Namya Joshi, a 13-year-old, loves training teachers.
The seventh grade student has been helping teachers of her school convert their class lessons into interactive Minecraft sessions.
“Minecraft is a great platform. If a child does not like reading books, for example, you can make them in Minecraft and get the child interested,” the student from Sat Paul Mittal School in Ludhiana, says very matter-of-factly.
It all started two years ago when her mother, who is the IT Head at the school, signed up to become a global Minecraft mentor, as a part of Microsoft Innovative Educator program.
“I didn’t know much about Minecraft when I signed up. I had some exposure in our school during Microsoft’s Hour of Code but that was all I knew about it. I started researching about it and was initially shocked to see how a game could be integrated into the school’s curriculum. I wasn’t convinced,” says Monica Joshi, Namya’s mother.
A Microsoft Expert Educator herself, Joshi thought she’d learn how to use Minecraft on her own gradually, but all that changed when one day she found Namya playing with Minecraft: Education Edition, a special edition of the game customized for the classroom environment, on her laptop.
“I’d seen Minecraft installed on my mother’s Windows 10 laptop and started trying it on my own. After understanding the basics, I watched some tutorials and got myself familiar with it,” Namya says with pride.
Recovering from the initial shock, Joshi asked her daughter to create her upcoming lesson in the Minecraft world. It was a creative writing lesson and Namya had to write about her recent trip to the hills. The result convinced Joshi about using Minecraft in her school.
“She’d created the hills, waterfall and other things she saw during the trip and had written descriptions of everything in Minecraft,” Joshi recalls.
She discussed the possibility of building Minecraft into the curriculum with the school’s principal, Bhupinder Gogia, a fierce advocate of using technology in education.
“One of the primary responsibilities of any school is to prepare children for the future. Ludhiana is a tier two city in Punjab and if my students can’t go out and get exposure, I want technology to bring the world to them. We partnered with Microsoft and became a Microsoft Showcase school,” Gogia says.
With the principal’s encouragement, the mother-daughter duo started creating more lessons on Minecraft and soon other students and teachers in the school joined them.
“We started off with an experiment with some classes and asked students to convert their Math lesson into Minecraft and the results were amazing. Some students created e-learning books for which they did exhaustive research. Soon mid-school students also started asking us to get them on Minecraft. Today we have Minecraft licenses for the entire school,” the principal adds.
So far, Namya has trained more than 100 teachers in her school and around the world, over Teams, on the use of Microsoft tools such as Minecraft, Scratch, Kahoot, and Flipgrid in their classrooms. Her first-hand experience of the effectiveness of these tools for learning has led her to become a strong advocate of gamification in education.
“The best thing is that now I can tell teachers to listen to me and pay attention to what I’m saying. It’s a great feeling,” Namya chuckles.
She regularly collaborates with educators and learners from across the world through Microsoft Teams. The seventh-grader extraordinaire has her own blog and has recently launched a YouTube channel as well.
She also enjoys her role as a student ambassador on #MSEduChat, a monthly social media event organized by Microsoft Education. The event entails global and multilingual conversations about topics that are relevant to teachers, school leaders, IT directors, and edu-tech specialists.
“The sessions help me connect and collaborate with like-minded people from across the world. They also help me instil the values of empathy and teamwork in my approach,” she says.
Encouraged by the appreciation for her passion, Namya is now channelizing her efforts for a larger purpose.
“My goal is to make people understand about larger values through Minecraft worlds. I believe in Each One Can Teach Ten and gamification in education can help us work towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) – ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all,” Namya says.
For someone who’s just turned thirteen, Namya’s accomplishments are larger than life. She has already spoken at KEOS2019–a global education conference in Finland, where she also conducted a workshop for teachers. She has also won the National Minecraft Competition in December 2018 and has been nominated as India’s ambassador for SDGs For Children.
Minecraft has had another, rather unexpected, effect on her.
“It helps me meditate. Once I broke my mother’s favorite jar and she got angry with me. It made me upset, so I went on Minecraft and planted trees to calm myself down,” she laughs.