A New Project – World of Warcraft In School

wow_in_school For over nine years now, I’ve been playing MMORPG’s.  It was a student who introduced me to Everquest back in 2000.  Since then, I’ve played primarily with students, former students, and folks from around the world in a guild that I lead called Harbingers of Light.  We’ve progressed through Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, and World of Warcraft.  It didn’t take long before I was convinced that these sorts of virtual environments must have some sort of place in education.  How many times have I thought, “If I could just use this feature or that, I could easily teach concept X?”  If my students were as motivated about Cell Structure and Function as they were about knowing the intricacies of a fight in Molten Core, they’d all have “A’s.”

As a gamer and a teacher I had a connecting point with many of my students.  Discussing loot or an upcoming raid always gave us something to talk about outside of class and allowed me to develop a rapport with students who often didn’t fit typical high school molds.  My classroom became their hangout during break and lunch.  I was always amazed at how easily they recalled minute trivia about the game world, often quoting specific statistics about a piece of gear or their character’s game statistics.  Their ability to think critically about a particular strategy in a boss fight blew me away.  These were not necessarily honors-level students, either.  Sometimes my poorer-performing students would amaze me with what they knew about the game.

Why couldn’t we use a game like this in a school setting?  Why not, indeed!  What would it look like to have a computer lab full of students all playing World of Warcraft together with their teacher (projected on the screen at front, of course).  I finally took the time to write down many of the ideas that I’d been formulating.  “There are some real lessons to be taught in all of this!”  I shared my ideas with one of the coolest and most forward thinking gamer/educators I’d met at the 2008 Games Learning and Society Conference, Peggy Sheehy.  Peggy’s feedback was very positive and she wanted to share it.

Then I thought, “surely we’re not alone.”  I know there are other World of Warcraft playing teachers out there (I know because I have two from my district in my guild).  So, I migrated the project to a Wiki format because I want others to share and collaborate.  Peggy has recently shared this with the RezEd community, an online community of virtual world enthusiasts and educators. I’ve even found another, avid World of Warcraft teacher in my own state who’s been adding her ideas for World of Warcraft lessons to the wiki.  It’s very exciting to see these ideas gaining traction!

So, what sort of lessons could you learn from World of Warcraft?  There are so many and the collaborative wiki environment is allowing other teacher-gamers to add their own lesson ideas.  Here are some examples that I and other teachers have come up with:

  • In Math – Damager Per Second (DPS) Analysis: Acquire two different weapons in world used by your character’s class.  Using the targetting dummies in a capital city, find the average damage over time of each weapon and plot the data on a graph.  Try the same experiment again, this time with gear that changes your character’s agility, strength, attack power, or other melee-related statistic.  Graph the new data.  What’s the relationship between the statistic you tested and the DPS output?
  • In Writing – Design a Quest Chain – Design a quest chain, based on your experience with other quests in the game. The chain must involve at least two different areas in the zone and have at least five steps. Write all the dialogue that the NPCs involved in the quest would say. Make sure you indicate the quest requirements and the steps involved in the quest. You can research quest chains using one of the online quest helper databases like Wowwiki, Thotbott, etc.
  • 21st-Century Skills – Machinima (a movie or film created using a video game or virtual world): Create and edit a video that tells a story in game.  Create and edit a video that uses the game to address a social issue.  Use your characters to tell the story.  Write a script and create a storyboard for your movie.  Post your movie to a collaborative video-sharing site (YouTube, TeacherTube, SchoolTube, etc.).   Promote your video through your social network.

So, how would all of this be implemented?  That’s up to the teacher.  I’m hoping to use this as an after school program targeting at-risk students, but the lessons we’re developing are designed to be very granular and implementation is flexible.  I’m hoping to implement this in the coming school year.  Overall, the project is still in the early formative stages.

If you’d like more information or would be interested in contributing your expertise, visit http://wowinschool.pbworks.com.

-Lucas

19 Responses to “A New Project – World of Warcraft In School”

  1. [...] more on his article about using WoW in school here, and visit the wiki [...]

  2. [...] more on his article about using WoW in school here, and visit the wiki [...]

  3. [...] Game.  Lucas Gillespiel hat nun ein WoW-in-Schools-Wiki ins Leben gerufen. In seinem Blog EduRealms beschreibt er, dass er ein Projekt für “at-risk youth” plant – in Dtl. dürften damit [...]

  4. Stella F. says:

    Have you guys considered other games for this project? I think WoW would be a bit challenging to incorporate into education because it’s very complex to learn. Why don’t you try easier games with a smaller population. You can’t weed out the “bad influence” in WoW because the user base is so large.

  5. Lucas says:

    Consider other games? Well, since this project is all about WoW, no. That’s not to say that other games might not work. I’m really intrigued with http://www.freerealms.com at the moment. My four-year-old loves it, and, it’s free.

    Regarding the difficulty of the game, World of Warcraft’s difficulty scales incredibly well with the user’s experience level. The game does an amazing job of supporting the newcomer with an incredible built-in support system. In fact, I feel it does this so well that, in my opinion, instructional designers (especially those developing computer-based instruction), should take a few lessons. With 11 million subscribers, it can’t be too hard.

    Regarding “bad influence…” Have you walked down the hall of today’s high schools?

    -Lucas

  6. Lumio says:

    Great article. I think its time for educators to update their set of tools to help student learn.

  7. [...] @ EduRealms, A New Project – World of Warcraft In School Yes, WoW is used for [...]

  8. Love it. If we can get the gaming nerds (self-applied label) as invested in schoolwork as in their past times, we can help them leverage their obsessions into work of incredibly high quality.

    Mainstream games continue to be an untapped resource in education; the key to implementation is a meaningful framework – a backwards design for the use of the game to teach and assess, an instructional flow that doesn’t depend on days of learning to play, and a game, set of in-game tasks, or alternate assignment that is differentiated to students new/resistant to the game. As can happen with any piece of instructional technology, sometimes the wow factor and/or lessons on how to use the tool overshadow or replace a sound plan for instructional use.

    Anyone up for a backwards design wiki on games in the classroom? Does one already exist?

  9. [...] more on his article about using WoW in school here, and visit the wiki [...]

  10. I am an instructor for an at-risk youth program in Pittsburgh, PA. Recently, I was assigned an evening learning activity and chose this. Needless to say, it was a complete success. We did a case study on two characters calculating DPS and stats and wrote a Quest chain. Everyone enjoyed it and it was a complete success.

  11. Dave says:

    I always thought it might work (at least with some of the students) to tell them at the start of the year they are all level 1 – and have exp progress bars for them.

    Have a website set up so so you can update it easy (google docs would be a good way) they can check it whenever.

    Have bonus questions on the google doc they could email the answers to you – questions every day/week they could figure out (no points in class but for only for their level – getting them to do extra credit projects for no real class credit)

    Showing up for class gets you minor xp – points on tests give you more – extra credit more xp points. etc.

    Give them skills and bonus items – a level 2 might earn the one time use Item of +2 points on a test – a level 5 could have a skill that allows him/her to skip one question on a quiz for full points with a 2 week cooldown – where a level 10 would have a skill that allowed him to skip class with no consequences for a day with a month long cool-down.

    If you went even deeper on that first day you could even let them pick what class they wanted to be – can’t change it after the second day – have different “skill/item” rewards for each level of each class

    If you did it this way could even call group projects “Raids” and let the kids combine their skills/items – and would end up having kids group with people they normally wouldn’t otherwise – because “Hey, we need a Wizard for this project for his spell of “1 extra day to finish a project” or “Woah, we should get a Ninja so he can use his skill that allows us not to present first”

    If you got 3-4 other teachers – all doing the same thing and allowing skills/items to be used for all/any classes then you might really have something.

    Have fun with it – let the kids have fun with it.

    Stumble brought me here – but interesting article :)

  12. Lucas says:

    @Dave – Great suggestion, and in fact, that’s very close to what we’ll be doing with the project next year when we run it as an elective during the regular school day.

    The challenging part is scaling XP over the duration of the course and providing ample opportunities for the students to gain some XP each week. Since we’re still required to issue grades for the students, we’ll also have to translate XP back into letter grades at some point.

    Another idea is to outline a series of seemingly random events that might occur or be done by students throughout the year and if any student “completes” one of these, they earn achievements!

    Visit again soon and see how we’re progressing!

    -Lucas

  13. Jason Kinsey says:

    My college composition teacher uses this.
    His email is iwoods@tcc.edu
    His name is Ian Springer-Woods

    To deal with grading, I use gaming lingo.
    • The class is divided into segments called “levels.”
    • Essays are called “bosses” because they are the “boss fight” of the level.
    • Other assignments are called “Achievements.”
    • I label Bosses and Achievements as either “Achieved” or “Retry.”
    • Beating a boss or scoring an achievement means that you are working at end-of-ENG111 level
    for that type of achievement/boss.
    • Attendance and participation gets you “Gold Points.” Classroom exercises are called Quests.
    Each assignment sheet will tell you exactly what you need to win. I will include comments. In
    the case of a retry, you can use these comments to work towards achievement.
    Grading Table:
    Grade Boss Wins Achievement Requirements Gold
    Points
    A
    Three (one must include at least
    three secondary sources) 5 (Includes Plagiarism & MLA
    Achievement)
    2700 gp
    B
    Two (one must include at least three secondary sources) 4 (Includes Plagiarism & MLA Achievement)
    2400 gp
    C
    Two (at least eight pages total & at least one secondary source) 3 (Includes Plagiarism & MLA
    Achievement)
    2100 gp
    D
    Two (at least seven pages total) 3 1800

    Each class attended is worth 75 gold points. Daily Quest per class add up to 25 gold points unless
    otherwise specified. This means full participation is worth 100 gold points per class.
    Daily Quests are due no later than one week after they are given in class.

  14. Lucas says:

    Jason,

    I think that’s a great idea. It’s working well for us, so far. Thanks for sharing.

    -Lucas

  15. [...] a game that might be unrelated to the academics, with academic learning. For example, you might take World of Warcraft and use it a method to integrate and engage learning in English Language Arts. Through careful lesson design, where gameplay is balanced with more traditional or “academic” [...]

  16. [...] (en inglés) http://edurealms.com/?p=48 Tweet ‹ Previous Next [...]

  17. [...] Lucas Gillispie – New Project – World of Warcraft In School. [...]

  18. [...] classrooms? Lucas, a high school teacher, is an avid WoW gamer outside of his education world, but began to make connections to his classroom soon after he began playing. This hands-on, unique approach would make this an effective way to teach students with special [...]

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