Cut Scenes in Information Literacy: Information at the point of need

I was sitting in on a few classes today and I had an overwhelming urge to skip the cut scene. Clark Aldrich defines a cut scene as…”triggered to present backstories, awards, briefings, and end of level resolution, as well as other level milestones. In cut scenes, the participant looses all control except to possibly skip the scene.” My problem was I couldn’t skip the cut scene.

Our instruction program uses classroom management software in our instruction lab. It started innocently enough, we wanted to be able to grab the students’ screens to draw attention to key points and have the students show the class examples of their searching. Unfortunately, like all technology they rise up against their users (at least that’s what growing up in James Cameron’s film world taught me). Our use of SynchronEyes has become an overuse.

In many ways, it has become an unskippable cut scene. Cut scenes are designed to grab the players’ attention and help inform them about the plot or about a needed skill being applied. Our application of the software is designed to advance their understanding of research methods (the plot) and walk them through a new database or advanced search (new skill). But cut scenes work in short bursts, enough to grab their attention, but not long enough to lose it. Our “cut scenes” are too long and drawn out and result in the loss of student’s attention. Part of the problem is the desire to show too many skills without the ability to directly use them.

Cut scenes in video games may provide an overview of a new skill or a few hints on how and where to apply it. But they do not walk a player through every detail of the puzzle or skill. Our issue is over eagerness and a desire to explain it all (we’re librarians after all). But that is our weakness. Our control and demonstration of skills and strategies is leaving the students behind. We are not providing them with the information at the point of need.

Gee talks about games teaching at the “point of need” right when a player needs to apply the information. It connects the skill with a context. If we only show a little, just enough to get our students started, and then let them search we can come back and provide more detail either as a class (to highlight something key) or individually as needed. Some students will be able to figure out the further application of skills if our introduction is adequate.

We do not need, and should not create “cut scenes” in instruction that our students want to skip. By providing smaller “cut scenes,” demos, or examples at the point of need we not only add value to our instruction but create “cut scenes” that do not create an overwhelming urge to skip.

Has anyone done something similar? Or seen similar problems? Our information literacy team will meet next week to talk more about this concept and determine how we determine the point of need.

Photo by Shizzlepie