GAMING Bridget McCrea
Schools across the country are mapping their curriculum to the fantasy RPG World of Warcraft,
proving that students can learn a surprising amount from dwarves, elves, and orcs.
WoWing Language Arts
hen the final bell of the day rings at
2: 35 p. m. at Suffern Middle School ,
Peggy Sheehy takes off her hat as instructional
technology facilitator for the
Ramapo Central School District and becomes the
World of Warcraft ( WoW) director for the Suffern, NY,
institution. As she wraps up the school day in her
glassed- in office, Sheehy watches students file into
the library and seat themselves in front of computers.
Sheehy ( the “ lorekeeper”) manually logs them into the
online game, where players take on roles of heroic fantasy
characters in a mystery world.
“ Okay, heroes, where are we today? What are we
working on?” Sheehy asks the group of middle and high
school students ( who “ come back” to middle school for
the program) participating in the after- school WoW club.
While they’re completing quests and interacting with
players around the world, the students are plugged in at
a deeper level, learning from a special curriculum, which
blends the game with common core standards and focuses
on, but is not limited to, language arts.
“ We realized that students were spending
hours on end playing video games, but
we couldn’t get them to do 15 minutes on
their English homework,” says Sheehy.
“ We started making connections between
virtual gaming and classroom instruction.”
Already experimenting with the use of
avatars to help shy students participate in
class and to help develop new classroom
leaders, Sheehy was part of the founding
group that formed the Cognitive Dissonance
WoW guild ( an alliance formed within
the game itself) in 2007 to further explore
the game- education relationship. She
says WoW was selected solely because of
its wide popularity among students.
It didn’t take Sheehy long to pick up on
WoW’s hidden curriculum, which included learning
folklore through literature, vocabulary building, and
socialization and digital literacy skills. Collaborating
remotely with fellow teachers Lucas Gillispie and Craig
Lawson at Pender County Schools in Burgaw, NC, on
the World of Warcraft in School Project, Sheehy set out
to demonstrate the value of commercial, off- the- shelf
games for curricular integration.
In World of Warcraft, players seek to level- up via virtual avatars of
human or mythical creatures, like dwarves, orcs, and night elves
through series of quests and raids.
| SEPTEMBER 2012 24
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