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.