Saturday, December 1, 2012

All Teachers Should Play Dungeons and Dragons Before Entering A Classroom #edchat

Hello, my name is Nick and I played Dungeons and Dragons growing up. 

If only there was a guide like this for teaching. 

I look back on those few years fondly. It was a silly time where my imagination ran wild and characters I created could do amazing things. Sadly, I do not quest anymore and rely on Skyrim and other video games to fill the void, but it’s not the same. The more I think about it, all teachers should play D&D before they are allowed in the classroom.

There is a level of creativity in D&D that is unparalleled anywhere else in education. Playing a game that essentially involves paper and 12 sided die requires a tremendous amount of imagination. The Dungeon Master would weave amazing stories that required the gamers to “see” the mythical world around them. When it came time for one of to be the DM, it was an opportunity to show the level of creativity we had gained by playing the game. Creating a world by writing an adventure that people had to participate in is not an easy task. Especially when your friends are counting on you to give them the best experience for the short time you had them. The adventure needs to be tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of everyone involved to ensure a great time for everyone. This is no easy feat, but it needs to be done. There is also nothing better than watching the group overcome all of the obstacles you put in place and come out a little bit better. Creating a successful quest is a bit of rush that I have only duplicated in one other place. Lesson planning.

How is this any different the preparing lessons for the classroom? I’m tasked with creating a learning environment where all of my students attempt to master the content I have given them in a way that engages them and excites them. There needs to be creativity in every lesson that is created and given to the students. The boring lessons stand out and cause problems in the class as the students get restless. Imagination is something that needs to be in the classroom and needs to be imparted to the students. While some teachers might actually feel like Dungeon Masters, it is their job to create a wonderful world of learning for their students.

I always loved surprises when I played D&D. The DM would throw something at us that was unexpected, but could be handled if we thought it though. Critical thinking was a must when gaming. The easiest answer wasn’t always the right one and that forced us to think about situations differently. Evaluating problems, looking at resources and coming to a group consensus were part the game. The feeling of overcoming an obstacle as a group was an amazing feeling. We all knew that the DM didn’t give us something we were not ready for and that is what made certain DMs better than others.

As a teacher, I try to give my kids challenges. I want them to be stumped at first, struggle to find the answer and be stoked when the overcome the obstacle. I feel like that is my job. Kids need to be prepared to face tough challenges and work to solve them. Playing a game that is not challenging is really not fun in the long run. School is no different. Kids might say they don’t like to be challenged, but deep down they want teachers to push them. Providing problems that can be solved with a little effort will have a lasting impact on students and they will be thankful for it in the end.

The group dynamic of Dungeons and Dragons is always interesting. Each member of the group needs to create a character they will use for their adventures. However, an entire group of wizards only will never get very far. Same goes with groups of warriors only or healers only. As a group, a decision needs to be made about the distinct roles everyone needs to play so the team can be successful. Once that hurdle is jumped, group decision need to be made on the different paths the team will make as it attempts to meet the goal of the quest they have undertaken. This is an ongoing part of the game and it does get heated at times. Despite the stress, the team that works together best will always be successful.

The teachers that are the strongest are the ones that work well with others. When teachers get together, they all need to take specific roles and work to their strengths. Collaboration is a skill that does not come naturally to most people. There will be times things get testy, but the goal needs to remain the focus. That goal is helping our students. We have to trust that the people around us are on the same team and want the same things. As a school we are going to be faced with many different obstacles. We have to work together to solve these problems with as little damage as possible. Teamwork is how we can be successful in helping all of our students.

I have learned so much from Dungeons and Dragons. There are some people that avoided this post like it was a Tarrasque. It’s sad that a game that encourages all of these important skills is relegated to the realm of “nerdery”. I owe some of my teaching style and strengths to what I developed during those few years questing. Maybe all teachers should spend a couple of years gaming before they get into the classroom.

Thanks for the time you spent reading this post. I’m off to find my Monster Manual.


  1. Thanks for the post Nick. It made a lot of sense. If you still want to scratch that D&D itch, there are several D&D games run on Google Plus that are easy to seek out and join. Enjoy!

  2. My wife and I discuss this all the time. While she was prepping for her GRE, she would ask me if I'd heard of words like enervate, innervate and dirge. When she asked me how I knew what they were, the answer was always "gaming."

    To learn new vocabulary, you read. Motivation to read comes from personal desire more than someone forcing it on you. Gamers read about geology, psychology, forensics, biology, sociology, music, world history, mythology, anything they can to make the worlds they create more real. And they do it because it's fun. Blend that motivation with math, statistics and imagination and you have the only past-time I can think of that uses both sides of your brain at the same time.

  3. Fantastic article there Nick! I was a big D&D player as a kid, teenager, and young adult but have trailed off now that I'm a grown up. I never made the connection between this fantastic game and teaching. Yet as someone who was a DM from the ripe old age of 10 years old, I'm a little disappointed with myself for that one.

    The parallels really are staggering! Outside of the things you mentioned, a good DM has a clear path and narrative, a good DM knows his players strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly a good DM is able to tailor the tasks to fit those.

    I guess I can call my mom, I wasn't wasting so much time back then! Now if only I can convince my wife :)

  4. If you haven't checked it out already, take a look at Reacting to the Past, It's a course framework that builds off role playing for student engagement.

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  8. "Maybe all teachers should spend a couple of years gaming before they get into the classroom"
    I have no words to express how true it is.


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