Digital Game Based Learning in Libraries – A Semester in Reflection

I started this course with a very vague understanding of digital game based learning. I had never taken any courses in education or pedagogy. All of the content was new for me. That being said, I did have a good vision statement for what I hoped to get from this course: “I hope this class will help me think through how to better incorporate gaming in libraries.” This class has definitely helped me accomplish that goal.


One aspect of this class that I found particularly helpful was the structure of the final assessment item. Giving us a choice of developing a practical proposal allowed me to really dig in and think through how DGBL might help my specific situation. Early on, (actually from my first post in the discussion forum) I was already thinking of workshop ideas, “Another workshop an academic library might create would be one based on the programming aspects of Minecraft.” which is what I chose to focus on for my final project. I had no personal experience with Minecraft, however, even stating, “I do want to try Minecraft as a way to talk about 3d objects and crafting.” in forum post 1.2. I did not really have a conception of what that would be.

The module about pedagogical affordances in digital games gave me the framework I needed to structure a helpful workshop. In a response forum post, I stated, “Using games that incorporate learning intrinsically would be an effective way to scaffold learning and practice of physical skills.” The discussion of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation reported by Brom, Šisler, and Slavík helped me understand the value of intrinsic motivation. Finding a way to build the lesson content into the game is exactly what Minecraft offers for basic circuits, and is what I based my workshop on.

Another aspect of DGBL research that made a large impact on me was the discussion of meta-acheivements and games. I wrote, “Meta-acheivements have the added benefit of allowing students who may not perform well in traditional grading, can still be motivated and rewarded.” in my second forum post. The power of meta-acheivements to allow different students to engage in different ways while still learning is important in my professional context. In libraries, we rarely see the same individuals on a day to day basis. Having a meta-acheivement framework allows our patrons to engage at their own speed and as their time allows.

Another aspect of DGBL that finds a home in my professional context is support. I believe that modern libraries can be a great partner in the adoption of DGBL. Libraries can provide expertise in technology, support in choosing games, and IT infrastructure. Many libraries house computer labs and staff to support them. As DGBL becomes more prevalent in our education system, it will behoove librarians to acquaint themselves with current trends in DGBL. Librarians should also take on the burden of collection management for video games. Librarians should work with educators to determine what (if any) commercial games fit in their curriculum. I do not find it at all far-fetched that there may someday be a position of game-librarian.

There are many issues in DGBL today. From selection, to curriculum match, from assessment to implementation, from IT support, to the opinion that games can’t be used for learning, DGBL faces many challenges. We, as professionals, need to keep advancing the adoption of DGBL by solving these issues. I intend to play my part by supporting DGBL in libraries.

King’s Structural Characteristics

What are the main benefits and potential hazards in this argument for teaching and learning (if any)?
King et al suggest that a psychological framework of structural characteristics in video games would be useful in investigating and discussing excessive or detrimental game playing behavior. King offers a framework based both on an earlier framework developed in Wood et al.’s 2004 paper, and on similar frameworks used for examining gambling addiction. He refines these frameworks into five categories of structural features. The five categories are: social features, manipulation and control features, narrative and identity features, reward and punishment features, and presentation features. I agree that this framework is a very effective tool in discussing video games and video game-playing behaviors.

While his framework provides a useful taxonomy for the investigation of negative game playing behavior, most of his framework is useful for investigating which structural features could lead to positive game playing as well. For a classroom setting, I think social features, and reward and punishment features are probably the most important to consider. Less important features include narrative and identity features and presentation features with manipulation and control features fitting comfortably in the middle. Social features, such as a leader-board or social formation features, are highly motivating, especially in a classroom setting. As each classroom embodies a community of student-peers, each classroom is a great setting for highlighting overall progress through a leader-board. Social formation through the creation of in-class teams that help support each other’s learning would also help encourage personal growth. Similarly, reward and punishment features are good motivators as well. King states, “video games in general are positively reinforcing because video game developers want to reinforce a player’s decision to play a video game.” This maps easily to a classroom setting. Classrooms, too, are primarily positively reinforcing because teachers want to reinforce each student’s learning. A similar set of intermittent rewards and meta-achievements would help create this environment of positive reinforcement in a classroom setting. Intermittent rewards could be given out during the course of normal classroom activities and meta-acheivements could span an entire year. Meta-acheivements have the added benefit of allowing students who may not perform well in traditional grading, can still be motivated and rewarded. An achievement for being back to class first after a break 5 times in a row would help motivate students to return to class even if they are struggling with the material.

Narrative and identity features and presentation features are less important in a classroom setting. In short, sacrafices in visual and audio quality can be made if the game is an otherwise good fit for the class. Similarly, narrative and identity are great motivators for longer-term game engagement, but in the timeline for use in a classroom may be shorter and may not need the added draw of custom characters.

INF 541 Blog 1 – Games are Overlooked

I approach game-based learning from a slightly different context than the article is written or even than what I’ve seen so far in this course. I am interested in game-based learning in libraries and how libraries can better support this open-ended learning. I think that libraries are a good fit for this kind of educational tool because libraries have traditionally been a place for self-guided learning based on interest. It seems to me that game-based learning is all about self-guided learning based on interest. From my experience and what I’ve seen in academic and public libraries, game-based learning is being overlooked.

Right now, I see games being incorporated into library collections at both public and academic libraries, but I’m not seeing any learning-oriented programming. Most often, the programming surrounding gaming is geared more toward community engagement and community-building. While both of these are great goals, and competitive gaming can help you achieve them, using games in only this way is selling them short.

As in Josh Jennings article, games can be used for so much more than competition. Skill and drill games are one category that are already being successfully used in classrooms, but I don’t see that they have any real place in libraries. Instead, I think that games like Minecraft that “[let] gamers build pretty much anything they want out of virtual blocks” are a good fit for libraries both public and academic. A public library might host a Minecraft type event where different people of different skill levels work together to build a large building. They might have a schematic or layout already devised and could guide patrons in how to contribute to the project as a group. Another program that might be popular in public libraries could be titled “Minecraft: What Parents Should Know.” This workshop would focus on online safety and building basic knowledge of how Minecraft works as a community. It would also cover some basics in the game so that parents could feel comfortable playing with their children. Somewhat similarly, an academic library might host a “Getting Started with Minecraft” workshop specifically for educators where the librarian leads a group of educators through the basics of what Minecraft is. This workshop could also include things to watch out for, such as mulitiplayer servers, pvp, and how to best engage your students in meaningful play. Another workshop an academic library might create would be one based on the programming aspects of Minecraft. It could be called “Advanced Minecrafting” they could start by featuring some great examples of complicated systems modeled in Minecraft. They could then proceed to offer tips and tricks in how to create systems like that.

Minecraft is a rich vein to exploit in terms of workshops and educational content, but it is far from the only game worthy of study and inclusion in library events. Other workshops that might be popular would be some sort of introduction to MMO games for non-games, or even an introduction to interface design via customizing an in-game interface in World of Warcraft or Team Fortress. Obviously, there is much more content out there to explore. I hope this class will help me think through how to better incorporate gaming in libraries.