cloonan, A., Dixon, M., Loughlin, J., et al. (2011). Innovative Learning Environments through New Visual Methodologies. Melbourne: Deakin University Retrieved from http://www.learningspaces.edu.au/docs/learningspaces-visual-methodologies-report.pdf
Freeman, M., & Mathison, S. (2009). Researching children's experiences. New York, London: The Guilford Press.
Images courtesy of Jackson and Lachlan