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After-School Program:  Focus on At-Risk Youth

Page history last edited by Lucas Gillispie 13 years, 8 months ago


After-School WoW-Based Program:


Overview of the Project:


  • A 6-month to 10-month project (after school program) that engages at-risk middle school or high school students in an intense, after school, technology-enhanced, gaming and learning environment.
  • The project will use the online video game and virtual world, World of Warcraft, as a vehicle for reaching at-risk middle school or high school students.
  • The project will address the following over-arching themes:  literacy and writing, mathematics, social interaction, 21st-Century technology skills, Digital Citizenship, Leadership.
  • Students targeted should be those with at least some level of interest, preferably with no World of Warcraft experience, who are considered at-risk for dropping out or poor performance in core classes.
  • No more than 15 students.
  • Ideally, students and district representatives should present the results of the class at appropriate conferences (NCTIES, GLS) and online.




Often, students who are at-risk are not at-risk because they lack the capacity to learn.  Often, they are at-risk because school no longer holds any relevance to them or simply, it bores them (see Mark Prensky).  Math isn't interesting because "page 56 1-100, odd" isn't interesting.  Reading a piece of literature bores them because they cannot relate to them.  They don't write in school because they don't have anything they feel is relevant to write about.  Often, these students simply need a catalyst, a muse if you will, that inspires them or serves as a focal point for learning things such reading, writing, and math.  Most kids today are engaged in online social networking sites and many have experienced video games.  Using an online virtual world-based game such as World of Warcraft can provide an ideal starting point for a variety of lessons.


Supporting Research on the Effectiveness of After School Programs:


A study/report released in 2007 by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers an overview of the effective components of an after-school program.  It suggests that for a program to successfully enhance personal and social skills it must be sequenced, active, focused, and explicit.  Additionally, this meta study found that students who participate in an after school program show significant improvement in three areas:  feelings and attitudes, behavioral adjustment, and school performance.  You can read this study by visiting:  http://www.casel.org/downloads/ASP-Full.pdf



Other Research Proposals:


Intergenerational WoW Study


My name is Jason Allaire and I am a professor (and gamer) at NC-State in the department of psychology.  I study cognitive aging (old people) and more recently I have been looking at how video games can improve elders' cognition (see www.gainsthroughgaming.org for more info). Well I ran across Lucas via Twitter and subsequently this site and I have started to put together a grant proposal that I think you guys might find interesting and might want to participate in. 


Basically, the plan is to identify "at risk" kids in early high school and enroll them in an after school program where they play WoW (this is Lucas' Main idea).  These kids would be assigned an older adult mentor to play along with them and our hope would be to improve educational and social outcomes for the kids and cognition in the elderly. 


I have a contact at Activision-Blizzard and she is seeing if there is any interest on their part to sponsor this program.  If not then I plan on submitting it to NSF or NIH.  Looking forward to your thoughts.


Below is a little more about the proposed program/study:



Goal: The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which a structured educational program administered within World of Warcraft improves cognitive functioning in children and older adults as well educational outcomes in children.


Participants: 100 at risk high shcool kids enrolled in an afterschool program designed to teach topics such as xx, xx, xx using WoW.  100 adults aged 60 and over, 50 of which are assigned as mentors to the at risk kids.  We need to know how many teachers are on the WoW in schools board and how many would be willing to participate. Also where they are located.



Design: Pretest-intervention-posttest design.  Participants will be assigned to one of two groups -- Intergenerational group or Age-same group.  Children in the intergenerational group will be assigned a elder as a mentor and will play WoW with that mentor. The remaining 50 kids will will play WoW on their own. Fifty of the older adults will be in the intergenerational groups and the remaining 50 older adults will play WoW on their own.



Intervention Protocol: The two intervention groups will all complete a set of cognitive-based game tasks (e.g., quests, find and use a mailbox) selected to exercise specific cognitive abilities.  In addition, both groups will complete educational-based tasks designed to teach specific topics such as xx, xx, xx.  The cognitive activities are already pretty well developed from my other grant. I currently don’t have any educational-based tasks. Also need to figure out how often the class will meet and over how many months.  Also, do we allow any of the participants to play at home on their own time?






Older adults


Cognitive-based tasks

Educational-based tasks

Cognitive-based tasks

Educational-based tasks


Cognitive-based tasks

Educational-based tasks

Cognitive-based tasks

Educational-based tasks


No intervention

No intervention





Preliminary Hypotheses:

(1) Participants in both experimental groups will show greater pretest to posttest gains in cognition (young and old) and on educational outcomes (young only) than the control group.

(2) The intergenerational group will show greater cognition (young and old) and educational gains relative to the age-same group.






Comments (5)

Debbie Watlington said

at 9:55 pm on Nov 19, 2009

I am an Assistant Professor in Education at Tennessee Tech University (also a licensed psychologist) and have been looking at research using gaming in the educational setting. I was intrigued by using WOW and then found this page with your research proposal. I am very interested in pursuing research in this area and didn't know if there was a way we could collaborate on a project. I noticed this post is from 4 months ago so I wasn't sure how far along you were in the project.

Doug LaVigne said

at 4:42 pm on Dec 11, 2009

I am a high school science teacher in Cobb County in north metro Atlanta, Georgia. I am also an avid WoW player. I currently serve as an officer of a guild extended friends from the real world RPG gaming community and a few folks who've become friends online.

I'll probably roll a character on your server(s) to watch and see how things go with your project. I find it fascinating to read about what you are doing, and look forward to hearing of your progress. I wish it was marketable to develop games that directly tied to topics in education. We could teach so much, with those learning not even realizing they were doing so... :)

Lucas Gillispie said

at 4:57 pm on Dec 11, 2009

@Doug - Yes, please do join us on Sisters of Elune! The Cognitive Dissonance guild is a great group of folks. I'll be there playing mostly as Foghlum or Erud in the coming days.

Ashley Hamilton said

at 12:15 pm on Feb 3, 2011

I am an elementary education teacher in Florida and I also play World of Warcraft whenever I can. I absolutely love this idea. As a 3rd grade teacher, none would be considered "at risk" of dropping out just yet. But I could also probably tell you who would be in the future. I just hope there are more programs out there like this one for those kids. It is imperative that we teach these kids with the mediums they grew up on. Old ways just won't cut it anymore. I have taken a look at some of the writing and I am amazed at how passionate they seem about the subject. I am also impressed by the works cited. If they decide to remain in school, they will need that skill for college. I commend you for this project and wish you luck in the future.

Peggy Sheehy said

at 1:36 pm on Feb 3, 2011

Hi there Ashley - Just wanted to alert you to teh new Lego Universe thread on RezEd--
A close friend , Marianne Malmstrom, is working very closely with Lego to develop this for elementary school so there may be something for your younger students very soon!
In the mean time, Quest Atlantis is also an extraordinary option (free!!) and research based! http://atlantis.crlt.indiana.edu/

Hoping to see you on the Sisters of Elune server soon - and would love to bring you into Cognitive Dissonance Guild. I am Maratsade, Sheehredd or Mairet.

May Elune light our way, Peggy Sheehy

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