Category: Exploration

Minechat Episode #23

Last weekend I had the chance to record a video podcast with Colin Gallagher, the creator of Minechat. It is my favorite podcast because he interviews teachers that use Minecraft in their classrooms. The really cool thing is that his interviews take place IN MINECRAFT!

He asked me to share my student’s Tang Dynasty build so I gave him a tour. You can watch the video on YouTube below.

Mandala Construction and Destruction

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to witness a mandala being created by eight Buddhist monks from India. They were on a fundraising tour of our area. Over two weeks they demonstrated many aspects of Tibetan culture.

The highlight for me was the creation of a mandala. A mandala is a “sand painting” that represents a spiritual view the universe. The mandala that I witnessed was constructed over four days and was designed by the Dalai Lama. It shows the religions of the earth coexisting in peace.

The completed mandala. Made of thousands of grains of sand.

The monks mediate and pray while they make the mandala to bring themselves to a state of peace. It is created with colorful crushed stone sand, often placed one grain at a time, to create a beautiful image.

Once the mandala is finished, a “deconstruction” ceremony takes place. Incense is lit to purify the area, the monks chant a series of three prayers, and then the mandala is destroyed by brushing the sand into a single pile.

The sand is scooped up and taken to a body of flowing water where it is released in another ceremony. The sand, in spirit, makes its way to the ocean where the prayers it carries cross the earth.

Below is a video I made of the deconstruction ceremony.

CUE Conference Highlights

What a busy month March was! I finally have the chance to get caught up with blog posts and share my experiences.

In the middle of March, I was able to attend the Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, California. My head is still spinning a bit from all of the great sessions, seeing so many good friends, and making so many new ones.

I was part of a wonderful group of five educators from my school district that attended. We had a blast covering multiple sessions, sharing our ideas, and eating great dinners. It made the LONG drive (about 6.5 hours) seem a lot shorter!

The keynote speaker was one of my heroes in education, Sir Ken Robinson. He told the audience of nearly 4,000 that educational technology  was at the top of a giant wave that was transforming education. Technology allows students to express their creativity. It also allows teachers to be learners alongside their students and to become innovators in the classroom once again. I was very fortunate to be able to attend a follow-up session with him and receive a copy of his latest book along with the photo below :-)

Sir Ken Robinson and me!

I absolutely loved the sessions that I attended. Many were presented by friends of mine. I had the opportunity to meet up again with my blogging buddy, Linda Yollis, and we had a great time. She presented a wonderful session on blogging and parent involvement. My friends that attended with me were very impressed and we all learned a great deal from Linda!

Mrs. Yollis and Mr. Miller!

Even though the conference is over, I have many fond memories to reflect upon. I am also looking forward to the next conference that I will be a part of. It is called the Rockstar Teacher Camp and it will be in my hometown of Paso Robles at the end of April. I’ll get a chance to meet more inspiring educators!


Minecrafting Our Way Through the Renaissance

Part 2 – Implementation

Since my previous Minecraft post, my students and I have busy role playing our characters while learning about the feudal social pyramid and the role of the church in the early middle ages.

My goal is to use Minecraft to complement my curriculum objectives. Students will be role playing medieval, and then renaissance characters, in the virtual world being created by myself, my aides, and a talented high school aged son of a colleague. I will embed lessons and quests within MC that will provide my students with options for learning the required standards.

Canterbury taking shape.

Students will not be required to play MC. I will always provide options that allow for students to explore learning by other means. I do, however, expect to find that many students will want to “live” in our virtual classroom world and that I will be challenged to manage and distribute interactive content on a regular basis.

We are currently preparing to enter our medieval world. Each of my five history classes has their own village based on a real English city. They also have roles to play from duke and duchesses all the way down to peasant farmers.

Looks like a good crop this year

When we finish our studies on medieval Europe, we will move into the renaissance period. At this point I will load up another world we are creating, Tudor London, and all my classes will “live” within the walls of this historic city while we become enlightened.

We end the school year with the Age of Exploration and I intend to send students off to discover and settle their own new worlds.

Next post – Assessments

Olympic Geocaching Opportunity

A Travel bug

As soon as students complete their testing this week we will begin exploring a new project that has been in the works for quite some time. In order to further the geography education of my students I like to develop global projects for them to participate in. One hobby of mine is geocaching – placing “travel bugs” in secret locations identified only by their geographic coordinates. Using a GPS device of some sort, geocachers hunt for these bugs around the world. When found, many of these bugs are swapped out for other bugs and moved on their way to another cache. Bugs are registered on the website and tracked as they travel from cache to cache. Often, owners of the travel bugs generate goals for their items.

I have the opportunity to spend three weeks in the UK during the Olympics this summer and I’ve created a project around my adventure. During my stay, I will be travelling around England, and as far as the highlands of Scotland, “seeding” student travel bugs along the way. Over the coming weeks, students in my class will be bringing in a token of some sort to attach to a travel bug. We will be classifying each bug and develop a database of sorts containing things like mass, dimensions, color, etc. so that we can determine if any of these factors slow or speed up a bug’s progress.

A token with travel bug attached

The ultimate goal of each bug will be to return “home” to our local cache just outside of our school. In addition to gathering data prior to departure, students will be developing a backstory about each bug. Why does their bug need to return home? What adventures would the bug like to have on the return journey? Each bug’s story and goals will be accessible via a unique webpage (example). We will track progress throughout next year and see if any of the bugs make it home and how many goals have been realized.

Maps are automatically generated for each bug

I have five FOUR, Three, TWO bugs reserved for our friends around the world and if your class is interested, or would like more information, please leave a comment below. In order to participate, you will need to send me the item that you would like attached to the bug. I need to receive it by June 15th. It cannot be larger than a box of playing cards and must have some way to attach a travel bug chain to it. See images for examples.

There are, of course, no guarantees that any of our bugs will make it home. However, we will have a grand time tracking their adventures as they scamper across the planet in the coming months. Join us!

Tyrone the Sea Monster

Note: This story was created on a shared document by students in Room 162 as well as our Quadblogging buddies in Spain, the UK, and New Zealand.

Once upon a time, there lived a very sad sea monster named Tyrone. This is the story of how he became so sad. Tyrone was once very funny and happy and lived in the Pacific Ocean. He always put smiles on people’s faces. On the other hand his old friend, Rocki, was a mean and clumsy magical sea monster. Tyrone’s parents raised him to be caring and thoughtful. He was as happy as a monster in candy store, until one Saturday morning in February when something went very wrong.

Rocki went to Tyrone’s home and he convinced Tyrone to stole a candy store. They hold up the shop and in that moment Tyrone felt very happy and brave. Next day a piece of news appeared in all newspapers and Tyrone’s parents recognized him in a photo. They were very sad, but Tyrone became a famous bandit and signed autographs all the day for his friends. Two weeks later, Rocki went to Tyrone’s home again with a new proposition

Glimmering and dazzling, the priceless ‘Black Pearl’ was safely cushioned behind an impenetrable golden cage, in the famous ‘Clownfish cafe’. Fish people came from all across the ocean just to be mesmerised by its beauty, especially in the mystical moonlight.  It is said that just one touch from this pearl would make you immortal and be able to live amongst the stars with the Gods.

There had been several failed attempts by many gangsters to steal this 7th wonder of the underwater world. Gangster Granny was almost successful in her attempts to steal the pearl when she dug up though the smelly sewers.  Her attempts were only blocked by a lobster that just happened to be working on the pipes that day.  She is still in prison, 5 years later, knitting her latest evil plan.

Meanwhile,on the top of the ocean, Tyrone gets thrown into jail because of his theft. Rocki hears about Gangstar granny and her mean ways and he did not want his old friend to get hurt, but he did not want to go to jail himself. So, he made contact with Tyrone, to make an escape plan to get out of jail with Gangstar granny, and run away. “Sure.” He say’s. But then, in a matter of time, he sees the one and only: Gangster granny. They look face to face, and granny starts to ask him if he is a thief. He say’s “Yesss.” Very slowly but granny just smiles. “So, another thief. I am one too, you know.” She said slyly. “I have an evil plan to steal a very rare item. The Black Pearl.” She laughed. “The what?” Tyrone wondered. “The Black Pearl. One touch of this, and it shall render you immortality.” She said. “Whoa!” Tyronne exclaimed. He became mesmerized by the thought of this item’s power. “But how in the world are we supposed to get out? “ Tyronne asked, he wondered. “Easy.” She said. She walked over to her masterpiece. “We leave this babe right here and the guards think it’s me.” She started. “Then …” She said. “Then what?” Tyronne asked, and wondered once more…

Later that night, Gangster Granny and Tyrone made their escape. Rocki was waiting outside in his Camaro ready to leave. They escaped with no problem, but soon after the cops realized they were gone and sent out alerts to all neighboring prisons. On a Friday night, Gangster Granny, Rocki, and Tyrone planned to steal The Black Pearl. They snuck around to the back door of the museum. Then BAM, they broke the lock and ran inside. Suddenly, they heard police sirens. They tried to run but the police was too fast and already surrounded the building. Rocki and Gangster Granny were sentenced to life in the highest security prison known to man. But why wasn’t Tyrone? Well because he is the one who told the police where and when the alleged robbery was supposed to occur. He did this because he realized stealing was bad and his parents didn’t raise him to be a thief. The cops let Tyrone go with a warning to  never steal again, but thanked him because if it wasn’t for him, Gangster Granny would have never been caught! The End!!!