Photo by carbonnyc, flickr cc

Photo by carbonnyc, flickr cc

The first two Conference Papers I attended at ACRL 2009 concerned gaming’s influence on teaching information literacy.

Gaming Research to Inform Library Instruction

The first, We’re Not Playing Around: Gaming Literate Librarians = Information Literate Students featured panelists from Washington State University and the University of Washington-Tacoma and focused on the way in which gaming has influenced the way in which students learn and how an understanding of this learning can be leveraged to provide effective information literacy instruction.

Theories about evaluating games for information and media literacy value:

  • We can evaluate games using tools we already have in place
  • Sometimes it’s worth setting the content aside and examining the structure of the game
  • Just like reading a text over again to look for multiple meanings, it’s worth playing a game several times to look for multiple meanings
  • Games have outcomes, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and criteria

Observations about leveraging gaming skill to understand student learning:

  • Gaming environments often revolve around collaboration and apprenticeship – this generation of students increasingly expect not to work alone and are acustomed to working with and learning from their peers – they have the cultural expectation that they can ask and gain help from others
  • Gamers often understand and appreciate the benefits of teamwork
  • In the gamining environment, there is no central authority (this ties into Gail Bush’s Keynote at the Info Lit Summit)
  • The average length of time to answer a question in a virtual game is 32 seconds (not necessarily accurate – but if wrong, usually quickly corrected by other responders) (again this ties into Bush’s theory of accuracy being traded for efficiency)
  • Peers enjoy displaying their knowledge and assisting others (may lend itself to student-built resources moderated by librarians)
  • Games have conventions, just like websites and databases
  • Games teach through scaffolding – offering only a few options, just enough to get to the next level
  • Games teach an understanding (and sometimes even a documentation) of the process

General stats:

97% of 12-18 year olds play games; 63% of college students are regular gamers; difference between genders not significant, but their experience of games differ

Leveraging Game Playing Skills to Teach Information Literacy

A librarians and game design students from Champlain University presented Percolating the Power of Play in which they discussed collaborative efforts between their librarians and students in their Emergent Media Center to design and create two computer games specifically intended to teach information literacy.

Info literacy is an important part of Champlain’s core curriculum and the librarians see every student every semester all four years of their college career. Their goal in creating these games was to set up a series of goals but give students the liberty to achieve goals in their own way and to support lifelong learning that extends beyond the classroom walls

To connect games to information literacy, they employed a narrative model of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and a model of the information search process. The two student developers discussed the games they had created:

1. Searchlight – has narrative story of a girl at a lighthouse at night searching for information, metaphorical resources are represented by islands, and the game is created to challenge both novice and advanced students

2. Dustin King in Locked and Literate – player is given assignments in the form of a question; must evaluate electronic databases, websites, and printed material; player must asses information in order to keep going

They also discussed how simple games can be created to promote information literacy. In one class, a librarian asks students to describe a Coke can she brings into class. This teaches brainstorming keywords, gets students to think critically about a common everyday object, and fuses fun with information literacy and provides a positive first time connection to the librarian.