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Gaming and Education

October 14, 2008
at 12:00 pm PST

As anyone who has read more than one of my blog posts knows, I am an avid gamer…not very good mind you but I love it. At Cisco we have an internal email alias that folks can subscribe to if they are interested in virtual worlds, 3D environments and of course games. The other day an interesting article was sent along regarding World of Warcraft (WoW) being used to get children engaged with education. The forwarder, Steve Hall a Network Consulting Engineer with Cisco Advanced Services DCN practice, was kind enough to write-up a blog post on the article and its findings.


I ran across an article the other day and found it very intriguing. It’s titled “‘World of Warcraft’ Gets Kids Interested in School“. Huh? It was something I just had to check out. How can a game do such a thing? Shouldn’t a game distract kids from school work? Doesn’t school get in the way of playing computer games?I have to say upfront that I do play World of Warcraft (often referred to as WoW) to some degree, but not nearly as often as most do. However, I am very familiar with the game and the mechanics of its various components.The article mentions an after school program that has under-achieving students sitting around playing WoW. These students go on to do better in school. The contention is the game teaches the kids many skills that are valuable to excel in today’s school system.Math: There is a lot of math “under the hood” of Wow in just about every aspect from Character progression to combat. It is not necessary to know this math but the students in this program seemed to want to know what is making everything work. Knowing the formula for weapon damage, which takes in a WoW character’s physical attributes (strength, agility), items being used (which may contain damage modifiers as “enchantments”) and the opponent’s defense skills and armor. Keeping those factors in mind when making character progression decisions can only help a player. The right decision will result in a more powerful character in the game. Social Skills: Wow is a social game and as a result players must interact with each other to progress. This interaction is often typed in the keyboard as chats. Players who are rude or insulting in the chat are quickly “flamed” or simply ignored by the other players. Being polite and social is rewarded with help when needed. The students also formed a group in the game called a guild. This involves a guild structure with leadership and guild officers to administer it. Also, the teens are interacting with many players in the game who are just playing and not there as a learning exercise. I would think the social aspect would not be nearly as beneficial in a virtual world designed specifically for learning. There is something to interaction with others who are there for a wide variety of reasons.Scientific Process: WoW is more than merely game played in the virtual world created for it. Players often start entire web sites dedicated to providing information and discussing the finer points of gameplay. According to the article,”Players used reasoned arguments, backed up hypotheses and even brought statistics to bear on issues that they faced near the higher levels of the game”. This introduction to thinking scientifically is often not noticed and it was refreshing to see it acknowledged for what it was. As a WoW gamer myself I can attest to all these points. All the skills mentioned are definitely aspects of the gameplay of Wow. In the past I never realized that they can actually be teaching tools. I will, of course, continue to play WoW and will now try to forget all this “learning” that can take place-. I don’t want to take all the fun out of it! Steve Hall,Network Consulting Engineer, Cisco Advanced Services DCN Practice


Here, here to another WoW fan at Cisco and thanks for sharing Steve! The referenced article details an interesting use of gaming to engage students and hook them into the idea that learning can be cool. There are so many examples of virtual environments being used to educate and interconnect people of all ages. For example, my nephew is really into WolfQuest which a previous science teacher introduced him to when he was working on a school project on wolves. My nephew has always been into wolves as they are one of our family totem animals, we are all of Muscogee decent, and has lots of books and reference on wolves. He said what hooked him on WolfQuest though was being able to join with friends and/or make new friends to form a pack. To quote the web site, “The WolfQuest experience goes beyond the game with an active online community where you can discuss the game with other players, chat with wolf biologists, and share artwork and stories about wolves.” I guess there is something to this notion that interactions are a primary driver for exploration and discovery, and therefore learning. I knew being a gamer was a good thing and now I appreciate my hobby even more than before.

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9 Comments.


  1. At the community college I work at, we have had great results using virtual worlds in educational settings and see virtual worlds as an important education tool going forward. In case you are interested, the link below describes the work of one of our professors who has used WoW in instruction. We are always looking to connect with others sharing the vision :)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOcSIblWyZ8

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  2. Many teachers do lead exciting classrooms, but individual innovation or even variance requires constant effort.Board Games have been a valued and documented teaching method for centuries, dating back at least to Sumerian puzzles in clay and appearing in many forms today. Though often played for entertainment, the value of these games was recognized. Once maligned, chess may be the clearest mainstream example of the value of these games. ————nickysamInternet Marketing

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  3. Very interesting read . . . I am currently working on a suite of collaborative strategy games that I hope will be to serve middle schoolers and high schoolers alike. It is very encouraging and refreshing to see proof of games being effective in classroom environments. I think educational gaming is the future of K-12 curriculum and am excited to see where it goes in the future.

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  4. I think that it is great that game makers put some educational benefits into their games. I have seen games that have a strong educational value – one focusing role playing through true historical events, and another that uses actual military strategy. So instead of just memorizing facts on how things happened or are done, players have to really learn something, then apply that knowledge to beat the game. I’m sure if classrooms incorporated some gaming into their curriculum, they would find more attentive students who are learning more than just memorization and reciting back facts that are otherwise useless to them.

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  5. Playing World of Warcraft certainly is better than idly sitting watching TV and using no thought at all. You would be surprised at how in depth some players get when comparing stats and trying to formulate exactly how to make their characters as good as possible.

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  6. I agree with the game concept for teaching. I will however, go a little further, the students whether adult, youth or children must be at some point referred to the fact that they are learning a specific, or multiple subject matter in the game. I believe it important for the children and adults to recognize that we can all learn from differing methods. Even the humble card games or bingo, or more recently Online Bingo for adults can aid in their maths and to a degree English. It is important the we understand this learning.

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  7. I agree with the game concept for teaching. I will however, go a little further, the students whether adult, youth or children must be at some point referred to the fact that they are learning a specific, or multiple subject matter in the game. I believe it important for the children and adults to recognize that we can all learn from differing methods. Even the humble card games or bingo, or more recently Online Bingo for adults can aid in their maths and to a degree English. It is important the we understand this learning.

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  8. Cisco is an awesome company. We are so fortunate to have gamers like you interested in education. Technology for the better good; I like that.

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  9. Technology and education. Good mix. There are great charter schools that do a fantastic job on that.

    http://www.leavechartersalone.com

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