Not Only Teaching with Gaming Strategies, but Displaying Them as Well

From the start of the new semester (until the end of this month), the Charles C. Myers Library at the University of Dubuque had a video game display. The display was planned to highlight some of the resources for our computer graphics students focusing on game development. I was pleased to see the appeal of the display expand beyond the intended audience. Many other students continued to stop and look and ask about checking out the books. Even some of the students touring perspective students highlighted the displays. The display has now also built up some awareness for the new video game collection.

I am pleased and surprised that the displays and the collection were not suggested or advocated by me. It's great to see more investment in the idea of video games and libraries from others on the library staff.

GDC 2008: Additional Coverage on Nora Paul's Journalism Game

After a busy week of teaching and shoveling out of more Midwest ice & snow, I'm finally catching up on my RSS feeds covering the GDC conference. I wrote earlier in the week on a couple educational focused sessions and some coverage on Nora Paul's mod of NeverWinter Nights. Some of the mainstream video game press covered the session about the University of Minnesota's journalism game.

Kotaku's Brain Crecente (who the game is named after) had a detailed write-up of the session and some more background of the game's history:

"The idea was to develop a game that would reinforce good reporting practices."

In the game, the players take on the role of a reporter (no, not me) who is covering an accident in which a train carrying anhydrous ammonia hits a truck and derails, forcing the evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood.

"We had to create the city...22 different characters," she said.

Students had to figure out what story angle they wanted to take, covering the health, public safety, transportation safety or environmental issues, before getting started. Once they figured that out that have to identify the important questions, collect the necessary background information, find the right sources and interview them, keep notes, and eventually return to the newsroom to write and file a story to the paper's website.

Christ Baker over at WIRED's Game|Life had another write-up, including some personal observations:

Paul says that they were pleased with the result, though there were some bugs and bad design choices. Students didn't like that their avatar didn't have a cell phone, and needed to go back to the office every time they wanted to call a source and set up an interview. The sword and sorcery trappings of NWN were minimized, but still present. For instance, the editor character is built off an ogre-like NWN character type. (Some reporters who consulted on the game said that seemed entirely appropriate to them.)

Due to a programming bug, the ogre/editor will block the virtual Crecente's exit from the newspaper office, and the only way to leave is to do battle hand let him kill you.

It looks kludgey and low tech, which Paul freely cops to. The team at the University of Minnesota are reworking the game on a newer engine. Still, the game seems like it has the potential to be a useful teaching tool.
I look forward to reading more about the experience of creating the game and how the application works out. Last year, presentation slides and other materials were posted about a few weeks after the conference. So I'm hopeful that the session's slides will appear sometime in March.

Photo by Kotaku

Gaming Strategy Resource Review Activity - Overview

Yesterday I wrote about four semester's worth of a review activity using video game strategies. Since I've finally finished up some edits and corrections to my ACRL Gaming & Academic Libraries chapter, I wanted to share part of the chapter discussing this activity. I've had a few questions about the basics of the activity - hopefully this is useful.

The lesson applied the gaming strategies of encouraging inquiry, open-ended exploration, context bridging, scaffolding, and personalization. The students in the course were grouped and given a research question that asked them to find a source within a given format (book, article, website; print or online). The goals worked to motivate the groups and kept them working toward the objective. The students quickly ran through the search process to reach the goal, a logical action within the context of games. Given the specific goal, the students worked to reach that goal in order to complete the challenge as quickly as possible. The challenge the librarians faced was to ask questions of the students and expose their search process more. The video game strategies were effective for engaging the students in discussions about why they took the search path they did. The librarians used a rubric to assess the students’ discussion of how they reached their research source. When asked, the students explained the search choices they made and provided examples that met the rubric.

The lesson incorporated gaming strategies to provide an open-ended exercise and allowed students to explore and find their own way. The students were initially challenged by how to get started with this open-ended lesson. The initial session did not clearly define the learning goals, and because of the large degree of personal exploration the lesson encouraged, the students struggled to get started in the activity. The successive attempts at the lesson provided the students with a framework for the activity. By foreshadowing the lesson a little more, each group was much more willing to dive into the activity, explore the search, and complete the goal. The initial setup of some framework not only allowed the students the confidence to jump in and get started but also created more buy-in and motivation for the overall activity.

Four Semesters of Video Game Strategies in Information Literacy

This week marked the fourth semester that the information literacy team at the University of Dubuque applied video game strategies into a resource review activity. The activity was originally designed in the spring semester of 2006 as a way to address student fatigue late in a semester. The following semester, we added video game strategies which included: personalization and open-ended/nonlinear navigation.

Over the four semesters, we modified the activity to make the goals more clear and change when we conduct the activity during a semester. At first we used the review at the end of a semester, but based on student feedback we moved the activity to the middle of the semester. It now serves as a review after the set of information literacy instruction. It works very well as a review and occasionally an introduction for some students who didn’t use certain types of sources previously. We’ve received a variety of verbal and written feedback over the semesters. Most students provided positive feedback including:

“I thought the activity was useful, however, it seemed to be a big review… But reviews are always helpful–it made me feel like I knew what I was doing and I feel really confident in my research skills.”

And some constructive negative feedback as well:

“It was a fun activity but we did already know how to find research since we had already done two papers.”

The biggest challenge the activity has faced has not been if the students do well, or the gaming strategies successfully engage students. The biggest challenge has come internally from the librarians resisting the urge to over-structure the activity. In an effort to make the goals clearer for the students, we have struggled against a traditional desire to define the entire process and path of the assignment. The temptation is understandable given traditional instruction that clearly lays out the steps and the process for the students. While the librarians agree with the application of video game strategies, it can be challenging to keep the activity open. Being willing to accept and discuss whatever results the students arrive at, even if they go against what we just taught them, are an important.

When I first used this lesson, I was impressed with the variety paths students used to get to the same sources. The activity can teach both students and librarians a lot, if we allow to the students to choose and trust that regardless of the path and the results there is something to learn.

University of Dubuque Annouces Video Game Collection

The library at the University of Dubuque launched a video game collection last week. The collection is currently around 40 - 50 titles from PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii systems and is based off a core titles list I developed last spring. The collection is developed to provide supporting material for the Computer Graphics department and recreational entertainment. The list of titles is based on the criteria I applied last year.

The games are indexed in the libraries catalog. Here's a link to some of the catalog records.

The collection has been on the shelves for just a week and without any promotion, already over 30% of the titles are checked out. Xbox 360 and Wii titles have seen the most circulation.

I'm excited about adding video games to the collection and recognizing games as a valuable media. It will be interesting to see the collection develop and how students and faculty respond to it.

GDC 2008: NeverWinter Nights Teaching Journalism

This story comes from Serious Games Source and provides a lot more detail on the University of Minnesota program that's using a mod of NeverWinter Nights to teach journalism skills. You can find the full story here.

The principle behind the game is to teach the method and reasoning of information-gathering and synthesis, and communication-related analysis skills. As video games are, as a medium, essentially a simulation of the decision-making process, they provide a powerful tool for exploring the hypothetical implications of the player's choices. In contrast to the typical academic model of learning, where success is measured in terms of making the correct choices, video games follow a more naturalistic method, where every mistake adds to the player's overall sense of understanding, leading to a more nuanced grasp of the problem at hand.

Paul's game involves a crashed tanker truck, leaking a poisonous gas that has forced an evacuation of a downtown area. The player has to interview subjects, cross-reference accounts, and generally figure out how to interpret a broad and conflicting pool of information, much of which takes specific skill and nuance to wheedle out of subjects.

GDC 2008: Serious Games Summit Sessions to Watch

Today starts the Game Developers Conference and part of the conference is the Serious Game Summit. Last year there were quite a few sessions with educational applications. Matthew Weise, one of the designers of Revolution spoke last year. I'm looking forward to a couple of sessions at the Serious Games Summit and the conference overall. GDC usually posts conference materials and even video from the conference on their site (here are the proceedings from previous years).

Here are 3 sessions from the Serious Games Summit that I'm looking forward to reading more about:

Greg Trefry spoke at last summer's GLLS about big games and libraries. GAMESTAR and looking at teaching students to how to design games could have applications in helping students create games around content from the curriculum. Any game that helps teach game design could also be useful for librarians interested in designing their own games and learning the basics of design.

GAMESTAR MECHANIC: Learning through Game Design
Speaker(s): Katie Salen (Parsons School of Design), Greg Trefry (Gamelab)
Time: 10-10:30am
This session takes on serious games from the perspective of thinking, creating, and learning through making games. GAMESTAR MECHANIC, a commercial online game produced in a unique collaboration between Gamelab and the GAPPs group at University of Wisconsin at Madison, is designed to teach players the fundamentals of game design. Designed to teach young people how to design games by giving them the tools and learning space in which to do it quickly, collaboratively, and easily, GAMESTAR proposes a model for learning that extends traditional notions around game-based learning.

In GAMESTAR players are invited into a narrative world situated within a social network to design, trade, and modify their own small, web-based games. In building games in this environment it is hoped that students not only learn about game design but about how to essentially build literacy about the systems and/or content that their games are based upon.

This session will demo the game and discuss strategies for assessment of the design-based skills that emerge from game-play, offering models for understanding what and how players are learning.

I've talked about The Redistricting Game and how well it hits the actual practice of redistricting right on the head. The creators are talking about their experiences in two different parts and will be adapting the game based on feedback from the audience. It should be interesting.

Make this Game Better: THE REDISTRICTING GAME (Part I)
Speaker(s): Chris Swain (University of Southern California)
Time: 10:30-11am
In 2007 Chris Swain lead a USC Annenberg School team to design a serious game with the purpose of helping the public understand the process of legislative redistricting and reforms related to redistricting. Redistricting is the process of producing defined geographic boundaries of population which are represented in Congress or the state legislature. As more and more powerful demographic systems and mapping software have become available, redistricting has grown into a very elite game of optimization also known as gerrymandering. Each side in the process (essentially the two major political parties) attempts to push a slate of designed districts it feels are advantageous to their party's candidates through the legislative and negotiation process. The results can sometimes be astoundingly bizarre shaped districts and ultimately result in voter confusion and disenfranchisement from the entire process.

THE REDISTRICTING GAME tries to capture the core yearning for optimization process that exists in redistricting but then attempts to show users various proposed reforms in the process as new constraints on the rules of the game. Users are then given links to various reform sites as well.

The game is now out and fully playable. Like all games there are many ideas that never made it through the final cut. In this session, Chris will present the full version of THE REDISTRICTING GAME. Two leads from the audience will be announced and then each lead will have over 24 hours to compile ideas into a quick presentation for the following day detailing an imagined 2.0 version of the game and associated project. The goal of this session is not to just make the game itself better but to figure out new ideas the potentially improve the impact of the project's mission. After the presentations the audience will be given a chance to respond. Chris will then offer some rebuttal and comments to the efforts allowing insight into why certain ideas may or may not work from his standpoint as the team lead.

Finally, I don't know much about this application of NeverWinter Nights, but I'm looking forward to learning more about another application and mod of the game.

Being Brian Crecente: Using an Off-The-Shelf Role Playing Game to Teach Journalism
Speaker(s): Nora Paul (University of Minnesota)
Time: 5-5:30pm
This session details The University of Minnesota's efforts to develop a role-playing game to teach journalism. Working together, professors Kathleen Hansen and Nora Paul lead a team that modified Bioware's NEVERWINTER NIGHTS to teach interview techniques and more to budding journalism students.

The process of using an off-the-shelf game engine offered unique challenges and insights into how others might attempt to build future serious games. Matching common RPG play (especially Bioware ones!) to journalism was a perfect fit. In the game, students move around Harperville and cover the story of a toxic spill caused by a train derailment. Students must investigate and find their angle to the story and file it. NPCs will offer no comment and react to your style of questioning as well.

After detailing the project, discussion will turn to lessons learned and how the next version of the project is moving along providing insight into the iterative learning process many serious game designs require of their proponents.

all session descriptions from Game Developers Conference 2008

ESL Database Introduction: Video Game Strategy Application

Earlier this week I was asked to help develop a lesson for a class of ESL students. They were working on a very basic research paper on a current social issue. I wanted the session to be open ended and student directed while still giving the ESL students a librarian and peer support structure.

The lesson plan and sample powerpoint slides are here

The lesson includes the video game strategies of continually feedback, personalization, production, clear learning goals, lowered barriers to failure, and situated meaning.

Some of the ESL accommodations include:

  • Instructions written, spoke, and displayed on screen for multiple access and reinforcement
  • Additional visual handouts that use screen shots to show steps through each database
  • Small peer groups for increased communication and reduced barriers to assistance
  • Use of "objection" signs to add fun out of asking questions and incorporate the expectation of questions into the lesson; objection signs created using the Phoenix Wright image below
  • Demonstration of how find resources, not an explanation or presentation; allowing the focus on process not on verbal expression

The librarian that asked for the unit, found it useful and engaging. I hope that others might find some useful in it as well.

Librarian Spotlight: Anne Marie Gruber

On Thursday, I posted Anne Marie Gruber's feedback on using the Library Dusk lesson as a review. I am very pleased with her experience with the lesson and I'm thankful that she was willing to share about it.

It is in that same spirit of sharing that I want highlight Anne Marie's commitment to her profession and her students. Anne Marie started at the University of Dubuque in January of 2006, as the Reference and Instruction Librarian for the First Year Experience. In her 2 years, the position has morphed as she and the library have grown professionally. Anne Marie is the library liaison for the nursing program, natural sciences, and computer graphics. She has led the way at the University of Dubuque in collaboration and outreach to her liaison departments creating newsletters and blogs for her faculty. Her CGInspiration blog is used as a resource by both faculty and students.

In addition to her commitment to the University of Dubuque, she has authored articles including one we co-authored with the Library Director. She also serves as the Secretary / Treasurer for the Iowa Library Association - ACRL.

It is my pleasure and fortune to work with Anne Marie. Her willingness to continue to innovate and standardize our information literacy program is a great asset to the library and our students. In addition to applying and refining gaming strategies in information literacy, Anne Marie is always willing to play some DDR at the library's finals week study breaks...

Thank you.

Library Dusk: Successful Application of Video Game Strategies

Earlier this week, I talked about my previous experience and my reflections from this current semester with the student led, multiple path, resource review. Today a colleague of mine, Anne Marie Gruber, taught the same lesson to another class. This is what she had to say about how the information literacy session went:

The Library Dusk lesson was very effective as a model for a student-led review of research strategies. While it is set up as a review of various resources, one student even commented to me, "Wow. I learned a lot today." Even in this 300-level class, several students had never used ILL before, or didn't know what to do when full-text wasn't available.

The "choose your path" pedagogy was very effective. Letting students lead helped them take ownership and stay engaged. While their votes are anonymous, they were willing to defend their choices, leading to great discussion about resource choice. Following the resource review, students made effective use of their work time. They all found some great articles and effectively used the variety of sources we had discussed.

I enjoyed the session as much as the students did, and it was gratifying to see them succeed because of Paul's well-crafted lesson.
Anne Marie is an amazing and dedicated librarian always looking for ways to further engage and help our students learn. I am fortunate to work with her.

For those interested, an asking, here is the link to the powerpoint slideshow of Library Dusk. Any feedback or questions are welcomed.

A good week for critical thinking & the Nintendo DS

There are two games this month for the Nintendo DS that educational video game proponents should be aware of and experience.

Professor Layton was released this past Sunday. This is a combination of puzzle, brain teasers, and adventure. The game was supposed to come out last November and I even placed my first ever pre-order for it through Amazon last fall. Jenny Levine blogged about it back at the end of January and the game is now out and on shelves.

In addition to the main game, there is already free downloadable content in the form additional puzzles available for those who solve. And if that content isn't enough for players to enjoy, the game manual confirms a sequel is on its way.

Here's an example of one of the puzzles:

In addition to solving puzzles in small towns, the DS is seeing the first DS specific developed game in the Phoenix Wright series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. The game comes out on the 19th and this game like those before it are wonderful examples critical thinking and reading comprehension. I've written before about my gaming and learning experience with Phoenix Wright and I'm looking forward to this new game as well.

If you've never played before, or even a series fan, I encourage you to try out the demo of the first case below:

Professor Layton photos by the 1 up network
Apollo Justice photos and demo available on game's homepage

Information Literacy Session: An Applicatication in "Reduced Risk" Video Game Strategy

As I posted last night, I taught the Library Dusk database review today. The information literacy session went okay, but it was a powerful example of the gaming strategy of "reducing the risk of failure." I've written in some detail before about applying "risk taking" video game strategy, and I'm thankful for that perspective today.

The session started well. The student-directed multiple path review got the class of upper class students engaged. While all but one of the students had previous information literacy sessions with me, the vast majority were interested in student-choice driven review. The activity worked well to review both catalog and database navigation. It was effective in challenging students' previous assumptions. The activity includes choices of specific databases, books, and internet sources. Students first started by choosing internet search engines as the place to start. Given the scholarly requirements of the assignment, starting with the internet would not be the most efficient. I asked a few detailed questions about the type of sources they would find online and they came to the conclusion that their could be better options.

Students were surprised that their assumptions about what search terms would bring the best results were incorrect. Breaking their assumptions, opened up some discussion about what they expected to happen and what their rationale was for the choices. Similar to last year's session, the students engaged with each other and challenged each others' opinions. I served more to help guide the discussion and not to present the content. The personalization the students had with the ability to determine the how, where, and what should be searched, kept them engaged and debating during the course of the review.

Unfortunately, not everything was that rosy. Some hyper links that I tested before the class did not work and my power point slides from MS Powerpoint froze up about half way through. I was lucky that the class covered much main review topics.

Keeping in mind the video game strategy of "reduced risk," I looked back on today as an example of flexibility, not frustration. Having a review specifically designed for Power Point created tension for me once it froze. But because I'm trying to model video game strategies, I was able to use that turn of events for the better.

Every instruction librarian has a bad session and days we wish we could "do over." By keeping the gaming strategy in mind, we can have "do overs." While the same class can never come back, there are more opportunities. Another class - another chance.

Video games reduce risk so that the player continues to play.
Librarians and teachers want to reduce risk for our students so they continue to be engaged.
We need to reduce the risk for ourselves so that we can continue to innovate, try, and advance us all.

Library Dusk - Choose Your Own Adventure Database Review

Last year I created a multiple path database review based on video game strategies. And now, I'm teaching the same class tomorrow. I've spent tonight updating (and fixing a few slides) from last year slides. I'll post about how the class went tomorrow, but until then here is a brief summary of the lesson, experience, and student feedback from last year.

After successful open-ended information literacy sessions applying videogame strategies, the librarians at the University of Dubuque used a student- response system and Power Point to create a multiple path, point & click review for an upper division Communication course. The initial design comprised over 70 slides and resulted in a multiple-path review where the students voted to determine the direction of the research process. The assignment objective was to find two sources from books, articles, or the internet. Every path and choice was hyper linked within the Power Point slides so that any decision the students made was linked to the corresponding choices. Students stayed engaged in voting, reacting to the results, and discussing the choices. Much of the class discussion was peer led and the students engaged each other and debated about what path to choose. A short evaluation with open-ended questions was sent to students one week after the information literacy session. Students’ responses were overwhelmingly positive and included, “I did like how you gave us an option for going our own paths” and “I thought the voting was great.” One student commented that, “It was a lot more fun being able to first handily interact with the research.”

Congrats Mark Wagner: Video games, education, and a new baby

I want to congratulate Mark Wagner and his wife Eva on their new son Clark. Mark is one of the people I've met through my work on Research Quest. Mark's been Twittering about his experiences during the pregnancy, in additional to whole variety of other issues. While I'm not the most active Twitter user (twitter ID: researchquest) as a husband and father I could relate.

Not only is Mark an active Twitter user, but he is an researcher and advocate of video games and education. I've followed Mark's work through his Educational Technology and Life blog for a while. His mBlogger: Research Quest - Create Postost recent post is a great resource for video games and education. The post discusses a conversation he had with a school superintendent, gamer, and father.

Ultimately, he’s sees the dynamic, social, and global nature of his gaming community as a positive alternative to the often “flat” culture of classrooms. (In this sense he doesn’t mean “flat” as in Freidman’s “the world is flat” or Davis and Lindsey’s “flat classroom.” He means it is static and boring as opposed to dynamic and exciting.)
Mark provides a number of resource links to his work including:
Books on Educational Gaming
Educational Gaming Issue Summaries
Chapters from his dissertation on video games & education

If you haven't read any of Mark's work, this post is a great place to start.

Congratulations to Mark, Eva, their new son Clark!

Basking in Politics and Political Video Games

This week is full of political discussion. Tuesday night's primary results. Jenny Levine's comments. Ian Bogost's thoughts on political games over at Water Cooler Games. And now, as I worked on itemizing taxes, I've listened to the video game industry podcast, Game Theory, cover political games. Their discussion lasts about the first 20 minutes of the podcast and if you've never listened to Game Theory I encourage you to do so. It is an industry centered discussion that provides an educated, business minded opinion of what is happening in the video game industry.

With all the discussion about how gaming can be political, engage in political conversation, or teach politics, I'm reminded of two of the most educational political games I've experienced.

President Forever + Primaries
I first played a game similar to this back in 1995 at the US Naval Academy. For better or worse, the US Military is out in front on games that teach. In this game, the player created a candidate, set a platform, did fundraising, outreach, and tried to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. This game by TheorySpark allows the player to go through the entire primary and general election process. This is a game that I would have loved to have used when I was student teaching U.S. Government. It works for both high school and college level students and really gets at procedural literacy. Players are forced to make hard choices throughout the campaign and adjust and understand the ramifications.

There is a free DEMO for anyone interested. Also for those readers in Canada try Prime Minister Forever. And since there are now readers across Europe and the rest of the world, TheorySpark also has British, German, and Australian versions as well.

The Redistricting Game
As someone who's former job was to do just this, I am amazed at how close the game gets to what really happens in redistricting battles. I spent Jan. 2001 - July 2001 drawing, redrawing, researching, and analyzing redistricting maps for one caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The game really nails all the political, social, legal, and geographic factors that go into creating legislative and congressional districts.

The game is free online. And in a current political climate where Obama and Clinton are seperated by just a handful of delegates - having a deeper understanding of the process of creating congressional districts is all the more relevant.

Games that Teach, not Preach: Resources

Back in the fall of 2007, I was a guest lecturer for a video game theory course on our campus. While I've blogged and expanded about much of the content from that lecture, I have not provided my powerpoint slides. The slides focus on the work of Gee and Bogost and how it is relevant for the students in game design. Some of the slides are a little bare but I hope this is helpful for those who've asked in the past.

Educational Games: Games that Teach, not Preach: Slide Show

The students used three articles as required readings for my lecture:

Good Video Games and Good Learning by James Paul Gee

and 2 Gamasutra articles

In addition to these classroom resources, here are my individual posts about applying some of Gee's principles to information literacy instruction:

Head Hunt Design Process: OSU's Orientation Game

At the LOEX 2007 conference in San Diego, Fred Roecker and members of the design team spoke about the process and challenges of their orientation game project. Their power point presentation and handout can be found here under “A Game Based Approach to Library Orientation.” The design team consisted of Roecker, Nancy O’Hanlon, Karen Diaz, Tingting Lu, and Jim Muir. Since I introduced the game yesterday, I want to take some time to provide more background on how it was developed. The following is a write up my notes from OSU's LOEX presentation.

Groundwork for Game

The game was created around a desire to reach each of the approximately 6,000 incoming students at OSU. In years past, OSU had a 1 credit orientation but even then the library component was optional. But that course was no longer offered. As of 2006, there was not a library orientation and this game was designed to fill that gap.

With data that showed students decided about staying in college within the first six weeks of a semester. , the team wanted to create a positive library experience. The design team benefited from administrative support to create some type of orientation that both parents and students could be involved in. This opportunity and support lead to the initial planning of an orientation game back in May of 2006.

Initially the team surveyed students to find out some specific needs that the orientation could address. Of the students surveyed, 60% had visited one of the libraries but only 29% had some library introduction. Students also didn’t know what the library offered for resources and didn’t know where to find the different libraries around campus.

Initial Game Design

Based on these student responses the team started planning for a game that would include a series of quests that the student would complete to find out information. The information would be disseminated through digital stories, games, puzzles, and video clips. The concept for the game included students guiding an avatar through the quests, interacting with non-playable characters who helped advance the narrative, and answering questions after each quest.

After some initial feedback, the team realized that this linear design approached the game more like an assignment than a game. In addition to the linear initial design, the game was envisioned as a CD based game but student feedback suggested that incoming students would not use a disc based orientation experience. The original designed included many diverse learning objectives which were ultimately pared down to create a more focused experience.

Once again and from the top – Successful Revision

Realizing the flaws in their initial design, the team scrapped their concepts and started fresh. The design team began using Marc Prensky’s work and others that discuss game based learning. The team wanted to incorporate those principles into their development. They focused on opening up the structure, removing the linear nature, reducing the number of learning objectives. The concept of “Head Hunt” emerged out of these discussions.

“Head Hunt” used a simplified story, centered around campus as the narrative. The game design became nonlinear as clues and games were located at each of the libraries locations on the game map. The design required games to be completed successfully to solve the larger mystery of the missing head. While games were required to advance, the order was left to the student. In addition, not all games needed to be completed to solve the puzzle.

The design team used Google Maps as a base for navigation. Hot Potatoes was used to create the minigames (matching, crossword, and others). Adobe Captivate was used for screen shots within the games. The entire game was designed to be completed in 30 minutes or so. The web based game allowed the team to track what students logged in, how long they played for, how many times they played, and if they completed the puzzle of the missing head. In addition to the usage statistics, the game included an evaluation at the end.

The team spent a lot of time and effort creating, applying, and analyzing their game based orientation. If you haven’t tried it yet, please do so here and leave the team your thoughts and feedback.

Head Hunt: Ohio State Freshmen Orientation Game

During the fall of 2007, Ohio State University implemented a new library orientation game for incoming students. The game was developed as a new way to introduce new students to the variety of services and materials offered by the many libraries at OSU. The design team consisted of Fred Roecker, Nancy O'Halon, Karen Diaz, Tingting Lu, and Jim Muir. The game is an interesting way to reach out to a large number students and provide students with a reason / goal to keep exploring the different library sites. Fred Roecker described the game as:

The goal of the game is to discover the location of the head of Brutus Buckeye (the OSU mascot). There are five short films and eight casual games to give players an overview of our library facilities, resources, procedures, and people. Successful completion of a game awards the player with one clue letter. Collect them all and unscramble these letters to reveal the library location of Brutus' head. There is a comment form for players to give their impressions of the game as well.

The game uses a map of the OSU campus along with Google Maps to provide the game board for players to navigate around the campus. Clicking on each library location will either bring up a short video or a simple minigame both of which provide more detail on the library shown on the map. The games include call number matching, multiple choice questions about library services, matching databases to their content, crossword puzzles, and others. One game requires students to click on a screenshot of the OSU libraries webpage to answer different questions. The game provides an interactive tour of the Library's webpage and services available through it. Upon completion of each minigame the student is given a letter that helps unlock where the mascot's head is hidden.

During an mail conversation from October 2007, Fred Roecker discussed the progress of the game and student use:
The Head Hunt library orientation game has gone very well. We placed teaser flyers in all freshmen packets which were distributed during their on-campus orientations during the summer. In September, each student received an email notification about the game, a listing of the prizes in the drawing for those who successfully complete the game, and the URL to begin playing.

There was a follow up reminder email as well as a note sent to the families of the new students inviting them to play along with their students to learn about the
libraries. We also contacted all the dorm Resident Advisors to let
them publicize the game in their dorms since we have a new graph that
displays numbers of students playing the game by dorm and also by
As of mid-October, they had around 800 students play the game and about 100 guests. After mid-October and the window of new student orientation passed, the librarians administered a "Student Perceptions" survey to about 1,000 students. This survey focused on how and if students are using the libraries and their resources. Since the library had data on which students played the game, they are planning to analyze the surveys to see difference in those who had and had not played. Also since the same survey was given in 2006, the librarians planned to compare the results this year to the previous one.

Before the classes ended in December, I had a follow-up conversation with Fred where he had this to say on the student feedback:
The first quarter freshmen student players gave us very positive feedback on the experience and the information they found in the game. A drawing for prizes was used as an incentive. Information about the development of the game can be found in the "About Head Hunt" link on the opening screen.
I encourage everyone to go and try out OSU's Head Hunt. The game may not actively engage them like "I'll Get It," but it does introduce a lot of library content in a more active way than OSU had traditionally done. The games are not a deep, meaningful experience, but they were not designed to be. The larger narrative of finding the "head" gives students a reason to continue playing and the games offer enough variety to keep students wanting to see what game comes next.

Head Hunt
works for what it is - a creative and engaging interactive tour of the OSU libraries and services.

Procedural Literacy & Second Life

I haven't really discussed Second Life on this blog but Brian Mathew's post about Second Life on Friday over at The Ubiquitous Librarian got me thinking again about Second Life's application in information literacy and the role procedural literacy can play.

Brian raises the question about the role of reference and Second Life:

What's the role of the library here? I mean, if a professor asks for face-to-face classroom support we provide that. If they ask for web support via WebCT or via an online service like Horizon Wimba, we'd most likely provide that too. But what about Second Life? How many of us are ready to offer services there?
I agree with Brian's statement that if we are here to provide assistance to class and curriculum, shouldn't we be prepared regardless of the medium. Much of the discussion I've heard from libraries and librarians in Second Life is along these lines. I understand the logic behind,"If classes and students are going to be there, shouldn't we be ready?"

What I'm interested in is not how the library has a presence (there are plenty of people doing that) I want to know how instruction and reference librarians can use procedural literacy to help teach information literacy in a virtual environment. Can we put our students in situations that allow them to apply information literacy in an authentic situation?

While the CSI: New York episode on Second Life may have critics, I respect the idea of using the virtual world to find clues and help solve the crime from the show. Second Life gives instruction librarians so many more tools to develop information literacy through the act of doing. Entire research problems, crime investigations, treasure hunts, or adventures could be created to allow students to practice information literacy skills.

Why couldn't students find and evaluate information wrapped up in a narrative of a virtual world?

This weekend, I am going back through some of the literature and articles on libraries and Second Life to see if there are examples of this type of application. If anyone knows of any, please let me know.

Gaming and Learning: A Family Adventure

Spectrobes for the Nintendo DS has eaten up most of my gaming time since I first blogged about it. But my video game time has turned into father son time. As I've discussed earlier, my interest in Spectrobes (2007) was based on middle schoolers who choose the game over Pokemon. While the reviews were mixed, 7.5 from 1 Up & 6.5 from Game Informer, I've somehow leveled my creatures up to around 114 of the 128 level cap.

Now before you snicker, go back and look at how Spectrobes is an exercise in patience and persistence. I've used this to connect and help teach my 4 year-old son. My son, like many 4 year-olds, has issues with control and patience. Digging for fossils in the game has helped my son understand the benefits of approaching something carefully and not trying to rush through. It's working in the game. Most weekday mornings we spent some time before work/school digging up some fossils and while he initially struggled he continued to improve. While this patience and control doesn't always carry over into daily life, I've used his video game experience to help remind him during difficult situations.

I bring this up because I do not believe my son's experience is unique. Learning through video games is a useful tool in the larger discussion of kids and video games. Tracey John over at MTV's Multiplayer spent this week and last talking with parents about when kids are old enough for video games. The discussion generated a good number of comments from parents and gamers alike.

As video games are criticized and challenged in the press and government it is important to keep discussing the positive learning experiences children can have through games. Some of my son's positive behavior stems from what he's learning in Spectrobes. Video games can be good teachers at all age levels.

Computer literacy: Apply it don't deny it

I want to stop feeling so important for student learning and simply see the importance of student learning. The tag line of "computer literacy does not equal information literacy" was attached to a recent report. And while this state was and is true, it should not be a call for librarians to stand firm in traditional instruction and deny our students' skills.

The report should serve as a rallying cry for academic librarians to build bridges, not ivory towers.

While the report "Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future" was released a few weeks ago and outlets like the Chronicle's Wired blog and Michael over at The Information Literacy Land of Confusion mentioned the report - I've read very little discussion on it. Even list-serve threads never created comments. My interest is not in what the report means for academic libraries - the report itself gives recommendations on page 31:

Students usually prefer the global searching of Google to more
sophisticated but more time-consuming searching provided by
the library, where students must make separate searches of the
online catalog and every database of potential interest, after
first identifying which databases might be relevant.
I'm concerned in what this means - or should mean for information literacy. The report discusses how students are getting results but not evaluating them. It outlines how their ability to enter search terms, does not equal an understanding of search processes or strategy. The tag line of "computer literacy does not equal information literacy" was attached to the report. While rightfully so, we as librarians need to apply that computer literacy and not deny it.

Building on our students computer literacy skills is essential. Denying their skills only isolates us as librarians and belittles their perceived experience. Instruction librarians can and should apply our student's computer literacy and use it as a bridge to information literacy skills. Yes, students with searching experience can inflated opinions of their search skills which can create concerns. But these inflated opinions can be tempered with applications of their computer literacy.

My use of fantasy football to open up information literacy depended upon student's basic search knowledge and experience. The fantasy football lesson applied their skills and provided a bridge to academic information literacy skills. Our library used a movie review research activity (that assumed students' computer literacy) to build a bridge to the evaluation and source quality skills of information literacy. Chad from Library Voice used the recent example of the Mass Effect controversy to help to evaluation and creditability skills.

I want to use this report to show the continued need for information literacy. But this report presents the challenge and the opportunity for us, as librarians, to apply the computer literacy skills of today in order to create the information literacy skills of tomorrow.