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:
- 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.
“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?”
So, we forge ahead with this our final week before the Christmas break!
It’s not only children who learn compass directions – I’ve seen a surprising number of adults quickly readjust, having apparently never used “N, S, E, W” in their lives! One might suppose we don’t need to in a world of sat-navs and, sadly, the patch 3.3 quest helper. But spatial awareness and the vague inkling that “SW” means “lower left” are some priceless skills to learn, if only for saving time.
It hadn’t occurred to me that the language was a valuable lesson too, but again there’s much to be said for what the quest designers are exposing us to. As well as your example of course, I find as an adult that the real folklore behind names like “Utgarde” (Northrend), the meaning of some rather medieval weapon names and even discovering what inspired other players’ names can make for a fascinating and educational discovery, usually while my character’s otherwise sat on an automated flight path. Flicking through a folklore dictionary is like a journey back across Azeroth – I recommend it if you fancied another cross-subject lesson. 🙂
@Sinnyo – Thanks for the comments! I really like the lore of the world, now that it’s becoming a bit more coherent (compared to the original Warcraft RTS). I think researching it and comparing the lore to real-world lore and mythology would be an excellent lesson!