Monday, July 2, 2012

D&D: A Learning Experience

So I was talking to my mother, a 5th grade teacher, and prepping for one of the regular D&D games that I play in, when suddenly an old thought hit me. It was something I'd read before in one of the Dragon Magazine (published by Wizards of the Coast, the guys who make D&D): playing D&D with school age kids as a creative and imaginative learning experience. This will be one of my odder posts and I'm curious what you have to say about it but stick to the end before you throw one of the "D&D is the Devil's plaything" tracts at me.

Now, I am not suggesting that you sit students down in the middle of school to play D&D, that would have some major backlash from some parents and many of the kids would not be interested in it to begin with. However, using it as an after-school program to help some of the more creative (or just nerdy) kids get to use their imagination with a surprisingly educational game. Because of the open structure for D&D students would be up to their own to create the game. Depending on the age of the students in question, they could be left to run their own games with a teacher (or adult volunteer maybe) making approval on characters and stories developed by both players and the student Dungeon Master (Totally need to get a bumper sticker for that.). If the students are a bit younger it might be up to an older student or an adult to run the campaign for the students. As for the game being educational, I've got a couple quick examples, starting with basic mathematics and probability.

With dice rolls and bonuses having to be added up with most actions that a character has to perform, math just overflows through the game but none of it is more difficult than multiple integer addition and subtraction. The probability of dice is something that any school-age child has surely dealt with in other board games but this would be an easy way to actually talk about it. Even in grades higher than 3rd and 4th, a little addition practice is handy, increasing a students confidence with adding numbers together quickly without pen and paper. As a cooperative game, every other player, including the Dungeon Master, is wanting to work together to have a good time but sometimes there's a bit of logic and discussion that has to happen.

Because D&D is inherently fantastical, some things have to come up for debate. Do the adventurers kill off the evil monsters or do they release them back to the wild, hoping that they'll not turn bad again? Do they go left or right? Inevitably there might be some shouting matches early on as everyone wants to get  their own  way but that's where a teacher steps in to help foster conversation and discussion. There is no 'leader' in an adventuring party, everyone is equally important as they do different things, everyone gets a say. This encourages quieter students to step up and have their say, build some confidence and people skills. Of course, there's the discussion of what bonus or penalty to apply to certain die rolls (really, do you get bonus for leaping off a roof onto an escaping thief or is a negative because you're trying to hit a moving target?)

Everyone has to get creative in D&D, developing stories for Player Characters and story-telling by the Dungeon Master. There's no restrictions, so long as you can develop a plausible story after all. With some of the younger students, you might give some lee-way, allowing the fairy princess to be a fighter with a broadsword and ignoring the fact that a goblin is better as a monster than a valiant paladin, but again, that's half the fun of D&D (the other half of the fun is slaying the dragon).

Is there anything you'd like to hear about? More reviews? More zombies? Let me know in the comments! Think I might be trying to get a video posted soon...

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