How does gaming fit into the modern classroom? What function does it serve in meeting pedagogical and curricular goals?
How does gaming foster learning?
These are questions which have been floating around in my head for some time now. Over the past decade or so video games have certainly been a part of my life – particularly with immediate friends that I see everyday (at sleepovers, after school, etc.). However, over the past few years, I have watched as this has evolved to MMO games – a world my brother has grown up in and fostered distanced friendships through. Since this realm of gaming is unfamiliar to me (I have not played within it), the idea of using these games in education is intriguing – yet I have no grounded knowledge to base it on.
I thought that this final project would offer the perfect opportunity to explore how classroom learning can embrace gaming as a tool to pursue curricular goals.
Minecraft is a sandbox videogame in which – at it’s simplest form – one can build and destroy. However, it has evolved to become so much more than that. The best thing about Minecraft for education is that the game can be customized to fit ones curriculum. Especially since the creation of MinecraftEdu, filled with teacher catered mods, classroom servers, and more. Unfortunately, this game is NOT free – it currently costs $26.95 USD for the original game. MinecraftEdu costs more, $41 for a server, and anywhere from ~$14-18 per additional single user licenses.
This Emerging EdTech post shares all the great reasons for using Minecraft in your classroom. Some of the great stories shared include:
- Seventh graders found their own civilizations
- Using Minecraft to learn English (and Computercraft to learn coding)
- And more…
Minecraft has been brought into the educational fold far further than Wow. It is simply far more customizable! In Vancouver in particular there are a variety of initiatives which already exist – including after school programs and camps – and the popularity and acceptance is still growing. Just a few days ago a post was made by CBC about what kids learn when they play with Minecraft.
Minecraft’s classroom applications are seemingly endless – you can have students focus on the social aspect of the game and develop civilizations, you can have student focus on building and architecture and mathematics, or you can have children focus on biomes and farming – and that’s just to start! I see that the game could easily be used to serve a variety of learning goals – both large (more project based learning) and small (integrated as the activity portion of small lessons).
World of Warcraft
WoW is also not a free game, although it is cheaper up front than Minecraft at only $4.99 USD (on sale right now – usually $19.99). However, there are far more in game purchases which can be made on Battlenet for WoW. This is the BEST resource I could find online for integrating WOW into the classroom. This wiki page has become the hub for all things WOW in education. One can quickly browse the wiki to find rich resources under the side menu’s headings:
- an overview (i.e. what is World of Warcraft)
- implementation (i.e. tutorials for teachers)
- lesson ideas (i.e. curriculum overview and lesson plan templates)
- student work samples (i.e. student machinima)
- I find this particularly compelling – could use iMovie and Garageband to create audio and cut the video together to make great trailers using gameplay video content!! (possible project idea…?)
- assessment and evaluation (i.e. assessment and evaluation tips and a project report from 2010)
The front page offers a series of posts in reverse chronological order – showing you the most up to date information. The latest news from June 8th of 2015 is about a new book written by Greg Toppo titled “The Game Believes in You: Digital Play Can Make our Kids Smarter”. The reviews are calling this book…
…the most influential book on video game learning since James Paul Gee’s 2003 classic “What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.”
Here’s a video of James Gee’s ideas and explanation of learning with video games (mentioning WoW and Portal). He highlights that games are are only half of the equation. For those who become invested in a particular game, they will invest themselves too in an ‘affinity space’ where they will articulate and share and research learning from that game. They use Web 2.0 to share specialist language and knowledge.
In 2014 Peggy Sheehy recorded a webcast recounting her experience of integrating WoW into the school (particularly the Hero’s Journey curriculum).
I really connected with what she said about playfulness and seriousness being able to coexist. The following beliefs and projects she is engaged with also resonated with me:
- She is exploring options for a seamless tool that will provide the non gamer teacher with access to using these powerful learning environments.
- She believes that engaging, social learning and the authentic application of collaborative tools in education is paramount to preparing our students for success.
My main takeaway from this cursory research is that WoW is a great environment in which to have students immerse themselves in story game play, followed by a comprehensive inquiry into the form and function of stories. While this fits best into a language arts curriculum, there are also elements of this project based type learning which can extend to other subject areas – such as social studies (guilds, raids, etc.), math (bartering, shopping), and digital citizenship and social interaction. There are also examples of integration of tools such as Twitter to “live tweet” about the goings on of story arc development from different character perspectives. The possibility of integration of the online card game Hearthstone (developed by Blizzard using characters and themes from WoW) allows for work on strategy development with familiar content. I think that these platforms are certainly more geared towards use by older age groups (intermediate elementary classrooms and middle school classrooms).