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Common Core-Aligned Language Arts Course Based on World of Warcraft Game

MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) have become increasingly popular in the classroom. With games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Kings and Legends and others, students are able to learn team-building, digital citizenship and other key strategies.

Over the last few years, a new elective language arts program based on World of Warcraft has spread to 12 schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. The class, called WOWinSchool, started as an after-school program in North Carolina. Since then, teachers have used it to teach writing and literacy, mathematics, digital citizenship, online safety and other 21st-century skills.

Lucas Gillispie, founder and lead developer, has always been a game player and originally started the program for at-risk students with attendance and behavior issues. Gillispie says the goal was to connect these students to school by finding something exciting for them to do.

Toward the end of the school year, the project continued to develop, and Gillispie and his team created an elective course for teachers to bring into their classrooms.

“We took an entire language arts curriculum and ‘gamified’ it,” said Gillispie. “The curriculum is all Common Core-aligned, and it’s been a really interesting and exciting experience. The students are engaged and seem to enjoy it.”

Schools in FL, OR and NY have brought WOWinSchool to middle- and high-school settings. Gillispie said the course’s key element is giving students an instant context for writing. This helps combat the trend toward “de-contextualized” writing assignments, he explained.

“When we put students in this experiential world, they are intrigued, and it is something they understand. They are more willing to write about this.”

According to Gillispie’s wiki “WOWinSchool: A Hero’s Journey,” the class has improved students’ reading and writing skills as they experiment with gamification.

Gillispie and his team have outlined a rubric and class guidelines for an eighth-grade course. Students must complete a set of quests, which are comparable to assignments, units or lessons in a standard literature course. Students choose their own role to aid citizens in Azeroth, form a guild and draw experience from the real world. 

They receive a set of challenges categorized as “Tavern Talks,” which are threaded or live discussions. Another challenge, “Hero’s Journal,” requires each student to keep a journal and write his/her own personal reflection about the class. “IRL” (In Real Life) are assignments that take place outside of the game, and “Adventures in Azeroth” are challenges students undergo while playing the game.

The last challenge, “Lore and Legend,” is a book study, where students discuss The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Students are required to read the book on their own and write journal responses on the assigned chapters, connecting their game experiences to the adventures of character Bilbo Baggins.

WOWinSchool grades students differently than other classes. Instead of letter grades, students rack up “experience points” and can advance in levels, as outlined in the course rubric.

Gillispie said teachers adopting the program have provided “very positive feedback.” The challenges, he noted, have to do with educators not feeling as if they are the experts in the room.

“The teachers need to come to terms [with the fact] that students will know more and be more comfortable with the game environment or game play,” Gillispie said. “Once [teachers] move beyond that, they embrace it and make it successful.”

Students who complete the course should, among other things, be able to participate in future lines of dialogue and understand how they drive and propel action. Students will understand how modern works of fiction draw on myths, traditional stories or religious works such as the Bible. They will be able to read and comprehend literature in the form of stories, dramas and poems. Students also will be able to produce clear, coherent writing.

Gillispie said the course continues to grow, and he encourages teachers to develop their own goals.

“It’s an exciting time to be in education, and the use of games for learning makes it even more exciting. There is a lot of untapped potential there, and the ball is still rolling.”


Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld
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