The video tutorial group I’m on (was on) has finished its work. See my earlier post, “2 video tutorials…”. This time our artist was left to her own devices for the most part, and came up with some pretty nifty image ideas. Here’s our final video:
The session I attended on Friday morning really stuck with me. Ron MacDougal (History, UWO) spoke about “Game Based Learning, Playful Historical Thinking, and Augmented Reality Games (ARGs)”.
He started things off with an ‘interactive fiction’ or ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ type game, reminiscent of games like The Pawn (1986) that I played on my family’s C-64.
Audience members taking turns at making the choices, and Ron playing the part of the computer program or game book. Given my penchant for playing and collecting tabletop RPGs and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, I was wearing a mile-wide grin. After a few turns I went into map-making mode, and eventually got our character killed by forcing him to attempt to descent an unlit staircase. Awesome. Success without failure isn’t nearly as addictive, as the designers of two of my favourite PS3 games (Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls) have clearly figured out. (As an aside, I love these games so much that I tracked down a copy of Demon’s Souls predecessor, King’s Field IV, and played it on a borrowed PS2. I finally had to stop after deducing that the game was causing me motion sickness.)
Ron spoke of his ARG project Tecumseh Lies Here, used to teach his students, and its ties to Taylor Library’s very own Guy St-Denis’s Tecumseh’s Bones. The narrative/story was broken into bits and pieces, and the players (like detectives) had to discover them and fit them together. (This reminded me of some of the better RPG adventures I’ve played, which involved a lot more than crawling through the dungeon, killing the monsters and taking the treasure. I.e. there was a compelling storyline.)
“…best games… make you more suspicious… attentive… seek out the pieces of something you’re already a part of” – Elan Lee.
ARGs, like published RPG modules (or adventures), require a lot in the way of resources (money, hours) to develop. Therefore, this approach doesn’t ‘scale’ well. At the same time, there may not be an audience for repeated play. E.g., each student can only play the game once, and if the ‘solution’ is available online somewhere, this decreases replay value (i.e. the ability to use the game to teach a new group of students).
Given my better half’s research into gaming and learning, some of the concepts Ron presented were familiar, but his talk was extremely accessible. What follows are my notes:
Good learning principles (from JP Gee) include:
- active, critical learning
- identity (…as in ‘playing a character’? I’d buy that.)
- ‘situated meaning’
- performance before competence (the idea of dying/failing many times before you figure out how the game works and succeed)
- ‘staging and scaffolding’ (i.e. building things up on past successes)
“Most educational games such [because they are neither good games nor educational].” Bravo. (Cave of the Word Wizard was pretty awesome, though, if campiness has any value. It was kind of like B.C.’s Quest for Tires, only with a Word Wizard.)
“Without action, games remain only pages in an abstract… rule book.” – Alexander Galloway, On Gaming. That certainly resonates with me and my collection of RPG books.
“What you learn is what you do.” Excellent rule to keep in mind when designing games to teach literature search skills, or ‘library assignments’ in general. If you have students searching a database to find 3 journal articles (and it doesn’t matter what those articles are about), then you aren’t really teaching them to search that database in a useful manner. So ask yourself, “What is it you want to teach?”
Make serious stuff playful.
Engagement increases the intensity of an experience.
“Are computer games necessarily and inherently countercultural and escapist? …[they are] engaging [because of] …protest, desperation, and defiance.” – Clark Aldrich, Learning by Doing. Hmm.
We ended this with a game-creation group exercise. Our group came up with a game we called “19th Century Redundant Woman”, which combined the action of drawing random cards detailing circumstances or events (like the Scrabble random drawing of tiles), role-playing one’s character. Eligible bachelors numbered fewer than the eponymous 23-30-year-old females. The goal was to have the greatest increase (or smalled decrease) in one’s social standing or quality of life before reaching the age of 30. Possible player endings included marriage, domestic servitude, immigration, alcoholism, institutionalization, prostitution, aging beyond 30. Tie-ins to relevant literature (e.g., Jane Eyre) was intended. Designing the game was an engaging activity.
My recently published article provides libraries with collections advice re. tabletop fantasy RPGs. Here’s the citation:
Dan Sich, (2012) “Dungeons and downloads: collecting tabletop fantasy role-playing games in the age of downloadable PDFs”, Collection Building, Vol. 31 Iss: 2, pp.60 – 65
An ‘unformatted’ version is freely available from Scholarship@Western, UWO’s institutional repository.
I’ve been working in the D.B. Weldon Library (Arts & Humanities, Information & Media Studies and Social Science) here at UWO since June 2011, covering Anthropology, First Nations Studies and Geography. About a month ago my subject responsibilities changed once again to include Philosophy and (as of today) Visual Arts.
It’s been quite a change from the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library (Engineering, Medicine & Science) where I covered Physics & Astronomy, Earth Sciences, (Pure) Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistical & Actuarial Sciences.
I’ve been working on some video tutorials with a couple of other librarians here at UWO. These are designed to get a bit of a giggle. Because we don’t show any screen captures or specific databases, these shouldn’t require much in the way of updating. Images done by hand, then scanned. Audio recorded with GarageBand. Camtasia used for production. Mounted on the UWO’s YouTube channel.
Here’s one on the Peer Review process:
Here’s one on Evaluating Sources (the CRAAP test):
Skim our notes from Access 2011 held in Vancouver, BC.
I’ve co-created an updated video tutorial for Western Libraries’ instance of Encore, or what we currently call our Catalogue Quick Search. I did the narration and some script editing, while a co-worker also edited the script and took care of the video screen capturing. That took half a day, and we were learning Camtasia at the same time. We both worked on the cutting, zooming, highlighting, call-outs (another half day) and closed captioning (another half day), learning as we went. I’m pretty pleased with the final product. This will get linked from UWO’s official YouTube channel just as the closed captions have been perfected.
I started playing around with the LibraryH3lp webchat client about a month ago. It’s been around for a while, but with with the announcement of recent webchat client enhancements, I thought it was time to give it a shot.
Similar to Meebo, the webchat client doesn’t require an install, as does Pidgin. This is nice. It saves you or your staff a bit of work. Installing Pidgin and the LibraryH3lp plugin for Pidgin and configuring Pidgin isn’t rocket science, but the web client makes all of that completely unnecessary.
The real clincher for me is in how patron transfers, file transfers, and email transcripts are handled. With Pidgin, the librarian has to click on a LibraryH3lp “for transfers…” link at the top of his chat history, then login to a LibraryH3lp web site, then transfer the patron. Logging in requires that a librarian remember/retrieve his password(s), differentiate between his password for one account (say, his library’s chat account) and his password for another account (say, his subject guide chat account). We have our ‘Pidgins’ set up such that passwords are memorized, and as such librarians tend to forget their passwords.
With the web client on the other hand, the librarian is already logged-in. There’s no need for an inconveniently-timed login and scramble-for-password at the moment of transfer.
Via the web client, librarians can easily reset their passwords to something that they will remember. This can be a huge selling point with staff. Granted, this can also be accomplished through the back-end of LibraryH3lp and in Pidgin, but it’s a lot clunkier and may require that your local LibraryH3lp administrator/password hoarder be present.
There’s also the added perk, with the webchat client, that you can see the patron’s IP and referring URL. The latter is especially quite handy if, like me, you have your chatbox scattered across a multitude of pages (e.g., subject guides for Electrical & Computer Engineering, Planetary Science, Earth Sciences, Physics, Astronomy) and would like some framework for inbound questions.
Visual alerts (of inbound chats) in the webchat client aren’t all that obvious. It’s easy to bury the tab where the webchat client is active.
LibraryH3lp developers have been made aware of the issue and, in my experience, are very good about responding to feedback.
Work-around: have your webchat client opened in a separate instance of your browser, where the webchat client is the only tab active. If you’re monitoring more than one account, open a separate browser instance (not just a separate tab) for each.
I should also point out that the audio cue is incredibly effective, so if you’re in a spot where you don’t have to have your speakers turned-off, YOU WILL KNOW when you’re being chatted to. At one point the cue sounded like a cowbell. Now it sounds like SONAR. Both work great for me.
UWO’s library website moved over to Drupal in September 2008. Since then I’ve been working off-and-on at getting a LibraryH3lp chat box on my subject (aka Browse by Program) pages. Other librarians have expressed an interest in doing the same for their subject pages.
Here in the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library we provide chat reference service via LibraryH3lp + Pidgin, and have placed a LibraryH3lp chat box on Taylor’s Research Help page. In my realm of experience, having an open chat box (as we have on Taylor’s Research Help page) does wonders to increase chat reference stats. One drawback to the ‘embedded’ chat box approach is that patrons — should patron chose to navigate away from the ‘host’ page — patrons must click the “Pop-Out” button on the LibraryH3lp chat box in order to avoid losing the conversation. (At my last job there was a similar issue with MeeboMe. I’m sure there are work-arounds, but those are for MeeboMe enthusiasts’ consideration.)
Some of our librarians would like to include links to pop-out LibraryH3lp chat boxes on their subject (aka Browse by Program) pages as well. Real estate on these pages is limited, so here we’ve opted to run with ‘status indicator’ buttons instead of open chat boxes. Having a button or link in place is (IMHO) an okay compromise, because a pop-out chat box remains available to the patron even if he or she choses to leave the page that spawned said chat box.