Alice Robison Keynote Address at CALC2008

On Friday, I attended the 3rd Colorado Academic Library Consortium Summit (CALC2008) in Denver. Our morning keynote speaker, Alice Robison, is a post-doctoral fellow at MIT, researching gaming and learning theory. Her talk was very engaging. What I most enjoyed about it was that it was not, strictly speaking, about libraries. It was interesting to hear an outside perspective. She talked about how various structural features of games contribute to learning. For example, games provide participants with lots of visual stimuli, the goals of the game are made clear from the beginning, instant feedback is provided, and gamers enjoy the ability to learn by doing (and failing). My two biggest light bulb reactions to her talk were:

1) It’s ok to fail and that we should expect students to fail the first time we give them a new task; they will learn by repeating the task until they get it right.

2) “Cheats” are not only fun in gaming but they are encouraged.

My colleagues and I talked about the idea that the library itself might be viewed as a “game” and that if we applied the above criteria, students might be more engaged in the research process. Imagine that you walk in to the library to work on a project. There are lots of visual signs to make it clear where you should start. Your instructor has made it clear what your goals are for research. The environment is non-threatening, so you don’t mind starting from scratch and learning as you go. The process is fun (or at least mentally challenging <gr>). Finally, you figure out that there is a “cheat” you can use. It’s the librarian. He or she will actually tell you where to look, so you can move to the next level!

Have fun!



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