LITA 2008: Portals to Learning – What librarians can learn from video game design

Saying “this is how you type in a text box” is like saying “let’s talk about breathing today.”

Speakers: Nicholas Schiller (Washington State University, Vancouver) and Carole Svensson (University of Washington, Tacoma)

We’re not getting any younger, but our students are. We think of new technologies as ways to deliver old ideas, but really we need to mix it up.

Gaming literacy is a way of looking at the media of video games and interactive media through the eyes of the designers and the players. It’s not helpful to view this as a zero sum game – it’s not about competing with reading literacy.

Games are now mainstream media. They are more significant to our students than they were for the generations that came before them (i.e. most of us librarian types). Video games are viable competitors with movies, television, and popular music. All indicators show that the population of gamers is only going to get larger over time.

We don’t need to be advocates of games in order to understand our users that are gamers. We need to be literate in this new media in order to connect with and serve those users. If we don’t understand them, then we are not equipped to either critique or use gaming media.

How do we think intelligently about “childish” things? Separate the content from the format and use the analytical tools we already know (like Deb Gilchrist’s 5 questions for outcomes-based design or Adler and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book) and apply them to new media.

Think about the experiences of using character based interfaces and a GUI like III’s Millennium. The two experiences are very different, but the content is the same.

The point of studying gaming behavior is rarely the context of the games. Games are complex information systems. They must teach players to evaluate information and make informed choices in order to succeed. Games that fail to do this well do not sell. Being frustrated is not fun.

We want students to understand that their information needs are complex and require complex tools like scholarly bibliographic indexes in order to meet those needs. However, most of our users think that their information needs are simple and instead gravitate towards simpler tools like Wikipedia and Google.

MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (WoW) have an emphasis on collaboration and apprenticeship. Working with friends meant that the experience was less frustrating as a new user. In library instruction classes, allowing students to self-select their groups for team exercises will guarantee groups that are more comfortable with each other from the get-go.

Collaborative games also de-emphasize authority distinctions and emphasize peer knowledge. Peers are the best sources for information in games, rather than the help document or support tech. The average time that a peer responded in WoW was 32 seconds. What’s your IM/email reference response time? Also, for peer knowledge to work well, we need to have FAQs or knowledgebases that are built on by student knowledge over time.

In the games, each level builds on the next one, which is like how we try to teach library stuff. However, in the game, it tends to be more fun. Game players are not tempted to skip forward because the games are structured so that you only see the part of the world that you’ve mastered. When game players get to the point where they need additional information, it’s desired rather than being overwhelming. In teaching library tools, focus on fewer things until users get comfortable with them, and then show them more.

Players build resources for helping each other and developing community. Do we see that happening with EBSCOhost? No.

When you fail in WoW, you know what to do. Find someone to help you or look for information in the user-created content online. When students fail in the classroom or library, do they know what to do? Building expertise and community allows them to understand that keeping at it will result in success.

Gating is a mandatory pause in the action of a game that requires demonstration of skill acquisition. In the classroom, design research assignments to require identification of and reflection on research choices, or create annotated bibliographies.

Why doesn’t Laura Croft obey Professor Van Croy? Players learn that sometimes if they do what the instructions tell them to not do, they get rewarded. By exploring the game outside of the small boundaries, they learn more about what is there. In the classroom, this translates to discovery based learning. Pique their curiosity and then let them discover the advanced tools in a resource.

As in higher education, the more you “level up,” the more you need help from experts. Experienced librarians are better equipped to say “I don’t know” and refer the information seeker to experts. With each level of research, you have to keep at the process until you find the answers you seek.

If we can help our students see when they’re playing games, they are actually functioning on a fairly high level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Then, we can help them see that their complex and involved academic research is not only something they are capable of doing, but it’s something that they’ve already done while playing games, as long as we keep our focus on the process of games and not the zombies and vampires.

Students don’t have trouble figuring out how to use our tech, but they don’t understand why they would want to use it. So, instead of teaching them how to use the catalog, we should be instilling in them the motivation to use it and they’ll figure out the quirks on their own. Saying “this is how you type in a text box” is like saying “let’s talk about breathing today.”

acrl northwest 2006 – day two

Panel: Using New Technologies for Teaching Dr. Shaun Huston, Western Oregon University Anne-Marie Dietering, Oregon State University Elizabeth Breakstone, University of Oregon Huston: Uses blogs in the classroom: Teaches students how to write in multiple ways by providing informal writing opportunities that incorporate group feedback and interaction, as opposed to paper journals. Also teaches students … Continue reading “acrl northwest 2006 – day two”

Panel: Using New Technologies for Teaching
Dr. Shaun Huston, Western Oregon University
Anne-Marie Dietering, Oregon State University
Elizabeth Breakstone, University of Oregon

Huston:

  • Uses blogs in the classroom: Teaches students how to write in multiple ways by providing informal writing opportunities that incorporate group feedback and interaction, as opposed to paper journals. Also teaches students how to write in an online environment, particularly for those who come from the other side of the digital divide.
  • Key concerns:
    • Platform: Go to IT department? No, they don’t have it now, so use something else. Now uses TypePad and LiveJournal, both of which are no cost to the student (has own subscription to TypePad).
    • Assignments: Structured assignments so that the students are logging in and participating regularly, rather than dumping the content in all at once.
    • Introduction to blogging: Had to instruct students on how to set up accounts and use the blog tools – does this in the first class.
    • Use campus blogging tools v. outside tools? TypePad allows for more customization and limiting to specific users for privacy. LiveJournal doesn’t allow for this as much and it’s in the hands of the students to set it up properly.
  • Blog use varies depending on the class and the students. Some are interact more in person than on the blog, and vice versa.
  • Based on the study he and Dietering did, students seem more comfortable with expressing themselves in the informal environment of a blog than they are in the classroom.
  • Blogs seem more intentional than email lists. You have to actually go to it to participate. And it’s more dynamic than a bulletin board. He uses the blog in team-taught classes to post assignments from the syllabus.
  • Categories and recent comments lists allow for non-linear interaction.
  • Social bookmarking: Set up an account for a specific class for course readings and information related to assignments to help understand the material.
  • Not sure if students are using each other’s bookmarks or if they are just contributing their own. Required students to cite a source from the bookmarks list in their paper.
  • del.icio.us is not screen-reader friendly, so take care if you have visually impaired students.

Dietering

  • Writing 121 – only required composition course at OSU, and librarians get a week of that for information literacy
  • Want to teach research as a learning process. Research as a conversation: eavesdropping to entering to engaging and back to eavesdropping on a different conversation. Students are not used to the eavesdropping/information gathering part.
  • Needed assignments that modeled exploratory research process at the beginning before coming to the library for more advanced processes. Works closely with the TA on developing topics.
  • Delivers assignments through Blackboard (meh).
  • Initial assignments involved doing broad exploratory searches, but the students didn’t know how to do that and were looking for specific items for their papers. Instead, they send them to reference sources online, so they sent them to Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Many students ended up using Wikipedia instead, so the librarians worked on a guide to doing exploratory research in Wikipedia. As it turns out, Wikipedia was more useful for new researchers because it is easier to find topics and has better navigation.
  • The assignment sends the students to the discussion and history pages so they can see the petty discussions and how the page is constructed over time.
  • Wikipedia will win because it has navigation and hyperlinks. Easy to go from broad topics to what the student is really interested in.
  • Assignment asks the student to note something they learned and something they need to explore. The assignment also has the student evaluate the history page and who has been editing the entry.
  • Students don’t use Wikipedia in their paper. It becomes background information.
  • “We can’t use Wikipedia because it’s terrible. I know because I write on it.” – the Resistance
  • Students learn how to evaluate the authority of sources.
  • Go to YouTube and search for wikiality

Breakstone (and channeling Annie Zeidman-Karpinski)

  • Podcast: Oral history project on the Willamette
    • Download files to listen to while at certain points along the river
    • Website included a map of the places
  • Advantage of wikis in the library: different people can use it on different computers/platforms; ideal for posting updates without having to funnel through one tech person
  • Ref desk wiki: keep track of resources for class projects
  • IM at UO – launched last spring
    • Staffed by whomever is on the desk (librarians and/or students)
    • Uses Trillian – tried GAIM, but it kept breaking
    • IM screen names included on Ask a Librarian page (should also have status indicators, but they don’t at this point)
    • Created Hello My Name is kind of stickers and put them on the public PCs to publicize the screen names.
  • Have seen a dramatic increase in use this term.
  • Future issues
    • Training use for logs – how to improve ref student instruction
    • Privacy and records retention policy (could remove identifying information for archiving the chats)
    • Centralization v. specialization
  • IM etiquette allows for gaps in conversation, which is good for desks that have only one person staffing them.
  • Could set up to forward to libref email account when logged off.

Group Discussion – all of the presenters

How do you decide what 2.0 tools to use?
When you have a need, you’ll use it.
How do you teach students how to do formal writing along with informal assignments?
Blogging in conjunction with formal assignments in writing-intensive courses hopefully will teach them the difference.
If they write more, the will become more familiar with it.
Writing on a blog is a public space, so even if you are using the vernacular, you have to learn how to construct and argument.
What role do librarians have in bridging the digital divide?
WSU-Vancouver offers workshops for their students.
Find faculty who are interested in teaching technology, or at least are interested in expanding instruction beyond the classroom.
How do we harness the knowledge of students to instruct other students on technology?
student IT helpdesk
Classmates are sometimes reluctant to help each other with technology if they aren’t completely comfortable with it.
Do people IM from in the library?
Yes! Don’t want to get up and go to the refdesk b/c computers/space are a high commodity.
It can also be useful for IMing with colleagues in the building rather than calling or running around.
Make sure your policy allows them to IM in the library.
What about our catalogs? Where do they fit in?
LibraryThing has interesting implications for traditional ILS systems
NC State front-end to ILS – Andrew Pace’s snazzy coding covering up ugly Sirsi
Evergreen open source ILS from Georgia