EduRealms' Lucas Gillespie has started WoWinSchool, a wiki designed to help teachers who want to use World of Warcraft in classrooms. Gillespie was inspired to create the resource years of playing different MMORPGs -- from Everquest to Dark Age of Camelot to World of Warcraft -- with fellow educators, students, and former students:

"It didn’t take long before I was convinced that these sorts of virtual environments must have some sort of place in education. How many times have I thought, 'If I could just use this feature or that, I could easily teach concept X?' If my students were as motivated about Cell Structure and Function as they were about knowing the intricacies of a fight in Molten Core, they’d all have 'A’s.'"

WoWinSchool's primary focus is to bring together educators who will develop a curriculum for an 6-month to 10-month after school program targeting "at-risk" students in middle and/or high school.

The program seeks to accommodate up to 15 students who are considered "at-risk for dropping out or poor performance in core classes", focusing on themes such as literacy and writing, mathematics, 21st-Century technology skills, leadership, and more.

The site argues that students who are considered "at-risk" usually haven't reached that point because they lack the capacity to learn, but because school no longer holds any relevance to them or it bores them:

"Math isn't interesting because page 56 1-100, odd' isn't interesting. Reading a piece of literature bores them because they cannot relate to them. They don't write in school because they don't have anything they feel is relevant to write about.

Often, these students simply need a catalyst, a muse if you will, that inspires them or serves as a focal point for learning things such reading, writing, and math. Most kids today are engaged in online social networking sites and many have experienced video games. Using an online virtual world-based game such as World of Warcraft can provide an ideal starting point for a variety of lessons."

WoWinSchool wiki not only includes links and references to supporting research and articles behind its rationale, but a glossary to introduce new MMORPG players/educators, budgeting information, and a list of technical issues that should be considered with the program.

I thought the concept of WoW-based schooling sounded a little silly at first, but reading over some of the lesson ideas like this Mathematics lesson helped change my mind:

"Buff Analysis: Example - Which buff (a spell that enhances a character's abilities) is more effective for your character, Blessing of Kings or Blessing of Might? Collect data at five different points during an encounter and graph them over time. Why is one better than another?"

This Study of social interaction in Chat/Trade Channel Chat in WoW's Barrens and Elwyn Forest also sounds entertaining and potentially educational:

"Sit in one of these regions (like the Barrens) for 20 minutes watching the general chat. Keep a log of the topics discussed in the chat. Create categories for the topics and sort them. Create a bubble map diagram to show the relationship and possible overlap of topics. Reflect on the topics (were they helpful, interesting, offensive, etc.). What do you think motivates people to be helpful or annoying?"

You can read more about the at-risk youth program and lesson ideas at the WoWinSchool wiki.

[Via Educational Games Research]