Lord of the Rings – Group Project

Screenshot 2014-10-08 21.53.28

Overview of week

Over the last week I have spent time playing Lord of the Rings by LOTR. It is a MMORPG based on the popular Lord of the Rings trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien. To begin the game you enter a space where you are provided the skills to develop your character. Essentially learning about how to play the game, how to use the keyboard and mouse to operate your character and your characters place in the game.

I chose to be an Elf mainly because Cate Blanchett plays the elf Gladriel in the movie, and I like the idea of never growing old. I was motivated to be a guardian as I felt that was a class that I could play with not too much thinking. Some classes require careful consideration with regard to the focus they take at any point of play. I then entered the game and the introductory quest, with its many sub-quests, before I could enter a world with others and begin collaboratively playing in game.

Although most of the time we have spent in game has not been visible this has not hindered the desire to support one another where we can. For some people in Group 1 this was their first time in game. As a result the space provided challenges such as feeling physically sick and a little lost due to not having experienced this type of game before. This led to discussion about whether it was normal to feel so uncomfortable and offering support in understanding how to get started within the game. At different stages people felt they were lacking interest and purpose.

More than one online space was used to communicate information about thoughts on the game. These included the 5012 Google+ Community and the text area of Google Hangouts and iMessage. It was through the Google+ Community that Group 2 set up a time to meet online and play together which was open to all. This was evident from the time that meeting time was announced, but a more specific invite was given when some in Group 1 expressed a need for support. Group 2 had a few people who had played MMORPGs before so could offer extra support to those who were novices. Not everyone made it to the scheduled meeting time. Those that did meet up were at a similar place in the game, having completed the introductory quest allowing them to enter a world with those of the same race.

I felt that the game became a little tedious toward the end of the introductory quest and was relieved to finally get to a point where I could see others, and start a quest with another person. If it were not for the organized meeting time I would have disengaged. The meeting time with the other group lasted around three hours for a few of us. Some of the time was focused on playing the game. Most of the time was dedicated to side conversations about education and games and also moved onto general conversation about education – allowing those present to connect beyond the game.

 

Would I use this game in a classroom?

One of the key skills we want to develop in students is the ability to collaborate. A game like this allows collaboration to occur with purpose, having some level of authenticity. It allows students to take on different roles and have different skills and abilities, attitudes and attributes due to choices made. They start to see the benefit different people bring to a problem that needs to be solved.

Using a game like this would allow students to connect beyond the four walls of the classroom. Through such a game they get to participate naturally in an online environment using a range of tools to communicate, plan and achieve the goals (quests) they wish to attend too, again in an authentic way.

The game itself, due to the content and the books it is based on lends nicely to an English curriculum. It would enable students develop an understanding for a particular character in the book and immerse into the environment of the story differently to the entry point reading and watching the movie offers. Beyond that it requires significant engagement in text to move forward in the game.

Pros and Cons:

It is free, yet there are in game purchases to be aware of. You may need to check workability within a school setting with IT staff etc…

 

What issues arise for me regarding using this game in the classroom?

Access is the first one that comes to mind. What needs to occur to enable the game to be played in school? Do you encourage game play outside the lesson and at home? What about equity regarding access? Who would be potentially isolated based on decisions made with regard to how and when the game would be played? Many of these are school-based issues and hence are case-by-case decisions.

At the school I teach at it would not be too great a jump to incorporate the use of this game. However, its use in the English curriculum might be a significant move, where as using it in the current Minecraft class would be easily accepted and justified. To use this in the English classroom would require teacher buy-in. Yet, there are those who would consider it as they have experience the use of Second Life to inform about McBeath.

Reflection on the workings of  the group task

It became obvious that people wanted to support and share. I cannot help but feel that some were left behind due to communication channels and time commitments that need to be prioritized for other things. It was evident that people felt comfortable to share where they were at personally with regard to the game. With regard to communication, careful consideration needs to be given to how and what will be used to effectively do this. Due to not all people being in the Google+ Community it meant that some were not aware of discussions occurring. Skill level and awareness regarding use of ICT is something that needs careful consideration when working as a group. In saying this, it does not mean avoiding particular channels. Rather it means being clear that this is the space that will be used and supporting access it. Beyond that, time constraints are potentially the greatest obstacle as finding a time that works for the group to connect is not an easy task within a one-week period.

 

Interesting side note

This week has seen considerable discussion around the notion of collaboration with the Australian Voxer group that I am a member. Playing this game allowed me to think about the concept of collaboration and what that really looks like. Is collaboration more than cooperation? The question of how do you, within the classroom setting, enable students to truly collaborate, has been left hanging.  Not to mention, do we confuse collaboration with delegation of tasks to staff members to get a job done. Is collaboration a much more active process than just doing and ticking the boxes to say we have completed a task? Is collaboration also about active learning, not only of the concept or content but of people within the group and how best to utilize their skills? And finally the other discussion that surfaced involved the difference between ‘forced’ and organic collaboration.

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