Using Dungeons & Dragons to transform the lives of kids (with a little help from Craft)

An educator from the US makes a big impact on his students' lives by bringing the famous Dungeons and Dragons game into the classroom.

Craft Author: Tom Norman
Tom Norman
dungeons and dragons.png

Innovation often emerges from the unlikeliest of sources. Kyle Callahan, an educator in the US, found his inspiration in the legendary tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). While most associate D&D with fantastical adventures and epic battles, Kyle has turned it into a tool for enhancing classroom experiences.

How did you start using D&D in the classroom?

I work in a special education school for students with social, emotional, and other behavioral challenges. A lot of the students have massive anxiety about interacting with other people.

When the school first started, the primary goal was simply how to get these kids to want to come to school. We were trying lots of different ways to engage the students and one day we started exploring with Dungeons and Dragons - the results have been phenomenal! 

A planning page for D&D built in Craft
A planning page built in Craft. The descriptive text written by Craft's AI Assistant

What has been the impact of introducing D&D in school?

Lots of our students have social-emotional challenges, so one of the primary benefits has been to simply get them together in a group talking, laughing and building friendships. Some of the kids have difficult home lives and not many places to learn basic social skills like making eye contact or learning how to control the volume of their speech, so this opportunity to interact with others is priceless.

Also, there have been academic improvements in their reading and language skills. For example, there was one student who was an eighth-grader but could only read at a second-grade level. They became so engaged with the game that it pushed them to want to read better so they could achieve more with their character.

I think one of the biggest lessons for these kids, though, is actually learning to take agency. As a Dungeon Master (the person who leads and organizes a D&D game) I’m fairly strict. I make sure that the kids’ decisions have consequences. If they want to use violence in the game, I ensure they’re very aware of the consequences of that violence to see the true effect it had. But more importantly, I try to teach that you can take control of any situation that you are in, and just because you’ve done something wrong in the past doesn’t mean you have to do the same in the future.

Character page for D&D built in Craft
Non-player characters are given their own pages. Midjourney is used for generating their images and the AI Assistant helps create their description. 

What role has Craft played in your classroom?

In the past, I used Google Docs but I would constantly create documents and never be able to find them again. Moving to Craft, where I can easily link between documents or embed pages inside documents, has made everything much more organized and easier to find.

I’ve built templates for various elements of the game - for example, whenever I want to create a new character, I create a document, insert my character template, and have all the placeholders I need for inserting the new character’s information.

I’m able to create at the speed of my thinking, without being slowed down by the tool.

I guess I’ve created a kind of Wikipedia for the imaginary world I’m building with my students where each character or location is linked to quickly and easily.

Since the introduction of the Craft AI Assistant last year, the process itself has got a lot faster. In the past, it was often a 2-3 hour process to prepare for a class but the Assistant has saved a lot of prep time (discover how you can make the most out of Craft's AI Assistant). It also makes it much easier to come up with things on the fly, when the kids make a decision during gameplay that I hadn’t anticipated, I'm now able to generate an interesting response in a short amount of time by using the AI Assistant.

Sometimes I send out a recap of the story to the class using a Share Link, and I’ve even used the AI image tool Midjourney to generate images of characters. The great thing about Craft is it has been so easy to make these share pages look really decent. In just a couple of minutes, you can put a gorgeous, professional-looking page together.

Treasure page for D&D built in Craft
This treasure page offers students access to powerful spells at powerful costs, helping them refine their decision-making skills.

What’s next for your classroom plans?

We’re still using D&D in the classroom and it continues to be one of our most popular and engaging classes. In fact, one of my colleagues recently left the school and has started using the game in a prison, with similarly positive results. They’ve noticed it actively changing inmate behaviors outside of the game, which is incredible. Perhaps it’s because these prisoners also find themselves in a world they have no control over, but the game gives them a sense of agency and a way to connect with other inmates. We’re really curious about the impact of the game on the adult population too.

Interested?