Taking Games in Libraries Seriously

by Andy Burkhardt 

“Games are unquestionably the single most important cultural form of the digital age.”

-Cathy Davidson[1]

What do aggravated avians and wandering warlocks have in common? Aside from their potential to cause mayhem, they are characters in some of the most popular games today. With over one billion downloads across all platforms and editions, Angry Birds has become a cultural phenomenon. Similarly, World of Warcraft has over ten million subscribers, making it the largest massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). These games are entertaining and fun, they sell t-shirts, and they have colorful characters, but make no mistake: these games are serious business. Games are now an integral part of our society in business, entertainment, and increasingly, education.

The reason these games have made millions of dollars is because they are engaging, challenging, and fun. However, instead of being mere entertainment, there are also numerous educational aspects to games. Games let us practice skills like solving complex problems, collaborating with others, planning, and learning from failure. This is why a growing number of scholars are studying games and more educators are integrating game play into their classrooms. Games are swiftly becoming an invaluable tool for teaching in the digital age.

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Gaming the future of higher education

by Bryan Alexander, Senior Fellow, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education

Alexander_BioWhat will happen to higher education in the future? Versions of this question have been asked with increasing frequency over the past decade, especially since the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the challenging economic environment for colleges and universities that followed. Demographic, political, technological, and institutional developments have added to an atmosphere of tension and impending crisis. High-profile conferences have summoned campus leaders and media attention to ponder the fate of academia.[1] State and national political campaigns energetically discuss details of college tuition, staffing, curriculum, and policies. The University of Virginia’s board controversially (and briefly) deposed a president over strategy concerning these issues.

Can we use gaming to improve our ability to think through these challenging times?[2] I pose this surprising question because of the parallel rise of another trend from the past decade. The uses of gaming for learning have been much discussed, experimented with, and developed since the 2003 publication of James Paul Gee’s landmark book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy.[3] There has been a flood of discussion about the various ways games and simulations can enhance skills learning, convey curricular content, be used in libraries, and serve as the object of an emerging academic discipline, game studies. Games, “serious games,” and simulations have reached beyond academia into the realms of policymaking, entertainment, and news media.[4] Gamification, the use of game mechanics beyond formal game content, is being discussed to influence business, policy, and daily life. To propose using games to think through education’s fate is actually consonant with the tenor of our times.

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Challenges to Games in Education Reaching the Mainstream

by Todd Bryant

Bryant_BioTodd Bryant is the liaison to the foreign language departments for the Academic Technology group at Dickinson College and an adjunct instructor of German. Much of his work centers on maintaining and updating The Mixxer, a site he created to help connect language students with native speakers via Skype. His interest in games began with his own use of World of Warcraft in an introductory German course, and he has helped others integrate Civilization IV, Inform7 and Peacemaker into various courses in the social sciences. You can follow Todd on Twitter: @bryantt and @MixxerSite.

Games have received a great deal of public attention over the past 10 years and with good reason. With his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy,James Paul Gee laid out sound pedagogical principles used by video game designers that enabled them to create a product that was very engaging and at the same time extremely challenging and complex.[1] The book was extremely influential and organizations focused on games and learning were established shortly thereafter, including “GamesforChange” in 2004[2] and “Games + Learning + Society” in 2005.[3] Since then games have remained prominent in education. The number of articles matching the term “game-based learning” in Google Scholar has increased steadily each year from 604 in 2004[4] to 2310 in 2012.[5] Educational uses of games have received major grant funding from the NEH,[6] Catherine T. MacArthur, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations.[7] They have also received serious attention from mainstream media including news organizations NPR[8] and CNN,[9] the New York Times best-selling book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,[10] and as an exhibit in the Smithsonian.[11]

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Learning (Together) with Games – Civilization and Empire

by Ed Webb

Webb_BioEd Webb is an assistant professor of political science and international studies at Dickinson College and a founder of Dickinson’s Middle East Studies program. Formerly a member of Britain’s Diplomatic Service, his teaching and research interests in the Middle East include secularism, nationalism, education, authoritarianism, and media. He has experimented for several years with digital and social media in and around the classroom and served on NITLE’s inaugural advisory board (2009-11).

Introduction

Why use computer games in a liberal arts educational context? In general, their educational potential is recognized because there is significant evidence that “learning is most effective when it is active, experiential, situated, problem-based and provides immediate feedback,” all features that can be found in games (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey & Boyle, 2012, 661). At their best, games “are motivating, provide immediate feedback, can adapt themselves to the level of the learner, provide repetition to the point of automaticity, encourage distributed learning, can teach for transfer, and use other excellent teaching techniques” (Gentile, 2011, 75). We can be reasonably confident that games are an effective delivery mechanism ofcontent (Gentile, 2011, 77) even while bearing in mind calls for the production of more robust evidence of this through randomized control trials (Connolly et al, 2012, 671-2).

How well can this potential be realized in support of liberal arts learning? I take the purpose of liberal arts to be engendering a set of aptitudes and habits of mind with a scientist’s informed skepticism at the core, along the lines of those set out by Bill Durden, including: “how to ask the right questions, how to gather information, how to make informed decisions, how to see connections among disparate areas of knowledge” (Durden 2012). There is evidence that in the right circumstances games can evoke scientific habits of mind and social knowledge construction (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008) and increase cognitive performance independent of content (Barlett, Vowels, Shanteau, Crow & Miller, 2009, 101), so those of us who work in liberal arts education should be open to the possibility that they can be productively integrated into the curriculum.[1]

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It Takes a Consortium to Prepare Students for Life After Graduation: An Inter-Institutional Blended Learning Career Planning Course

Authors

Jana Mathews, Assistant Professor of English, Rollins College

Matthews_BioDr. Mathews earned her Ph.D. from Duke University. Her research and teaching focus on digital humanities and the intersections between the Middle Ages and contemporary culture. A vocal advocate for career and life planning initiatives, Mathews was co-chair of the Career and Life Planning Committee at Rollins College and currently co-teaches (with Anne Meehan) career and life planning courses. In 2013, Mathews was awarded the Arthur Vining Davis Award; currently, she holds the distinction of being the most junior recipient of the Cornell Distinguished Faculty Award at Rollins.

 

Anne Meehan, Assistant Director, Office of Career Services, Rollins College

 

Meehan_BioAnne Meehan earned her B.S. in family and child development from Virginia Tech and earned her M.Ed. in counseling psychology with a concentration in college student personnel administration from James Madison University. She has worked at James Madison University, Virginia Tech, the University of Richmond, Stetson University, and Rollins College in both associate director and assistant director roles. Anne has developed and taught career courses at several universities, and she currently co-teaches (with Dr. Jana Mathews) career and life planning courses at Rollins.

 

Beth Chancy, Assistant Director, Office of Alumni and Career Services, University of Richmond

Chancey_BioBeth Chancy earned her B.A. in English from the College of William and Mary and earned her M.S. in human development, counseling and family studies with a concentration in college student personnel from the University of Rhode Island. She has worked at Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Denver, and the University of Rhode Island. She has taught a career class at the University of Richmond for six years.

 

Executive Summary

In UCLA’s 2012 national survey of college freshmen, 87.9% of respondents named “getting a job” as their top reason for going to college. While the current economic climate has put all institutions of higher learning under increased pressure to make the case for the marketability of their curriculum, the mission and values of liberal arts colleges currently are subject to some of the most intense and public scrutiny. This project proposes an innovative and inter-institutional approach to preparing liberal arts students for life beyond graduation. Specifically, it combines the faculty and technological resources of two distinguished liberal arts institutions who are also members of the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) consortium—Rollins College and the University of Richmond—to generate several blended learning modules designed to develop and hone students’ skills in personal branding, professional networking, and interviewing.

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The Lecture Hall as an Arena of Inquiry: Using Cinematic Lectures and Inverted Classes (CLIC) to Flip an Introductory Biology Lecture Course

by David J. Marcey, Fletcher Jones Professor of Developmental Biology, Biology Department, California Lutheran University

marcey@clunet.edu

Keywords: flipped classes; flipped classroom; active learning; online lectures; cinematic lectures; blended learning; blended teaching; flipped pedagogy; hybrid learning; hybrid courses

ABSTRACT

Two sections of an undergraduate introductory biology lecture course were run in parallel as a pedagogical experiment. One section (32 students) was taught in a long-established, traditional manner, with lectures delivered during class, readings assigned in a textbook, and access to lecture graphics/slides provided via the online syllabus. The other, “flipped” section (16 students) lacked both required reading assignments and in-class lectures. Instead, students were assigned online cinematic lectures (cinelectures) for viewing outside of class. These cinelectures, delivered via YouTube, incorporate multimedia elements. In class, students were broken into small groups and engaged in active learning assignments. Accounting for all sources of content, the subject material covered was the same for both sections and assessments of learning were identical quizzes and examinations. Statistically significant differences in learning were observed during the first third of the semester, with the flipped-class students performing better on all tests and quizzes. These differences disappeared during the second two thirds of the semester, coincident with a large increase in the number of views of cinelectures recorded on the course YouTube channel. Survey of the traditional class revealed that approximately 3/4 of the students had learned of the cinelectures at this time and had added viewing of these to their study, providing an internal, if initially unintended, control sample to the experiment. These results, along with other, subsequent applications of the flipped model I term CLICing, provide evidence that supports the conversion of traditional biology lecture classes to an inverted format.

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Game-Based Learning: Interview with Maura Smale

Transformations  September 30, 2013

Smale_Bio
Maura A. Smale is an associate professor and head of library instruction at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, where she leads the library’s information literacy efforts. Her academic background includes both a Ph.D. in anthropology (New York University) and a Masters of library and information science (Pratt Institute). She is a member of the Steering Committee of the CUNY Games Network, a multidisciplinary group of faculty and staff interested in exploring the use of games and simulations for teaching and learning. She is also involved in a multi-year study of how, where, and when undergraduates at CUNY do their academic work. Her other research interests include open access publishing and new models of scholarly communication, critical information literacy, and emerging instructional technologies.

This interview was conducted by Mike Roy, editorial board member of the Academic Commons. A founding editor of the Academic Commons with long-standing interest in the impact of new technology on the meaning and practice of liberal education, he is currently the dean of library and information services and chief information officer at Middlebury College.

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Teaching with Twitter: Extending the conversation beyond the classroom walls

by David R. Wessner, professor of biology, Davidson College

photograph of David R. Wessner, author of "Teaching with Twitter: Extending the conversation beyond the classroom walls"

Executive Summary

Robust classroom discussions augment the learning process greatly and improve the critical thinking skills of our students. Our discussions, however, necessarily are limited. We are limited to the knowledge, experiences, and perspectives of the members of the course. With the use of social networking platforms like Twitter, we can overcome this limitation. We can extend the conversation beyond the members of the class, beyond the classroom walls, and the beyond the appointed class hours. In this case study, I describe how I incorporated Twitter into my class with the express goal of having my students interact with a broader audience. The results were encouraging. First, several non-class members regularly tweeted using our class hashtag. Each of them provided an expertise that augmented our class discussions and furthered our understanding of the material. Second, the use of Twitter allowed me to more intentionally integrate information literacy into my class. The students thought more critically about sources of information. Finally, this approach to broadening the classroom conversation may allow students at different institutions to interact with each other. Separate classes, at separate institutions, could partner to form a larger virtual community, thereby providing our students with a richer educational experience.

Rationale

Many studies have shown that various forms of active learning improve student outcomes (Ebert-May et al. 1997; Freeman et al., 2007; Knight and Wood, 2005). While active learning can take many forms, most examples involve some form of discussion. In the think-pair-share model, for example, instructors ask students to contemplate a particular question or problem, talk about the issue with a fellow student, and then present a synthesized answer to the larger group (Lyman, 1981; Tanner and Allen, 2002). The success of this approach seems quite obvious. Each student needs to clearly articulate his or her viewpoints to his or her partner. Both students then must evaluate each other’s answer. Finally, together, the students must synthesize a new answer that may or may not perfectly reflect either of their original answers.

While the benefits of discussion-based learning may be obvious, the approach is necessarily limited. Whether we have a class with twelve students, twenty students, or fifty students, our discussions ultimately will be confined to the knowledge, viewpoints, expertise, and experiences of the class members.

So how do we overcome this limitation? How do we increase the viewpoints, expertise, and experiences brought to our discussion? We could make our classes infinitely large. Obviously, that solution is not feasible. Social media platforms like Twitter, however, may allow us to solve this problem. By using social networking in our classes, we can create an infinitely large, and presumably more knowledgeable and informed, virtual discussion group. Moreover, by involving actual practitioners, we can create for students a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991).

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