Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gaming In Libraries 2005: Tue Dec 6: Christy Branston

Christy Branston from the University of Waterloo worked on a game to instruct library staff in Government Information when the GovInfo position was eliminated and the general reference staff was going to have to take these questions on.

Christy, a gamer herself (as evidenced from screenshots from the games she plays, mostly PC – SimCity, Tomb Raider, Myst, etc.) saw a problem and used a game to create a solution

Her own experience with SimCity 3000, a game that is entertaining with learning as a bi-product, helped her understand urban design and planning. This is a game that teaches economics, zoning, architecture, infrastructure, energy resourcefulness, sanitation politics and more.

She recommended James Paul Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy to legitimize gaming. Christy suggested that substituting the words “Learning Object” for “Games” may get buy in from staff and faculty.
Games [Learning Objects] encourage people to experience the world in new ways
Games [Learning Objects] develop problem-solving skills
Games [Learning Objects] importance of affinity group

The University of Waterloo offered a class ARTS303: Gaming, Simulation and Learning taught by Dr. Kevin Hannigan. Students meet departmental needs for games that would teach Canadian history, evolutionary biology, skills in the working world, and preparing for residence life.

The class curriculum included the history of gaming to build a foundation, storytelling and creating compelling content, and strategy. Two elements the students revisited as they created the edutainment games were:
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Knowledge -> Comprehension -> Application -> Analysis -> Evaluation
Angelos’ Teacher’s Dozen
14 general research- based principles for improving higher learning in our classrooms, such as information learned in personally meaningful ways is more readily retained.

Games included:
RedPath Mystery used Blender, open source 3-D modeling software with a built in support network. Real-life mysteries provided clues and allowed users to draw their own conclusions.

RezLife built on the Half-Life gaming engine.

N.E.D. used VirTools, a 3-D gaming platform to teach networking skills to students & grads through a networking etiquette dummy.

Galapagos Sandbox created to get past a stumbling block in third year evolutionary biology. Used SimIsland model Darwin as God – manipulate climate, food sources, etc. to evolve the finch.

The ARTS303 experience helped Christy consider doing her Government Info training within a game environment. She offered some questions to consider for game based learning and library instruction:
Is it effective? Statistics say no (and so did Walt, yesterday).
What are commercial games doing right? No testing – accidental learning
Evidence based librarianship
Experiment on staff – take different learning styles into consideration. Prepare staff early – about a year in advance. Christy talked about online training, but kept the fact that it was a game a secret, then marketed by using a Survivor-esque tie-in of competition.

The Game University of Waterloo -> Information Services & Resources -> GovInfo Training
A coop student from LIS helped put it all together in the form of course/lessons, rather than modules. Lessons were accompanied by a task.
  1. Understanding Government
  2. Statistics & Data
  3. Canadian Legal System/Resources
  4. Best GovInfo Practices

The competition/collaboration aspects made the staff accountable. Tasks/Lessons are run on a timeline, and low budget prizes help to reward participants. Humor and Easter Eggs was added throughout the lessons. This was a test to make sure players read thoroughly, and a nod to a game design practice. Team standings are publicized. When a player admitted to “cheating,” Christy called it strategizing.

The game could be improved by offering instant feedback, and didn’t offer an opportunity to teach to the level of the learner.

Christy also had some suggestions for why educational games fail – they become too task oriented, and the fun gets lost. Libraries are a great place to start fitting in with game design curriculums.

She concluded with some thanks and some references before taking questions.

Although the game is on a password protected webpage, we may be able to access it publicly at some point.

No comments: