What did I learn today?
Today I learned to trust my instincts.
A few months ago, I came across the website www.ChoreWars.com which puts a fantasy roleplaying spin around the routines of housework. It gives you the power to create ‘quests’ which award experience points and items to characters that complete them – and that’s really about where the website ends. When I first found it, I was excited at the possibility of creating a class-based adventure group and creating quests for learning activities. I spent a weekend translating the following week’s lessons into quests for one of my classes just to see how it worked.
The value of the site is that it translates achievement at any kind of activity – being based on house work but easily adaptable to classroom activities – into experience points and character progression in a fun, fictional narrative manner, and offers an instant reward for completion regardless of standard. At its heart it’s just a checklist system, but the narrative elements it brings to the completion of activities really does make it more than the sum of its parts. I created half a dozen adventures in a very short period of time, each one representing a single lesson activity – some which could be completed multiple times and others which were pre-requisite steps to completing larger goals. I got so excited about the possibilities that I even emailed the site’s developer to ask if he had ever considered expanding the site into even greater realms of flexibility and user-controlled content. Unfortunately I received no reply. Regardless, I was pretty sure that this site, without any links to other distractions, no actual game involved, and no spam or invasive advertising would provide a useful tool for motivating and engaging some students who might need it.
Then I found out that the site was blocked by the Department of Education’s internet filter.
Funny thing was, I found out by taking it to class and discovering that the students couldn’t access it. As a teacher I could access it, and those students who were studying courses at TAFE were able to access it, but for the majority it was lost.
Anyway, I had all but given up on the idea, as by the time the holidays came around my request to have the site unblocked had been apparently ignored and student access to computers was proving less reliable than I had hoped and it all got put in the too hard pile.
Then today a handful of students asked me if I was still planning to use the website in class as they enjoyed playing around with it for a short while last term. At the time of this post I’m regularly re-clicking the link to request unblocking of the site only to be repeatedly told that the remote computer is down.
I suspect there’s more to come on this one…