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Salute to Teachers: Ellwood School’s Christopher Hanna Harnesses Tech in the Classroom

Blending Minecraft and the Californa missions may not seem like a match, but the educator creates a fun, teachable moment in the journey

(HannaEdu video)

[Noozhawk’s note: Third in a series on the teachers who will be honored Nov. 14 at A Salute to Teachers 2015, presented by Cox and the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Click here for a complete series index.]

Elwood School teacher Christopher Hanna didn’t know much about the video game Minecraft, but his fourth-graders were experts. So he harnessed their enthusiasm for the game, and brought it into the classroom in an unexpected way.

                             |  Salute to Teachers 2015 |  Complete Series Index  |

Hanna’s fourth-graders used the game — which allows players to build their own structures — to re-create each of California’s 21 missions, a rite of passage for public school students who have traditionally made their own mini-missions diorama style out of things like sugar cubes and toothpicks.

Ellwood School teacher Chris Hanna has turned to a high-tech solution to unleash his fourth-graders’ imagination and determination. “The California Missions and Minecraft project all of a sudden made the students become self-motivated and driven,” he says. (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)
Ellwood School teacher Chris Hanna has turned to a high-tech solution to unleash his fourth-graders’ imagination and determination. “The California Missions and Minecraft project all of a sudden made the students become self-motivated and driven,” he says. (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)

Although the students still had to do all the same research on the time period, they were able to use the game to create a virtual Camino Real, linking each student’s mission to the next.

“The California Missions and Minecraft project all of a sudden made the students become self-motivated and driven,” Hanna told Noozhawk.

“I presented the students with resources to learn about the missions while they in turn taught me about the game, which I had no prior experience with. It was especially great to see the students who normally struggled with the conventional ways of school to flourish in this new type of atmosphere.”

Integrating technology into the classroom is one of the reasons Hanna is being honored as one of the three distinguished new educators by the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Hanna and six other teachers will be honored as part of the Nov. 14 Salute to Teachers 2015 gala at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.

Presented by Cox and the county Education Office, A Salute to Teachers 2015 is co-sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross, Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, Noozhawk and Village Properties.

Hanna has been teaching at Ellwood School in the Goleta Union School District, where he’s taught fourth grade each year and a combination of third and fourth grade his first year on the job.

He received a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from CSU Channel Islands and a masters in education and a multiple subject teaching credential from UC Santa Barbara.

“I decided to become a teacher when I realized I had love for learning,” Hanna said.

“I always enjoyed learning about a little bit of everything instead of focusing on a specific area, so I figured teaching at the elementary level would be perfect to share my passion and enthusiasm for all subject areas.”

Hanna received a QAD TeachNet Technology Grant for the California Missions and Minecraft project, and has been awarded technology grants for iPads in the classroom.

One of the iPad lessons had Hanna’s students talking about arrays, which are a systematic way to organize information into rows or columns, to demonstrate multiplication.

Hanna instructed the kids to use the iPads to take pictures around campus of examples of arrays, including a rack holding basketballs. They then created a presentation using the photographs to demonstrate multiplication problems to the class.

Afterward, the class was invited to present at the SBCEO Showcase of Innovative Learning.

Ellwood Principal Abby Vasquez nominated Hanna for the Salute to Teacher award, noting he has a passion for integrating technology into the classroom.

“His students are consistently engaged in rigorous activities, and he supports them so that all students are successful regardless of their entry point into the lesson,” she wrote.

The Salute to Teachers gala begins with a red-carpet reception at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido, and the awards show starts at 6 p.m. The event is black-tie optional.

Tickets are $14. Click here to purchase tickets online, or call 805.966.4946.

The event will be broadcast in its entirety on Cox Channel 8 later this year and will be available to be viewed online at Cox8TV.com.

                             |  Salute to Teachers 2015 |  Complete Series Index  |

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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