Lore Keepers – Always Watching

weyrYesterday, several students met Lore Keepers.  Who are the Lore Keepers?  They are characters that the teachers in this project have created that will give assignments to the students.  Yesterday was my first attempt at using them to interact with the students.  First off, you should understand the setup.  The lab where we’re playing has a sort of side-by-side U-shaped arrangement of computers.  I was not playing in the same “U” that the students were, though I was sitting right across from some of them.  I logged in Weyr, leader of the Lore Keepers and began contacting students via private messages (/w).

Observation #1 – Students are either not reading or are ignoring WoW’s chat system.  (Considering trade chat, this could be a blessing!)  It took me sending five or more messages to about four different students playing Night Elves before I got any response.  Craig who was actively helping students, finally had to point it out to our first group to get them to respond.  Keep in mind, the students had no idea it was me.

Observation #2 – Most students have little to no concept of online chat etiquette much less roleplay.  No surprise, really, because that’s one of the goals of the project is focusing on digital citizenship.  Our kids desperately need this.  For those of you who are ever on X-Box Live, you know the kids I’m referring to!  Again, for all the students knew, I was some other player (and some thought I was the game itself).  Several of them communicated in very broken street-slang, text message style in their responses.  I even had one student use foul language.  Eventually, they decided to take my “quest,” though were quite reluctant.

Observation #3 – So far, they are not good at working collaboratively in game.   My initial quest was to simply have them form a group and bring me bean soup.  The soup was sold by a vendor in a building about 100 yards North of my position.  I promised a handsome reward and each of them had to give me at least one bowl.  This took the first group nearly 45 minutes to complete, and then, only two of them followed instructions and received a reward.  One girl, who was actually polite and encouraged her male counterparts to be polite received two rewards.

Observation #4 – Giving a new player a Netherweave Bag as a reward is like your grandmother giving you socks for Christmas.  They simply didn’t understand the value this early into their experience.  Noted.

At the end of the day’s session we closed with a chat and I reiterated our behavioral expectations.  As word spreads, there are students lining up to get into this program and I only have 15 slots and the students are aware of this.  Today, we’re taking an approach that will be a big turn-off to many of them:  silent play.  No, I’m not one of those teachers.  The idea here is to allow them to communicate all they like as long as they are using in-game chat.  We’re also using a seating chart today.

Their first real challenge is coming soon:  Deadmines.  Deadmines will be their first, grouped, dungeon experience, and to be successful, they’ll need to begin to work cohesively and in balanced groups.

For now, the Lore Keepers will continue to interact with the students.  Some will get rewarded, others will not.  I don’t think any of them are reading my blog, so my “secret identity” is safe for now.  Let’s see what happens.

-Lucas

10 Responses to “Lore Keepers – Always Watching”

  1. Newman says:

    G,

    Excellent observations. I think your interventions will help – seating chart, silent play, etc. Remember to stay flexible and keep tinkering.

    And keep posting!

  2. Lucas says:

    My middle name is “flexible.” I think that’s the only option considering all the unknowns here.

    -Lucas

  3. AngelaC says:

    Looking at the starting point of your students, it may be that task differentiation may also assist students learn and hone specific skills.

    Yes – the accepted language forms in online gaming via console are challenging to say the least!!

    I wonder if some students were so caught up in the 3D environment that they did not even have chat displaying? I have a student who was so caught up in the environment in Quest Atlantis that he had closed all peripheral windows, and so was unreachable until I visited f2f.

    A question – will Deadmines be a scaffolded experience, or throwing them in the deep end?

  4. Lucas says:

    @Angela – I think you’re right about task differentiation.

    I, do, think the visual nature of the 3D environment draws their attention more than the chat window. What will be interesting, is how that changes once communication becomes a more critical component of their activities.

    As it turns out, yesterday, I did place them in seats, randomly, but I didn’t go with silent play. Interestingly enough our female players and a couple of the guys were at the basketball game instead, and it completely changed the chemistry of the room. They were much more focused on their game play… Imagine that… in Middle School!

    -Lucas

  5. liam says:

    Great post Lucas. You’re doing some very interesting stuff with this virtual space. I think your point about the Netherweave bag is great – wait until they run out of bag space, then they’ll appreciate all those slots. Keep posting and as Newman said, keep tinkering too.

  6. Mike says:

    I’m curious about the role/interaction of the Lore Keeper(s)? What is your intention/expectation regarding how the students will interact with this character? You observed that many or most students were reluctant to accept a quest from Weyr — is that a bad thing or a good thing? Were they prepared on what to expect from other player characters, or were they coached on how to respond when approached by “a stranger” in the gaming environment? And what role will these characters continue to play going forward? Will they guide and direct students through the environment and through assignments/tasks? Are students expected to ultimately develop trust in or reliance on the Lore Keepers?

    It’s a fascinating and wonderful project. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

    ~Mike

  7. Lucas says:

    @Mike – The original intent behind the Lore Keeper was a means of blurring the lines between in-game quests and assignments related to the project. For example, these characters might be used to give the kids a writing assignment in a project forum and then provide some sort of in-world reward.

    The only front-loading we did prior to this interaction was to do a mini-lesson on how to send private messages and about in-game chat etiquette. The students didn’t know they’d be contacted and never knew it was me. This was because I wanted to see how they’d react.

    These characters fill my own personal desire to have some in-character interaction with the kids while creating some “player-generated content” so to speak.

    It won’t be long before the students realize that the Lore Keepers are their teachers, however, for now, I’ll keep up the ruse to observe how they react.

    Really, this is just a fun, creative way for me to interact with them. :)

    -Lucas

  8. Chris Harvey says:

    Hi,

    I think this is very disturbing and creepy.

    I would never let my children play wow with you, why are you doing these bizarre experiments?

    Are you deceiving the children for your experiments?

    Here’s what happens when they go home.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgASIJMalgM&NR

    Whats the point of training the children to play wow, you don’t appear to be a professional gamer yourself, do you have any pro gaming experience?

    “These characters fill my own personal desire to have some in-character interaction with the kids while creating some “player-generated content” so to speak.”

    What on earth does this mean, is this a normal student/teacher relationship?

    Are students there to fulfill your personal desires?

  9. Lucas says:

    @Chris – Hey! I’m sorry you find this “disturbing and creepy.” I’d encourage you to spend some time exploring the project wiki to get a better understanding of the goals of the project: http://wowinschool.pbworks.com

    It’s funny that you would include that video link. It’s a classic WoW-related meme, though it has nothing to do with this project at all. Our students aren’t playing at home, nor can they access the accounts outside of the program.

    In this project, we’re not “training the children to play WoW.” What we ARE doing, rather, is taking students, most of whom were referred to us by the principal, teachers, and counselors, who need something to keep them motivated in school, and placing them in a media-rich virtual environment that’s building their interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership, problem solving, etc. And of course, they’ll have fun doing it. If we can engage them, our kids will be more successful.

    Regarding the “in-game” interaction and “player-generated content…” Just as a coach would take to the field to teach his soccer players certain skills or a basketball coach might demonstrate a certain technique on the courts, what I and my fellow educators are doing in this project is modeling the project’s goals with them, in game. If I can do this in an immersive way, such as by taking on the role of a character in the story, then I think that’s a benefit to them. And do I enjoy interacting with them this way? Of course.

    You ask, “Is this a normal student/teacher relationship?” Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that I am guiding their learning, but no, and thankfully no if what you mean by “normal” is “traditional.” Could I lecture to them about 21st-Century leadership, online interactions, and team dynamics? Sure. Would it work? Absolutely not. But, when I come alongside the students in this project and model for them these qualities and skills, it’s more authentic, and that is the goal.

    You ask, “Are students there to fulfill your personal desires?” Yes! It is my desire to help these kids who are struggling, who might otherwise be “on the streets,” who need something school-related that they can identify with. And, if, by this project, I can impact even one of them, it is all worth it.

    Please, if you haven’t done so, and I suspect that you haven’t based on this comment, please investigate what we’re doing a bit more and then come back and ask more questions. I’ll be more than happy to address them.

    -Lucas

  10. AngelaC says:

    Hi Chris and Lucas,

    I think an important element to consider is the age and educational background of the students involved in this project. These are older students who may be living independently, who need much greater motivation to engage and stay engaged with an educational program than just being told to do so.

    I find the use of “loremasters” to be a brilliant way of connecting the educational to the game, so the whole is a seamless experience that does not give the participants an element that is easy to single out and ignore. The loremasters also make it possible to provide specifically targeted tasks and information to increase the effectiveness of the program, and also to differentiate tasks for specific students.

    I am looking forward to seeing how this project plays out.

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