The last few weeks I spend taking care of my mother, traveling on occasion and exploring virtual worlds and their possibilities in the teaching profession. The goal of the course was to expose us, a group of students at Marlboro College for Graduate and Professional Studies to the relevance of virtual worlds for real-world learning environments.
I would love to say that I aced this course, that it came naturally, that I felt “like a fish in water.” Nope, this idealized view of myself never materialized. Instead, I learned how to be humble, ask for help, call 13-year olds on Skype in the US to get lessons on Minecraft mining, called a neighbor’s son to reconfigure my mother’s antiquated router system, and watched hours upon hours of youtube tutorials.
In addition, I WhatsApped my son in Japan to go through the finer points in mining, creating gold, creating signs, power boosts and cry about a dog who drowned in Minecraft. Our mother-son relationship benefitted greatly from this reversed dynamic. Before the course, I saw absolutely no use for his time on the computer watching endless “weird” legos move. However, in his apps and Skype lessons the amount of detail orientation and real-time work which goes into mining, creating every item through combining different materials, and creating complex structures one forth. For every question, my son had an online tutorial ready to guide me. He wrote pages of commands and emailed them for me to try. I got advice from his friends on “super awesome structures” complete with more tutorials via email. More than that, the collective teen posse cautioned me to “keep totally to the letter of the tutorials”. All this from a group that never takes a book and reads it from front to back, a group which seems completely laisser faire when it comes to spelling, etc. I had entered an alternate universe where I became the learner who climbed the mountain….
Only after entering the World of Warcraft did I completely realize how deeply connected these kids are through their online gaming. They quest together, they form complex teams with characters completing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they problem solve, read and analyze detailed notecards. Before this course, these were realms I had no access to. Now, I understand the process, time commitment, and mindset much better.
There are definitely uses for Minecraft, SL, WoW in the teaching profession. However, the great challenge is for teachers to first master these realms and then fold this mastery into required subject activities which guide students not only within a virtual world but extend those activities into the real world.