Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Impending Gale, Coming Soon to a Middle School Near You (Hopefully)

Middle schoolers love video and computer games. And at North Hills Junior High School in Pennsylvania, they're like the spoonful of sugar that helps the learning go down. Daveen Rae Kurutz reports in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on a new educational game being tested at North Hills Junior High that mixes algebra, earth science, geography and Spanish.

The Impeding Gale is an online game that is similar in design and play to World of Warcraft. In the game, students are disaster relief volunteers engaged in an adventure. The game, created by Eric Hardman of the National Network of Digital Schools, has the same chat components as other online games, but this past semester, teachers have turned that off so students focus on the adventure and the academics in the game.

Students love the chance to play for a purpose and avoid the boredom of reading textbooks and filling out worksheets:
"A lot of times I get bored just reading a textbook or doing worksheets, but this makes us more apt to pay attention even if it isn't a subject we're really interested in....It's fun, but educational, not like some of the games out there like Guitar Hero where you aren't learning. I'd do this in any class."
"You get so tired of reading out of a textbook it makes you fall asleep....This definitely makes you remember things differently. I feel like I'm catching on better."
The Impending Gale is a pilot project, the National Network of Digital Schools' first foray into the traditional classroom and its first project to focus more on academics than linking teens socially. Only the North Hills district of Allegheny county is participating so far. Hopefully, after this successful semester, The Impeding Gale will be more widely available. We can also hope that NNDS and others will create and test more games like this that combine subjects in a fun virtual learning environment for our middle schoolers.

SOURCE: "Video game supplies adventure for North Hills students" 05/27/08
photo courtesy of ground zero, used under this Creative Commons license

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