Critical Thinking Mod for Elder Scrolls: Morrowind - mapping it out

Over the course of this summer and fall, I have worked with a student researcher to create a video game experience that will help demonstrate information literacy skills. I will go into more detail about the project in the coming posts, but I wanted to start off with this video mapping out our character interactions.

After spending a few months this summer looking through online games and not finding anything that provided the depth we wanted within a limited playtime experience, we decided to mod an existing game. After creating the characters and most of the dialogue, we needed to see where our gaps in quest logic and character interactions were.

Student Fellowship: Morrowind Critical Thinking Mod from Paul Waelchli on Vimeo.

Mapping it out allowed us to identify that our critical thinking quest was too straight forward and made creating more characters and dialogue easy to plug in. With the additional characters and dialogue, I think that we've created a quest that will force players to question and evaluate the information that they receive.

National Gaming Day @ the Mulva Library

We kicked off National Gaming Day a little early last week with a gaming event on Friday night. Since we ran the event past midnight, we were able to help kick off National Gaming Day @ your Library.

We had a variety of board games brought in by our local Green Bay games store: Gnome Games. Students brought in materials to play Warhammer 40k. And we had various video games going: Goldeneye on the Wii and Halo Reach and L4D2 on the 360 played in each of our classrooms. And students even brought in a PS2 and N64 to hook up in our smaller study rooms. It was a good turnout for our first game night.

The students' overwhelming response was: "When can we do this again."

National Gaming Day @ the Mulva Library from Paul Waelchli on Vimeo.

Don't Mourn - Organize

In the process of writing the last post, I was reminded of my political roots. A loss doesn't mean you roll over and except the result. A loss means you pick yourself up and work again for the next fight.

I know I share some of the blame for the loss of the "research intensive" designation. I could have lobbied harder and stayed more on top each phase. I assumed too much.

As I finished my last post, I started new emails to the committee members and outreach to the incoming Writing Center director. This should start laying the groundwork for the next phases.

I'm thankful for my political losses and for those organizers that shaped me. I've even brought the pin I was given after my first loss. Don't mourn - organize. This discussion may not be the focus of Research Quest, but I needed place to voice my thoughts and pick myself back up.

Now back to the general focus of Research Quest, even if it's been almost six months...

image via:

Offered up for the political sacrifice

Recently, part of what brought me to my current position was lost. The straight forward path to curriculum integration was offered up as a political sacrifice. My route to formal integration has now become longer and more convoluted. But there is still a path. And since I still have my job, I will continue to work toward the goal of formal curriculum integration of information literacy.

For the past few years of the college's general education revisions, information literacy was on par with writing and communication as skills valued across the new curriculum. This focus was written into the working documents and the structure of the new core programs. Courses were to be designated as "writing" "research" or "communication" intensive courses. Each representing valued skills for students across disciplines to learn. This was good structure that insured the emphasis on information literacy. While many would rightly argue (myself included) that many courses currently offered could be considered "research intensive," the benefit of parity was that information literacy was a formal objective that stood on its own in the curriculum.

When I started back in the summer of 2008 I met with the chair of the committee who was and I believe remains committed to the ideas of information literacy within the curriculum. I spent the spring of 2009 meeting with the committee and working with the Writing Center Director, who sat on the committee, to draft language for the "writing" and "research" intensive designations. Unfortunately, the WC director left in the summer of 2009. In the fall of `09, I again worked with the committee chair to finalize draft language for the "writing" "research" and "communication" intensive designations. This was the draft language that was moving forward in the committee.

During this academic year, the general education changes left the committee and went before the full faculty. As with any general education curriculum changes, everyone has something at stake. What proceeded were faculty meetings spent debating the larger structure of the new curriculum. This debate and suggested changes focused on the organization, naming, and focus of 4 or 5 "pillars." Writing, Research, and Communication were left relative untouched in the formal debates.

That is until recently. In between the discussion at division and full faculty meetings, the committee dropped the "research intensive" designation. When the curriculum structure came back up for discussion in the last faculty meeting, only "writing" and "communication" intensive courses were listed. After talking with the chair of the committee, it is clear that there was a need to trim the curriculum structure. And the "research intensive" designation became one of the first trimmed.

As the debate and concern over the expansion of the curriculum grew, it appears that information literacy was the easiest piece to remove. Without a department to speak up or faculty to vote, the library holds little political influence. With only the library director holding faculty status, we became a convenient sacrificial offering.

It is still my intention to continue advocating for the inclusion of information literacy into the writing and communication intensive courses. Now the lobbying effort and demonstrating the value has become a larger focus.

Below is part of the draft language on how information literacy was planned to be integrated into the curriculum. There was/is more to the document, but this provides a quick outline of what was planned. There were certainly concerns and areas that needed work in the text, but since this text is no under consideration, I would like to share it with others. Or at least preserve it in memoriam:


All students at St. Norbert College must complete a minimum of four research-intensive (designated RI) courses according to these parameters:

* One of these RI courses must be outside of the student’s major;
* One of these RI courses must be in the student’s major and in the upper biennium;
* Students with double majors must complete an upper-biennium RI course in each major.
* Students may transfer one RI course in the lower biennium, but not both.
* Students may transfer one RI course in the upper biennium, but the second RI course must be in the student’s major so that transfer students must complete at least one RI course at SNC within the discipline.

In every Core Program, research-intensive, major, and minor course, students should devote energy to targeted stages of the research process—planning, searching, evaluating, revising, organizing, and documenting. The research products, in various forms, are the natural reflection of the research process.

All RI Core Program courses will have a dimension, which includes research exercises, application of resources outside of course material, and a formal out-of-class research assignment. These research requirements must be described in the course syllabus.

Students at the lower core will be able to:

· Communicate a basic understanding of what information is needed
· Apply a variety of types and formats of sources to locate the information
· Identify gaps in the information and revise the search
· Describe and apply criteria for evaluating the information
· Combines new information with existing knowledge to construct individual analysis
· Communicate findings and conclusions to others through various methods
· Follow institutional policies to acknowledge where the information originated from

Students can meet these skills by:

Research Exercises

Courses should promote the concept of research and focus on the research process as a means to understanding course content. A traditional research based term paper is one of the exercises that meet the RI designation. Other possible research focused exercises include:

· annotated bibliography
· research journal/log
· research paper outline
· literature review
· author tracking review
· identifying major journals
· comparison of internet/database searches
· poster presentation
· oral presentation
· journal/book/article review
· research trend analysis

Application of Resources Outside Course Material

Exams should include at least one essay question that requires students to write a paragraph or more to demonstrate information literacy and critical thinking skills (e.g., incorporating external sources, evaluating ideas, explaining concepts, synthesizing material, arguing a thesis, etc.) Though instructors are urged to incorporate an essay component on every exam, they may modify this component to meet particular exam needs.