R U A Responsible User of Technology?

Technology – hardware. software, and cloud-based – is governed at Canadian International School of Hong Kong by the Responsible User Agreement. As members of a digital community, CDNIS employees and students sign their names in commitment to abiding by these guidelines. This past week, Upper School and Grade 6 students took a closer examination of just what they were signing.

The RUA doesn’t dictate the best response for every situation. In the rapidly changing digital world, how could it? Instead it articulates foundational matters: Respect, Reputation, Rights, Responsibilities, Guidance, and Repercussions. Also embedded in this document are principles to guide gaming and social media use. Students and teachers must extrapolate from the RUA to apply it to everyday technology use.

Upper School teachers Ms. Nielsen, Ms. Young, and I collaborated on scenarios where the RUA provides guidance. What follows is the activity the Grade 6 students undertook during this week’s Digi-Time.

9 by 5/6 (Nine Reviews by 5th & 6th Graders)

Grade 5 and 6 Digital Ambassadors have reviewed nine online content content creation tools for your enjoyment and edification. We hope you find them useful.

Why Minecraft? This. And how.

Grade 5 Minecraft Guild group photo in front of our Christmas present to the school, a giant snow globe. (Missing: Alec)
Grade 5 Minecraft Guild group photo in front of our Christmas present to the school, a giant snow globe. (Missing: Alec)

I lead a Minecraft Guild.

I chose guild over club to emphasize craftsmanship, because we build things and are guided by a code of conduct. We challenge and learn from each other. And I have a lot to learn about Minecraft.

It’s easy to be an apprentice. Minecraft is enormously engaging. Our guild has 10 members sharing 10 Minecraft.edu licenses, so it’s only when one student is absent from school that I get to muck in during meetings. If I have a question about how to do anything in Minecraft, I immediately have half a dozen students by my side, ready to assist me. Jack, a fifth grader, is our master craftsman. When I was visiting classrooms to publicize the guild, a student asked why a 10 year-old was going to teach the club instead of me, and before I could answer, his classmate answered more succinctly than I could – “Because Jack’s a beast at Minecraft!” It’s true.

Why Minecraft?

bloomsrevisedtaxomonyMinecraft engages all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, both traditional and revised versions. Guild members have memorized dozens of command codes, single lines and combinations, to customize Minecraft interface and constructions. They have learned through instruction and practice how the Minecraft world operates and have applied it to aesthetically wonderful and delightfully complicated constructions. They build up, tear down, and then build again to improve. And they create, create, create. Some students are building on interest piqued by the Grade 4 community unit, where they designed their own cities, and all are vanguard for the Grade 5 Area and Volume math investigation. All are involved because they love Minecraft.


Gaming and School Venn

Banish the mental image of a classroom of students hunched over their laptops, with no sound but the clicking of mice and keyboards. Our meetings are exuberantly social, with students flitting back and forth between friends and, more often, talking across the room. A little in your face, but it’s an engaged group of creative problem solvers, where, in the words of Dr. James Paul Gee, “the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group”. This creative chaos works, and avoids the Darwinian world of gaming, because our guild functions according to our essential agreements.

Essential Agreements

An evolving document, here are our guiding principles. Members of the Minecraft Guild:

  • Recognize that membership is a privilege
  • Treat each other, and each other’s’ Minecraft builds, with respect
  • Listen when necessary
  • Respect our own and other’s right to be heard and take turns speaking
  • Practice respectful and responsible time management – We Minecraft in class only with teacher permission

Student/Teacher/Home Partnership

Joining the Minecraft Guild requires three things from applicants, an interest (“Why do you want to join?”), some experience (“Email a screenshot of your best work.”, and a goal (“Why do you want to join?”). Students also had to compel their homeroom teacher and parents to email me with permission to join. The motivations for joining were far more diverse than I expected. Desire for fun creativity loomed large in their statements of interest, but also the chance to continue studies in coding and circuitry. Many praised the opportunity to practice Minecraft in a social setting as well, including one student, another master builder thanks for hours of self-study, who wanted to break out from the loneliness of building Minecraft by himself  at home.

Minecraft Guild reasons for joining
Aggregated answers to the question, “Why do you want to join the Minecraft Guild”. Word cloud built with Tagxedo.

Project-Based Learning


The snow globe takes shape, fuelled by fried rice.
The snow globe takes shape, determination fuelled with fried rice.

It would never occur to me to build a giant snow globe in Minecraft, but that’s what Jack suggested and his peers agreed. I love the idea. Over four lunchtime meetings, we framed out our glass skyscraper, and then populated it with spruce trees, villagers, snowmen, elaborately coded houses, and a fireplace. A Rube Goldberg-esque snow generator on the roof made for a convincing snow fall, but not at first, and not all the time, but guild members lived out the philosophy that FAIL simply means First Attempt In Learning.

Minecraft Winter Wonderland

What’s our next project?

Feel free to make suggestions in the comments. Then watch this space for further developments.

Tune Up Your WordPress

This is a demonstration of the privacy protecting power of Google Slides. If you’re not on my approved viewer list, you can’t see my slideshow. If you have a CDNIS address, you get to enjoy the presentation.

This is part of a larger, widely-shared, How-To request from the Grade 6 team, as they tune up their WordPress iFolios.