Last year, Lucas Gillispie started a World of Warcraft club at Cape Fear Middle School in Rocky Point, N.C.
After fourth period, students ran into the media center to play the massively multiplayer online videogame. With students from Suffern Middle School in New York, they formed a guild — or a play organization — called The Legacy.
At the end of a long day of sitting in class, Gillispie couldn't be overtly instructional without turning them off. So the instructional technology coordinator for Pender County Schools took a ninja-like approach.
“We would sneak the learning in through the game, which is actually very easy to do,” Gillispie said during a presentation at the Global Education Conference this week.
This year, the middle school took the club to the next level.
Principal Edie Skipper wanted to find out what impact the game would have on student learning. So she asked Gillispie and teacher Craig Lawson to design an elective language arts course around the game.
Gillispie and Lawson developed a curriculum that aligns to the Common Core Standards. And this year, 29 students from both Suffern and Cape Fear middle schools are exploring language arts through the World of Warcraft.
In the WoWinSchool class, the game inspired a number of changes. Instead of earning grades, students earn experience points. Instead of doing assignments, they go on quests. Instead of using paper, they use Moodle.
“We really wanted to shake things up and do things completely different than how they would be done in a normal classroom,” Lawson said.
The students move at their own pace through the learning modules in Moodle. And an Excel document shows each student's experience points overall and by assignment.
“They’re really excited to see where they’re at and kind of compete with each other and share that with each other because it’s experience, not grades,” Lawson said.
The kids don't associate experience with intellect, which is a good thing, he said. And they're constantly figuring out how they can earn more experience points.
Learn through a game
By playing the game, students practice communication, leadership and teamwork skills.
They read, make calculations and learn about economics. They think critically, solve problems and develop socially. They brainstorm guild mission statements, create their avatars and write stories about their characters.
The game gives them a learning environment that's relevant to them and allows them to live out the plot line of a story, Lawson said.
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