Jenkins GLLS 2007, final reflections IV

At Games, Learning, and Libraries Symposium last week, Dr. Henry Jenkins identified four sets of skills that students today need. Jenkins stated that, we as librarians and educators, can address these literacy skills. We can help supply these needs and deal with these problems through the following 11 skills:

  • Play: Having the capacity to experiment and problem solve is at the core of research. Whenever I sit down to do a search, I’m experimenting with terms and strategies. I’m testing hypothesizes on where to look and what to look for. Searching is the scientific process. Testing the search hypothesis, analyzing the results, and drawing conclusions about how to search based on the results. If this searching process fits Jenkins’ explanation of play, why do our students see it as work? Why not emphasis this experimenting as play? Try it, doesn’t work, tinker and test, and then try again. Do students see searching as work because there is an assignment attached or because they have little motivational incentive test and play around? What if we make their initial searches cooperative or competitive? I am teaching a research writing library session on the second day of class this fall. The students have very little context for their geographic based research topics. I hope to tap into this concept by structuring their initial searches as a playful experiment, where we don’t know the right answers but digging around for topics (good or bad topics) gives us a place to start.
  • Simulation: If we want to structure some of our sessions a playful experimenting, we still want students to interpret dynamic models of real world processes and understand the impacts of changing variables. This could be as basic as changing search parameters to see how the results react. But it could be carried out through giving students real world research questions and having them make decisions and draw conclusions based on them, making sure to include time for reflection and discussion.
Project NML helped develop the withpaper on these problems and potential solutions; resources available at

Jenkins GLLS 2007, final reflections III

Due to the length of my final reflections, I've split them into 4 sections

At Games, Learning, and Libraries Symposium last week, Dr. Henry Jenkins identified four sets of skills that students today need. Jenkins stated that, we as librarians and educators, can address these literacy skills. We can help supply these needs and deal with these problems through the following 11 skills:

  • Performance: The idea of “simulation” ties nicely into Jenkins’ description of performance. We can create situations where our students are not simply just spitting back facts or grabbing quotes from sources as the extent of their application. Regardless if our sessions are one-shots or multiple times, we, as librarians, have the ability to create a learning environment that asks our students to step in and assume a different role (often a fictional one). This role-playing can create more engaging experience for the student and give us a chance to explain how the literacy skills we teach play out in the world outside our educational establishments.
  • Appropriation: Now if Jenkins’ describes this skill as the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content, do we see this as the perfect spot to drag out our plagiarism and copyright content and lesions? Don’t our students sample and remix content for almost every research based assignment? If so, the question is do they do it meaningfully? I would safely assume that every educator can think of examples on both sides of this argument. Part of the students ability to meaningfully mix content when trying to inform their peers comes from the need to show support for their argument. Many of our students’ are media literate enough to know that they should question material (whether or not they do is another discussion). I was talking with a student today that didn’t believe 9/11 happened as reported because he couldn’t see all the evidence to support it. The connection is easy – if they don’t trust someone else’s information without sources and support, why should someone trust them?
  • Multitasking: I’m guilty of not trusting this. We use software in our teaching lab to lock down the student computers. While our staff mainly use it to improve our pedagogy by involving the students more, we have all slipped into the idea of “locking” down their computers and pushing out our content. All in the hopes that they will not be distracted. What I realized last spring is that pushing it out is all the more distracting. Not allowing the students to multitask actually made them pay less attention. While multitasking the needed to stay cognitively engaged in both their own work and the content from the class in order to keep up. So while some students may seem distracted, their ability to scan the classroom and screen and focus onto salient details is an asset not a drawback. Our job is to play to this multitasking, encourage it, and have it meaningfully shape the session. The student multitasking while I’m speaking could be directed to seek out additional facts about the topic and then share those findings with the class.

Jenkins GLLS 2007, final reflections II

Due to the length of my final reflections, I've split them into 4 sections

At Games, Learning, and Libraries Symposium last week, Dr. Henry Jenkins identified four sets of skills that students today need. Jenkins stated that, we as librarians and educators, can address these literacy skills. We can help supply these needs and deal with these problems through the following 11 skills:

  • Distributed Cognition: Videogames are tools that we, as players, interact with to expand our mental capacities. Granted players may not sit down to play with that goal, but the result of playing and learning still nets that result. Now how do we translate that to our classrooms? William Shaffer's epistemic games seek to teach some of this meaning. Our educational institutions are intended and hopefully designed to create this meaning and expand students’ mental capacities. But because of the lack of some of these former skills (play, performance) our students are not invested or engaged enough to reach this outcome.
  • Collective Intelligence: Knowledge and learning is not (and should not be) an isolated process. The ability for our students to pool their knowledge and compare notes with each other to reach a common goal should not be discouraged. Players working cooperatively either in person or online pool their resources and knowledge to succeed. Students working together can do the same, whether in class or online through social software. Educators promoted and advocated this group learning atmosphere for years, but as I mentioned before this meaning should be positioned beyond the students’ assignments. Connecting students to a larger world and showing their worth in that world is important in cultivating that strength of collective intelligence.
  • Judgment = ACRL definition of Information Literacy (find, evaluate, & use)

Jenkins GLLS 2007, final reflections

Due to the length of my final reflections, I've split them into 4 sections

At Games, Learning, and Libraries Symposium last week, Dr. Henry Jenkins identified four sets of skills that students today need:

  • traditional print literacy
  • research skills / information literacy
  • technical skills
  • media literacy
Jenkins stated that, we as librarians and educators, can address these literacy skills. We can help supply these needs and deal with these problems through the following 11 skills:

  • Transmedia Navigation: For Jenkins this is the ability to deal with flow of stories and information across multiple modalities. Can we as educators use these multiple modalities through cross-curricular assignments and research? We need to find ways to take our assignments beyond their classroom context and apply them and the knowledge they bring elsewhere. Our students are prepared to do this, are we?
  • Networking: On its’ surface networking includes the information literacy skills of searching, synthesizing, and disseminating information. But taken to a deeper level (as Jenkins’ example of the internet community’s mapping of Lost’s Darma Project), this synthesis and sharing of information expands well beyond our classrooms. It includes connecting our students with our faculty and helping them share information. It includes connecting our students to researchers in the field or topic of their study/assignment. It includes tapping into a larger community of learners, students, advocates, and researchers for our students to not only see the meaning of their work, but for their work to contribute meaning to others.
  • Negotiation: Tapping in and taking part in the networking described above helps our students enter into diverse communities. The next step is to help them navigate those communities by respecting multiple and not just respecting diversity but valuing it. While our might often act as they are in control and in charge, placing them into a larger learning community may put them in a minority (age) and help them understand the need to value diversity opinions, regardless of race, age, gender, or experience.

Project NML helped develop the withpaper on these problems and potential solutions; resources available at

Reflections on Henry Jenkins GLLS 2007 Keynote: Participatory Culture

Edit: Sorry if a shortened version of this post hit your RSS reader... my error in mixing Blogger shortcut keys

The concept of Participatory Culture that Jenkins describes helps strengthen critical media consumption and creation:

  • Low barriers to expression and engagement: not having a penalty (whether real or imagined) for expressing answers – both the right & wrong answers; these barriers in our classrooms need to be implicit and explicit, our students need to feel comfortable and welcome to engage but we need to be clear that those expressions will not only be welcomed, but encouraged; as librarians and educators we inherently know this, but do our students?
  • Kind of informal mentorship: Can we create these between librarians, tutors, and peers? In a class by class setup, these informal mentorships can be constructed. But maintaining them over the length of a semester is more of a challenge. This is where the application of social software strengthens the mentoring roles. Students do not need to physically interact with their mentor in order to gain the benefits of the relationship. The challenge I see here is finding ways for students to want to engage in these relationships. Do not limit the potential mentors to those only on your campuses. I want to try this mentorship with an upper division class, by having my students email the author/faculty member from one of their research articles. This could provide them with an opportunity to expand their understanding of the material and also feel that…
  • Members feel that contributions matter: I hope we are already making our students feel this way in our classrooms. But this concept is larger than the classroom. The concept means that our students’ contributions are applied to a larger whole, the campus, discipline, or the general internet. Is anyone having their students edit Wikipedia pages? At LOEX this May, one librarian was discussing making editing & improving or creating a Wikipedia page as an assignment.
  • Degree of social connection between members: How often do we take a social connection for granted because of the natural dynamics of schools and colleges? Many of the recent web 2.0 applications libraries are using attempt to maintain this interaction and connection outside of the classroom.
Tomorrow, I'll finish my reflections on Jenkins' keynote looking at the 11 ways that Jenkins suggested that we can help close the various literacy skills our students need.

Videogame Style Guide & Other News

Since I've spent the last few early morning hours awake (thanks to a potty training 2 year old) digging through my RSS feeds, I wanted to point out a few relevant news items.

If you noticed my post from last night, I started treated "video games" as a single word "videogame." This change is due to the publication of The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual by David Thomas, Kyle Orland, and Scott Steinberg. As a librarian, or anyone interested or writing about gaming, I see no reason that we should not use the discipline specific terms. And so the style guide, which you can download here, defines the term "videogame" as:

Catch-all term for any type of interactive entertainment software. Always write as one word - p.65
In addition to this useful download, John Rice over at Educational Games Blog discovered a link to download the serious game Revolution created by MIT's Education Arcade. I've mentioned Revolution before when I interviewed one of it's initial creators, Matthew Weise. And Henry Jenkins used it as an example in the ALA GLLS 2007 keynote speech. I have not tried it yet, but since it is a mod, it does require you to have Never Winter Nights installed. I'm looking for to trying it out.

Over at OUseful Info, they posted about looking at course layout and design from a game design strategy. Well designed courses include progression and/or emergence in gameplay (one word, thanks style guide). Our lessons plans tend to follow this same pattern?

Which style, progression or emergence, do your information literacy sessions take?

Playing Catch Up After GLLS

I'd like to say that I was able to take a little break and relax after getting back from Chicago and but that hasn't been the case. I the ALA Tech Source Symposium,came back home to a sick wife and a week full of strategic planning meetings. While the meetings were productive and my wife is healthy, everything added up to a busy week that challenged me to hold on to the momentum of GLLS.

The Symposium itself was great and I throughly enjoyed the sessions and conversations each day. I'm thankful for the discussions I was able to have with people I've only traded emails with, and I feel fortunate to have made a handful of new contacts. I look forward to how everyone's projects work out over the coming year. There are a lot of exciting projects in the works and I hope that I'll be able to highlight some of them soon. It is great to see academic librarians approach videogames and information literacy from all different angles.

The more I talked with people at GLLS, the more I realized that what I started in our information literacy program last year was more than just tacking on gaming strategies to our sessions. What we have started at the University of Dubuque is a complete revision of our information literacy program through the lens of videogame strategies and game-based learning.

I will come back to this idea over the next couple of weeks as I develop it and share what this revision means in terms of teaching strategies, pedagogy, and ACRL standards. But before I begin that discussion, I want to reflect and analyze Henry Jenkins' and James Paul Gee's keynote speeches. I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts and applications from Jenkins' keynote at GLLS.

Boring Stock photo from Salopek Consulting Ltd.

GLLS 2007: Games Without Borders-Gaming Beyond Consoles and Screens

Games Without Borders: Gaming Beyond Consoles and Screens
Elizabeth (Liz) Lawley, Director of RIT Lab for Social Technology;
Visiting Researcher, Microsoft Research
Liz's personal blog: mamamusings
Liz also blogs for Terra Nova as well.

She talks a little more about Big Games as being pervasive and breaking down boundaries. She states that the physical spaces are still important and play a role. Shopping in physical spaces and experiences are still important. This is still true for library's as well, there is still meaning and relevance within the space.

"Passively Multiplayer Online Games" embed playfulness into standard and even boring activities. Chore Wars is another example that adds competition to standard activities.

Hold Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments at libraries, we can create those gathering spaces and take advantage of these spaces as community / social interaction.

Liz described some stories about her experiences with her kids and World of Warcraft. They took off limits on gaming and TV and the kids self regulated. Her youngest understood detailed economic content (supply and demand) and ethical lessons through World of Warcraft. Lane Lawley's (Liz's oldest son) is leading the way on civil and social interactions in Teen Second Life. Lane even presented at GLS 2007 about his experiences. Liz made the point that there needs to be places to gain these experiences = libraries.

Gameguides and game artbooks for libraries. She asks the question of "why don't we" include them in library collections?

Liz raised the question about why are we (educators and librarians) not creating "best video game guides?" Why leave it commercial sites or worse, not do it at all. There is not a specific resource for all this information. Without these resources of positive examples of games, parents are left with traditionally negative media coverage of video games.
Who can create guides for librarians, educators, and parents. We can do workshops in libraries and schools and explain the benefits of video games. To be effective in this, Liz argues, that we need to tell stories, not stats.

As an educator and parent, I love the idea of a "Best Video Games for Kids" list. Andrew Bub's Gamerdad does a great job of presenting games in a positive light, but provides parents with the information about the game to make choices. I hope that my current work with GamerDad, on a similar project will help address so of this desire for positive gaming content and parental awareness, so stayed tuned to.

GLLS 2007: Big Fun, Big Learning

Big Fun, Big Learning: Transforming the World Through Play

by Greg Trefry, Come Out and Play Festival, organizer; Game designer for GameLab,

Greg’s focus for his Tuesday keynote was on “Big Games” which are similar to scavenger hunts and other traditional games throughout a city. Big Games treat a city (neighborhood, city, entire internet can be the environment) as a game board.

Big Games break the “magic circle,” they are integrated with the real whole not just that “magic” gamin space. The story within Big Games add a layer of narrative onto everyday experiences. Moving through the city is different because of the game context; it’s about who’s playing, who’s not, who’s tracking you.

Big Games while they can be large in scope, they also include a strong local element because people are all interacting in a shared space. Technology can play a role in these games in order to track these local players over big spaces, but other games just use traditional paper or chalk to mark goals and places.

There is an element of spectacle with the games, since the world around watches and begins to engage in the players. The audience is part of the game. Games often incorporate team dynamics and learning, which result in developing and implementing strategies to succeed.

Big Games fit well on college campuses. Are your students doing any right now?

Big Games are similar to sports. While there is team competition, the game is about the public spectacle and the interaction with the spectators. Big Games not only include the players but everyone passing by or stopping to watch. This type of environment creates a real potential for social experimentation. Some Big Games are tapping into this, ie. a giant pillow fight in a public square in Toronto – they set out pillows and waited to see what would happen.

Pac-Manhattan, where individuals play Pac-Man in Washington square in NY is another successful Big Game. Big Urban Game (BUG) came out of the Design Institute of Minneapolis and it successfully engaged the public and media. “The Beast” (a promotional Big Game for Spielberg’s A.L. movie) was an online Big Game through a variety of faked websites with buried clues throughout. Working collaboratively across the internet, players worked through 6 months worth of content in 3 days. I Love Bees, by Jane McGonigal, is another great example of how the internet was used collaboratively to complete the game.

“Journey to the End of the Night” a simple, yet successful, Big Game from last year’s Come Out & Play. Really works like a big game of zombie tag, where once tagged they join the chasers in tracking down the rest of the players. The game lasted for over 3 hours.

Big Games are successful often because of how they re-envision traditional spaces. They transform our common spaces into a new, challenging, and tense world. There are a wide variety of Big Games, all of which work to find ways to see our daily surroundings as a game. The barrier to entry is minimal. There is not any experience required and they have the potential to engage students, staff and faculty all in a shared experience.

For Greg, Big Games are all about being “there” and experiencing a physical space and then finding the content from that space to create an experience. Greg provided a list of assets that libraries have for Big Games:

  • locations(game boards, movement, “where to hide stuff”)
  • collections(items to collect)
  • spaces(territory to hold)
  • content(existing symbols, materials equipment to interact with)
  • persistence(library card identities, leveling up abilities, small incentives to gain new status)
  • unique identifiers(knowing players reached a goal, call numbers)
  • referees(need people to keep track of status and players)
  • tools(computers, copiers, use to track and solve puzzles)
  • display(ability to provide updates on game, state of the game, who’s winning)
  • Refreshments(lots of running=water)

Greg provided 5 potential ideas for Big Games in libraries:

Scavenger Hunts; either with books or people, the game would require players to avoid detection which gets players to be mindful and aware of spaces, players could collect codes like call numbers or book contents or titles, use the codes to help solve the mystery, this type of experience provides avenues for players to level-up

Then & Now; citywide or campus wide photo hunt, use old photos to have players find the current locations, this could be a great homecoming type of event that could even involve alumni

Real Estate Games; controlling spaces, collecting buildings around campus or collections in the library

Alternative Reality Games; hidden clues with content to solve mystery, could promote collaboration from students

Code Breaking Games; foreign language or even subject / discipline specific language

Collection Games; using call numbers to generate creatures or items that could be collected, traded and used, library website could be used to list the creatures/items with the codes that correspond

Initial Steps: Look around at the world – Give normal activities goals, Simple ways to track moves, Playtest and playtest again to work bugs

GLLS2007: Why Serious Games Shouldn't Be Taken Seriously

Why Serious Games Shouldn't Be Taken Seriously
- Thom Kevin Gillespie from Indiana University

"Serious games are silly things"

A kid diagnosed with a reading disability was reading text in a game and the game's thick manual. Another great example of gaming supporting and help children learn to read. This anecdote was one of many that Gillespie provided during the first 25 minutes of his presentation, during a story that traces his career. All the examples that he provided focuses on students and kids creating media and creating content.

MIME Program: Master's in Immersive Media Environments

The program brings it's students to Gillespie's home for gaming (board & video game) events in order to authentic experiences. They start the design process free of computers. This has freed up their creative process. The students create a 10 page pitch and try to attract other students for their team project. The program includes both undergrad and grad students into the pitch and creation process. The process takes up to 3 years to complete the game once the project excepted.

Gillespie has worked with inner city "gang rescue" programs. The students failed at traditional schools, but succeed in creating game design. "I would have taken some of these 15 year old kids into my graduate program if I could have."

What libraries can do:

  • Free game lab, there are a variety of resources including scratch,,,, and others all open source programs; students may start with board games

Develop a game called "Clean It," designed a board game that shows a positive and necessary role of janitors. It was initially conceptualized to help a janitor provide his kids with a positive image of their father.

Gillespie's big take away is that anyone can create games (both board and video games) and tap your communities and let them be creative. Oh, and that Second Life will fail.

EDIT (again): His summary on the program really didn't fit with what he actually presented was nothing like his presentation. While his message was okay, it was hard to pull out. Unfortunately there was not much to take away. Anyone looking for information about Serious Games will be better served visiting Persuasive Games, Water Cooler Games, and Games for Change .

GLLS2007: Games Students Play: A New Approach to Online Information Literacy Instruction

Games Students Play: A New Approach to Online Information Literacy Instruction

University of North Carolina: Greensboro; Scott Rice & Amy Harris

Focused on trying to get students into the library, about 14,000 FTE

First build an online tutorial in 2000. 2006 knew there needed to be a next step.

They established a need: a desire to reach 1st year students
Collaboration: Scott's concept of making a game & making it open for others
Determining Market: objectives in 1st year instruction lent themselves to gameplay

Board Game Format, it is free online through their blog

  • Wildcard,
  • Choice Your Resource,
  • Cite Your Sources,
  • Searching & Database Use
  • Special spaces with live web links for real time finding and assessing

There is a time clock for each question

The game was created with AJAX software. In order to make it easily scalable, it is as simple as possible. Also wanted it to meet ADA requirements, including both visual and audio cues, both mouse and keyboard short cuts. All the avatar images are from an online comic that opened up their images to creative commons.

  • Fall 2007 (this allowed for more usability testing and prep time)
  • Marketed to first-year instructors
  • Marketed directly to students through Facebook, library site, and Blackboard
  • Contest

The Future of the Game:
  • "Express" version for in-class assessment
  • Targeted versions for upper level classes, targeted to subjects or databases
  • Other versions for non-library or non-higher education
  • Generic Version for easier adaption
  • Versions with different citation styles that fit their discipline

They have not rolled the game out yet, and I am very curious about how the students will react. Stayed tuned to their blog... Scott is also working on reworking the entire tutorial to incorporate more gaming elements and mini games. Here's Scott's initial discussion of these changes.

While the game is intentionally not complex or involving it is a great entry point for librarians looking to get started with games in information literacy. The questions and format are ones that librarians are used to and potentially more comfortable with. The simplicity of the game works for one-shot sessions. This low barrier to entry is a great jumping off point for librarians.

The best thing I can say is go play it... download it for free from their site here
or test it out online

GLLS2007: Information Literacy through Unique Education Gaming Application

Information Literacy through Unique Education Gaming Application
Presented by Annie Downey & Kristin Boyett, from the University of North Texas, Denton

Annie and I traded emails this April about her presentation and she stated that:

"What we are presenting on is our planning process. Because quite frankly, that is the stage we are in and I believe after reading some of the stuff going around and talking to other librarians at conferences that the planning process is absolutely essential to making something like this happen. Having one grad student do programming with three librarians giving 10% of their time is far short of the time and effort required according to my tech-savvy colleagues and my research into game development. That is the one thing that is really standing out to me when I look at the work of the schools you mentioned."

The Goal:
"Trying to make them learn, without knowing they are learning"

They started looking planning and designing, but expected the realities that others have learned that it: takes longer than expected & costs more than hoped

3 years to develop and $250,000 planned for develop. They did do a grant proposal for this project (ask for a copy)

Kristin gave a good overview of why we should be involved with gaming, gamers and video games applications in our information literacy programs. She made the point that we "already are involved with these students." We may just not be acknowledging it. Kristin setup a background, which build on all the information from

3 educational elements included in their game planning:
Information Literacy, beyond just library research
Online Education
Educational Gaming

A game requires full participation of the students. It is a student centered experience with inquiry-based learning. The experiential learning:
  • enmeshed in real world contexts
  • active participant
  • experiencing
  • reflecting
  • adapting
Games include the ability to make mistakes.

Design Concept:
  • Character driven
  • requires problem solving
  • 1st person
  • linear
  • modules build on another
  • may be full semester course
ACRL Standards:
Story is driven by the Info Lit standards, with the assessment and evaluation is driven by the standards. Make the goals much larger than traditional library instruction

Storyline: RPG based game, adventure game based Grim Fandago, players investigate a crime or event. Plot based around a conspiracy theory. A random student is wrapped up in a conspiracy theory. Conclusion includes a presentation of evidence to Board or Police that requires solid sources. Poor sources do not create a viable arguement.

Willing to sacrifice some ACRL standards for gameplay
"a user needs to find the game fun or addicting in order for it to be successful"
Lack of choice of a character, no individual avatars. Include modules in the game in order to monitor

Program Requirements:
  • Students logins
  • Ability to save
  • Need to monitor to assist & help
Evaluation Plan:
Groups: student usability testing, student focus groups, game designers from UNT faculty, student evaluations, librarian evaluations
What will be evaluated: design, visuals storyline, challenges

Personal: realize that they need to hire a programmer who will manage program team, include part-time development team

Budget: Yr 1 = $259,271; Yr 2 = $359,365

Game is not library specific. It is information literacy. Very scalable once created.

Questions on how this is even useful, "too much time", students finding answers, collecting stats on use

  • cost
  • sustainability
  • grading
  • system maintenance
  • one-shot game
  • buy-in
  • compelling and interesting
  • copyright
  • tracking use
If there is a federal grant, they will not be able to sell it, make it open shareware? Yes!
They are applying for the grant through the National Education Foundation.

GLLS2007: Stephen Abrams' Teen Panel

At the end of the day at GLLS, Stephen Abram moderated a panel of about 10 students. There comments were insightful into their use and creation of media and information. The topics discussed ranged from video games and social software to using the library's website and checking out books. The reactions to the students' comments from the audience were as interesting as the comments themselves. The librarians groaned, laughed, and cheered (my isolated cheering for Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest included) to many of the students responses.

I asked a question about if they used video games in their class (they hadn't) and if they think they would enjoy video games for learning in their classes. Stephen Abrams added the question if they would rather have video games or traditional work for homework.

All the students were stuck in a mindset of "hiding the pill in the marshmallow" or as educational game designer Matthew Weise said when I interviewed him, "medicine in the applesauce."

The students kept talking about being turned off and annoyed by games that make the player "click here and learn a fact."
They thought of educational games in a very stuffy traditional edutainment sense.They could only see learning games as tedious, boring and rote. Games like Reader Rabbit and other "educational games" give serious educational games a bad name.

[It is not that these games are bad... they have their place and I use them with my sons, but they are both under 5 years old. The usefulness of traditional edutainment games is short lived.]

One student did acknowledge that they could see how a game could teach about Aztec history and another said:
If they were fun, I would play them.
And this is really the key for us as educators. We need to think about educational games, as games that help educate our students. Games and gameplay coming first and foremost before the content. We need to focus on games that can be engaging or fun or at least interesting. Even then, slipping in content or facts that take the player out of the experience will be less successful than those that integrate the content into the experience of the game. James Paul Gee discussed this morning about how players are constantly learning throughout a game. Gaming in education is most successful when students are learning through the experience of playing, not just because they can "click here and learn a fact."

GLLS2007: James Paul Gee Keynote

James Paul Gee: Libraries, Gaming, and the New Equity Crisis

Here are my notes from James Paul Gee’s keynote speech this morning at GLLS 2007. I am coming back to Gee’s speech later tonight in order to add some analysis and my thoughts on how we can start applying his recommendations in our academic libraries.

Gee was introduced as his new position at AZ State University

Libraries played a major role in old literacy and have a major role to play in new literacy.

Society develops cutting edge learning environments, but the are not available in schools. Current gaps in our schools & students:

  • Literacy Gap: Between 1970-84 the gap was closing, but in 84 the racial gap has widened
  • Applications Gap: can students apply knowledge to a problem, rather than just spit back facts; “why do most kids fail, but some get Fs and some get As”
  • Knowledge Gap
  • Tech Savvy Gap: not afraid of technical stuff, use tech to produce and not just consume; need to be both tech savvy and literate, necessary for success
  • Innovation Gap: Friedman’s “World is Flat” if we can’t innovate we will not be an econ power, school kill innovation

Just simply handing people technology will only widen the gap, we (parents, educators) need to help build the scaffolding and mentoring, increasing the knowledge gap translates into increasing the literacy gap.

Gee asks,“What predicts success in first grade?” The answer is early literacy at home; success past 4th grade = kindergarten vocabulary (academic language). This is the need to know school based words. Our children need to be ready to speak and understand this language. School based literacy is academic, it is not just decoding.

Yu-Gi-Oh & Pokemon: the detail and level of the text and instructions (three “if, then” clauses). 7 year olds reading this at home, they still struggle with simple decoding at school. Kids can learn and learn it well, but school makes it hard. There is no limit to kids ability to learn, it is just a desire. If this learning is possible with our children, how/why should we expect our academic students not to understand the concepts in our curriculum. It is not the content, it is the context.

“If you game, you are participating in the context of those you intend to serve.”

“How do you get someone to stick with something that is long and hard.” Game designers realized that good gaming principles are good learning principles. Gaming principles are better with learning principles than schools do. “The richness outside of school swamps those inside our schools.”

If Gee’s principles are good learning, should we put these principles in our schools & libraries. Gee covered 12 of his 36 principles:

  • Lower the consequences of failure; fail early, fail often-credo of IDEO; every failure is a learning event;
  • Performance before Consequences; games provide tutorials to help you along when you start, rather than providing text to read first, learn while doing and have help;
  • Players high on the agency tree; players choices and decisions really matter, individual choice shape the gaming experience, force players to live with choices; players are someone who matters
  • Problems are well ordered; neither immersion or straight instruction doesn’t not work, need some of both, order processes to lead to future paths; this is just level design in games, games need to do this to be successful, games often hide this order
  • Cycles of challenge, consolidation, and new challenge (expertise); order challenging problem, do it enough that it becomes second nature, routine mastery once achieved then bump up the challenge, gain mastery through practice, then test it with higher skill
  • Stay within, but at the outer edge, of the player’s “regime of competence”; “state of flow” games get players motivated by staying just on the edge of challenge
  • Games encourage players to think about complex systems; thinking about the inter-relation of variables;
  • Empathy for a complex system; difference between games and simulations- a game is a sim that you are in it; users see it from their point of view
  • Give verbal information “just in time;” information when players need and can use I, or “on Demand” when the player asks for it; you get the information when you need it
  • Situate “show” meanings of words and symbols and show how they vary across different actions, images and dialogues. Don’t just offer words for words; associate it with situated meanings (images and meanings) that go beyond the simple meaning of words; example multiple meanings of “coffee spilled”; game manuals do not have meaning without context, if every kids played the “game” of geology they would understand the situated meaning
  • Modding Attitude; “if you don’t like and think you can do better, then you make it” players make the game, not just expecting the game as is,

Assessment of games, people, schools: games give tests all the time; games provide stats and charts that show what players did, players enjoy the assessment because it is a service to them, not for the education system

Schools are forced on providing service workers, not knowledge workers, public schools create service workers, private ones create the knowledge workers (analyst)

We need to make the connection to what they are learning through games and outside of school, the “real” learning happens outside; don’t split up knowledge, share across disciplines

Quick notes on Gee's responses to audience questions:

  • “no middle class left” upper middle class, “in the west or east coast there are only 2 classes”
  • "The kids we got are the ones you failed with", from a general using “America’s Army” on why they use games to teach
  • Don’t tell kids they are behind, we need to help protect them through that process, why do we label they
  • Japanese created anime but the whole world understands and enjoys it, what is it doing? Why is it universal?

GLLS2007: Gaming in Academic Libraries: The Why and How

Lynn Sutton, the director of the Z. Smith Reynolds at Wake Forest University, saw a gaming night as a way to reach out to those who do not come for the initial library orientations. Gaming nights was a way to reach out to new audiences. Early in Sept. to help welcome those who may not be finding a place, and fit within the campus. In addition to marketing to new audiences, it was supporting innovation and creativity and helping the library stay relevant.

Gaming goes beyond marketing due to it’s implied social networking, inclusion of complex learning theory, and library instruction. Lynn is excited about the future of libraries and gaming both in instruction and OPACs.

Giz Womack, Manager of Technology Training at Z. Smith Reynolds Library, discussed how they conducted gaming nights and tournaments. They required a sign up to play, but anyone can come and watch, eat and now even play as well. There were worries about the size of the tournament. Giz provided a list of the resources they needed to complete the games, including staff, student partners, equipment, and supplies. Giz stressed the importance of finding people on campus to partner with. Look for outdated technology that is being replaced, used outdated LCD projectors the campus was replacing. All the students brought their own equipment, and it worked. Creating a floor plan to layout where the games, system, and hardware needs to be set up. Giz is a energetic speaker and made the organization of hosting a gaming night seem much less threatening. I hope the presentation helps others feel it is possible.

ZSR library used a variety of marketing techniques to promote: emails, university calendars, flyers, word of mouth, student news paper, attached flyers on dum-dum suckers at the library’s entrance, a student created Youtube video, and viral marketing. First night was expense as a hardware start-up ($425), but events following all leveled out around $170 per event. The open game nights pull in around 50-60 students.

On their last game night, they just said “bring anything” wide variety of systems and a much wider audience. (used zoomerang for survey) Students really enjoyed seeing it on the big screen. There is a necessity to keep changing up the games and formats in order to keep bringing people together. It is important to keep stuff for everybody (DDR, Wii) in addition to hardcore.

Lori O. Critz from Georgia Tech presented their experience of gaming at the library. Used the gaming nights during the new student orientation week and it helped to create a more welcoming environment in the library and with the staff. They first started (2004) with LAN tournaments, but now they are focused on all populations. They had a great idea about lit dropping the student’s dorms. Lori provided a lot of details for their former LAN parties.

Lori identified that through these events they did gain: recognition with students, partnerships with clubs and organizations around campus, an excellent boost to their image

They have since stopped and started gaming events that include a wider scope of games (DDR, retro games, card and board games, and other events). Brain Matthews, the ubiquitous librarian, has blogged about these events before. Brain's posts go into great detail about the new focus of GT's "gaming" night.

GLLS2007: Interactive Fiction

Interactive Fiction: Christopher Harris(

Interactive fiction: text based adventures - choose your own adventure books - Modern MMORPG games all stem from the same family tree.

Text adventure gamers interact with the story through reading and writing. Commands are "parsed" by the game (n,s,e,w, wear, get, eat). The game knows the command in order to move.

Text interfaces are not simple or underdeveloped, they used text to create a rich, detailed world with interactions with NPCs and the world including complex puzzles that could not be possible through graphics... or at least not without heavy system requirements.

Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) were text interfaces with massively multiplayer online adventures. They were the forerunners of MMORPGs. MUDs created detailed social interactions through the first player vs. player text based adventures... Winning in these multiplayer MUDs was all about how fast you can read and type. MUDs allowed people to move from being a player into a developer. Players were creating content as they went. Players created the scaffolding with each other to learn and succeed.

Inform 7 is a modern text adventure language that allows users to use natural language. Using natural language lowers the barriers for players to not only play but create. Chris took the audience into a game he made with Inform 7 and engaged most of the audience. The audience was shouting out commands for Chris' text game on the GLLS2007 conference.

Text adventures meet most of the ELA Standards from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Chris's presentation style and demeanor was engaging, fun, but took moments to pull back and make a serious point now and again. I encourage you to check out all his slides and materials on the conference wiki here...

Zork Image via Wikipedia entry for "Zork"

GLLS2007: Making Book: Gaming in the Library

Making Book: Gaming in the Library

- Natalie Gick from Simon Fraser University

The game room at their library started with a donated collection. Simon Fraser University in Vancouver has a game design program and major on their campus and supporting that curriculum provided additional support.

They have over 400 games and treat them the same as DVDs in regards to policies. "Lock or Loan" policy: consoles are locked down to tables and controllers are checked out. They also loan out Nintendo GBA and DS games and systems. The library designated a specific liaison to work with the students and gaming department. Since they

Copyright right issues for PC games, they created a 4 hour same day loan period in order to account for copyright concerns. There was not any supporting details (case law or literature) on why this period was used. They did struggle with licenses issues both internally and with contacting vendors and publishers for the games. She discussed the challenges with their IT department and the

Natalie become much more comfortable as she moved from the technical aspects of gaming into the library's role. They did do video game collection development based on reviews, publications, local publishers (like EA) and staff and student recommendations. She discussed some of the challenges they've encountered over the years: equipment failures, noise, monopolized(too much ownership of the gaming space), abuse of privileges.

Code of Conduct:

  • respect inclusion
  • good behavior
  • communciation with staff
  • respect copyright
  • no food
  • exiting promotely

The library is using games for recreational use, faculty reserves, and course research.

Here is the link to Natalie's power point

GLLS2007: Video Games at Urbana-Champaign

Lisa Hinchliffe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, thankfully filled in for one of the speakers who could not come. I believe the presentation was very similar to her ACRL 2007 presentation.

As the head of undergraduate library, Lisa recognizes the strength of the gaming industry, the social aspects, and the educational applications as a potential strength for their institution. The University's strategic plan identified a need and created one of the library's goals: "gaming for the ages." Gaming ranked high enough to include in the strategic plan. Their gaming collection web site.

Collections for games depository: needs assessment, funding, collection storage, access, policies (1 week check-out, 70-80% of games checked out at any one time; game policies mirror DVD/media policies). The library acknowledges a responsiblities to future researchers to preserve games for primary research. In order to create the historic collection it is important to consider consoles as well as games. Commitment to building a collection as a major research institute. The library is treating it as text to be archived. Willing to allocate book money to help build collection, because of the unique need. As for storage, anything that fits in a DVD case goes on the shelf everything is behind the desk. The libraries takes the attitude that it is willing to loose a few in order to provide access.

Games as experience vs games as object
How does a library archive the experience of the game for future research? Video journals? Recorded gameplay experience? What is a meaningful language for researchers?

Students and support staff are "passionate" about donating their older games and systems for archive. Student Gaming association did a "game drive" to collect vintage / retro games for archive

Faculty put Civilization IV on course reserves. How do you manage the licensing issues, crashes and other issues? The library created a "gaming cluster" in order to run PC games on their computers. Faculty are using it in their own research as well as creating specific modded games for classes. Faculty researcher on video games talked at one game night and it had a huge student turnout.

Librarians rethinking their roles as researchers and teachers through games. The campus is organizing a "campus gaming symposium 2008"

Lisa is interested and hopeful to try to find a way to adapt our OPAC's with game design. Why couldn't students learn and practice skills with a game-based OPAC. The interface design would be engaging, the system would provide feedback loops with a sense of play. What kind of feedback can we give them to encourage their attempts, not discourage failures and let them know with their search was right. OPAC based on game design would also help build community development (social networking apps to keep them connected).

The future directions at Urbana-Champaign with the potential for a specific video game librarian and historic archive on gaming.

Personal highlights from the 1st day of GLLS 07

Random highlights from the 1st day of GLLS 07:

  • Struck up a conversation with Henry Jenkins on the airport shuttle about comic books and some of his upcoming projects
  • Henry Jenkins keynote was excellent and gave me more ideas for research and applications to information literacy
  • Met Timothy Greig who I’ve chatted with before on his blog
  • Met Nemo Neiburger (Eli’s 5 year old son) and found out about his present from the Tooth Fairy
  • Got schooled by Nemo in the DDR tourney
  • Stole 2nd place from Timothy Greig (a red shell just before the finish line) in the Mario Kart: Double Dash tourney

Overall the first day was filled with some great conversations with attendees. I got some good ideas and met a lot of people I’ve followed online for a while. GLLS07 started off excellent and I’m looking forward to the next to days… stay tuned.

Thanks Beth Gallaway, the information goddess, for the Flickr photos

GLLS2007: What Librarians Need to Know about Games, Media Literacy, and Participatory Culture

Here are my notes, with a few reflections, from Henry Jenkins keynote speech:

It is not about games or books, it's about engaging students, children with the media. The build up of this knowledge and personal connection with culture and media is the core of participatory culture.

How can we as educators tap that excitement and commitment of the culture and turning it and applying it for education?

Jenkins contributes an educational political game for starting him thinking about gaming's connection to education in the fall of 1996. Jenkins' Games to Teach program at MIT wants to start changing the way people think, one librarian, parent, school at at time. Jenkins references Squire's work with Civilization. Talking about process and video game strength in teaching and sharing in that process.

These comment remind me of Matthew Weise's (who started at MIT) comments about games able to teach process. Games that focus on content and specific facts do not engage students as well as those the focus on process... and the content comes through the experience.

Education Arcade is working with NBC for iCue, a partnerships with gaming, news, and education. "Is it more like a spelling bee, or Scrabble?" The focus is on serious gaming, that include a variety of input sources (readings, discussion, reflection). Jenkins stated that the Education Arcade is focused on "what play means as an alternative source of learning. "

His slides include the of results from a MacArthur Foundation report, the quote is from
New London Group, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies"

"If it were posible to define generally the mision of education, it could be said that its fundametal purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life."
The amount of time with screen media is not the real concern, the real concern is the level of engagement with that screen media.
How can we get kids to change the way they relate to it, and how can we use and apply this at the college level?
57 percent of teens would be media creators. Urban are the most likely to be ones doing this, then rural, then suburban. 22% have home pages. 43% do not... What is this gap?
Librarians can play a role in closing this gap.

Participatory culture helps to address this gap :
  • Low barriers to expression and engagement
  • kind of informal mentorship
  • Members feel that contributions matter
  • degree of social connection between members
The Participation Gap:
This is more than just the "digital divide" not just with and without access. We've wired our spaces, NOW WHAT?! The idea of "always on" versus those with limited access (home, school, libraries) creates a drastically different experience for users.

Students with constant access look at research as a process, have time to look for creditiblity. Those with limited access are getting in and getting out, less evaluation because they don't have time. What are the components of this gap? And how do we, as librarians battle the gap?

Jenkins talked about a few of the problems and provided avenues to address these problems.
  1. The Transparency Problem:
    1. How games can translate to learning and content. Need media literacy to get them to think critically.
  2. The Ethics Problem:
    1. Blogging participation hits it first peak at 17&18 years old. Without the ethics that come from a school newspaper
How do we address and meet these problems? Everyone, parents, culture, schools, libraries all play a role?

Students Need:
  • traditional print literacy
  • research skills, how to read, understand and "get under the hood"
  • technical skills
  • media literacy

We can help supply these needs and deal with these problems through:
  • Play: the capacity to experiment with your surroundings as a form of problem solving, basic scientific method in an area where it is okay to try and fail
  • Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real world processes, changing variables to see impact
  • Performance: the ability to to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvization and discovery, letting student/player get into character, collected information for variety of sources outside of the game, Revolution example
  • Appropriation: the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content, remixing is a skill that has shaped human history, not to shy aware from it, but do it constructively
  • Multitasking: the ability to scan one's environment an shift focus onto salient details on an ad hoc basis, arcadia - playing 4 games at once
  • Distributed Cognition: the ability to interact meaningfully with tools which expand our mental capacities, William Shaffer's
  • Collective Intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal; alternative reality game as example, designed to bring large people together to pool knowledge
  • Judgment: the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different sources
  • Transmedia Navigation: the ability to deal with flow of stories and information across multiple modalities; ie: Pokemon
  • Networking: the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information, Lost Darma mapping
  • Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives ad grasping and following alternative sets of norms, not just respecting diversity but valuing it

Project NML helped develop the withpaper on these problems and potential solutions; resources available at

How can we as academic libraries address these problems that Jenkins discusses. Can we incorporate the aspects he discusses in order to reach our students and the coming generation.

Henry Jenkins made the point that for libraries & librarians it is more important to understand how games work and to encourage and use in education, more so than just adding games.

We need to know why we want to use and be involved gaming. Then through the application of Jenkins' suggestions we can work to create a more participatory culture in our libraries, campuses, and with our students.

GLLS2007: The Payoff, Up Close and Personal

Eli Neiburger – The Payoff, Up Close and Personal

Eli’s presentation was very focused on what and how public libraries can do to host console gaming tournaments in libraries. His presentation itself, his style and demeanor, was wonderful and very fun. He will be well received as he makes the rounds of the library conference circuit. In addition, his presentation slides used a great, retro arcade font, which was fun.

Eli makes the great point for both public, school, and academic libraries, that gaming in libraries serves everyone. Traditionally, libraries that are book focused do provide what all people need. Public libraries are not just for serving those who only want books. Public libraries can and should speak to people at all stages of life… and even if they are not at a recreational reading stage in life now, they may be there someday.

Eli showed how the tournaments bring in both kids and parents. The tournaments resulted in a variety of positive interactions:

  • Teens take mentor roles
  • Brings in new users
  • Breaks social barriers (gender, race, class)
  • Results in positive social interactions between kids and librarians

Eli hit on the detail and knowledge that playing and succeeding at Pokemon requires a large investment and learning ability from players. I agree with Eli’s advocacy of Pokemon as beneficial for kids and it fits with a post of mine from January.

The announcement of the upcoming launch (July 2008) of GT Systems ( video game tournament software was exciting and seems like there is a lot of potential.

GLLS2007: The Role of Gaming in Libraries - Taking the Pulse

Nicholson, S. (2007). The role of gaming in libraries: Taking the pulse.

Here are a few of the statistics that stuck with me from the presentation Scott Nicholson, associate professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Follow the link above for the full report.

Scott takes a inclusive view of “gaming” in libraries, from board games and chess to casual computers and console gaming tournaments. Of the 400 public libraries he surveyed, the largest category were libraries that serve 30001-10,000 patrons:

  • 77% acknowledged that they support “gaming” in their libraries
  • 43% of libraries surveyed run gaming programs; most of these were traditional board games
  • 24% run console gaming programs
  • 20% of libraries surveyed circulate games
  • The #1 goal public libraries identified for gaming programs was to bring new users into the library

Scott is working on creating a Library Game Lab that seeks to be a resource for all parties involved with gaming. The long term goal of the Library Game Lab is to develop collection development guides for librarians to use.

Scott’s presentation contained more relevant to public libraries, but he did survey some academic libraries in one study. The idea of treating all games as “gaming” is not bad. As I’ve said before, I’m thankful for the wide scope that people are taking to apply and use games (traditional and electronic) in the library.

Getting Ready for the Symposium

Is there a better way to get ready for the ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, & Libraries Symposium than to have Jenny Levine, theshiftedlibrarian herself, speak highly of you?

I am hoping that some of you out there are planning on going. If so, I would enjoy meeting you are sharing ideas about incorporating gaming strategies into information literacy. If you are not going, please check back frequently, I will be blogging about the sessions I attend (as I'm sure many librarians will). Or if you want a conversation, I will be using the Symposium's Meebo Chat Room. My meebo screen name (also AIM, Yahoo, & Google) is "dbqhams." Hopefully I'll talk to you soon.

I am thankful for the feedback and positive comments today from Jenny Levine and Mary Jane at ACRL. Thank you both. Thank you for the work you are doing Jenny. I'm honored by Mary Jane's request to add myself to the ACRL member's profile page. It's a page with filled 60 names that I respect. I am humbled to be considered among them. Thank you.

Critical Thinking Theory & Video Games

As I mentioned earlier in the week, finishing up an article for College & Undergraduate Libraries on information literacy and critical thinking opened doors to understanding video game play as critical thinking. In addition to video games fitting the elements of critical thinking, there is additional support within critical thinking theory that connects to video games.

Hughes (2000) reduced the various educational benefits of critical thinking to four key gains:

  • Awareness of incomplete arguments
    • Gamers realize when their internal "arguments" and decisions are incomplete because they are unable to progress further in the game without a complete argument (often requiring additional information or items, puzzles, interactions with characters)
    • Example: I was unable to solve a puzzle The Legend of Zelda without a specific item and realized my "argument" and chosen path was incomplete without it
  • Challenge conclusions and beliefs
    • Well designed games often intentionally challenge the conclusions a player makes; the assumptions, decisions, and paths chosen by the player will be challenge not only in plot twists, but in twists of logic and game design that make a player question those choices
    • Carroll (2002) writes about how students face the developmental challenge of being able to move beyond their “one right answer ( p.68)” to consider the evidence and develop a reasoned conclusion. Video games challenge and break this concept of "one right answer" since there is often multiple paths through a game
    • Example: The choices a player makes in BioWare's Star Wars:KOTOR and their upcoming Mass Effect change the direction and story of the game
  • Develop a sense of intellectual worth
    • Players gain this intellectual worth by successfully solving the puzzles, quests, and stories; completing a challenge in a game can not only develop a gamer's sense of self-worth but also their intellectual worth
    • Example: Players investing over 80 - 100 hours in games like Final Fantasy XII, develop that sense of worth (and gain satisfaction) by completing the quests and story; I am currently over 45 hours into an old game on the GameBoy Advance that I've played on an off for over a year, but now all the logic puzzles are clear and I'm reaching the game's conclusion
  • Develop persuasive skills based evidence rather than feeling
    • Game players develop this evidence based persuasion both internally and externally; internally gamers use evidence gather throughout the game that persuade themselves to make internal choices; externally gamers are persuading their friends and other players about strategies and other gameplay related decisions
    • Game players are also in a position to persuade non-gamers and critics about the value of gaming (and specific games) based on evidence within the game(s) rather than on reactionary judgments
    • Example: Controversial games like the Grand Theft Auto series and Bully are lightening rods for critics, but age appropriate players of these games can provide evidence of GTA as a social satire or the social dynamics & consequences in Bully

Video Games do provide opportunities for players to develop and practice critical thinking skills. As librarians and educators we have the ability to use these developing skills to build a bridge (as David Warlick stated) from these gaming skills to educational and academic ones.

Hughes, W. (2000). Critical Thinking: An Introduction to Basic Skills (3rd ed.). Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press.
Carroll, L. A. (2002). Rehearsing New Roles : How College Students Develop as Writers. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

All images via