Monday, October 29, 2007

Get Your Game On

This session was part of Internet Librarian's educational conference, Internet @ Schools West, that runs concurrently with IL. It was presented by Aaron Schmidt, who is the newish director of the North Plains Public Library in Oregon. Aaron has been one the young Turks at IL for about five years, which I guess makes him an aging young Turk. He's embracing new technologies harder than almost anyone and seems to have a heart-felt affinity for working with teens. No surprise that he was wearing a Change Agent pin! (Sharon Ewers distributed these to the SUSD teacher librarians recently.)

This session was subtitled "Gaming and Learning in the Library." He began by saying that gaming inspires creativity and obsession and that librarians should take notice. Gaming is an $11 billion industry -- more than cinema, CDs, DVDs, and book sales COMBINED. It has a huge impact on our culture but is woefully underrepresented in most school and public libraries.

Aaron mentioned a book titled Everything Bad Is Good for You by Stephen Johnson. There is a chapter where Johnson imagines the poor reviews that books would get if online games had been invented first: Reading is a solitary activity, promotes strictly linear thinking, etc.

Games reinforce:

* Risk taking and experimentation
* Collaboration
* Prioritizing
* Continuous partial attention/multi-tasking
* Persistence
* Decision making skills

All of these are skills we teach in schools and are 21st century learning behaviors.

Aaron referenced a white paper that was co-written by MIT's Henry Jenkins on the topic of media education. This white paper was developed for the MacArthur Foundation. Jenkins lists play first in the section titled "What New Skills Matter?: New Social Skills and Cultural Competencies."

"Play, as psychologists and anthropologists have long recognized, has a key role in shaping children's relationship to their bodies, tools, communities, surroundings, and knowledge. Most of children's earliest learning comes through playing with the materials at hand. Through play, children try on roles, experiment with culturally central processes, manipulate core resources, and explore their immediate environments. As they grow older, play can motivate other forms of learning."

Read this section here. (Or click on the link in the first paragraph to access the whole white paper.)

Aaron reported the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) is studying gaming and mapping information literacy standards to gaming. ASU has an information literacy game called Quarantined. Get the facts straight or your roommate dies! (At least in the game. Not in real life.)

The Nintendo DS (dual screen) has a number of educationally relevant games, including Big Brain Academy; Brain Age; Cooking Mama; Trauma Center Under the Knife (includes medical terminology); Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney (which includes a lot of reading); Hotel Dusk (an interactive ebook with map. Players have to read clues.) DSes are relatively inexpensive at $150.

Aaron delved into the logistics of equipment, which I'm not going to cover here. If you're interested, let me know and I'll send you my notes or listen to the podcast. (Yes, the soft clicking you'll hear is my fingers flying over the computer keyboard.)

The short version of his recommendation is to buy a Wii or two if you can afford them and can get them -- they're still in high demand. Wiis will bring in the kids. Dance, Dance Revolution is hot and it, along with extra dance pads, should be included in the equipment for library gaming programs. Don't have enough equipment to go around? Project the action on a big screen and kids will interact from the sidelines. Feature recommended items from your library collection because some teens will want to check out material.

Let students help by recommending, configuring, and training you on the equipment. They will enjoy this mentoring role.

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