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15 Minutes of Fame: Learn to game, to game to learn Part 2


We've spoken with other groups of academics who band together in guilds, and they don't always progress very far or become truly embedded into WoW's player culture. Is Cog Diss actively raiding?
Peggy: We're raiding now. We actually have an alliance with two other guilds so we can do 25-man content. We actually have about a dozen level 80s now and a lot of new people have entered.

I find it fascinating. I love it. It's fun. I love being challenged. I love laughing at myself when I do something really dumb, and my guild will laugh with me and not get really freaked out and stressed out (what I hear goes on in other guilds). I just find it fascinating that there are so many different experiences and so many levels to it. That's what I try to explain to people who have no idea.

What do your colleagues think about your gaming?
Peggy: I was just standing around the main office in my school one day, talking to my principal who's a great guy and we have a nice relationship. I turned to him and I said, "Hey, you're a gamer, aren't you, Brian?" And he just kinda looked at me and said "Yeahhh ... Why?" And I said, "I just leveled up! I just got to level 40 last night in World of Warcraft," and he just kind of smiled. And then every once in a while, I'd make these comments to him, until one day I said "Level 70," and he said, " ... you do know that I have like four level 80 'toons?"

Then I started hounding him to join the guild -- and he did. So now there's a whole new dynamic, because now when I go into a 10-man raid, the first thing I do is say, "Ok, I gotta make sure that my principal doesn't die." Now, when I talk to the kids at school, I'll have my iPhone out and have Chest open or something and be looking at my armor, and the kids'll say, "Let's see Mr. Fox's armor!" And then I get an e-mail from him saying, "I just had three kids come into the office and tell me I had to get more purples on my Hunter."

It's a wonderful climate that you can develop in your school, and it's a wonderful way to reach those kids who may be the social outcast or the struggling learner or the "I'm such a geek nobody hangs out with me" kid.

So what has the gaming itself been like for you?
Peggy: I would say that this is the most remarkable experience of my life, for the reason that in most circles, I am the go-to person. I am the information person. I am the how-do-you-do-it person. In WoW, that role has been reversed, and I am the struggling learner. (A lot of it is due to time constraint. I don't have the time to go and research which add-on to use for my Holy Paladin heals and delve into the backstory as much as I'd like to.) It's a fabulous experience for me to see how the struggling child feels in the classroom, to see how you might be reluctant to raise your hand and ask a question because you feel "less than."

It's really reminded me that I have kids at all different readiness levels around me, and I have to make sure I'm not addressing just the top or the bottom or the middle. Things do have to be level. Language does have to be changed. It's a remarkable transference of understanding for me. I step out of the role of expert and become the role of learner. That's what we need our teachers to do.

Lucas: I can echo that from my own experience. As a WoW player, I'm not one to spend a great deal of time on sites like the Elitist Jerks site and sites like that doing the research – but my students are. A lot of times, I'll just stop and ask them ('cause I'm lazy – just like they are). I'll say, "Hey, what's the best gear? How should I spec?" I don't mind asking, and they don't mind telling.

Peggy: And that's such a wonderful, wonderful thing to happen in a classroom, when the teacher steps into the role of co-learner. In a given 45-minute period, the teacher might be the expert and then the student might be the expert. Half of your participation is mentorship and half of it is teaching, and the roles are reversed constantly, and it just forms a whole new human relationship with your students.

So how are you actually bringing WoW into the classroom?
Peggy: I am doing it in September as an after-school club. Right now, there is no formalized World of Warcraft learning in my school; it's the kids who play and me, talking. But because Lucas started this whole wonderful online project, and I jumped in on it, and the curriculum is being developed ... This is the gateway. You start it out as an after-school club, and then the next year you introduce it to a small cohort of teachers -- and then you get it pushed into the curriculum. We'll be in the school, in the library, but of course we know they'll be playing at home at night, too.

Lucas: We're looking at a slightly different implementation model. I want to see what happens when I take kids who have no exposure to this sort of environment. My intent is to work with one of the principals at one of the high schools in our district, looking at mostly underclassmen. My ideal world would be that they're all students who are at risk, students who need something to anchor them in the school -- and again, students who have no prior background, because very quickly I could foresee (no pun intended) a sort of class system developing between those who know and those who don't. I want everyone to start at level 1, literally and metaphorically, and just see what happens. It's like a big experiment for me, to see what happens when you take kids who don't have that exposure.

Peggy: With the schools that choose to be involved, we'll start a guild on one server so that kids will be playing with kids from other schools, but it'll all be the same community.

We understand there's talk of implementing special groups or curricula for "at risk" and "gifted" students.
Peggy: When I talk to teachers about this – and these are teachers who have never gamed or seen WoW or anything – I try to give them some idea of the kind of thinking that goes on, the kind of problem solving, the depth of the narrative, these kind of things. One group will say to me, "Oh, that would get my at risk kids really engaged!" But then the other teachers will say, "Ah, this would be just the thing for my gifted kids who are so bored with the traditional schooling."

So what are we really saying? We're really saying that engagement works for every learner. If you can charge up their engagement level, that's really what it's all about.

Read more about the WoW-specific curriculum under development at WoW in Schools.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" - neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a custom action figure artist and even a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and group raiding in person every week, catch it on 15 Minutes of Fame.

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