January 10, 2011

Quite possibly the best virtual learning environment in the world

William Bill Rankin
Dr. William Rankin is an associate professor of English and Director of Educational Innovation at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. He describes an amazing learning tool, a virtual learning environment so successful its engagement levels can be tranched as follows:

  • 86% of participants use it for social knowledge construction
  • 58% for system-based reasoning
  • 37% for counter arguments
  • 28% for harnessing data or evidence to win an argument
  • 11% for model-based reasoning

And the name of this learning platform?

World of Warcraft.


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And some high speed blogging by mr mcintosh since the session is still going!

How can this truely be transformed into qualification gains, or real world learning.

Have you ever seen a job advert that says must be an ace at world of warcraft. . . .

My boys have been linked in to W of W for years - is this the time to try 'hands on' for myself? Completely fascinating - riding the wave rather than spluttering in the wake...

@Mike - I've not seen a requirement for the ace world of warcraftness, but I have seen adverts, most weeks, requiring all of the above competences. And I've rarely seen a lesson in a school that, every day, delivers the same mix without fail.

It's funny, but what was listed is real world learning. The difficulty is then getting teachers to validate it by bridging it to job related skills.

All math curriculum in school is absent of real world learning (take it from a math teacher). Especially contrived story problems! And yet math is so valued because of the way of thinking it nurtures. For some players (not all, take it from a guild leader) these same thinking skills are nurtured in MMORPG's

About a year ago now I produced a video about virtual worlds in education and provided information on several ways in which WoW is being used by educators - accounting courses, the WoW in Schools project, etc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARf8VMYRQy0 for the video and http://wowinschool.pbworks.com/w/page/5268731/FrontPage for WoW in Schools.

To be really great in Warcraft, one must have mad skills in maths, be able to read, be able to negotiate with others, lead others, resolve conflicts, recognise and adapt to patterns and research what needs to be learned.

Learning is scaffolded with quests becoming progressively difficult as you develop your 'toon'. Assessment is immediate - if you fail, you die. When you succeed, you get rewards.

The international Quest Atlantis project http://atlantis.crlt.indiana.edu/ harnesses this for younger kids.

Take a look at how World of Warcraft can be brought into school and how kids are LEARNING in the WoWinSchool after-school program. This second year of implementation, we are also piloting the associated course "The Hero's Journey" during the school day. The course, built in Moodle, incorporates World of Warcraft, The Hobbit and supports ELA standards for learning (not to mention all of the other rich learning that happens in MMORPGs that we haven't learned to measure- but certainly should value!) For more info go to Lucas Gillispie's blog: http://edurealms.com/?cat=3
From Pender County Schools (NC) to Suffern Middle School (NY) Lucas, his lead teacher (and co-author of the course), Craig Lawson and I are finding our way through the first year of this pilot. We have very diverse student populations and plan to release the Moodle sometime in June. Recently we welcomed Seminole County Schools (Fla) to the WoW in School Project and Scarsdale Schools (NY) is also running a version of the course. Contact info is on blogs!

@Mike, I would never make it a requirement when hiring, but if two applicants were equal in all else, I'd most likely choose the person who plays WoW. It's been my experience that they perform better on the job. They're generally better able to solve problems and work in a team. I'm in web development.

I've always wanted to put World of Warcraft Guildmaster on my resume, but I'm afraid non-geeks just wouldn't get it :p

Back in the days I created and managed a group (called guild) of around 100 members, I led them through difficult encounters via voIP-communication. Members ages varied from 16 to 30 and were from all across Europe. I myself was 18.
No education can replace what I've learned about group management/behavior/leadership that period.

*shocked* - one issue about research in this area is that little is done 'in' WoW, but it is often viewed as you say. There is a wealth of evidence in social-research to support this argument from an interpretive perspective; and certainly can be applied to several eLearning frameworks. The key thing to me is that when Blizzard design for learning, they see knowledge as being socially constructed - and at no point does anyone say - 'so when we release this, will we need to retrain our teachers to teach it'. In fact they see the sociotechological world they design and maintain as the teacher.

Would I hire someone who was a guild leader - yes.

Such a nice article

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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