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Azeroth Academy - Suffern Middle School in WoW

Page history last edited by Peggy Sheehy 11 years, 9 months ago


April 29, 2010:  slide errorPlugin error: That plugin is not available. OK - Quite a lesson - actually quite a multitude of lessons- learned.  Let's go back to Tuesday.  We began with a meeting where I explained that the group needed to meet at the fountain in Stormwind (they had all previously set their hearthstones).  The first thing they were told to do was to empty their bags by selling any trash or contributing useful items to the guild bank.  Once they had done this I gave them each a 14 slot bag.  Next they were to go to the mailbox and open the letter from Mairet.  Immediately they were to make a permanent copy of the letter. Each letter had a unique list of items they were responsible for getting from each other and a number of items they were to provide to the other guild members who needed them to complete their list. The items that were attached to each letter were then to be placed in the new bag.  The mission was to "obtain all the items on your list from the other guild members."  Once I had explained this much I told them to decide on a strategy and once they were logged in ALL communication must be in game chat only.  If everyone was successful then each of them would receive 10 gold pieces.  Any time someone spoke a gold piece would be eliminated from everyone's prize.

     I told them to begin and a very chaotic (I'll be using that word a lot) discussion started.  After a few minutes they decided that they would go in alphabetical order- the toon who's turn it was would list the items they were charged to obtain - and anyone who had the items would open a trade window and deliver them.  They logged in.  The room was deadly quiet.  I was logged in with them in order to follow the chat.  The scene in Stormwind was confused and unorganized.  The kids were running around on their mounts- unfocused.  Then our first "event" happened.  Lucas was logged in from a conference down south, and requested that the kids all go to the gates of Stormwind to greet the remote observers.  Not wishing to disappoint, I interrupted the group and directed them to the gates where they waved, danced and  cheered for the crowd and greeted the observers.  After a few minutes I directed them back into the city to get on with the task. 

     Upon returning, several of the students tried to get the group on task.  Holiadore began to coax their attention to the job at hand and the trading began.  It was really unorganized and messy - too many off topic comments in chat, too many students typing in what they needed instead of following the orderly plan they had established.  I just let them go.  About a half hour into it- I heard a student speak- and I announced that the prize was now down to 9 gold each.  Now they knew I meant business.  They started to trade-still very unorganized but they were trading.  The level of frustration was high- keyboards were getting louder and the chat was full of the students reprimanding each other and calling each other out.  This was not good.  Another student spoke out - and they were down to 8 gold.

     Somewhere in this madness- I realized that I had made some assumptions when I planned this exercise.  I had assumed that the kids knew how to separate stacks of items in their bags to deliver a certain number.  Wrong.  I had assumed that the kids would have a window opened for guild chat only.  Wrong.  I had assumed that they would rally around the plan and be motivated to see it through.  Wrong.  With 15 minutes left to our club time I told them to log out and go to the tables for discussion.  I was just as frustrated as they - and I let them know it.

     Once they had vented for a minute or two, I called for silence - and I asked them how they felt. "Angry, frustrated, bored, ticked off, sad, and demoralized" were their responses.  Then I said, "You  have to finish this tomorrow--I suggest you work it out" and I stopped speaking.  I left them totally to their own devices.  What transpired next was remarkable.  They figured out that there had been too many people trying to be in charge and they elected Holiadore to be the leader.  They then decided to change their location so that trade chat wasn't interfering and that there would be fewer distractions.  Finally they urged each other to organize their interface- get the bag system set up, and have a copy of their letter out at all times.  One student said, "....and we have to start recognizing others' weaknesses and not exploit them!"  (I kid you not- that is a direct quote!) They left for home - and they were not happy gamers.

     Yesterday they returned with somewhat renewed enthusiasm.   I can't say they were glowing - but they looked hopeful.  Holiadore reminded them of the plan- a few slight changes were made and they logged in.

Again - silence except for furious typing.  The group convened just outside of Stormwind City -at the edge of Elwyn Forest.  I couldn't believe that the first thing I saw was duel flags being deployed.   Oh no-- another day of chaos!  But just a few minutes later they settled down and formed a circle - and the trading began.  The person who was listing the items they needed went into  the center of the circle- and the others delivered them via trade.  It wasn't perfect - there were still a lot of comments from the peanut gallery- but it was a lot better than the previous day and progress was being made.  In about 40 minutes they were finished.  Holiadore had everyone check their bags one last time against their list and as each student reported in "complete" I could feel the relief and joy spreading through the room.  The silence was finally broken when Mazor had to report that he had used his peacebloom to make potions while he was waiting for others to finish and when I read that I just started to  laugh out loud.  The laughter bubbled down the ranks and I told everyone to return to the tables.  They cheered - high fived- and congratulated each other.  I then asked them to reflect on the exercise.  I started the conversation by asking them how they felt today went as compared to yesterday.  "Happy, successful, accomplished, relieved, proud!"  Dr. Fishkin pointed out to them how valuable this was- that if it had been easy they would not have learned from it.  When asked what they learned they responded with things like, "we learned how to work as a group"  "we learned how to cooperate" "we learned to communicate in guild chat"  "we learned how to stick with it to be successful." 

     I sent them back to Azeroth to play.





April 26, 2010:   We're down the road a piece here- and I wanted to be sure to share the current status of our play.  Most of the students have reached level 25-30.  Allowing them to find their own game style - and still being true to our original purpose (learning!) has been a delicate balance.  I am of the mind that if even were the kids left to their own devices, oodles of learning would be going on - but taking advantage of the game environment with its inherent engagement and now with student investment is too delectable a situation to ignore.  My colleague, Dr. Peter Fishkin and I have had many conversations surrounding how much traditional curriculum we want to inject into WoW.  With this in mind we we began by simply playing alongside our students - answering questions that merited more than a Thottbott search and providing structure where necessary.  We have also spent a great deal of time re-directing them to thoughtful, reflective practice about their conversations in and out of game- and their attitudes toward each other, their Southern Guildmates, and other anonymous players.  Opportunities have abounded to pull out situational socialization skills- and examine the dynamics of motive and effect. 

      One thing that has been curious is group communication.  Let's present a clear picture here.  The kids are in the library, in an open lab, seated beside one and other.  Asking them to communicate in chat with each other in order to boost those associated skills has been an exercise in futility.  Try as we do to move the communication into the game (via guild chat, party chat and pst) -it is natural for the kids to simply speak (sometimes with great emotion)  to each other since they are sharing a physical space.  Although we have a ventrilo server set up with the Legacy members in North Carolina we find that the added layer of technology is sometimes prohibitive.   In an effort to have the kids work with different members and not to have mini "cliques" form, we change their seats on a rotating basis.  This means that each time a student moves to a different computer they need to set up their ventrilo account again.  This is not huge, but when you have 2 hours to play - time is precious.  Also our headsets were - of questionable quality.  So- we have new headsets now- and have spent some time teaching the kids how to set up their ventrillo accounts.  Today will be the first day that ventrilo will be mandatory.  

     Dr. Fishkin and I have also set up an exercise that we will try out tomorrow.  In this exercise we have sent each player a letter in game explaining that they have a list of 5 items they need to acquire from other guild members who are also participating in the exercise.  Attached to each letter are 6-7 items that other guild members will need to complete their list.  We have previously set our hearthstones to StormWind so we will all be in the same location to begin.  Another thing I did was to get 14 slot bags for each student so that the items mailed to them will actually fit in their bags.  Tomorrow they will get their letters and begin the scavenger quest.  The caveat is that they will ONLY be allowed to communicate in chat- and that unless everyone is successful --no one is successful.  I have cash prizes as well as some other cool things (Gnomish Army Knife!) for each of them if they can pull it off.  The set up for this was a little time consuming - I set up a spreadsheet to organize who got what, etc.  Hopefully I kept it all straight and no one will actually receive an item that is also on their list to acquire.  We thought about setting a time limit on this but decided against it for the first run.  I'll be curious to see if the kids develop a strategy or if it is just a chatty free for all.   One outcome I would like to realize is that they understand the need to become capable at communicating in a text based environment.  Another is to learn how to function as a group.



January 12, 2010: Yesterday we had our first Monday meeting - bringing us to three days a week for the club to meet.  The first half-hour was spent on the forums, adding final recommendations to the list of guild names.  Upon entering Azeroth, most of us had arranged to meet at Stormwind City Gates and then went off on a hunt through Elwyn Forest to Jasperlode mines to practice five-man maneuvers.  At level 10-12 the kids are itching to try our their raid skills!  Today we expect to vote on the Guild name! 


December 2009: As usual - by the time i find an opportunity to sit down and write - I have had a chance to ruminate and reflect about things-- so hopefully the reader will get a more cohesive report as to the beginnings of WoW in School at Suffern Middle School: Azeroth Academy.  First off - our students were invited to participate-this was not an open call.  These kids were identified by our staff (counselors, school psychologist, and teachers)  as kids who would benefit from the socialization, a well as the stimulation of the reading writing and critical thinking.  The invitations were sent home along with a permission slip and contact information in case families had questions or concerns.  No one did. 


The first day of WoW Club, as the kids like to call it (shortening Azeroth Academy  to AA might be problematic!) I gave out the Battlechests (sans the software) and told the kids to start reading  ASAP. Anticipating moans and groans about the "reading" I was pleasantly surprised when instead they seemed excited and they all double-checked that I was allowing the books to go home.  Taking my lead from Lucas, I began with a round table chat about race, class and names.  We referred to the books to clarify things like "Which class can be a druid?"  and "What kinds of weapons can a warrior use?"  How I wished that one of my Cog Dis guildies were around to fill in the gaps in my knowledge base - but the kids didn't seem to look shocked when I said "I don't know--let's find out!"  I have a feeling that will become one very popular phrase in WoWnSchool.    The kids staked their race/class claims and we compared a bit to see if we were missing anything really crucial to a well-rounded guild make-up.  We have:

Name Race Class Professions
Keal Human Mage Herbalism/Alchemy
Caland Night Elf Druid Herbalism/Enchanting
Shikong Draenei Paladin Mining/Blacksmith
Zorekan Draenei Warrior Mining/Inscription
Kaiara Human  Priest Tailoring/Enchanting
Mazor Human Rogue Herbalism/Alchemy
Saminus Night Elf Warrior Skinning/Leatherworking
Agagantun Dwarf Hunter Mining/Blacksmith
Holiadore Night Elf Druid Skinning/Tailoring
Xalin Human Paladin Engineering/Mining
Moonassasin Night Elf Hunter  




One of our kids has been out of school for medical reasons and the other has forgotten to come to club a few times so we have a little catching up to do with them.  Yesterday I talked with the kids about Guilds and told them to start thinking about guild names.  We re-visited our discussion about names and how they can give a first and lasting impression-- and they decided that the names they will nominate will be ones that evoke a sense of honor, power, and fun.  Not bad, eh?  

One last thing - since the servers were down yesterday with the new patch (3.3) we had much more discussion time than play time.  An interesting conversation happened when I used the word, "noob".  I was describing our Cognitive Dissonance Guild and happened to mention that we used the in-game calendar to schedule raids and meetings and events and that we often schedule a day to "level up the lowbies" to help the noobs.  One of my kids very earnestly asked me, "Is "noob" a bad word?"  I really took a moment to think - and then I answered - (I will do my best to paraphrase here as accurately as possible--) Noob usually mean a new or inexperienced player - but I guess when I think about it I have heard it used to mean a "poorly skillled" player. "I think it may have a negative connotation if it is used in a mean way - When we use it in our guild it is usually in a joking way or even an affectionate one - but I guess that some people say it mean and then it is sort of nasty and hurtful.   In Cog Dis we still understand that everyone is learning and that everyone was "NEW" once--- so we try to always be helpful to new people who are just learning the game.  It helps us to remember how much there was to learn (and still is!)  At this point another student said, "Why do people do that - why do they always forget they were new once and treat beginners mean?"  Happily, my colleague Peter (who is the school psychologist!) jumped in and said that is very true - whether it learning to ride a bike or even playing a sport - once you get really good at it it's easy to forget how hard it was in the beginning and to remember to be kind to those who are just learning.  Teenagers often say adults don't "understand" them, and, in a way, that may be true if the adult has "forgotten" what it was like to be a teenager." 


The conversation continued and my kids were insightful- funny and concluded with a sense of new found compassion - I think they call it EMPATHY....  I'm gonna like this group - I'm gonna like it a lot! 

Comments (1)

Tad said

at 2:44 pm on Dec 11, 2009

The good ole "noob" word. That word has stood the test of time throughout the (gulp!) 4.5 yrs i have been playing this game and iI am sure WoW helped get that into the mainstream slang as well. As an unwritten rule for our guild, we use "noob, nub, nubz, etc...) in vent and guild chat only to tease someone for a funny mistake. Nothing more. As you know, an individual actions are a direct reflection on that person's guild so we treat others as we want to be treated. That said, we never call anyone a noob in any chat, PUG, or private conversations. If you can help that person - whisper and point them in the right direction. WoW is a complex world and I have learned many new things by helping people out that have been branded a noob lol. A good excercise might be to compile a list of questions the "noobs" asked online for a specific day and work online as a group to solve them (Tankspot.com, WoWwiki.com, Thottbot etc...)

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