Jan 28

Days 10, 11, 12, 13 WoW in Science #gbl

wow_logo_velke-1After having my 8th graders play World of Warcraft (WoW) during class for nine periods to level up their characters and live their stories, we spent another four periods in the computer lab bringing all our characters together to split into teams. Small groups of WoW characters had to get together and run to different regions to explore the flora and fauna they come across. It took more time than I thought to get everyone in one place all together. My 2nd period class, Horde, were going to meet in Ogrimmar, and my 4th period class, Alliance, were going to meet in Stormwind. A few characters were more difficult to get out of their starting zones. The Pandarans and the Worgen have to finish their starting quests before they can leave their zones. Same is true of Goblins but no one was playing them. The other races are free to leave their starting zones anytime they want so even if a student didn’t reach a high enough level we were still able to get them to the meeting places. Some learned how fun, meaning difficult, it is when your character tries to run through an area that is three levels or more higher than you. Basically, you die a lot before you get through. Fun!

Once students got to the meeting places I tried to get a video of them. Then they grouped up, highest level students in the class were team leaders, and headed to their assigned regions to start drawing trees, plants, flowers, animals and other creatures. By the third day in the lab a few discovered that you can just take screenshots of anything you see in your screen. Oh well, there went my drawing idea! So we ended up collecting screenshots taken in the computer lab. They went a little wild with it, next time I will request that students take their screenshots carefully and not spam the screenshot key! They got almost 1160 shots with a lot of useless ones and repeats. Still, we had what we needed, pictures of different living things.

Here is what students are tasked with on this activity:

  • Draw all the living things you come across (or take screenshots).
  • Take the best pictures of flora (plants) and fauna (animals) from the ones you drew or the screenshots and
    • Decide how to organize the flora and fauna.
    • Come up with rules or reasons for your organizations.
    • Show Mr. G your organized sets of living things.
  • Then research how scientists classify living things on Earth.

Answer the following questions:

  1. How did you organize the living things you found?
  2. What did the living things in your different groups have in common?
  3. How do scientists classify living things in the real world?
  4. What did your classification have in common with scientists’ classification?
  5. How did your classification differ from scientists’ classification?
  6. How did you come up with names for living things that didn’t have names?
  7. How do scientists name living things in the real world?

Include a story about your avatar. The story should tell your character’s background and the work your character did classifying living things. (Some students really liked the story part.)

The above video shows how students spent the last four class periods in the WoW world. The question that comes to mind is if it was worth spending 13 periods playing WoW for the learning that is going to be taking place? That’s a complicated question with many levels to it. On the one hand we can say that 13 periods playing a game just to learn that Scientists classify living things into organized groups called, Life, Domains, Kingdoms, Phyla, Classes, Orders, Families, Genuses, and Species is too long. Kids could have learned that in a lot less time without the game. On the other hand, one could say just by viewing the above video that for those 13 class periods I had 100% of my 8th graders in both classes fully engaged in something where they were thinking, deciding, collaborating, choosing, and enjoying themselves. The room was quiet with concentration yet full of conversation as kids called on each other for help, asked each other questions, and helped each other complete their tasks. In 22 years teaching I have found very little that can do all of that. I honestly can’t think of anything, even the coolest labs, that engages 100% of my students so fully.

The brain is fully active and so much is going on when students are playing a video game that I am fully convinced of its worth in education. Especially in light of the research that shows that games aren’t as bad as people are led to believe and have incredible value in learning. Playing a game, even a game like WoW, has its benefits for learning and being engaged and enjoying learning. So in the end does it matter that kids will only learn a little bit of Science? I say not because if you take all the class periods that we spent NOT playing WoW, I have very different results for Science learning. Some kids have been doing a lot of learning while many have been doing less learning. That may not change but for those 13 days everyone was engaged and having fun doing it.

So will I do this again next year? Maybe. I have to tweak it but there’s a lot of good here that I want to replicate. My next post will report on what students learned and created. We’ll see what came out of all this play time.

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    • Mollyh on January 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    My name is Molly and I did not like world of war craft because I didn’t see how it helped us learn about science.

  1. Hi Al,

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing your experience. Remember when we were tweeting a few weeks ago about that legislative work session on game based learning? Well, now there is a related bill and it looks like it is well on it’s way to passing. SB 6104 would establish an interactive gaming in schools public private partnership: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=6104&year=2013 Just thought I would let you know about it.


  2. Molly, I’m looking forward to see what you come up with on your classification project. And if you read my last few paragraphs you’ll see there’s more to gaming than just the Science content. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the info, Maren! It’s nice to see game-based learning as a valuable model for education. I see incredible potential for making school a fun and exciting place where lots of learning takes place.

    • Tegan Ashleigh Larter on February 2, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    After reading your posts about teaching science using WoW, I decided to write a blog post in response, with some ideas that I had that might be useful. I’m looking forward to getting to try out an adapted version of your lesson idea. Thank you for sharing!


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