I’ve been reflecting on my first attempt at using a commercial off the shelf (CoTS) game in class for student learning, in this case World of Warcraft (WoW). I took a risk and tried to use the power of WoW to leverage some Science learning, in this case classification of living things. There are many ways students could practice classifying living things, from collecting samples at home, in the woods, or around campus, to collecting photos via image searches. My idea was to have students use fantastic creatures not found on Earth to get them to really think about how to categorize different living things. I still think the idea is a good one and yet it bombed.
Before I get to the way using WoW to have students classify living things did not work I will first share the ways playing WoW in class worked splendidly.
- My 8th graders, who throughout this past school year did not engage 100% with anything I offered them (not even dissections!) were 100% completely engaged in playing WoW.
- Not only were they engaged in playing their character and either getting the character around its virtual world exploring or completing quests and leveling up, many of them did complete many quests and leveled their character up quite successfully.
- They were actively problem solving the whole time they were playing, whether that was completing quests or figuring out how to get around and explore their surroundings (or even just figuring out how to control their character).
- While engaged playing their individual characters students were communicating with each other in the computer lab helping each other. Students would ask for help and help was given either by verbally giving ideas of what to do or, for those who’s characters were near other characters, coming over to lend a helping hand.
- Students grouped themselves when they could and worked on quests together.
- Students talked about the game outside of class and looked forward to the days when we would be in the lab playing again.
- There were times when everyone was in the moment, what in gaming is called flow, focused on their game and talking that was going on was not distracting to the whole group.
- There were times when obstacles were overcome and joyful exclamations were heard, what in gaming is called fiero.
- I was in the game as well so I participated with my students as an equal and we enjoyed each other’s company as well as helped each other.
Overall, it was a very positive experience and the level of collaboration, communication, and learning was higher than the whole rest of the year. A seeming success, except that my course is a Science course, specifically a Life Science or Biology course.
In terms of the Science very few of my 8th graders went on to complete the classification project. They played the game and then after we played our final day in the lab many did other things instead of working on the project. So if I evaluate the effectiveness of this project from a purely scientific point of view, did students learn about classifying living things, it wasn’t very effective.
Tegan Ashleigh Larter wrote a fabulous follow-up blog post where she compares using WoW to teach classification of living things vs Minecraft. One of my 8th graders also follow-up on Tegan’s post by listing his 10 reasons why Minecraft would be better than WoW (great reasons!).
Next year I won’t be teaching 8th grade Life Science and even if were I wouldn’t use WoW in that way again. I would try Minecraft though. That being said I did get approval from my principal to teach a separate 6th grade class using WoW for literacy! That’s the way WoW in School was originally used, successfully I might add, so I’m very excited about getting to do that for kids.
Here’s looking to next year and using WoW again!
Here’s the process:
WoW in Science (My use of World of Warcraft in Science class!)
Day 1 WoW in Science (Our first day playing WoW in Science class!)
Day 2 WoW in Science
Day 3 WoW in Science
Day 4 WoW in Science
Day 5 WoW in Science
Day 6 WoW in Science
Days 7, 8, and 9 WoW in Science
Days 10, 11, 12, 13 WoW in Science