Pender school ditches books for video games

ROCKY POINT, NC (WECT) -  Video and computer games played by children are often criticized for the negative effects some claim they may have. Yet one middle school could be changing that notion, as an educator utilizes an uncommon method to channel extracurricular interests into learning experiences.

For about an hour a day, one Cape Fear Middle School teacher gives students permission to live in a fantasy world as the class practices learning through the massively popular game, "World of Warcraft."

Words like "quest," "guild," "story," and "epoch" comprise the game's key vocabulary.

"I didn't actually thing language arts could be fun but this actually makes it really fun," said Cheyenne, a student in the class.

Cheyenne is the only girl in the class, but she says the class is a team and the members are now her friends.

"Since I've been in here, we have been doing quests together and, in a way, getting to know each other better," she said.

Lucas Gillispie, who is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for Pender County Schools, introduced the gaming in school idea three years ago, and through educational magazines and blogs, the kids have gained international attention.

"It connects our students to a larger world, " said Gillispie. "We're here in rural Pender County and our kids are connected to people from around the world."

Gillispie added that technology is going to keep pushing forward and parents should be active in getting involved.

"That rate of change and the adoption of technology has been such a rapid pace it's very challenging for parents for educators -- it can be frightening," he said.

Gillispie mentioned he likes to call his methods "ninja teaching," because the lessons are hidden in game. He said many parents might be surprised at how wide the scope of learning through these games can be.

"This is a very meaningful way to address about how we behave online and what's appropriate and what's inappropriate," he said.

Through writing riddles, poems and reading advanced quest directions, students have gained an impressive vocabulary. Almost daily, they come across new words. Some students even keep bulky dictionaries on hand to look up word meanings.

"I see a huge change in students' writing ability and their ability to express their opinions," said teacher Craig Lawson.

In a recent board of education meeting, every member showed strong support for the teaching method, asking that it be extended to the high school level in the future.

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