Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Virtual Learning, and Reality

ObenThe 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: drcowinj

As an Assistant Professor & Practicum Coordinator for TESOL and Bilingual Programs at Touro College, Graduate School of Education my focus is on the Responsibility to Touro Students (Teaching), Responsibility to the Discipline (Scholarship), and Responsibility to Touro College and Community (Service). As the Practicum Coordinator, my Teacher Professional Practice identifies those aspects of a teacher’s responsibilities that have been documented through empirical studies and theoretical research as promoting improved student learning. In the framework, the complex activity of teaching is divided into the seven New York State Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) Standards for teacher evaluation that are clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility (as framed in the Teachscape Danielson Rubric approved by New York State). I strive to inspire students to be creative and to model the love of lifelong learning by inculcating the habits and attitudes that create agile mindsets. 21st-century education extends well beyond the classroom and incorporates online learning technologies for L2 language acquisition and current global trends in teaching English as a Second Language. I participate fully in the larger world of TESOL academic discipline as elected Vice President and Chair Elect for the New York State, NYSTESOL organization, for the 2021 conference. Ongoing research, expressed in scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge is demonstrated through publications (articles in Education Update), presentations, and participation in academic conferences, blogging, and other scholarly activities, including public performances and exhibitions at conferences and workshops. Of particular interest to me are The Blockchain of Things and its implications for Higher Education; Current Global Trends in TESOL; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English; E-learning & Micro-Methodology in TESOL; E-Resources Discovery and Analysis; and Language Acquisition and the Oculus Rift in VR.

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