Shortsighted and Naïve

Today a coworker showed me a rather alarming blog post sent to her by a faculty member. The post was by a professor at a private Christian college (I’m not linking to for my own emotional well being). His short sighted and uninformed point was that “information literacy” was nothing but tech savvy and computer know-how. He felt there wasn’t any literacy without books and “information literacy” wasn’t teaching books.

Even after coming off of a few days worth instruction sessions where I felt we didn’t stress books enough, I see flaws in his argument. One look at the ACRL standards can tell us that. But his shortsighted post reminded me of another shortsighted post from earlier this week. EDUCAUSE blogged about too much emphasis being placed on digital natives and “eductainment” and more focus needs to be on critical thinking.

I don’t argue with the need for critical thinking, in fact I would say that most people would agree with the need for critical thinking and discussion. Games and game based strategies are a great way to engage and motivate students, but like any teaching strategy it can’t succeed alone. Textbook reading and individual assignments are not any different. These traditional teaching strategies only take a student so far, and classroom discussion and analysis provide additional learning opportunities. Students learn and grow through games, but also through the analysis of what they are playing and why.

Richard Halverson’s Innovate article What Can K-12 School Leaders Learn from Video Games and Gaming? (2006) makes the same point. He uses the example of the off-the-shelf computer game “Rise of Nations.” Students learn through playing, managing resources, and strategizing battles, but a large content piece comes from the research and discussion about the individual nations and events depicted in the game. The critical thinking component is key to pulling the full potential out of the game. It’s important to have both sides for the education of any student, digital natives included.

My co-worker used the naïve information literacy blog as a way of marketing to the faculty who passed the post along all that the library does for students. The EDUCAUSE blog allows us the same opportunity – We can take the chance to discuss with others not only the success and impact of games in education, but also the importance of discussing the games used. Games are not a magic bullet, but they are wonderful teaching strategy; one of many successful strategies for digital natives.