Cataclysm, Students, and Twitter… Oh Yeah!


Image by The Ne Kow at Deviant Art (Twitter bird added)

One of our aims with the WoWinSchool Project is to encourage our learners to be good users of emerging technologies and social tools like Twitter.  Students are already writing volumes of text via their cell phones and Facebook, and though this often is, at best, overlooked in language arts circles, more often it is vilified and seen as the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it.  Far from the truth, it’s a medium of communication that we should explore and encourage with our students.

We’re using our Hero’s Journey course to do just that, and in the process students are having to think critically about characters’ point-of-view and effective word choice in a medium that values brevity:  Twitter.  If you are unaware, Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft will launch their third major game expansion, Cataclysm, on December 7th of this year.  Since this is an epic and immersive story world, in the weeks leading up to this event, changes are taking place in the game to advance the story.

Our challenge to students is to tell that story, via Twitter, from an NPC’s (non player character’s) point-of-view.  Some have selected major characters like King Varian Wrynn, the leader of the humans, while others have chosen to tell the story from lesser character’s points-of-view, such as Kira Songshine, the traveling bread vendor.  Whether they chose major or minor characters, good or evil, was up to them.  In fact, one will be telling the story from the dragon Deathwing’s (the primary villain in the upcoming expansion) point-of-view.  Some will take a serious approach, others a more comical.  We’ve left that up to the students.  We’re simply providing feedback on grammar and Twitter etiquette.

The real magic is that anyone can watch this Twitter drama unfold over the coming weeks!  All you need to do is search #wowinschool, which will be included in each Tweet the students create.  We also encourage you to interact with the kids.  Ask them questions about the events they “see” unfolding around them.  Expect them to respond, “in-character.”  In fact, this may take on more of a journalism aspect depending on the level of interaction.

And, you can follow it all here:


WoWinSchool: A Hero’s Journey – Anatomy of a Typical Week

Though we’re nowhere close to having a complete, 36-week course available to share with the world, we do have about 1/4 of the course completed. (Also known as building the plane while in the air!)  So, what in the world does this look like?  How is the Moodle set up?  Though we’re not quite ready to offer guest access to the Moodle yet, I thought I’d give a sneak-peak of some examples of what we’re doing.  I took some screenshots from our course showing how we’re setting it up and put them into a presentation, uploaded to Slideshare.  To be able to read the text clearly, you may want to view full screen or download the presentation.

One feature we’ve added recently, and as instructors are having a blast with, is in-class achievements.  For example, we challenged students to successfully “friend” each of their classmates in the game.  The two students who successfully completed this on the first day assigned, were awarded the “Fast Friend” achievement.  We’re creating game-like achievement badges for unlocking these and then adding them to the students’ Moodle profiles.


So, What’s Next?

wowkidsLast year was largely an experimental year.  There were so many unknowns going into the WoWinSchool Project that our overall attitude was “Let’s see what this looks like,” and some aspects of the program were largely informal.  That’s not to say that we didn’t learn a great deal and that the participating students didn’t benefit from the program (and we from them).  Going in, we were unsure of even the simplest things like, “What happens when there’s a patch?” and “Will the network and firewall handle it?”

Those early hurdles are behind us and I’m very pleased to announce that we’re ratcheting the program up a notch for the coming year.  In the 2010-2011 school year, both Cape Fear Middle and Suffern Middle will offer a World of Warcraft-based language arts elective during the regular school day.  Development has begun on the course, the syllabus, and implementation plan.  So far, here’s what we’re thinking:

  • Though taking place during the regular day, the course will be hybrid, built online using the Moodle LMS.  This grants us the opportunity to be largely paperless (a good model for other classes!) and it makes the course granular and easily shared.
  • The course will involve a parallel reading assignment for students, probably a novel.  Cape Fear Middle will likely use Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
  • We are trying hard to get away from focusing on grades and are rather granting students XP (experience points) and levels for completing assignments.  Developing appropriate rubrics and scaling is a challenge.
  • The course will have an overall theme, probably based on “The Hero’s Journey.”
  • The course will be aligned to national/state standards and will supplement students’ regular language arts instruction.
  • Our goal is to thoroughly “mash-up” course and in-world experiences.

We have a tremendous amount of work to do to prepare and are excited about where we’re going.