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15 Minutes of Fame: WoW goes to English class


From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Remember when we interviewed the two teachers who were injecting motivation, teamwork, and pride into at-risk students via an after-school World of Warcraft program? Educators Lucas Gillispie and Peggy Sheehy are still at it -- and this time, they've scooted the gaming back squarely into school hours with an elective language arts enrichment class for 15 middle school students.

"Our kids are embarking on a Hero's Journey as they compare their own experiences in World of Warcraft to those of Bilbo Baggins in Tolkien's The Hobbit," explains Gillispie. "They're engaging in creative projects as well, such as live tweeting the events leading to Cataclysm from NPC's points-of-view (see #wowinschool hashtag). They're creating digital propaganda posters related to in-world events, writing riddles to share with players on their server, and learning leadership through their student guild."

Sounds great in theory -- but we wondered what the kids themselves thought about the program. So we asked three of them, all new to the World of Warcraft, what they think about the game itself, what they feel they're getting out of the class, and whether or not the experience has given them any new perspectives on gaming.

Meghan Age 14, 8th grade, draenei hunter
Sammy Age 14, 8th grade, night elf druid
Maddux Age 13, 8th grade, gnome rogue

15 Minutes of Fame: Did you play World of Warcraft before you got into this class? Tell us about your WoW and gaming background.

Meghan: No, I had never played WoW before. I usually play games like Call of Duty on Xbox Live.

Sammy: I've never played WoW outside of class. I had heard of WoW before but I just thought it was some child game like Pokemon. I'd never thought it would be as cool as this. I don't play lots of games outside of school. I have a Wii and PlayStation but I just don't get into games as much as other people. I spend most of my time playing sports and doing hands on things, but I think this game has helped me broaden my horizons. I do enjoy a good video game once in a while like Mario Brothers. I don't understand war games like Halo. They're too complex, but there's something about WoW that's different and makes me want to play.

Maddux: I never played the WoW game before this class. I have, however, been playing video games, starting with my GameBoy Advance since I was five.

How much does your character for this class participate in non-class activities? Do you maintain a special "class-only" character, or do you use a character you've played before and/or play your character outside of class needs?

Meghan: My character is never solo. I will always get together with classmates and help them.

Sammy: I don't play WoW outside of the WoW in School Project. I don't have an account. If I did, we're still not allowed to work with our character outside because some people would get ahead of others. I think that's fair.

Maddux: I don't play this character outside of school. It is a classroom-only character. I did used to play an undead hunter outside of school, but I had to cancel it.

Tell me a little bit about the class activity that's been your favorite so far.

Meghan: I think my favorite activity is when we go and participate in dungeons.

Sammy: Basically, I like playing. I mean, my favorite organized event was when the gnomes were taking back Gnomeregan and we gathered a bunch of gnomes and stampeded Ironforge. That was really cool, but what I love most is quests and finding a guildmate and randomly storming a Murloc camp together. Stuff like that, the unplanned things out of game. I liked watching BlizzCon. Drinking sodas and watching geeks go crazy about WoW is very enjoyable to me.

Maddux: My favorite activity so far has been the guild initiation. I enjoyed hearing the speeches and watching fellow classmates be initiated.

How much WoW do you typically play for this class? What about outside of what's needed for class?

Meghan: I only play WoW in school, and that is usually two days of the week.

Sammy: Well, I think I play more WoW in a week than most of the kids because I have a wacky schedule and I got to be Mr. Lawson's teacher assistant. If I don't have anything to do, I just play WoW. So, I estimate more than an hour but less than four hours a week, and that suits me just fine 'cause I'm not big on video games. I don't play WoW outside of school 'cause I don't have an account.

Maddux: In a week, I would say about 3-5 hours. I don't play outside of school because I don't have it at home any more.

How would you rate the difficulty and the educational value of what you're learning in this class against what you get in other English classes you've taken?

Meghan: I think it is a little bit harder because we have to work for our answers instead of someone just telling us.

Sammy: The writing part of the class is difficult because Mr. Lawson is so strict about our grammar, but as we get further into the year I think it becomes easier because we're learning. But, I do think I'm learning more here because it's fun and I want to pay attention. In a typical classroom you sit there and watch the teacher write on a board and talk about conjunctions and linking verbs. That's boring. Nobody wants to do that. With this, I do my work properly because I know I get playing time when I'm done. That's what I work for. In other classes you might, just might, get praised, but that's all.

Maddux: I would say that I am doing about the same, maybe a bit better. In some places, it is more difficult than a regular class but is still more fun.

Had you participated in the after-school program before taking this class?

Meghan: No, I had not.

Sammy: No. I didn't know it existed until it was started.

Maddux: I did not participate in the after-school program.

Has this class inspired any interest in pursing a gaming-related career?

Meghan: I wanted to be a game tester before I got into this class.

Sammy: No. I'm still set on going into the science field but I think it's made me more open to video games.

Maddux: Yes, it has. I am still looking at being a veterinarian, and if that doesn't work, I will pursue a game-related career.

Was it hard to convince your parents to let you take the class?

Meghan: No. They just said, "OK."

Sammy: No. I told my Mom I wanted to try it and if I didn't like it I would change classes. She said OK and let me try it.

Maddux: No, they found it interesting. The idea was original.

What do your parents think about the class experience?

Meghan: They think it is fun and it actually helps me.

Sammy: I don't really know. They just sort of let me do my thing, but I know my sister is really jealous that I'm in the class. She had been a fan of WoW before she moved to N.C. and I know she really wanted to take the class after she heard there was a class.

Maddux: I believe they think it is interesting how the idea wraps around education.

Learn more about how educators are using the World of Warcraft to explore writing and literacy, mathematics, digital citizenship, and online safety at the WoW in School Project.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email

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