Why play a Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) in school?

A well designed MMOG can provide students with an opportunity to acquire and practice an array of essential 21st century skills and literacies as described in the ISTE standards. More importantly, the more we work with games at The Elisabeth Morrow School, the more we are learning they are important platforms that allow students to develop and put into practice safe & civil norms online.

ISTE: The International Society for Educational in Technology
Standards (NETS•S) and Performance Indicators for Students
external image pdf.png NETS_for_Students_2007_Standards.pdf
To play these games, students must collaborate, problem solve, communicate, and stretch their imagination and think creativity. Playing these games in school provides a safe space for them to use interactive social media in a mentored environment where they can learn and practice safe, appropriate and civil online behavior.

Skills Highlight:

  • Digital Citizenship - A New Culture of Learning highlights how participatory media is a vital part of the world in which or children live. It is important to provide mentored opportunities for children to learn & practice citizenship within these online communities. Anne Collier, Co-Chair of Obama's Task Force for Online Safety & Technology Workgroup, advocates the importance of finding ways to work with children using the tools of their world. In fact, it is critical if we are to help them develop the skills necessary to function in a safe, civilized and knowledgeable manner online. Summary of Recommendations found on page 6 of OSTWG Final Report.

  • Collaboration & Problem Solving - Playing MMOGs give students an opportunity to play & work collaboratively as they help each other solve problems and complete quests. Many of the quests are specifically designed to require a group of players to complete the task. This encourages players to move beyond single player mode and negotiate with others on how to work together in order to successfully complete the challenge. In his book, "Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning!",Marc Prensky explores an array of things kids learn playing game.
  • Imagination & Creativity - Imagination & creativity are cited as essential objectives for the 21st century student. Both Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) and Sir Ken Robinson (The Element) have devoted books focused on why creativity will be one of the most important skills to determine success in our quickly changing world. What makes LEGO Universe unique is that it goes beyond simple game questing and encourages users to create, animate and share their own content.
  • Spatial Reasoning - Navigating and building in a 3D virtual space develops spatial reasoning.

Essential Videos

Crafting a Solution - considering Minecraft in school
Australian Educators, Steven Caldwell and Bryce Lindstrom brilliantly have constructed this video 'pitch' that that argues for the inclusion of sandbox games like Minecraft into school environments whether for co-curricular activities or for project-based learning. Using research evidence and personal observation based on student samples, the authors outline the benefits of using games and propose some challenges for schools who might consider the implementation.

WATCH: Expanding the Conversation: How does playing online games foster safety?

Panel discussion at the 2012 Games+Learning+Society conference (GLS.8) 2012
Panelists: Anne Collier, Marianne Malmstrom, Micah Malmstrom, Bron Stuckey
Researchers have been working diligently for several years to understand the learning impact of games. Educators currently working with MMOGs and virtual worlds are documenting the powerful learning opportunities they bring into the classroom. Still, it continues to be a challenge to convince the education community to take games and play seriously. But we may be overlooking one of the most important and powerful rationales for using these unique platforms with children in school. Guided learning in games and virtual environments has protective as well as educational properties, creating space for practicing citizenship while learning the core curriculum. Recommendations to Congress made by the 2009-'10 national task force, the Online Safety & Technology Working Group (OSTWG), stated that finding ways to work with children using the tools of their world is important. In fact, it is critical if we are to help them develop the skills necessary to function safely and successfully in a networked world.

WATCH: Informal Chat with Anne Collier

Educator, Marianne Malmstrom chats with youth safety advocate, Anne Collier of Net Family News during the 2012 GLS conference.

WATCH: Games MOOC "Big G" Games Panel

Educator's Games Massively Open Online Course (MOOC)Moderator: Kae NovackPanelists: Bron Stuckey, Peggy Sheehy & Marianne MalmstromTake-aways from the 2012 Games4Change Festival Keynote given by Dr. Jame Paul Gee.Watch Dr. Gee's Keynote

OSTWG report summary presented by Anne Collier to Educators in Second Life
October 2010

Anne Collier presentation to parents @The Elisabeth Morrow School
Online Safety Reality Check - April 2012

Essential Reading

What Does "Safe" Really Look Like in a Digital Age?

Anne Collier explains in this informative 3 part blog series
  • Part 1 focuses on Professor John Seely Brown's white paper describing what kind of learning is needed today.
  • Part 2 gives examples of what that learning looks like in the classroom (focus our school :-).
  • Part 3 connects it all to safety.

ISTE Point/Counterpoint: Should schools be required to teach digital citizenship?

Marianne Malmstrom - Counterpoint POV
Absolutely NOT!
Schools should not be required to "teach" digital citizenship. Rather, schools should be required to provide digital learning environments where students can "develop" and "practice" citizenship and safe behavior! How can you expect a child to learn how to swim without access to a body of water? The irony is that we lock down all social media within the walls of our schools and then think we can "teach" kids how to behave appropriately online. Read more...

Game to Learn

Marianne Malmstrom
Written for The Elisabeth Morrow School Appletree - Winter 2012

Recommended Books


Dr. James Paul Gee
Dr. James Paul Gee
Jane McGonigal

Essential Vocabulary


3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others... In general, virtual worlds allow for multiple users. ~wikipedia
Massively multiplayer online game (also called MMO) is a multiplayer video game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. ~wikipedia
Server is a computer program running to serve the requests of other programs, the "clients". Thus, the "server" performs some computational task on behalf of "clients". The clients either run on the same computer or connect through the network.
In most common use, server is a physical computer (a computer hardware system) dedicated to running one or more such services (as a host)to serve the needs of users of the other computers on the network. ~wikipedia
User-generated content either within the virtual world/game or via social networking, wikis, blogs, hyperlinks, and the use of mobile devices.
"little g"
“The “game” is the software in the box and all the elements of in-game design ~Dr. James Paul Gee
"Big G"
The “Game” is the social setting into which the game is placed, all the interactions that go on around the game. ~Dr. James Paul Gee
According to Gee, a “little g” game is essentially the game by itself. If you want to promote learning with games you need to turn your emphasis on the passionate affinity spaces that form around “little g” games. These “big G” game spaces are the spaces where the actual learning takes place. ~
Michael G. Wagner

Specific to Minecraft

Creative Mode
Players are provided with an infinite "bucket" of bricks to build whatever they imagine
Survival Mode
Players are limited to build with only the resources they collect and create. Additionally, threat of "death" (and losing your inventory) is always present due to attacks from hostile creatures or unfortunate interactions in within the environment (such as swimming in lava)
Players have the ability to fight and "kill" each other, thus "looting" the inventory that is dropped at "death"
Modifications to the game script created (and shared) users (players) --example:MinecraftDL
Original avatar designs created (and shared) by users (players) --example:Skindex
Original textures created (and shared) by users (players) to change the way the game environment looks --example:Minecraft Texture Packs
Original worlds designs created (and shared) by users (players) --example:Adventure Maps
Place where players can meet & play online --example of where to find a server:Minecraft Servers --instructions for setting up your own server:Minecraft Wiki