Sunday, November 2, 2008

2008 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium

Right on the heels of EDUCAUSE, I've been attending the 2008 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium.

Prior to the conference I had the great privilege of meeting with my colleagues on the expert panel of the ALA Gaming for Learning project funded by the Verizon Foundation. On Saturday we had an inspiring look at ThinkeringSpace that is exploring how physical and virtual environments might promote creative and critical thinking. I was particularly taken with the power of the "learning by prototyping" approach to creating the ThinkeringSpace and testing its ideas. Especially in projects involving "physicality" it seems like libraries would do well to adopt the "build a prototype and test it out" and perhaps we'd avoid some costly construction mistakes but for web resources and the like prototyping would help us put ideas in front of library users and get their reactions before we are overly invested in a particular approach. Even more though I was inspired by how open the project staff were to our questions and comments and their willingness to seek the best ideas to be had even if they didn't think of them on their own.

Elmhurst College's session on their gaming events was contextualized by the document Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience and it was excellent to see a framework for the educational and learning impact of co-curricular programming in libraries and involving students in developing the programming. Librarians have a lot to learning from student affairs professionals on how to empower students as leaders of events. This came out as a tip in the session Videogame Night in the Academic Library, which was an outstanding presentation that demonstrated just how rich an academic/intellectual experience a gaming event can be made to be.

I focused my attendance at the conference on sessions about academic libraries and to the extent possible on those focused on information literacy. The information literacy games are intriguing but I'm concerned about the "fun factor" and motivation to play ... I wonder if there is a way for students to play a game on a different topic that would enable information literacy skill development and in which success is dependent on high levels of information literacy abilities? School Library Services of the Genesee Valley BOCES is working in this arena for K-12 - see their AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner Gaming Alignment document ... anyone doing this for higher education?


Jenna Weidenbenner said...

This week on the seriousgames listserv, there's been a related discussion about introducing serious games in Higher Ed and the feedback from students. A number of educators have found that, aside from faculty responses to the idea of gaming in the classroom, many students have been reluctant to accept the intertwining of something they do for leisure with academic expectations. Thus, even games that could tap and develop information literacy skills might not be appreciated by students. On the other hand, given today's visual world, finding legitimate ways to integrate games and learning goals might be useful in enhancing a range of literacy skills -- informational, media, technology, etc. There's some compelling research being conducted in Minnesota ( and Wisconsin ( as well as in other areas across the country.

Paul said...

Lisa, I think your comment on the "fun factor" and motivation to play are really a hurdle for games in the classroom. College students were weaned on "edutainment" games that were not engaging or very fun. When they were given a game to play it often resulted in the substitution of worksheets practicing skills. Unfortunately, for the students there was little substitution. The games were only electronic worksheets.

This experience also plays into the hesitation that Jenna commented in. The "intertwining" of leisure and academic was a concern at first for IM, Facebook, and other mediums. Isn't it just a matter of time until gaming follows the acceptance trend (or fad depending on your point of view).

The next step to gaming within the higher education curriculum is to create games, as you said, "on a different topic that would enable information literacy skill development." If we think of gaming and information literacy, than just like info lit, the more it is tied to meaningful content the more successful it can be.

While I've been fortunate to help highlight the work of libraries creating info lit games, we are missing a larger potential. We can remove the game out of a library context and still teach info lit skills. And by removing the library context it is possible to remove some of the reluctance that Jenna describe.

There's a lot of work to do on that end, but it's work worth doing.