CEP 813: Best Work

While trying to decide what I would characterize as my “best” work in CEP 813, I really had to reflect on how to measure or evaluate my “best” work. I think most people naturally assume their highest score or highest quality work represents their best work; however, I feel that my best work in CEP 813 is best represented through my growth and accomplishments, not mastery. Through lecture and play in CEP 813, I have come to appreciate the learning process much more than the end result. Consequently, I believe that some of my best work in CEP 813 was developed throughout Module 4: Using Digital Games for Assessment. Specifically, I believe that my best work is the Minecraft assessment I built to use as a tool to measure learning in my 8th grade math class. It may not be the highest quality of work I have produced in CEP 813, but it is the work that I feel represents the most personal growth as my accomplishments relate to all facets of this course.

Our creation task was broken down into two separate activities, which resulted in two separate screencasts. For the first part of the task, I explored the Minecraft tutorial world and then created a screencast of my explorations in which I played around, interacted with the environment, and I learned “the basics” necessary to navigate around the virtual world, or so I thought. In the screencast, I communicated challenges and difficulties as I encountered them and as they related to me personally. I also discussed the potential for using Minecraft as an assessment tool in my math classroom. This was an assessment FOR learning and we were assessed on the specifics of our reflection and the technical/production elements of our screencast. For the second part of the task, I was had to create an assessment in Minecraft and reflect on how my assessment design in relation to using Minecraft as a form of electronic assessment might benefit my students. In my second screencast, I identified the math concepts I planned to use in accordance with Minecraft as a way to assess student learning, and then I proceeded to navigate around my creation in the virtual world, explaining design features as they related to the assessment task. I also elaborated on how I would use my creation to measure learning. This was an assessment AS/FOR learning. The screencast was again assessed for technical elements and the rationale behind our design as it related to theory and practice.

In lieu of feedback, we were given the criteria that we would be evaluated on prior to beginning the creation task. This was essential for many reasons: [1] it made the purpose for the task transparent, [2] it revealed the expectations of the assessment, [3] it served as a framework that I could use to inform my design decisions, and [4] it provided an outline that allowed for direct feedback in relation to the specific assessment/evaluation criteria. In addition to fully understanding the purpose for the task and the evaluation criteria, the evaluation notebook was extremely valuable as it allowed for timely and detailed feedback that I could reference at any point and the comment feature made it possible to highlight and discuss specifics with my professor as needed. The organization of the feedback allowed me to easily make connections between my creation and the professor’s feedback so I could make improvements accordingly. The feedback did much more than convey a score. The feedback was thorough and provided specific examples and supports for areas that needed improvement or that needed to be developed further. Through the personalized feedback I received I learned more about how to use Minecraft effectively and also improved my final assessment creation.

Reflecting on my overall experience: at first, Minecraft appeared to be fairly easy to use and set up. We were given instructions that were easy to follow and video tutorials that explained how to navigate in Minecraft in addition to videos that elaborated on the affordances of using games in education. As a gamer, the “play” stage was exciting for me. However, once I began to create my own space in Minecraft, the excitement faded and the frustration set in. I realized that I didn’t really understand what I was doing while I played, and consequently, I didn’t focus on developing the skills that were necessary during the creation stages. I couldn’t figure out how to lay bricks down, and even if I did eventually figure it out, I wasn’t sure of the design in which I would lay them. Figuring out how to effectively use the virtual world of Minecraft in my math classroom was a challenge in itself. I had initially thought it would be easy to connect the three dimensional building blocks in Minecraft with a lesson on three dimensional geometry or isometric drawings, but after playing around on Minecraft and trying out a few different designs, I would reach the conclusion that the design I created for assessment would not result in authentic learning and could be more effectively completed without Minecraft. It wasn’t until I spent time reflecting on my commitment towards relentlessly creating a worthwhile task for my 8th grade math students using Minecraft that I realized the value of the virtual world and the creation task was actually in the learning process itself. That is, as I created in Minecraft, I was reminded of the importance of experimentation, play, and immediate feedback while developing new understanding. By default games provide automatic feedback, whether that is good or bad. They allow for collaborative workspaces and tangible learning opportunities, which in turn afford unique assessment opportunities that can inform instruction in ways that a traditional assessment approach could not. And, although I don’t necessarily plan to use Minecraft in my classroom, playing and designing in the virtual world, at minimum, gave me a greater appreciation for the learning process and forced me to reevaluate my teaching and assessing practices.

The assignments in CEP 813, especially the Minecraft creation task, forced me to learn outside of my comfort zone from perspectives I wouldn’t typically choose using tools that made me uncomfortable, like screencasts. This course has helped me learn to value different assessment approaches and the unique learning opportunities afforded through digital platforms. Through these experiences, I learned how to design authentic assessments through backwards design according to specific learning goals and how assessments situated in instruction can be used to inform and improve teaching and learning.