Video Games for Lesson Plans

I blogged about this book back in the summer and Henry Jenkins recently had an interview with the author. Part 1 & Part 2 are here. If you missed them in October, set aside some time to read them. And if you read them the first go around... I ask you what comes next? How can librarians use these ideas in our research sessions?

If you are interested in the book, here is the table of contents. Jenkins' conversation was picked up around the gaming world as well appearing both on WIRED's Game|Life and

The coverage and the conversation is great. So what is the next step?

Keep an eye out for this issue...

Computers and Composition Online will publish a special issue on the intersections between composition, literacy, and computer/video gaming as a companion to the Fall 2008 special print issue of Computers and Composition, "Reading Games: Composition, Literacy, and Video Gaming." These issues will explore the social, historical, cultural, and pedagogical implications of computer/video games on literacies and the writing classroom.
Here is the full post about the upcoming journal. Proposals are due on Dec. 14th and it looks like the journal with be publish late spring of 2008. For more information check out the journal's homepage here.

Catching up with Virtual Learning Worlds

Virtual Learning Worlds is consistently a good read and provides useful insight for education and learning in games. I don't often mention his writing here, but since I'm catching up I wanted to highlight two of his posts from this past month.

A Good Day for Educational Gaming
Misconceptions of Games in Education

Final Fantasy Tactics: Info Lit Skills in Action

Back in September I plugged many late hours into Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. A game that I bought a few years ago, played a little, and let it sit as I returned to finish another game. That was two years ago, and a recent essay from ToastyFrog's site rekindled my interest.

Then in October I've spent a good amount of "blogging vacation" time playing Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lions War. It's a great remake of a classic game. I'm only a few hours into the game and I'll probably end up investing over 50+ hours into the game. Many gamers have played over 100+ hours of the game with it's complex job system and character skill sets.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lions War is much deeper and complex both in story and gameplay compared to FFT Advance, but both apply a large number of information literacy skills in order to process through the game and succeed.

1.1b. Develops a thesis statement and formulates questions based on the information need

1.1c. Explores general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic

1.1d. Defines or modifies the information need to achieve a manageable focus

1.2d. (e.g.,popular vs. scholarly, current vs. historical)

1.4a. Reviews the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the question

1.4b. Describes criteria used to make information decisions and choices

2.1a. (e.g., laboratory experiment,simulation, fieldwork)

2.1b. Investigates benefits and applicability of various investigative methods

2.2a. Develops a research plan appropriate to the investigative method

2.2b. Identifies keywords, synonyms and related terms for the information needed

2.2.e Implements the search strategy in various information retrieval systems using different user interfaces and search engines, with different command languages, protocols, and search parameters

2.4b. Identifies gaps in the information retrieved and determines if the search strategy should be revised

3.1a. Reads the text and selects main ideas

3.3a. Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into potentially useful primary statements with supporting evidence

3.3b. Extends initial synthesis, when possible, at a higher level of abstraction to construct new hypotheses that may require additional information

3.4b. Uses consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information used from other sources

3.4c. Draws conclusions based upon information gathered

3.4f. Integrates new information with previous information or knowledge

3.4g. Selects information that provides evidence for the topic

3.7a. Determines if original information need has been satisfied or if additional information is needed

3.7b. Reviews search strategy and incorporates additional concepts as necessary

4.1b. Articulates knowledge and skills transferred from prior experiences to planning and creating the product or performance

4.2b. Reflects on past successes, failures, and alternative strategies

images from

Catching up with the Escapist

The weekly game magazine the Escapist recently featured two stories relating to education.

Erin Hoffman wrote a good editorial about children and games. She continued in part two of her editorial as a short editorial about games and kids. It's quick read but gives another piece of support for why we as educators should continue to look to games and gaming strategies in education.

Ben Sawyer covers and debunks 10 Myths of serious games:

    • Serious Games Aren't Fun
    • Games Are Young Media, So Serious Games Are For Young People
    • There Is No Proof That Games Affect Anyone

    And for some lighter reading, Saund Sands of Gamers with Jobs wrote about his journey to quit World of Warcraft. Enjoy.

    What's in a Name?

    Clark Aldrich over at Learning Circuits posted a worthwhile discussion about what games for learning should be called. Serious Games? Simulations? Game-based Learning? Immersive Learning?

    The discussion itself is interesting, but regardless of what games in education should be /will be / are currently called the distinctions that Aldrich draws creates a good opportunity for discussion and a better understanding of the full scope of applications and possibilities.

    Learning with the Nintendo DS

    I purchased my Nintendo DS Lite during the first week they were released back in 2006 and since day one, it's been one of my favorite systems of all time (big words for gamers, I know). But part of my love for the system is the use that my wife and kids get out of it as well.

    My wife and I were hooked on Brain Age for the summer of 2006 and I've used it to help my son with basic math. But now, it's official. Brain Age practice is successful for increasing math scores.

    This story was picked up on and dsfanboy.

    For the Novice Librarian / Academic

    Here is a nice quick slideshow from Tom Crawford that serves as a solid introduction to anyone to the world of educational and serious games.

    This is a good resource to get people started and help explain some of the applications and potential of games in education.

    Thanks to Elaine Alhadeff, of Future-Making Serious Games, for this link.

    Key Questions to Consider in Development: Clark Aldrich

    In my effort to process everything over the last few weeks, I continue to highlight some useful articles and discussions over the past month. Clark Aldrich's Style Guide is an excellent collection of ideas, terms, and concepts. Aldrich brought up four key considerations for those studying, creating, and applying educational games and simulations.

    1. Situational awareness: what do experts see when they come to a scene that others don’t?
    2. Understanding of actions: what do experts see as viable options, and trade-offs of each? How and when should one calibrate responses?
    3. Awareness of patterns: how and why do things play out? What are small steps now that can have a big impact?
    4. Conceptual dead reckoning: understanding the opportunities, committing to a vision, and then navigating towards it.
    The questions not only address what should be considered when designing a game, they also work for designing information literacy sessions. In creating lesson plans and research sessions, we should not only consider these questions but find answers for them as well.

    1. Situational awareness: Our learners enter the "game" with all ranges of experiences, what do experienced researches see and apply that "newbies" don't. What do we want our students to "see" and understand about a given situation?

    2. Understanding actions: Why do our students make the choices in research and sources that they do? What choices should they make? How can we help them understand why certain decisions make sense - and why others do not.

    3. Awareness of patterns: Students fall into both patterns of success and patterns of failure. We want to help create productive patterns that will increase their success and efficiency for the future.

    4. Conceptual dead reckoning: Create the goal / thesis and develop the path to reach it. If we can help our students create those goals and give them the tools to reach then.

    These are good questions that we as educators should consider, not only for our individual lessons but for information literacy programs as a whole.

    Handheld Learning 2007 links

    Thanks to the link from Serious Games
    which in-kind links to the Mobile Learning blog which has a useful post linking to a variety of content from the conference.

    Here are some of the direct links to:
    video clips
    slides of presentations

    I blogged about Nintendo becoming a sponsor of the conference back in September (before my hiatus) and John Rice's excellent Educational Games Research blog ran another story on the conference as well.

    I've downloaded a couple of the podcasts, including Marc Prensky's keynote speech, and I'm looking forward to listening along with the ppt slides.

    Terra Nova: An Educational October

    Over at Terra Nova, they began the month with an update on the Shakespeare's Game which has some interesting applications for learning and libraries.

    It's been a bumpy road. We've learned lots of lessons, mostly that this is very hard to do, and especially hard to do in an academic context. I have new layers of respect for the world-builders out there.

    What now? Work continues, with an uncertain time frame. I really enjoy writing systems in NWN Script, so I will keep tinkering. But - there's no telling when there will be anything to report. Based on the current direction and progress of the project, I should downplay expectations.
    I remember when this game/project was announced and was interested to see how it developed. Other academic projects have used the Never Winter Nights and the powerful toolset to create their projects. The use of NWN here seems like a manageable choice of platforms. I recently picked up the Diamond edition of NWN for a little over $10 and I'm looking forward to playing around in the toolset.

    But this post also brings words of caution. Words that I've heard echoed from a multiple other library game projects. Long timeline, slow starts, and challenges at every step. Even with these challenges, those of us interested will continue to move forward and learn from those before us.

    In addition, Terra Nova also discussed Jesper Juul's interesting book Half-Real. I read parts of Juul's book earlier this year and it is worthwhile for anyone interesting in starting out developing and designing an education game. It's based in game theory, but it is accessible. Terra Nova's discussion is worth the read if you missed it earlier.

    My unexplained absence - explained

    (if you are not interested in my personal excuses, please move on to the next post)

    October's been a blur. Work's a nonstop ride - as any good ride should be. My family's been up and down over the month (including a visit to the ER). Because of this I started October taking a little time off from blogging, a little blogging vacation if you will. But getting started again was the challenge.

    During the second half of October, I really had to think about why I started this blog and where I'm going with it. Truth be told, I'm not sure where I'm going with it - heck I'm not sure where I'm going in life some days. But I do know were my passions lie.

    Teaching - Reaching out - Connecting to students

    I know that video games, the play, and the act of learning is one way to reach out and teach students.

    My month off was not because I lacked the passion to go forward. I lacked the energy. The daily grind of my job and life weighted heavily on me. It wasn't one specific thing that prevented me, it was simply a downward spiral. Now, standing on the other side of that break, I missed the engagement, discussion, and innovation that came from blogging and pushing these issues forward.

    I will continue to keep the conversation about video games and gaming strategies in information literacy moving forward. I hope if you are still willing to come along for the journey.

    Breaking Blogging Rule #1

    #1: If you get new people coming to your site, give them something new to read. Follow up the post that brought them in with more content. Give them a reason to come back.

    Well, I missed that one.

    My coverage of the games created by the Library at Carnegie Mellon was picked up in a variety of places including Jenny Levine's theshiftedlibrarian, an ALA newsletter, and even the gaming site Game Set Watch. I'm grateful for the coverage and I'm thankful that Carnegie Mellon's project got the coverage and exposure that it deserves (Water Cooler Games highlighted the game as well).

    Unfortunately, the exposure can at a time when I took a month long hiatus. I'll blog later about my elective hiatus, but I wanted to say thank you for the coverage and I hope that readers found more to interest them throughout the site.

    I am returning to my blog now and will continue the conversations about how and why we as librarians and educators should be looking to and using video games and gaming strategies in information literacy.