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World of Warcraft as a teaching tool

Most of us were kids at one point. A portion of us probably played computer or video games even as kids. Thus, I'm sure that at least a good handful of us, when told by our parents to turn off the computer and go do homework, eat dinner, or get some fresh air, tried to counter with something like this: "But Mom, games are educational! They give you hand-eye coordination and map reading skills!"

Now, all these years later, it seems we may finally be getting some backup from teachers and educators. Livescience.com recently highlighted some educators who are using World of Warcraft or lauding it for its educational values.Educator Constance Steinkuehler of the University of Wisconsin-Madison started an after school WoW playing group for young boys. She's found that these 8th and 9th graders, who had no interesting in reading or writing, now get into detailed and lengthy discussions on raid strategy and gearing up and the like on their message boards.

They also meet one Saturday a month for more involved projects such as maintaining the guild website or putting together graphic novels based on their Warcraft adventures, which provides more opportunity for learning. She and her colleague, Sean Duncan, have also studied posts on WoW message boards, and found that many them have a good level of scientific literacy.

Of course, not every player participates in these "higher level" discussions, but it's nice to know that when we discuss a little bit of theorycrafting, we're actually flexing our intellectual muscles. It makes me feel better about sometimes getting a little flustered over all this theorycrafting math -- math was never my strong subject in school. But regardless, now I can count my time spent browsing the elitist jerks boards as intellectual enrichment, which is pretty sweet.

Livescience points out, though, that looking for educational value in World of Warcraft isn't completely new. They cite our own little blog here, WoW Insider, and an interview you may remember with the Horde of Unschoolers, a guild made up of a homeschooling mom and her kids. Takulah uses the game as an opportunity to teach her children, or to let them ask their own questions, on a daily basis.

Of course, when it comes to more traditional schooling, I'm not sure we'll see World of Warcraft for High School credit any time soon. Of course, it is available for college credit, so who knows? Regardless, it is sort of nice to see my younger self vindicated about all that gaming.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items

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