Computer Games in the classroom is one of the most controversial yet exciting areas to be working in at the moment, there is some amazing research going on out there about the learning going on in video games, especially the role play/simulation type games. After all pedagogically, by definition playing is learning.
Yes there are issues attached to using WOW in the classroom; the attitudes of teachers and parents to learning with games is a huge hurdle, and not a small part of this research is going to be how the attitudes of teachers and parents influence the barriers to making school the exciting engaging learning environment that I believe it should be. There is a great article by Clive Thompson at Wired about the implications of being a game playing dad with young children.
The role of the skilled teacher in facilitating the use of this type of game in the curriculum will be crucial, plus a set of agreed rules! Here we run in to teaching and learning about ethics and wisdom, what Mark Treadwell and other researchers like our own kiwi Lisa Galarneau describe as competencies for the 21st Century or digital age literacies.
She is interested in the 'soft' skills like communication, team-work, leadership, etc. In other words the Social intelligences, that players develop as by-products of play, and whether those skills are potentially transferable to real life.
I chose World of Warcraft because it has such enormous flexibility for children to build their character narrative and situated meanings. To play these games children are continually using "inventive thinking".
It is also now the single largest Massive Multiplayer Online Game in the World and many kids will already have huge expertise in playing this extremely complex game.
However there is a debate to be had about whether games like this belong in the classroom, because as soon as we impose an "instructional" framework onto them are we changing the "rules" or the nature of the game itself and will that remove the engagement factor?
Just some quick thought provoking questions...
How old are your children?
Have you actually seen the WOW game/know anything about it?
Also have you actually played any video games yourself/observed your children playing video games?
I'd be interested to get your feedback on how you felt about learning a game.
If its a game you've never played try getting your child to teach you! Observe their delight and engagement in teaching an adult.
I think that a questionnaire for parents along these lines would be a useful idea, as the education of the parents and teachers is part of the exercise.
Marc Prensky has written a great book aimed at helping parents and teachers to come to terms with our 'digital natives' love of learning with games, it's called "Don't Bother me Mom, I'm learning".
MIT professor Henry Jenkins has written an essay that is posted on the PBS website that systematically debunks some of the biggest myths surrounding video games. He covers things such as kids as the primary market for video games, girls playing games too, video games and social isolation, and an "epidemic" of youth violence among other topics. It is a very good read so check it out if you feel like it..