Diving Into Deadmines

rhahkzorMonday marked our first day back on the project following our Christmas break.  Though I was out sick with a cold, I was able to log in from home and work with some of the students in the project.  Four of our highest leveled players wanted to do their first dungeon run into Deadmines, and they wanted me to take them.  So, I logged into my hunter, Weyr, and met them at the meeting stone in Moonbrook.

As we jumped into the instance, things began to get interesting.  We ranged in levels from 12 – 15, so we were a bit low, but the kids were determined.  What really amazed me is that before we began fighting, the students were discussing strategy!  “Who is going to tank for us?”  “I can do heals.”  “You should get full mana before we start.”  Before we’d encountered our first foes, the students were thinking critically about what would happen and how we might succeed.  Another observation is that the students are readily adopting the game’s jargon and using it properly (tank, mana, aggro, heals, etc.).

Our first pulls were chaotic affairs.  Due to our lower level the Defias Miners and Overseers were coming out of the woodwork for a chance to beat on us.  Whether they realized it or not, students became acquainted with the concept of “aggro radius,” or the imaginary radius around a character at which aggressive creatures will come after you to attack.  After a few wipes, we made it to the first boss, Rhahk’Zor, a particularly hard-hitting and tough Ogre.  At this point, the students had decided that my pet dragon hawk was the best tank, so they discussed how we might beat the boss.

“I can heal as a Paladin and you can heal as a druid, so maybe if we both heal, we can do it.”  As a former science teacher, that sounds a great deal like a hypothesis to me!  So, we tried it, and Rhahk’Zor made short work of us.  The students were determined, and though our time was running short, they wanted to take another stab at it, again, with similar results.  “I don’t think I have enough mana to heal this fight,” one said.  “Maybe we need be higher level.”

Again, the collateral learning is huge here.  One, the students are using trial-and-error approaches to overcome a difficult situation.  The amazing part about it, is that they are doing this in a completely virtual environment in which they are not clear about the underlying rules and their mentor is working with them from his home 20 miles away.  The learning is completely non-threatening and the reward is clearly defined:  the satisfaction of beating the boss.  Another thing they’re learning here is teamwork.  They must rely on each others’ strengths and trust in their teammates.

I can’t wait to go back.


Reflections and Updates

WoW's Mini-Map

WoW's Mini-Map

Work, both with the project and outside the project has kept me extremely busy lately, and the new content and mechanics included with the 3.3 update have kept me busy in-game during my free time.  So, what’s going on with the project over the past week?

1.  Turnover.  Unfortunately, we’ve had several students decide to move on to other after school projects.  On the bright side, there’s still a waiting list of students interested in participating, so, those spots are immediately filled.  One thing that seems to be changing is that our core group of committed students seems to be growing.  To me, there are some interesting parallels to long-term guild membership dynamics.

2.  Emerging Leaders.  A couple of our students are beginning to emerge as leaders.  As they are mastering the game’s mechanics and learning the quests, they are increasingly being called on for assistance by their classmates.  So far, they’ve been quite willing to peer tutor.  It is becoming more and more apparent to me that this game can really foster that sort of relationship.

3.  Ownership.  The idea of ownership is critical, I think.  If our students take ownership of their role in the project, of their characters, and soon, their identity as a guild, I believe their engagement (and the potential for learning) will increase.  This is happening, but it’s slow.  This is more of a meta-game concept and will require reflective thought on their part.  The educators in the project, Peggy, Craig, and I, are actively pushing this sort of thinking.  In fact, I recently created a message board for our students as a means of providing a forum for our students and teachers to interact and also to document this journey.

4.  Collateral Learning.  I wish there was a way to easily document the collateral learning that’s taking place.  To really appreciate it, you’d have to have a good profile of our kids’ current knowledge and understanding.  This is what I call ninja teaching, because these students are learning and they don’t realize it.  Here are a few examples of things that fit this category:

  • Cardinal Directions – How many times have we reviewed this concept since we began?  Many of the students in my group could not have readily drawn a compass on paper and correctly labeled North, South, East, and West.  The quests they’re getting in-game are constantly using these to direct the players to specific destinations.  There is also a tie-in with overall spatial reasoning as well when students hit their “M” key to bring up their map and conceptualize that the arrow is their avatar, its orientation is the way they’re facing, and the symbols on the map (new with the 3.3 patch) are their desired destinations.  I suspect that soon these things will be more automatic for them.
  • Vocabulary – We’re not making any efforts to tone down the gamer lingo or game vocabulary.  Several times already, we’ve stopped game play to define terms, especially when asked, but otherwise we’re going for full immersion.  This also applies to the quests that the students are getting which are vocabulary rich.  Here’s an example of an early quest that many of our students completed.  I’ve highlighted some of the vocabulary that I don’t typically hear middle schoolers using:
  • “A Refugee’s Quandary – We drove the troggs out of Gnomeregan, but then it all went so horribly wrong! Now our home is completely irradiated, and we gnomes have been scattered all over Dun Morogh.  In my haste to get away from the radiation, I lost all my personal belongings and tools. It was the trolls that got them. They stole my chest, my box, and my bucket of bolts! They took them back to their camps southwest of Anvilmar.  I’m no adventurer – could you find my things and bring them here to me, please?”

  • Technical Skill.  Students are already troubleshooting and fixing technical issues on their own.  Early on, we had sound/volume issues due to access permissions.  One student found a solution, shared it with the class, and now the students know how to fix this.

So, we forge ahead with this our final week before the Christmas break!