Recently, MIT Education Arcade announced commission of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that would teach students content aligned to Common Core Math Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. In addition, World of Warcraft in the Classroom is a popular curriculum that teachers have used to engage students in learning critical, standards-based content.
There is a trend in education to utilize games for learning, whether pairing a game with classroom instruction or creating a whole new “serious game.” As a regular MMORPG player myself, I have found myself spell-bounded by story lines, incessantly questing to improve my character. In full the spirit of full disclosure, I have a Jedi Shadow currently on Star Wars the Old Republic, but have played numerous MMORPGs in my life as a gamer.
While MMOs are being created to demand learning of content within the game, teachers can still strategize the use of MMOs in pairing with classroom instruction and assessment. Here are some strategies and considerations to consider if you decide to venture into the game-based learning approach.
1) Pair the Game with English/ Language Arts content
In MMOs, students write. Yes, headsets are employed, but often the primary mode of communication within the game is through written conversations in the chat channel. Practice problem solving in game elements with students using expository and persuasive writing. In addition, MMOs have rich story lines. Pair the MMOs avatar/character the student is playing with character in the novel. Focus on story elements and the higher order thinking skill of compare contract. Look at these types of ELA standards and find the right in game fit.
2) Feasible Time and Structures
Let’s face it, you may or may have technology, space or instructional time to devote to this approach, as it demands not only formal instruction, but time in the game to play and experience. However, if you know students are playing in their free time, it is a great opportunity to differentiate instruction to engage your “gamer” kids. In addition, if you have a blended learning model, time becomes less of an obstacle, and the focus is more on competency. If students can find time to play the game and meet the milestones for learning, then it is completely feasible and worthy to use this approach. Perhaps the In Game activities are extra practice or extensions to enrich learning.
3) Meet In the Game Itself
Related to the previous point around time and structure, you can leverage the game itself to meet with students and discuss learnings at actual in-game points, whether that is the local tavern in WOW, or the Cantina in SWTOR. Perhaps you utilize the Literature Circle instructional strategies to build reading skills of the novel, but have the actual Literatures Circles in the game. Or, you hold office hours to help students with their classwork.
4) Teach and Assess Collaboration
21st Century Skills are being leveraged in schools internationally as just as critical to content knowledge. Collaboration is no exception. Perhaps one of the most striking and exciting learnings that occur in MMOs is collaboration. Whether teaming for an instance, fighting a boss, chatting on public channels for help, or utilizing in game crafting, students on constantly collaborating to solve problems. Have students record evidence or reflect on game play to properly assess them in collaboration. Model collaboration in the game using your character. Translate these in-game experiences to the real world through discussion and reflection.
These are just some strategies to use as you consider how you might pair an MMO with classroom learning. Rather than look at the obstacles and barriers, look for the opportunities. Just because we as teachers might not be able to create a full scale classroom implementation doesn’t mean I can’t leverage a MMO to engage a student in meeting learning targets. In addition, as conversations around time, competency and structures for school move forward, some of these walls will become more flexible allowing for further implementation of MMOs in the classroom. You may a “noob” and not get MMOs, but you can learn about them from your students and utilize their resiliencies and knowledge to create a personalized learning environment.
About The AuthorAndrew has taught a variety of subjects in both online and the brick and mortar setting. He currently serves on the National Faculty for the Buck Institute for Education and ASCD. He travels internationally, training educators in his many areas of expertise including Project Based Learning, Game Based Learning, Educational Technology, and Culturally Responsive Teaching. He has presented at a variety of conferences and organizations including National Association for Multicultural Education, National Council for Teachers of English, and iNACOL’s Virtual Schools Symposium. He is an avid blogger for a variety of organizations including edReformer, ASCD, Ed
utopiaand the education section of the Huffington Post.