It's not unusual for video game players to speak of a routine that involves ordering pizza, getting a sugar jolt, and then playing "World of Warcraft" for hours. But the person talking in this case is Constance Steinkuehler, an educational researcher who organized an afterschool group for boys to play, for educational purposes, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
Some of the eighth graders and high school freshmen who signed up for the group couldn't have cared less about writing or reading in school. Yet those students have gone from barely stringing together two sentences to writing lengthy posts in their group's Web site forum, where they discuss detailed strategies for gearing up their virtual characters and figuring out tough quests.
"It has worked ridiculously well," Steinkuehler said. "It shouldn't be working as well as it is."
I know a couple moms interviewed for this article--pretty cool!
Video games are also being embraced by some advocates of "unschooling," a type of home schooling that puts kids more in charge of the curricula. Guess what — the kids want to play video games. But they also learn everything from math skills to social skills along the way.
The unschoolers' experiences, along with the early success of Steinkuehler's program, suggest that playing a video game set in a virtual online world can encourage students to learn valuable real-world skills. Steinkuehler's goal is to figure out when and how learning takes place in online games, and how popular games made for entertainment might become educational tools.
Did I mention that Thomas learned to read mostly from playing WOW? It's not the only game out there that has benefits like this, but it is brought up a lot.
Be sure to check out the video in the article.