This is NOT a book about how to teach using games; there are plenty of those available, and I’ve got a few of them on my Amazon wish list. This book, though, is as much about classroom management as anything else. It’s about structuring your class as if it is a multiplayer roleplaying game. Students don’t get assignments; they get quests. They don’t receive points for assignments; they get experience points (XP). And they don’t work in groups; they form guilds to raid boss monsters for XP. The theory is that students play games like World of Warcraft a lot, and understand that dynamic, so incorporating it into the classroom will give them a different perspective on learning, and encourage them to learn in different ways than they have been in the past. It’s thinking outside the box.
I enjoyed reading about Sheldon’s trials and errors. He’s very honest about thing he didn’t do well the first time, and changes that had to be made. We learn while we read because we’re learning from his mistakes. And he also acknowledges that the same exact system will not fit every classroom. Modifications are made based on the students and the subject matter. Changes are made based on what didn’t work before — even in the middle of a semester, if needed. That’s another thing I liked with this book — it isn’t about the system, it’s about doing what will help students learn better. That’s a focus that more teachers need to have. Sheldon also shows how he used the technique in several different classes, with different ages and types of students, at two different institutions. Again, it’s not a cookie-cutter program, but the basics are there to be modified and used in a lot of different ways.
I was attracted to this book because I’m a gamer, and I’m studying to be a teacher. Combining these two passions of mine seems like a no-brainer. And reading this book has given me a LOT of ideas to use in the classroom. I’m studying to teach computer applications; I’m very project-oriented, rather than lecture and test oriented, so a management style based on experience points makes sense to me — my goal is to give students experience using technology, so why wouldn’t I want to measure how much experience they’ve gained? So this is certainly something I plan on implementing once I’m in the classroom fulltime.
The research is still mixed on this technique; the case studies in the book are favorable, but there really isn’t enough data to show how well this will work across the board. I can see how some content area teachers would have trouble implementing it in their classes (math teachers, especially). In a project-oriented class, though, like the one I will be teaching in, this can be used well. It’s different enough that students will enjoy it, and it might even be fun enough that the teacher will enjoy it, too.