By Anne Collier
If your child is seriously into videogames – and Pew Internet research has found that 97% of US 12-to-17-year-olds are – it may help to read about New York teacher Peggy Sheehy’s heroes, also known as students. The middle school humanities teachers calls them heroes because she co-created the WoW in School curriculum “A Hero’s Journey” (WoW is short for the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft). “Her lessons mesh perfectly with a sixth-grade Common Core unit on myths and heroes,” The Journal News reports, because she mapped the curriculum to the Common Core learning standards. “She is a national leader in opening classrooms to video gaming and, more specifically, MMORPGS” (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), and she has trained teachers in India as well as the US and will soon be doing so in Australia.
Sheehy and Brian Fox, the principal at Ramapo Central Middle School, “love that gaming gives a stage to students with learning and social challenges who might otherwise not have that place in school,” according to the Journal News. The immersion in the quests, story line and visually rich environment frees up self-expression and collaboration in the process of learning. This is learning from inside the story, because Sheehy says it’s story telling (and playing) as rich as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Guided learning, of course – Sheehy herself has played World of Warcraft for years at the highest levels. She’s facilitating students’ own learning every bit as much as teaching them 6th-grade-level lessons on myths and heroes. Not your mother’s middle school teacher, but this teachers says – and I agree – videogames are not going away, so “let’s do something constructive with them,” she told reporter Gary Stern, “give students the skills to navigate these worlds with honor, respect and empathy.”
- If you’d like to see what learning in Second Life or World of Warcraft looks like, check out teacher Matthew Poole’s short (13-min.) documentary about it on YouTube.
- Pew Internet & American Life Project on video games
- “Why kids love videogames & what parents can do about it”
- “The whitewater kayaking kind of learning needed today”
- About the potential of a virtual reality platform
- “Powerful play: A mom and son in World of Warcraft”
- One student’s story about digital media’s power for good