Cross Pollinating and Connecting Organically

By Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski

 

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Diana and Elinor at 2015 APLA Conference.

We had the privilege of speaking at the Atlantic Provincial Library Association conference in beautiful St. John’s Newfoundland last week. It was our first time presenting in-person about Minecraft out-of-province, and we were uncertain of what to expect, since there are no teacher-librarians in Newfoundland and we were the only elementary school teachers attending. It was a delightful experience – we had a full room with 40 audience members and had a very positive reaction from the people who came to listen. As with many conferences, some of the richest learning occurred in the halls between official sessions, and this conference was no exception. We really enjoyed talking in particular with Mark Carbone, CIO of Waterloo Region District School Board, about technology, GAFE, “social media drive-bys”, and active, digital citizenship. We also met public librarians from Nova Scotia and PEI. The librarian from PEI, Trina O’Brien Leggott, was interested in connecting with us in the future for possible professional development opportunities for her youth service librarians. Then, we spoke to Elinor Crosby, from Halifax. She already runs a Minecraft afternoon program and possesses library Minecraft accounts that she lends out to users that don’t already have their own. She was inspired by a Minecraft pioneer in her neck of the woods – a public librarian in Sackville, NS.

Great things are happening with using Minecraft in different quarters. We would not have known about Elinor’s work had we not attended this conference. How can we build a network of Minecraft enthusiasts at a grassroots level? There are efforts afoot by some corporations and organizations to forge alliances and create hubs of “experts”, but we are somewhat cautious about this sort of top-down group-building.  What’s the difference?

Making these connections organically means the relationships grow in unpredictable and fruitful ways.  The connection is personal, not prescribed. It can be more exciting to discover the shared passion through a face-to-face conversation than it is from a third-party introduction. The motivation driving the connection is based more on interest in students than increase in sales. Having a third party making these connections for us suggests a certain approval of, or acknowledgement by an outside source, that these are “legitimate” or “reputable” users and “compatible” with our needs and interests. This may not always be the people we seek. We are attracted to pioneers and rebels, because they are more likely to subvert the game for new and innovative uses rather than “play by the rules”.  These rebels are responding to their patrons’ needs.  It may not be as easy to find these pockets of inspiration, but like digging for gems, it’s worth the time and effort to personally search for and find these individuals. We aren’t paid to foster Minecraft communities. Although we occasionally get reimbursed for our time, it is not by special interest groups or game companies, and we don’t do it for the money. Our reason for participating in conferences is to continue moving forward in growing and exploring Games Based Learning , which sets us on new inquiries and leads us to deeper, long-lasting professional relationships.