World of Warcraft… The New Golf?

Pantego It used to be that if you wanted to close a business deal, discuss an upcoming court case, or to do some planning outside of the office you’d grab your clubs and head down to the local country club to play a round of golf.  Well, as 1UP.com reports, instead of practicing the ‘ole swing, many professionals are now banding together to slay a dragon or to explore a dungeon together.  Many professionals are now gaming together in World of Warcraft.

I suppose this is something that, deep down, I’ve always known.  It is not uncommon for I and some fellow teachers in my district (as well as some students and former students) to gather, online, on a Saturday night and engage in some serious dungeon raiding.  And what do educators talk about when they’re gaming together?  Often, it’s teaching!

In fact, Peggy Sheehy recently introduced me to a guild (an organization of gamers) called Cognitive Dissonance.  This World of Warcraft guild consists of educators and game researchers, who, when not discussing education and virtual worlds, enjoy teaming up to take down the forces of the Lich King, Arthas.  I even transferred one of my characters, Pantego, a now level 80 Shaman over to the server to play (and collaborate/network) with these folks.

Even in online gaming, the world gets a little smaller and a little flatter.

-Lucas

Barry Joseph Discusses The Potential of Merging The Adult and Teen Grids in Second Life

Came across an interesting post by Barry Joseph of RezEd.  It addresses the issues surrounding a potential merger of the adult and teen grids in Second Life.  Personally, my initial thoughts are that this would be a positive move.  From a district technology coordinator’s point-of-view, anything that makes Second Life more accessible to both teachers and students would be a plus.  However, the openness of the adult grid compared to the restrictive nature of the teen grid presents some interesting issues.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.  I would love for students and teachers in my district to be able to pursue projects in Second Life.

-Lucas

My Thesis…

Well, the dust has finally settled.  I’ve wrapped up my graduate studies (Woot!) and have completed my thesis.  The middle school students and staff I worked with in my study were absolutely awesome.  The kids never ceased to amaze me at how they approached the game’s challenges and how quickly they adapt to the first-person game environment.  I’m also very excited that this study has served as a catalyst for advancing other game-oriented instruction in my district.  As of this posting at least three other schools are looking into Dimension-M as a tool for math instruction and remediation and other teachers/administrators are warming to the idea of using games for instruction.  I love my job!

Oh yeah… Here’s the link to the thesis.  It’s also linked on the right of the site.

-Lucas

Businessweek: How World of Warcraft Promotes Innovation

Did you read this article by Business Week?  The authors outline features of World of Warcraft that make it a good model for encouraging innovation in business.  Ideas like:  “Keep Raising the Bar” and “Encourage Frequent and Rigorous Performance Feedback” are just a few lessons they take from the game.

What first stood out to me as I read this was how easily you could substitute the ideas of “corporate” and “business” in this article with “education” and “the classroom.”  Read it and see what you think!

-Lucas

Using Virtual Worlds For Peace

Screen from Virtual Peace Came across the article, Virtual Swords to Ploughshares, today.  Researchers at Duke University have partnered with area company, Virtual Heroes, to create a virtual world/simulation in which students practice skills in diplomacy and crisis response.  The program is called Virtual Peace.  The scenario in this game-based environment was designed by educators from the Duke-UNC Rotary Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution and resembles Central America following hurricane Mitch.  Students work in teams to decide how they’ll distribute relief funds and deal with unexpected crises, often generated on-the-fly by their instructors who monitor the virtual environment as the game takes place.

Students participating in this scenario don’t even have to be in the same physical location.  The design, very similar to an MMO such as World of Warcraft, allows student players from all over the world, to work collaboratively.

It’s promising to see researchers and designers leveraging the power of MMO-like environments for educational purposes.

-Lucas

My Gaming Thesis As A Wordle

I took my last thesis revision and put it into Wordle. It creates a very interesting representation and gives you a good idea what was studied.  Have you heard of Wordle?  Wordle analyzes any text that you copy and paste or a website with RSS feed to produce a representation of the words used.  Words used more frequently are larger.  You can then select your colors, fonts, and the orientation of the words.

-Lucas

Dimension-M For Middle School Math – Thesis Nearing Completion

Screenshot from Tabula Digita's Dimension-M (Evolver, Mission 1) To date, I haven’t spent a great deal of time discussing my thesis research, because it has been an ever-changing work in progress.  Without anything “final” I didn’t want to throw anything out into the blogosphere.  However, I’m very close to finalizing it and will be sharing my work here soon.

To provide some background, I used Tabula Digita’s Dimension-M game with middle school students to see the game’s impact on their mathematics achievement and attitude.  In addition, I wanted to see if gender played any role in the outcomes.

Though the group I was working with was small and the period of the study was short, the results were very interesting.  I’ll be sharing those results here once the thesis is finalized!

-Lucas

Atmosphir – Try Your Hand At Game Design

Atmosphir logoI was invited into the beta test for an upcoming game design program called Atmosphir.  Wow!  The guys at Minor Studios have put together a very user-friendly game creation package.  The presentation is extremely smooth and creating your own levels is really simple.  The user interface is very intuitive and easy to learn.  The complexity of what you create is pretty scalable too.

I’d love to see the addition of the ability to add dialogue or text allowing the player to make choices.  Then, we’d have a story!  I’d also love to get this into the hands of students to see what they might create and to observe their decision-making processes while they create.

Looking forward to watching this game develop!

-Lucas