Be the Epic Hero: Through Virtual Worlds & Immersive Learning
We can, via the modern wonders of translation from the Nowell Codex and film, passively read and view Beowulf, “the oldest epic tale in the [old] English language…which resonates throughout the ages, immortalizing the [hero’s] name.” The Hollywood movie rendition, complete with both the protagonist’s tale ( see: Beowulf (hero) against Grendel, and then Grendel’s mother (who was never actually even given a name, but only a description of her attributes), which Hollywood depicts as “ruthlessly seductive” in words and evil plots, falling from the plump, iconic lips of Angelina Jolie. (http://www.beowulfmovie.com)
In this day and age of heightened awareness of learning styles and how people best process information, many theories have emerged suggesting that students might learn best by more actively participating in immersive learning environments. For example, rather than reading about Grendel, Beowulf, and Grendel’s mother, what if students could actually become these characters and act out the roles, thus forming their own personal impressions of a rather intimidating and imposing work deemed “one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf)
World of Warcraft, Second Life, MineCraft and other virtual and gaming environments have the capacity to immerse students into legends where they become the protagonists and antagonists to more fully understand and appreciate not only the age-old question “What does it mean to be human?” but to also take on more business-oriented tasks, such as cost accounting, in a safe and risk-free environment. Real monsters (and the IRS) are unlikely to lurking about in the controlled environments created by savvy and caring educators who allow for students to practice skills and “try on” roles reserved in the past only for their future career roles where mistakes made would have more permanent repercussions on their “permanent records.”
Even cost accounting can be done in WoW. Really.
Whether post-modern educators enhance student learning through allowing them to BE the cost accountant or an important woman without a name exploring the nature of power and gender in the 9th century, virtual worlds provide experiences that should not be passed over in favor of rote memorization and ruinous “multiple guess” quizzes (marred by the easy availability of answers, many of them wrong) available by Internet searches.
Savvy educators are not afraid to use the power of technology for good and not evil. In a way, they themselves are the modern “Beowulfs:” using technology and gaming in measured, appropriate means and not stopping once one “enemy of learning” has fallen, keeping to the calling of “no hero(ine) left behind.”