How schools spark excitement for learning with role playing and games

February 26, 2019 | KQED

Michael Matera’s students don’t merely learn about medieval Europe, they live it. Albeit, with a few monsters and enchanted items thrown in the mix.

The Milwaukee teacher’s Grade 6 history class is an ongoing role-playing game called Realm of Nobles, where students join guilds, earn achievements, make trades and wage the occasional epic battle in an imaginary medieval kingdom. Matera has played the game for years, and maintains that the fusion of history, fantasy, narrative and role-play is an effective formula to engage students in learning.

“The excitement and the pride in their accomplishments are all through the roof. I love seeing kids gaining real-world skills, taking risks and learning from defeat in this gamified class,” said Matera, who wrote Explore Like a Pirate: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich and Elevate Your Learners, a manual for teachers who aspire to design their classes as games.

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