• The Game Is Afoot at FoTiE 2011

    As part of this year’s Future of Technology in Education conference (#FOTE11) in London on October 7th, I participated in the 140-second challenge, where I had 140 seconds to explain how the future of technology might be gaming. The talk fit exactly into the 140 seconds and seemed to be well-received.

    Someone asked in Twitter for more precise numbers on women WoW players. Unfortunately, those seem to be hard to come by. My own research survey had about 21% (in 2010). Nick Yee’s 2005/2006 surveys of 1900 players included about 16% women. M2 Research (2010) said estimates put women at 40%. I think the reality is somewhere between those, probably closer to 30%. If you know of any large-scale, precise demographic breakdowns, please let me know!

    The text of my talk is below and is a much shorter version of the themes explored in Persist or Die: Learning in World of Warcraft. That version includes references.

    October 28, 2011 Update: The FOTE11 team uploaded the video to iTunesU.  All five #140-second speakers are in the same video. I’m #4 and my presentation starts at around 7m 47s.


    Robertpupil the WoW player

    Image: Robertpupil prefers note-taking and remembering as learning strategies.

    I’m Michelle A. Hoyle, an Open University course chair. My University of Sussex doctoral research examines communities and learning in World of Warcraft. I have 140 seconds to explore gaming’s influence on learning.

    First, some myth busting. Popular media portrays gamers as young males who spend too much time alone in dark basements playing games. The reality? 70 to 80% of WoW’s millions of Western world players are adults, with women comprising somewhere between 20-40%. About 80% play with someone they know and they’re spending 21 hours a week playing versus the average TV-watching Brit’s 28.

    Why is this relevant to higher education? It’s similar to online HE’s population. HE’s an institution that’s in crisis and I don’t mean financially. Our teaching and assessment are likely catering to the “Roberts”, an HE student archetype  typically employing remembering and understanding—low-level Bloom’s Taxonomy activities. Universities used to be full of “Susans”, operating at the much higher levels of synthesis, evaluation, and analysis—critical thinking activities I see occurring voluntarily in WoW.

    Susanlearner the WoW player

    Image: Susanlearner tries to integrate new material into her existing worldview, using synthesis, evaluation, and analysis.

    But is there learning there?  In 2010, I invited WoW players to write an essay (yes, an essay!) about why they play. I examined 39 essays for learning behaviours. In addition to analysis, modelling, and experimentation, several reported playing to learn or to practice a foreign language. Others wanted to improve their social skills or learn more about themselves or other people. There were also real-world skills: guild leaders needed diplomacy and other leaders regularly coordinated large teams. Teamwork and collaboration were often motivating factors. That ignores other activities I know happen, such as story writing or movie making.

    Much in WoW is boring and repetitive, not unlike education. Persistence and isolation are problems in online HE. Understanding what brings disparate people to form learning communities in these games could be very powerful for developing successful online environments and learning activities. Some factors we know, like allowing failure, because we often learn more from our mistakes, but there are others. Read more about the learning and background issues on my project blog. The future of education may well derive from games, even if it doesn’t involve playing games, because… there is useful learning happening there.  Thanks!

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  • Upcoming Talk: “Persist or Die! Learning in World of Warcraft”

    I have been invited to give a keynote at the forthcoming Game To Learn: Take 2 JISC Scotland/Consolarium conference in Dundee, March 17th to 19th. My remit was for something provocative, bold, and possibly disruptive about the potential benefits of games like World of Warcraft for higher education.

    Persist or Die! Learning in World of Warcraft
    Michelle A. Hoyle

    “All you need to understand is everything you know is wrong.”—Weird Al

    My mother told me cleaning toilets builds character if done repeatedly. The other night five friends spent more than three hours dying over and over again while playing World of Warcraft (WoW). She never said anything about dying. I found cleaning toilets only gets you clean toilets. Dying and playing, however, teaches you important things. Demons, dragons, dwarves, and possibly folklore, you could see, but learning, love, and leadership?

    Sounds crazy, but it’s true: World of Warcraft has something to say about learning. Prepare yourself, because everything you thought you knew is wrong.

    My talk will be on Friday, March 18th. The conference is free to attend. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

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