Monday 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.
It was really neat to watch it from the other side too. I was there with Craig and the kids and saw them working hard. They were really focused on the computers and trying to get it done. One student asked for help on how to heal better so Craig sat down and showed him how to set up his bar and taught him the best rotation. The student was all ears and just soaked up the information. As the students left for the afternoon they were all talking about how they were going to level up in Deadmines and run more instances. It was great seeing them all work together as a team. They really enjoyed it and learned a lot!
This is a great example of how formal and informal learning can seamlessly combine when learners are presented with a challenge that is truly meaningful and connected to their real lives – how do beat this instance and gain the social capital(aka bragging rights) to say “we did it!” With this motivation in place, it’s great to see elements of learning (teamwork, forming an hypothesis, risk-taking with learning, etc) evolving naturally. I think there’s little doubt that when learning like this happens so naturally, it is much more meaningful to the student than an activity detached from anything “real” in their lives, ie an in class worksheet, test or pre-set experiment.
Thanks again for sharing your experiences, Lucas. I’m really enjoying following your project.
See you in game.
Liam (aka Deweybrew/Bansho)
UPDATE: We went back into DM on Thursday of this week. Since our failed attempt against Rhahk’Zor on Monday, the students had added a little experience and one had re-specced for the encounter. They were playing much more collaboratively this time and it was a SUCCESS!
We continued to work our way down to Sneed and nearly took him on our second try, but time was against us and the kids, reluctantly, had to go home for the evening.
Dude, this is by far the coolest method of teaching I’ve ever seen!
Hope all is going well and kudos to the awesome site!
Just wanted to mention that an addition you might want to think about is utilizing world of logs (worldoflogs.com). When you run instances or have groups for leveling you can start the combat log recording (/combatlog) and then upload the file at the end. Students will be able to look at spells/abilities used, how often and the effectiveness of each ability. The information can be viewed as charts or graphs and can be very interesting.