Minecraft for education?



It has been a couple of weeks now, that my son (the one who programs with Scratch) has been sitting in front of the PC / YouTube as soon as he comes back from school. Previously, he was looking for videos on Legos (if possible with Star Wars characters), or on lessons to draw Yoda or Dark Vador (pretty impressive results I have to admit!), but that is not the subject anymore. Images didn’t look like anything dangerous, so I let him watch.

And I finally asked: – What are you watching? – It’s Minecraft, Mum, can you buy it to me? – Mine-what? – All my friends have it and speak about it at school!

MineCraft_1Of course, he “only” has my old laptop, running with Ubuntu, good enough to send emails, look for information in Wikipedia and watch YouTube videos, but not for running today’s video games. And so I told him… After all, he can play enough games with the Wii and the DS, not to mention the many non-screen-based activities!

How old-fashioned I felt after saying that…

Late at night, I googled Minecraft. After deciding NOT to buy and install the game on my (professional) laptop, I opted for a compromise and bought the Pocket Edition for the tablet.

Next day: after showing it to my son, and feeling stupid because I tried the “creativity mode” where there is “nobody to kill, it’s not fun”!, my son spent a few hours on “survival mode”. And spent the whole lunch telling me how he had to cut trees to build a house, kill sheeps to make a blanket, and get sand to have glass for the windows… I started to undertand where the “craft” was…

MineCraft_2And today, this article from the BBC: “From Angry Birds to Minecraft, computer games are invading the classroom. But this is not going on behind the teacher’s back anymore: it is part of the lesson plan.”

With a link to that one, that makes me think I have to look more into it… Especially have a look at minecraftedu.com, “Bringing Minecraft to the Classroom”.

Flipped classroom and Salman Khan


KhanAcademy_frI recently discovered the concept of “flipped classroom” and thought it was a really good example of ICT bringing value to life, especially education!

In this approach, class time is spent on problem solving and discussion, and content acquisition is left to be done by the student outside of the classroom with reading assignments, using on-line videos, for example.

A very lively and convincing explanation is given by Salman Khan at a TED Talk.

And the good news is that the Khan Academy is coming to France now!

Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/
In France: http://www.khan-academy.fr/
Salman Khan’s TED Talk: http://on.ted.com/SalKhan

Memrise – another (fun) app to learn languages


MemriseReading some articles about MOOCs and languages, this application was mentioned: Memrise, a SRS – Spaced Repetition System. Accessible on PC or mobile, it relies on 3 main ingredients to teach a language: Science, Fun and Community.

Memrise_MobileThe main element is the use of “mems” and the repetition at “scientifically” determined times. Also, thanks to the community, there is a great variety of courses: here, I could find a course to learn German from French (which doesn’t exist yet in Duolingo)!

Memrise_MathsAnd you can find other subjects that languages: I believe I will suggest my son to try the one on “Tables de multiplication” before starting school tomorrow…

EdX – 3 and other MOOCs in S1 2013


This is the end of summer, soon the children will go back to school!
And for those learning at anytime thanks to MOOCs, there should be little difference. In fact, there is: so many MOOCs are offered with a start in September or October that it makes it difficult to choose the priority ones to take!
So, let’s look at the past first: between March and July, I completed 4 MOOCs, and only some that had regular deadlines to keep me moving… I also found it easier to follow “short” ones with a duration of 4 to 6 weeks, although the longest one – 3 months! – about Introduction to biology on edX, is probably the one from which I learnt the most!

And now for the fun: go to this poster and look for my face 😉
A hint: I’m on the very right side…

MOOCGdP, my first completed MOOC



Yes, I just finalised my first MOOC!

  • MOOC Title: ABC de la gestion de projet
  • School: Ecole Centrale de Lille (Remi Bachelet and a team)
  • Language: French
  • Platform: CANVAS
  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Levels: a “basic” one (quizzes) and an “advanced” one (quizzes + peer-reviewed assignments)
  • Number of students: limited to 3600 but many more were interested!


About the form:

  • 10-15mn videos followed by a short quizz, 5-6 videos per week: 15 mn is really the maximum length, I feel; the quizzes are a must to get some feedback on our level of understanding and memorisation oMOOCGdP_Quizf the video content, and the ability for several attempts lets the student learn some more; an hour and a half is the maximum total length for a week
  • videos include the speaking teacher, the slides, the mouse cursor moving along the spoken presentation: it’s good to get multiple channels at once, and some level of “animation”; also having the plan and the progress along it always visible helps

About the platform: 

I would say that Canvas is globally ok. It’s not as attractive as the EdX one though. It takes some time to figure out some navigation (providing a peer-review for example required a guide). What I like in EdX (I’m currently following the “Introduction to biology” course from Eric Lander, it’s great! see my posts) is that almost all software tools required for exercises are embedded into the platform: there is no further stress to make it on time due to problems in the tool installation. Of course, using external tools (GanttProject, VUE, …) has the advantage that we still have the tools installed after the end of the course.

Peer-reviewed assessment:

That was a new stuff for me, and one I was really wondering about! And indeed, it is not easy to “play the teacher”… At least an evaluation grid was provided for each work to be assessed with criteria description and values.

Thought about the Business Model:

In the final questionnaire, there was one question related to a possible Business Model. From the extensive literature that can be found online nowadays, this is still to be defined


A MOOC on Open Education – 1



Now that I’ve found out about this “Open Education” concept (see my post on French-speaking MOOCs), I’ve had the chance to stumble upon a MOOC from the Open University, entitled “Open Education” and starting this week! How great!

Topics are:
Week 1: Openness in education
Week 2: Open education resources
Week 3: Moving beyond OER
Week 4: MOOCs
Week 5: Pedagogy in open learning
Week 6: Operating in an open world
Week 7: Conclusion

That way, I can test another MOOC (that makes me follow an American, a British and a French one in parallel) AND learn about Open Education.

First step: setup a blog and write about the course… ok, done!

Also: register the blog into the blog aggregator, tweet using the right hashtag (#h817open), register into Cloudworks to be able to apply for badges (interesting, that’s new for me…), test out the OU Live system, and have a look at some other Open Learn units (I made the first part of “Stadte und Menschen”).

That’s for the technical environment. Then, let’s start with the first readings about flavours of openness…

Duolingo – 2



And now, speak it! That’s great, the iPhone app has been upgraded with the addition of the speaking feature (that was already available in the web version): if you don’t say the sentence the right way, you have to repeat…

Another new feature is the list of strengthened words at the end of the lesson.


2013: a year for European and French-speaking MOOCs?


After looking at MOOCs, trying a few ones, reading so many articles about them and their revolution of the American higher education world, I was wondering about Europe / France… And yes, it’s coming here also!

End of 2012, an experience was made with ITyPA, “1st MOOC in French”: http://itypa.mooc.fr, “Internet, tout y est pour apprendre” (“t’outiller pour apprendre”), a kind of meta MOOC; feedbacks from users are gathered in https://sites.google.com/site/capitypa/

Although the Glossary states that there is no French translation for MOOC (“MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. Il n’y a pas de traduction française officielle.”), one of the authors, Christine Vaufrey, asks on the website Thot Cursus if 2013 will be the year of MOOCs in French. And gives a few references: a Swiss one in Coursera (from EPFL – école polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), a Belgian one (Pedago-TIC & l’Ecole numérique), a couple from Quebec (HEC Montréal), and … a French one (Ecole Centrale de Lille)!

On the platform side, she mentions that a European MOOC-platform is in preparation for Spring 2013: EDUNAO. And another one, Claroline Connect, is expected for September 2013.

On March 14th, 2013, during JNUM13 (Journee Numerique 2013), another of the ITyPA authors, Jean-Marie Gilliot seems to believe that some teaching needs to be open to keep existing, following the trend set by Internet as a dominant knowledge infrastructure. He mentions the concept of Open Education: I like that, I will add it to the Open Science and Open Innovation ones, they make a good triplet…


EdX – 2




Pfff… I made it! through the Week 1, but especially through the 1st Problem Set! It’s been years since I last felt this anxiety about failing an exam, reviewing my answer twice before clicking on the dreaded “Check” button… I even went to replay some of the Deep Dives videos.


And today, I went to see what’s in for Week 2, and there was this message telling us not to worry if the Problem Set felt difficult, that we learn a lot more through making mistakes and that all that counts is the final exam! Somehow reassuring 😉

So, all in all, a pretty good week…

Scratch – 1


So, for his programming learning experience, as a first step, I decided to let my son “play” with Scratch: I just showed him how to launch it, and how to drag a component into the script area.


Then I handed him the “Getting started” document I had printed and left the room. That was a full success! He loved it!

When I came back, he had gone successfully through the whole exercise and had started to add hand-drawn objects (nice fish!) and variations of scripts.


After that, we went through the “Reference Guide”; most parts he had found out by himself, but still learned a few more tricks. Which he applied in a new “project” of his, started from nothing…


Then came frustration: “I want to learn more, I want more exercises!”. So I looked for more tutorials and provided him with those 2 (in French):


* http://scratched.media.mit.edu/resources/tutoriel-scratch-th%C3%A9s%C3%A9e-et-le-minotaure

Let’s see if he likes them…