You Can't Always Get What You Want: Learning To Live With It

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

The Rolling Stone lyrics have ran through my head over the last two weeks. And today, like many other times in my life, the lyrics hold meaning. In the past, I’ve applied the lyrics to my personal and social life. But today, the lyrics apply to my professional life.

Some of my time and energy away from this blog during the fall semester was for something I wanted. While I do not know the result of the desire and energy, I feel positive about my role. I realized about two weeks ago, that while I’m thankful for chasing the “want” I need to find a way to get what I “need.” This blog, my research on video games strategies and information literacy, the research community I’ve been lucky enough to tap into, and the people I’ve met in the field are really what I “need.”

Regardless of what my professional situation is, I have the ability to continue my professional development and advocacy of games in information literacy. My renewed commitment to this blog over the past week is part of realizing I have to provide what I “need” no matter what I think I “want.”

While this may sound a little cryptic, it’s been cathartic for me. Steven Bell’s ACRLog post that I talked about earlier discussed how blogs provide younger people in the professional a voice. This has most certainly been the case for me, and I’m very grateful. Even though my voice over this year has not always been as clear (learning) and as consistent (sorry) as I’d hope, I am very thankful for the opportunities this blog has helped create.

During this time of year of reflection and celebration, I want to thank everyone who’s helped provide those opportunities. Thank you to everyone for reading. Thank you to everyone who’s engaged in conversations, both online and off. Thank you to those whose work I’ve been able to highlight and discuss over the past year. And thank you to anyone out there who is advancing video games in libraries and education.

Thank you for giving me what I need. And I hope that I can continue to work to find ways to effectively give our students what they “need” as well. And maybe through video games and game strategies the students can even get what the “want” as well.

Gamespot: Academic Edition

As Christmas draws closer and my sons become more excited, I'm continuing to work my way through unfinished posts. While there are some posts that are not worth coming back to, others like this article from Gamespot UK is a nice end of the year feature.

While Gamespot and their parent compancy CNet came under editorial fire in early December for how they handled the release of a long time employee, this review of serious games and games in education was a nice overview for those new to the field and those experienced in the conversation.

The Gamespot controversy was a mark against one of the longest running and most popular video game sites. But the content of the site's features and the creditability of it's staff is still high quality. I've read Gamespot for over 10 years and as the site releases it's Best Games of the Year feature it's worthwhile to look at this feature about educational games.

Gamespot's high profile for traditional gamers opens educational / serious games up to a market not usually aware of games in education. More people discussing educational games outside of academics is a good sign for the year to come.

Thank you to Serious Games for posting this story back when it was released.

Changing our classrooms: Mark Wagner's Mass Multiplayer Schools

Since it's the end of the year and I'm in the process of tying up unfinished posts from the fall. Here's a post from Educational Technology and Life that's worth bringing back up to highlight. Mark Wagner’s work is usually excellent and worth discussing. Back in October, Mark posted his NECC 2008 proposals, including one on learning and school classrooms as MMORPG.

Mark provided an overview of his proposal, but the more interesting information is included in his complete NECC submission including:

The goal of this study is to identify potential applications of massively multiplayer online role-playing games as constructivist learning environments in the context of formal K12 education. The purpose is to identify the potential benefits and drawbacks of such applications and to recommend courses of action for future research by academics, future game development by industry professionals, and future instructional decisions made by public educators.
Questions Posed:

- What are the potential benefits of using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

- What are the potential problems related to using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

Additionally, based on the literature review the following six research questions will be used to focus the study:

- Engagement and motivation: How might MMORPGs be used to motivate and engage students, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Context: How might MMORPGs be used to provide a context for student learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Inquiry: How might MMORPGs be used to provide students with opportunities for inquiry-based learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Negotiation: How might MMORPGs be used to support social negotiation of meaning (including facilitated collaboration, cooperation, and competition), and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Reflection: How might MMORPGs be used to encourage student reflection and metacognition, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Change: How might MMORPGs used in formal K12 education be used to effect positive social change?

Mark's blog is an excellent resource for these questions and discussion around them. Much of Mark's thesis content and research is contained within Educational Technology and Life. Thank you Mark for sharing your work.

All 7 and we'll watch them fall: Video game myths

Slaying myths of video games started as a series of articles earlier this fall but hasn't finished discussing all 7 "myths."

Via John Rice's Educational Games Research blog, back in October John linked to Lee Wilson's ongoing articles in Techlearning. Lee started a series of articles that discussed the seven myths of video games, part 1 covers #1 & #2 and part 2 covers #3 - #5. Part 3 is still on it's way.

Myth #1—Games are all about twitch speed, not higher order thinking skills.
  • There is plenty of research, articles, and books available that discuss how games apply higher order critical thinking skills. I've spent time discussing the information literacy value of games in addition to the critical thinking and other higher order skills as well.
Myth #3—Learning elements leach all the fun out of games.
  • While some recent educational games, like Arden, may be criticized for lacking fun, fun is possible. The danger that educational games encounter is educational content tacked onto some attempt at gameplay. Games like Revolution, focused on the game first and then on the educational content. Educational game designers who start working on the "game" first and then determine what players can learn have an advantage in creating an educational game that is fun. Games do not need to "beat players over the head" with the educational content in order for players to learn something. The potential for players to learn through the experience is something vital to the success of educational games. Bogost's calls this learning, procedural literacy in his book Persuasive Games.
Myth #4—Teachers don't need to be involved in the game; kids can do it on their own.
  • Educational games are still pieces of education technology and as such still should be paired with discussion, reflection, and analysis of the experience. There is quite a bit that can be learned simply through playing, but there is so much more that students can gain from discussing the game experience with other players. In addition to creating a richer experience for students, discussion also allows educators to see what students are taking away from the game.
The articles' author Lee Wilson maintains a blog, here

Thanks for the Prince Symbol

ALA's Tech Source Report: Gaming Update

A year ago I was excited about Jenny Levine's ALA Tech Source Report and then I was even more excited to receive a copy for this blog (a blog that at the time I didn't think anyone knew of). And now a year later I'm excited and humbled to be asked by Jenny to write a section for her report update.

My rough outline is below and I'm interested on any feedback you might have.

I. The Value of Games
II. Embedded Information Literacy
A. Fantasy Football
B. Video Games
1. Madden
2. Halo
3. Final Fantasy
III. Games Teach
A. What Games Teach
1. Critical Thinking
2. Information Literacy
B. How Games Teach - Education Strategies
1. Gee
2. VanEck
3. Federation of American Scientists
IV. Video Game Strategies in the Classroom
A. Applying Strategies to Information Literacy
1. Existing programs, lessons modified
2. The Sum is Greater than the Parts
B. University of Dubuque
1. Web searching
2. Research Review
3. Library Dusk
V. Start Small, Start Now

An Early Christmas Present

Many of us are getting the December issue of College & Research Libraries News in our mailboxes this week. Editor, David Free sent me an early Christmas present - a preview of the cover for the upcoming January. My fantasy football and information literacy article will be published in it and I'm excited by the cover.

Since it's was a preview I'm not going to show the full cover.

But here's a little teaser.

John Rice's Top 10 Educational Game Countdown

Over at Educational Games Research, John Rice, provide an excellent year end "top 10 list" of free educational video games. I've tried most of these, but if you haven't here's a great chance to catch up.

John's list includes a number of games that I've talked about over the past year including Food Force (students' reactions) and Revolution (including my three part interview with co-creator Matthew Weise pts:1, 2, 3).

John's list also includes Arden, which while I was excited to see how it turned out the results were not as exciting as planned. But Arden's creators have opened it up to everyone and there is some real future potential for creating learning communities there, even without a driving narrative experience. MIT's Technology Review has a good overview article on Arden as well.

John Rice's blog is consistently a good read for anyone interested in applying video games in education. Thank you for the list John.

Defense of Hidgeon: Karen Markley's Information Literacy Video Game

This week I had a conversation with Karen Markley from the University of Michigan about her information literacy game, Defense of Hidgeon. Karen had just finished getting feedback from a student focus group and was already preparing for the next iteration of the game. As theshiftedlibrarian’s post stated, Karen is looking for additional partners for the next step in the game. I hope that anyone interested will Karen. Karen has a good base of a game to begin the project with and her group has learned a lot through the development and implementation of the first game. Below are some of the notes from my conversation:

A Soc110 class of 75 students played the game from the beginning of November until Thanksgiving break. At the end of November, Karen held a discussion group with some of the students involved in playing the game. What follows are some of the notes from a conversation I had with Karen during the first week of December.

The group of 75 students consisted of mainly freshmen. But there were a larger number of sophomores and juniors in the introductory class than initially expected. This shift in the numbers of older, and potentially more experienced students, may reflect some of the negative feedback on the game.

The students played in groups of four to answer the questions. The teams of four played on a one game board with the ideal of working together to answer each of the research questions. Even working in groups was not enough to improve the student’s game experience. According to Karen, the students “hated” the topic of the Black Death. They stated, “I did this in High School” and wanted “something relevant” for a topic. The students felt the topic was not connected to the content in their class, and felt more like extra work than an enjoyable way to research.

Students also discussed how some of the additional challenges in the game frustrated them. The players had to go to the library and ask a reference question in order to get their character out of prison. While the idea of getting students into the physical building and interacting with the librarians was good in theory, the students felt the challenge distracted them from the game. They expressed concern that any additional challenges would not remove them from the game.


A lot of the student feedback sounded realistic when Karen described it. The students were looking for a “video game” type of experience, but the additional “big game” type of tasks was different than their expectation of a traditional video game. Some of the student's expressed lack of interest in completing the game may be their expressed disconnect with class content. I believe that some of the less than positive reviews also stems from a less than compelling game experience. The linear experience of the game and the limited freedom to explore or choose a direction might have contributed to limited engagement with the game.

While the feedback from the students felt negative, Karen was not deterred. She is positive and excited about the next phase in the process. She has already began discussions with the Comprehensive Studies Program at the University. It is a class of about 150 incoming Freshmen (with coverage in the Humanities and Sciences). The class has one research writing assignment. Karen is discussing applying the game with this class and tying it into their research assignment. The next iteration will seek to provide more detail and specifically take students through a variety of sources. Her hope is to have a grade attached to the game, in order to provide additional incentive to finishing the game.

The future of the game will end up taking a different form than it's current context in the Middle Ages. After watching the gameplay and having a chance to play it, the foundation of the game is good and some game design changes could create a more engaging experience for students. Opening up the game space and creating more than one path through the "board" are game design decisions that may help engage students, but will also result in more complicated design, scripting, and planning in order to make it work.

While there is a lot of work ahead for Karen, her team, and any new partners in the project. I'm looking forward see how the game develops.

Update: Since the time that I originally started this post earlier in December, Jenny blogged about it and Karen received a good response from other librarians interested. Christy over at Bibliographic Gaming picked up the conversation and the game as well. Michael over at the Information Literacy Land of Confusion blogged about it as well.

Changing the flow of narrative: Video games and ACLA

I was fortunate enough to be asked to present a paper for a panel at the upcoming American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Meeting in Long Beach this April. Here is the abstract of the paper. I'm interested in any thoughts and/or suggestions since the scope is a little beyond libraries and information literacy.

"A recent study out of the United Kingdom showed literacy rates down among children. Other reports show the Millennial generation reading less printed media. These signs and others suggest dark times for the narrative and reading in general. But times have never been as bright. Our students are not only readers they are now producers and writers of narratives as well. Video games and the fan fiction around them create unique opportunities to connect students to the narrative through engagement and creation.
Media Studies researchers recognize students’ passion in gameplay and in the worlds around the games. As game narratives are becoming more advanced, more is demanded of the player. Stories build to the conclusion where the emotional payoff is often 20 to 30 hours in the making. Not only are games providing a narrative for players to engage in, they are creating an opportunity to create additional stories within this game world through modding and fan fiction communities. Researches at the University of Wisconsin Madison and elsewhere are studying these fan created stories and the writing skills acquired through them.
Video games present our students with new opportunities to explore and create narrative writing. This paper explores those opportunities and discusses ways for faculty to apply those abilities to classroom settings. "

Fantasy football and libraries: Upcoming publication

Here's the introduction to my upcoming article on information literacy and fantasy football for C&R Libraries News:

Librarians want students to effectively identify and evaluate information and make decisions based upon it. These are just some of the skills that an information literate student successfully applies. These are the same skills that over 19 million people use on a daily or weekly basis playing fantasy sports (Fantasy Sports Trade Association). As the NFL football season comes to a close, millions of Americans, as young as 12 years old, have spent the past few months connected to information literacy. They just don’t know it.
The challenge for librarians is to connect fantasy sports skills to information literacy and create building blocks for academic applications of the same concepts. One library, University of Dubuque, did just this by teaching fantasy football research to incoming student athletes. Through the lesson, students engaged in discussions of creditability, validity, timeliness, and search strategies to find and evaluate fantasy football information. The assessment of these instruction sessions showed incoming students successfully identifying
evaluation criteria and reporting positive changes in how they viewed research and libraries.

image from C&R Libraries News

I've been asking myself this a lot lately...

"Are You Where You Want to be Professionally"

Steven Bell's excellent post over at ACRLog provides a lot for new and seasoned librarians to think about.

Where I'm at professionally is a question I've debated internally for the majority of this semester. Obliviously, my postings here have been any thing but consistent. Some of this lack of consistency stems from teaching 101 information literacy sessions this semester. Some of it comes from being a husband and a father. And some comes from enjoying video games for more than simply "research" purposes. Added together this blog and my writing here has suffered.

Bell's post talks about priorities and not being able to be everything all at one time. Steven's post help me feel that taking time to be one thing or another well is okay. I've been fortunate to have the support of people for the research and discussions that Research Quest was designed to promote. I hope that as this year draws to a close, I can find some balance.

I will continue to work toward my goals and understand as Steven said, "It took time to develop my voice, and gain the ability to think and write about things in a way that communicates them well to others." Thank you for your post Steven.

36 Credit Hours - Starting to See Straight Again

In the two weeks since I posted last (sorry about that), I've taught 36 credit hours worth of information literacy sessions.

Nothing like teaching almost a full semester in two weeks, finishing an article for publication (see C&R Libraries News early for 2008), and sending off a few conference proposals to keep one busy. Not that I'm complaining.

The classes were great. I worked with 7 different sections of a English Composition on a research paper unit for the past two weeks. We've taught the unit before and I've written about the students reactions when we taught it back in the spring semester. It created some good discussion about video game violence and the impact it has on aggression for college students. While the research continues to point to short term increases in aggression for college student, the students debated how that aggression manifested itself.

How they handle and control their aggression was an interesting talking point. However they choose to manage their emotions, the discussion helped students on both sides of the issue see the shades of gray that is the research on violence and video games.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Production

This concept falls in line with Gee’s Insider Principle, where “the learner is and insider, teacher, and producer (not just a `consumer`)” but goes beyond that. It is not simply being able to produce an end product, but to reshape and build the world itself. The example on the sides is of the upcoming PS3 game “Little Big Planet” where the player is given the tools to create a world or stage of their own design, populating it with whatever environments, obstacles, and physics they desire. The game provides an open canvas for the player to create, experiment, and adjust the game to individual taste. These worlds can be saved and shared with other players, creating a unique game experiences from every creation. Creating game content is nothing new, Real-time-strategy and First-person shooters have used map editors and modders have created whole new game experiences based on the original game’s engine, which create more investment and motivation from the player.

I used the example of “Little Big Planet” because the initial game itself is player created, not modified from it’s original intent. Production in our classrooms can and should be similar. Student created content, questions, or topics is not a distraction or diversion from the lesson’s original intent but essential to the comprehension and retention of the lesson’s objectives. On a surface level this includes using student questions and topics to shape the direction and focus of a lesson. If a concept not clear or students are struggling we spend more time to clarify. But peel that standard interaction back and how much content do students produce that shapes our information literacy sessions?

Now the easy answer is, of course they produce content they are finding sources, writing papers, giving presentations and many other projects based on the materials they find from an information literacy session. Is that really producing content that shapes their experience? They produce an end product required by their course, but do they have influence over it? Does that production happen in our library instruction or as a result of it?

Following the Production and “Insider” principles means letting the students create and shape the direction of the lesson within the bounds of the objectives. They could be the ones creating and sharing the examples for the class. They could be demonstrating how they located a specific resource of the quality or source required in the assignment. They become “teacher” as well as “student.” An example for this current semester was taught by a colleague of mine. We created a lesson where the students worked in groups to create incorrect APA citations in an attempt to stump not only the other groups, but the professor, librarian, and writing center – the “experts.” The students were empowered and motivated to create content and implicitly needed to not only understand APA basics, but the more obscure details in order to be able to explain their citation errors. It worked. There was laughter coming out of the classroom and the students wanted to stay longer to go through more citations.

Now how often can we say that?

Filling in the Gaps: Gee's 36 Principles

This month I've started (and will continue) to walk through the learning strategies that Gee has focused on in the required reading I used for my guest lecture. While the reading grabs most of the core learning principles (or combines them into broader concepts), there are a few that were not discussed specifically. Throughout the month, I'll highlight a few other of Gee's principles and how we should be using them in information literacy. And so my month of Gee continues...

Active, Critical Learning Principle- All aspects of the learning environment (including the ways in which the semiotic domain is designed and presented) are set up to encourage active and critical, not passive, learning.

It’s a basic learning principle. We learn best through doing. We want to get our students active, engaged, and involved in the practice, testing, and application of the material we are trying to teach. During my student teaching for my Teaching Masters active learning and critical thinking were stressed above all else. It should come as no surprise that games incorporate this since they require the player to actively take part in the action and decision making (at least most games do). I’ve talked about critical thinking in video games before (link) and information literacy and critical thinking go hand in hand.

The success of the application of active learning also includes when it is used. Librarians that teach in a lab may claim they are always using active learning because the students have time at the end to practice the process of research. While this is active, it is not as effective as it should be. Video games include active learning throughout the process; players are constantly doing. Video games (at least most) do not give you 30 – 40 minutes of a instruction before letting the player play. Granted some games do give lengthy tutorials but here brief instruction is immediately followed by practice and active learning. Library instruction would do well to model the tutorial model present in many games

Design Principle- Learning about and coming to appreciate design and design principles is core to the learning experience.

Pedagogically this is more important for us as librarians. Students are aware of lesson design and the experience, but the awareness often happens when there are problems. Students may not be able to define what makes the lesson work, but they can sure tell you when it doesn’t. Gameplay and game design are similar experiences for most players. They may not be able to tell you what “works” about a game, but they can sure tell when it falls apart. If our lessons and sessions are not incorporating good design our students and their learning will struggle to process.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Agency

Gee describes “Agency” as a game creating a sense of ownership in the player. The player is now invested enough in the game that they care about and feel a sense of responsibility for what happens in the game. The sense of ownership and responsibility developed through “agency” also drives a player forward. That ownership makes them what to see a game through to the end (which could be 6, 12, 20, or 50+ hours).

What type of ownership would make a student see an assignment through a 20 hour process?

That is an unfair question to start off with. While that may be an ultimate goal, we can develop agency by starting much smaller. The screen shot in the slide is from the Xbox 360 game, Mass Effect. Mass Effect starts with a create-a-character, like many other games, but the sense of agency develops through series of choices that how the character and the game develops. It is this series of choices that creates the sense of ownership. The player and the student will not develop this immediately. The choices need to be continually offered and they need to be significant. The choices need to shape the class in both the direction and the discussion. Ownership can begin to grow with a question as simple as, “Where should we start?” The choices should continue throughout a lesson. “What search terms?” “Which source will you use?” The questions and choices are important for developing ownership in the student.

Asking questions is important, but it is essential for agency that the questions we ask are followed through on. Nothing will kill a sense of student ownership faster than judging something as the “wrong” answer. These are not questions that have a “right” answer. Granted some of the responses may not be the choices we want them to make or even will gain the best results, but those “not ideal” choices create learning opportunities. As I discussed with the “risk taking” concept we can look to these “dead ends” and poor sources as teaching opportunities. Create and facilitate a discussion on the results of these choices. Every choice creates a potential discussions and learning opportunities.

Over the course of the last year, I've worked on trying to incorporate developing ownership into lessons including an open ended research reviews (including reflection and student feedback for fall & spring semesters) and branching lectures where the students make the choice.

The question we, as librarians, need to continue to ask along with all these choices is, "Why?" Agency develops with meaningful choices and learning comes from understanding the ramifications of those choices.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Interaction

Okay, so all games require some interaction with the player. Just as “engagement” assumes interaction with the students. The key for us as librarians and educators is the degree and integration of that interaction. This is not simply a time for questions or discussion and pedagogically we understand that.

The example of “Duck Amuck” for the Nintendo DS (pictured) is a good example of maximizing the interaction. A player draws events and items that are used, uses the microphone to “blow out” candles, closes the lid for Daffy to “look in the dark,” and a host of other mini game applications that make use of every input the DS has. The game uses these various inputs at every stage of the game requiring continued interaction from the player.

The continuous interaction through a variety of inputs (learning styles) is a wonderful goal, but can often be challenging for librarians faced with a one-shot session trying to cram all the “necessary” information in. Now I know that putting “necessary” in quotes may be put off some people, but I mean no disrespect. I’m guilty of filling a session with useful information. But with a high degree of interaction, the useful “necessary” information still comes through, but it does so in a student initiated shared experience, rather than a librarian one.

This is the challenge. It takes time to plan this level of integration and time to practice it… and one-shots make that challenging. Maybe this is where the “try and fail” mindset (link here) is important. It takes time faith, but the success can be great. Last semester, I took what would have been a basic database review & workday and turned it into a narrative with constant choices for the class that determine the direction at each step. The interaction was limited through discussion and a student response system, but the student’s interaction was required for each step and decision. The class resulted in an increased student experience. Their interaction with the material and each other resulted in students discussing and debating with each other about the search and evaluation process.

Now the lesson did take a couple hours to plan, map out, and create, but the payoff for the students was worth it. They stayed engaged in the class and the content because they saw a value in it but also had a say in it. Their interaction was genuine and integral to the class, not separated from the content. Designing classes like this is not always possible, but the effort is still beneficial for our students.

There is a variety of good literature out there on student engagement and interaction is only one piece of it. But when designing lessons incorporating that interaction is key. The more the students can push, poke, prod the content (and us) they will be more invested in the class and the material.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Risk Taking

Gee’s also called this the “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle where learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered.

Ah, if only this could be the case with information literacy. This should be the case in our classrooms, labs, and campuses. We can create environments in our classrooms and at our reference desks, where students recognize that research is a messy process. Not passing the level or finding just the right material on the first try is natural. Students need to know they can take risks and fail within the research process. Now, granted those risks may not have the same impact as dying within a game, but the tension and frustration can be just as high. A student with a deadline or frustrated with a search feels just as much tension, if not more, than the gamer.

Creating this atmosphere is comes from both class structure and personal attitude. I’ve failed plenty of times in front of a class. When I started teaching information literacy a few years ago, I dropped canned searches for our instructions sessions. At the time it was done to increase the relevance of the material and engagement of the students. But what it has created is an atmosphere where failure is okay. Failure is a talking point. I welcome the unsuccessful search (unless it’s because I can’t spell and now the class knows). It provides the opportunity to talk about why searches fail or don’t get the desire results and how to adjust for additional searches. Failure in a search shows that the research process is messy and even libraries aren’t perfect. We try and fail just like them. I’ve seen it successful break down barriers for students asking for help. If I got stuck, and they got stuck, they are more willing to ask for help. Failure equalizes the power relationship.

Failure equalizes it, but it does not take power away from students. Creating an atmosphere and culture where failure is encourage doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen and we should be modeling it in our classes and at the reference desk. Research is a messy process, taking risks, recovering from failure, learning, and risking again is an important information literacy skill. Failure is not always fun, and with “first page and done” search habits accepting failure can be too quickly judged.

Allowing students to take risks, fail, and modeling patience and learning through failure helps create successful information literate students.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Identity

During my blogging vacation I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest speaker for an undergraduate Game Theory class on campus. My presentation was entitled, "Educational Games: Games that teach, not Preach." Here is the continuation of that application...

How do we create a sense of identity in information literacy and library instruction?

Do we have to since the identity is already created – it’s our students playing the role of our students. There is some identity already given when students walk into a classroom setting. They “are” invested because their success in the class/school is tied to their ability to succeed in the classroom and on an assignment. But is that enough?

Are our students invested in library research because they are passionate about their grade? Really? Who’s the lucky librarian with a class filled with these students? Library instruction, when there even is library instruction, can be met with a student attitude of “Just finish talking so I can go grab it off the internet.”

Can we create situations that invoke an investment from our students? Yes, but how? In the examples from the slides, the first game is Half – Life 2 where the player plays the role of Gordon Freeman, but most of the personality is derived from the players responses not game created reactions. Every player plays a little differently and attaches meaning based on those experiences. In a classroom setting, this type of identity comes from the students caring about their research and creating their own meaning for the assignment. We can help our students do this by showing meaning in their research, tying their research to a larger community, and help them see the significance of findings to their assignment.

The second example in the slide has the player playing the role of James Bond. The student becomes invested because they already care about the character or that there is a context created to grab the student and help them care. A little role-playing by the student. We can create a role for the student outside of just simply a student in class for an instruction session. I’ve done a PR class where the students “played” the role of agents at a PR firm and they were given portfolios on their “clients” to research on. It through the students into a different mindset for the research session, captured their attention, and even allowed for some creativity in their approach and presentation of material. Creating alternative roles or situations for our classes can help create a sense of identity for our students and increase their involvement in a class.

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Situated Meaning

During my blogging vacation I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest speaker for an undergraduate Game Theory class on campus. My presentation was entitled, "Educational Games: Games that teach, not Preach." Here is the continuation of that application...

Isn’t this the question we ask ourselves about the difference between stand alone library instruction classes and sessions embedded within an existing class?

If the skills we teach are not tied to meaningful context (class), how successfully will the students retain the skills?

This is not a new debate within academic librarians and I am not pretending to bring something new. The significance here is how connected game design is with educational design… and why it is worthwhile for us as educators to look at our instruction programs through the lens of a gamer.

When skills and concepts are taught outside the full game, there needs to be enough of a connection for students to see the application in the full game situation (as an uncontrolled environment). The examples shown in these two slides come from the Metal Gear Solid series and specifically the VR Missions. The VR missions exist both as a tutorial for the player to learn moves and strategies and as a challenge to demonstrate mastery over those skills in some of the more complicated scenarios. The VR missions give a player a safer environment to practice their initial skills and try out new strategies within a safe environment (the scenarios have no overall impact in the larger story driven game).

This example is relevant to us. It provides a safe environment in which to learn and practice skills but still connects the user to the larger application. The skills are not learned in a vacuum. The larger context is understood by the player/student. As we create information literacy sessions, this connection and context is important to keep in mind. The activities we design for our students, the skills and strategies they encounter, and their understanding of future applications depend on making this context meaningful. Most databases that our students have access to are filled with a great wealth of features for advanced users, but how many of these features will have a meaningful context attached and create situated meaning for our students?

Gee's Strategies & Information Literacy: Just in Time

During my blogging vacation I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest speaker for an undergraduate Game Theory class on campus. My presentation was entitled, "Educational Games: Games that teach, not Preach." I focused mainly on the work of James Paul Gee and Ian Bogost. The objective was to give the students a different framework to view game design through (Gee's learning strategies) and how games help players understand a real life topic (Bogost's persuasive games). Here are the readings the class used for both Gee and Bogost.

My plan over the next week or so is to walk through the content of the slides and discuss how these concepts fit information literacy and library instruction...

I’ve talked about the “just in time” principle earlier this fall when responding to the lack of it in one of our sessions. But this is a concept that all teaching librarians need to consider.

How many new skills are students introduced to before they have a chance to practice?

If we are not giving students a chance to apply the skills/strategies we are suggesting right away what is stopping us? What content is more important the helping cement a concept with direct application? We all learn more by doing and doing when it makes sense, not when it fits into the instructor’s flow – when it fits the students’. In a research class session where we may be introducing new or reviewing old databases or strategies we should provide opportunities to “try” those strategies out. Even if the “trying / testing” component is short, the continued engagement should be worth it. We are very mindful of this in our instruction, even to the point where the first time through a few sessions this fall felt disjointed. But after a session or two, the flow finds a rhythm and the students start to respond. They respond to the chance to try things out and still have continued guidance.

Does all the instruction happen up front with the student exploration and applying happening later?

If so why? It’s easier, sure. But is it more productive? We can comfortable toss our “knowledge” out there and then “turn ‘em loose” but what do we gain? We need to not only supply our students with successful strategies for research but also a context in order to successful apply those strategies in.

Video Games for Lesson Plans

I blogged about this book back in the summer and Henry Jenkins recently had an interview with the author. Part 1 & Part 2 are here. If you missed them in October, set aside some time to read them. And if you read them the first go around... I ask you what comes next? How can librarians use these ideas in our research sessions?

If you are interested in the book, here is the table of contents. Jenkins' conversation was picked up around the gaming world as well appearing both on WIRED's Game|Life and

The coverage and the conversation is great. So what is the next step?

Keep an eye out for this issue...

Computers and Composition Online will publish a special issue on the intersections between composition, literacy, and computer/video gaming as a companion to the Fall 2008 special print issue of Computers and Composition, "Reading Games: Composition, Literacy, and Video Gaming." These issues will explore the social, historical, cultural, and pedagogical implications of computer/video games on literacies and the writing classroom.
Here is the full post about the upcoming journal. Proposals are due on Dec. 14th and it looks like the journal with be publish late spring of 2008. For more information check out the journal's homepage here.

Catching up with Virtual Learning Worlds

Virtual Learning Worlds is consistently a good read and provides useful insight for education and learning in games. I don't often mention his writing here, but since I'm catching up I wanted to highlight two of his posts from this past month.

A Good Day for Educational Gaming
Misconceptions of Games in Education

Final Fantasy Tactics: Info Lit Skills in Action

Back in September I plugged many late hours into Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. A game that I bought a few years ago, played a little, and let it sit as I returned to finish another game. That was two years ago, and a recent essay from ToastyFrog's site rekindled my interest.

Then in October I've spent a good amount of "blogging vacation" time playing Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lions War. It's a great remake of a classic game. I'm only a few hours into the game and I'll probably end up investing over 50+ hours into the game. Many gamers have played over 100+ hours of the game with it's complex job system and character skill sets.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lions War is much deeper and complex both in story and gameplay compared to FFT Advance, but both apply a large number of information literacy skills in order to process through the game and succeed.

1.1b. Develops a thesis statement and formulates questions based on the information need

1.1c. Explores general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic

1.1d. Defines or modifies the information need to achieve a manageable focus

1.2d. (e.g.,popular vs. scholarly, current vs. historical)

1.4a. Reviews the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the question

1.4b. Describes criteria used to make information decisions and choices

2.1a. (e.g., laboratory experiment,simulation, fieldwork)

2.1b. Investigates benefits and applicability of various investigative methods

2.2a. Develops a research plan appropriate to the investigative method

2.2b. Identifies keywords, synonyms and related terms for the information needed

2.2.e Implements the search strategy in various information retrieval systems using different user interfaces and search engines, with different command languages, protocols, and search parameters

2.4b. Identifies gaps in the information retrieved and determines if the search strategy should be revised

3.1a. Reads the text and selects main ideas

3.3a. Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into potentially useful primary statements with supporting evidence

3.3b. Extends initial synthesis, when possible, at a higher level of abstraction to construct new hypotheses that may require additional information

3.4b. Uses consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information used from other sources

3.4c. Draws conclusions based upon information gathered

3.4f. Integrates new information with previous information or knowledge

3.4g. Selects information that provides evidence for the topic

3.7a. Determines if original information need has been satisfied or if additional information is needed

3.7b. Reviews search strategy and incorporates additional concepts as necessary

4.1b. Articulates knowledge and skills transferred from prior experiences to planning and creating the product or performance

4.2b. Reflects on past successes, failures, and alternative strategies

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