“I lead by example and share my story daily on Twitter, hoping that it helps someone who might be nervous about taking a risk to just do it.” – Benjamin Kelly, Canada
Teacher/Lead of Innovation Design
Anglophone East School District
Moncton, New Brunswick
Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) Benjamin Kelly has a full toolbox when it comes to practicing Universal Design for Learning. And his favorite activities in his toolbox always include Microsoft’s Minecraft Education Edition. Why? Minecraft not only allows students to demonstrate and showcase their understanding in a wide variety of ways, “it also offers an engagement factor that encourages students’ best work,” says Kelly.
“The best way for teachers to use Minecraft in the classroom is to get in the game and work with the students,” Kelly shares. “It strengthens relationships, student assessment and professional growth. Minecraft can support development of empathy, STEM, languages, humanities and physical education skills, among others.”But perhaps the most memorable of Kelly’s lessons came recently, during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a significant event in Canada’s history, and one that inspires a good deal of national pride.
Kelly’s 8th grade class decided to create a tribute to honor each of the 3279 Canadian soldiers who died in the battle, and Minecraft played a huge role.
“This student initiative, which saw them command leadership over the classroom (and invite me as their teacher to join them), was one I did not expect would influence me as much as it did,” says Kelly. “The empathy and emotion on display when students typed their surnames on a soldier’s sign, or when they flew above to take in the vastness of signs, was pretty heavy. The learning environment was fun when not solemn, and you could witness the relationships strengthening each class. Students genuinely wanted to be in school and active in their learning.”
A true MIEE, Kelly is also dedicated to helping other educators strengthen their teaching skills. “Personally, I have contributed 30 lessons to the Minecraft Education Program since January 2017,” he says. “Each of these lessons presents real-world issues for students and allows them to develop novel solutions while demonstrating a deeper understanding of the curriculum outcomes involved.”
Kelly admits that most of the initiatives in his classroom felt “risky” when he first started, but his school’s administration backed his efforts. “I am fortunate to have a forward-thinking school district and government, generous educational partners and students who truly want to make the world a better place,” he says. “I lead by example and share my story daily on Twitter, hoping that it helps someone who might be nervous about taking a risk to just do it.”
About Benjamin Kelly
- Educational background: B.Sc. Biochemistry and Physics, B.Ed. Education Technology
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Microsoft HoloLens
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “You should cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs…”
- Website I check every day: Twitter.com
- Favorite childhood memory: Hockey with my dad.
- Favorite book: Hollywood Causes Cancer by Tom Green