Even the youngest students can learn with technology – Meg Chopek, Canada

Minecraft in Education is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways for innovative teachers to #hacktheclassroom. Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Experts who we met at the Microsoft E2 Global Educator Exchange in Budapest (like Daily Edventures alum André Spang) are using Minecraft to gamify their classrooms.

But what about in Kindergarten classrooms? Are the students too young to use technology? If you ask MIE Expert Meg Chopek, her answer would be, “not at all.”

“I take big risks in class, and I’m very open if I don’t know something,” says Chopek. “I’ve been looking for a way to integrate Minecraft into my classroom. Last week we planted some seeds, and the students said, ‘we should plant a garden outside.’ But it was too cold outside. So, instead, they planted a garden in Minecraft.”

Chopek admits it was a little scary at first, but it was also a success.

“They were so engaged,” she says. “[The garden-building in Minecraft] was supposed to last 20 minutes, but it lasted an hour – which is a big deal with the short attention span of kindergarteners.” The exercise used math, letter identification and peer discussions, along with many other skills.

Chopek, who also attended E2, has been using technology in her classroom for some time. Whether it’s with Skype in the Classroom on World Poetry Day, or through her coding club for young children, Chopek has witnessed the difference technology has made in her students, no matter their age.

And she also uses Skype to involve parents who might not be able to come to the classroom on a regular basis. “A lot of [students] are already familiar with some form of video chat,” she says. “They use Skype with parents to do number games, etc. Each parent can connect quickly over Skype, and still be a part of our classroom.” Chopek and her students recently connected with a teacher in Scotland for a mystery animal Skype, which had students enthralled with research.

Her advice for teachers interested in using technology, but who may be a bit timid? “Adopt the mindset that you are just one of the group,” says Chopek. “Sometimes I’m the boss. But not all the time. I think it’s important to teach kids from an early age that they are in charge of their own learning. They are in charge of what they do in our classroom. They need to know that the decisions that they make impact themselves and impact the people around them.”

An important lesson for anyone…regardless of age.

Meg Chopek
Kindergarten Teacher
Island Lakes Community School

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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