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Five Students Looking Up

Library Game

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Activity title: Library Game

Author: Christine Alfano

Course: PWR 1

Activity length and schedule: This activity takes between 30-50 minutes. It should be scheduled for a day prior to the library workshop.  I usually do it the class period that precedes our library workshop.

Activity goals:

  • To build familiarity with navigating Green Library specifically and library resources more generally
  • To help students identify theme-specific research resources
  • To help student narrow possible research topics, focus research questions, and find some preliminary sources
  • To model research as inquiry, exploration, and collaboration
  • To build class community

Activity details

  • Disclaimer: you can make this activity quite complicated if you want; that's the way I tend to design it, but I'm also trying to provide a more bare-bones version.
  • The idea behind this activity is that it’s less important for students to run around to different parts of the library than to have them do concrete tasks in different spaces and with different resources with the idea that they’ll be practicing techniques that they’ll later draw on for their research for their class.
    • The first step is to define learning objectives specific to your course for this first foray into the library.  So, for instance, in my Rhetoric of Gaming class, I’m interested in having students learn to find and navigate resources that they will need to use for their game-studies-related research project.  Top priorities for me, personally, are that I recently designed a version for the Leland Scholars. Here is the list of learning objectives that I worked with for that group of students.
      1. They start relying on the Info Desk as a resource during research
      2. They meet and engage with our librarian (before the main library workshop) so they understand her as a resource throughout their research, not just for the one hour related to our workshop
      3. They find the areas in the library that contain the highest concentrations of theme-specific research texts (so, for me, that’s the Game Studies section, the Has Digital Collection, and the Media and Microtext Section where they can find, check out, and play video games)
      4. They identify the area related to game studies in the reference section and identify the types of texts that are in the reference section
      5. They understand the difference between current periodicals that don’t circulate, and bound ones that do, and that they practice saving down an article, by scanning or photocopying (though no one photocopies anymore)
      6. They understand hours and logistics about library access and checking out books
      7. They visit Special Collections and learn about the resources related to game studies in special collections (I usually have a special collections visit on the second day of the quarter, so often I don’t fold special collections into this library game)
    • Having determined what you want them to get out of the library game, you then create clues that allow them to actively engage with the library space and practices.  The Game itself consists of a set of different tasks, each with a specific learning outcome attached.  Here is a sample set of tasks from the Leland Scholars summer scavenger hunt.  You can anticipate that students will spend around 8 minutes completing each task.  
      • Look here for the more complicated set of tasks that I give to my gaming students, who are looking for more of a gaming challenge.  Note that my clues are game-theme (with “leveling up” and references to gamer culture) because of my theme.  Each page represents a different clue, and, yes, I know they are very busy (it's on my to-do list to streamline design for future iterations of the Game). 
      • Since I'm not really interested in re-creating the Amazing Race in Green (which can also bring up mobility issues for some students and heightens the competitive nature of the game in unproductive ways), I designed the scavenger hunt so that it's not always the fastest group who wins (hence the bonus points in both the LSP version and the Rhetoric of Gaming version). The key is that you need to write your baseline start-to-finish clue template (like the one I shared above) and reorder it into 3 additional versions so each team has its own order of tasks. This way, ideally, they're never at the same place at the same time.   You can see in this folder the four different sets of clues for the Gaming class, identical in their outcomes and tasks, but in a different order.
    • I then divide my students into teams (in my gaming class, each has a team color).
      • For LSP, we divided the students randomly into teams on the spot. For the Rhetoric of Gaming, I email the students the night before the game, telling them that they are going to be on a color-coded team and encouraging them to wear their team color (to create team-bonding). I don’t go into specifics about the game at all, so in both versions (on-the-spot or email ahead of time), they don't know what to expect when they arrive at the library.
      • I prepare team envelopes prior to class which contain the rules, a sealed envelope containing pieces for the co-opt (if I’m doing that – see below), and, if they're starting from our classroom rather than in the library, a map to get them to their first clue (which includes a map to Green from Wallenberg Hall and also a map of the first floor of Green, copied so it's double-sided).
      • The LSP scavenger hunt is simply a list of tasks the students complete.  However, the more complicated Gaming scavenger hunt involves a more intricate level of planning -- hiding clues in the library -- so before the game itself, you also need to make time to get to Green Library to do that clue-hiding.
    • Complexities: So that’s the baseline of preparation. However, in the gaming class, I add different levels of complexity onto the game to keep it more effective, robust, and interesting, though it does add a LOT of prep time to do it to this level of detail.
      • Librarian.  Ahead of time, I usually see if our assigned librarian is available to participate in a limited sense, usually just by giving the students their first clue at the Info Desk. Sometimes the librarian is able to stay at the info desk for the duration of the game to continue contact with/support of the students; it depends on his/her schedule.
      • Power-Ups. When the librarian is involved, I’ll give her a set of 4 “power-up” tokens.  She’s distributes these bonus points to teams at her discretion. In the past, she’s given them to the team with the best team spirit, the team that showed up at the info desk first, the team with the best questions, etc.  It’s arbitrary and only works if she gives a power-up to only 1-2 teams, not every team.
      • Timed (and Untimed) challenges.  During the Game, I sit in the Lane Reading Room (which is the last stop on the Game) on my computer, and every 10 minutes, I send the teams timed challenges (I send some untimed ones, too).  You can see a rough list of my different challenges here (I pick and choose between them based on the students, the mood of the day, their progress through the game).   Again, I do this is because of the gaming nature of my class.  Challenges contain the possibility for bonus points, but most they have to be completed within a set amount of time, so teams are supposed to be checking their phones while on their main quests.
      • Collaborative challenge.  Despite the inherently competitive nature of the game, I like to help students understand the benefits of collaborating with others, even those outside the team. For this reason, I often have a collaborative challenge embedded, apart from the main quest, where I asked them to help another classmate find a source.  In addition, I have a "co-op challenge" where, at a certain point, I tell them to open a special envelope that they’ve been given. In the envelope are cut pieces of paper with half a call number on it.  Another team has a matching envelope with cut pieces with the other half of the call number on it. They have to find the other team in the library, put all their pieces together, and then go to the call number in question for extra points.  
      • Easter eggs. I hide Easter eggs (literal plastic ones) right near some of the clues in the library that contain research tips.  I would include candy in them (starbursts), except we can’t have food in the library.  Again, Easter eggs (as a concept) are something my gaming students are familiar with.
      • Former students.  Some years, I have former students involved in the game.  It’s most excellent when I can make this happen, though it does add another level of complexity.   This clue gives an example of how the former students (called PWR Grads) interact. Usually they have a small task that the team must complete in order to get their next  clue. 
  • GAME DAY:  For PWR 1 The Rhetoric of Gaming, usually I hold the Game on the day students turn in their final revised rhetorical analysis, so we spend the first part of class talking a bit about forward transfer from skills they developed in the rhetorical analysis and then shifting to discussion of research topics (they were supposed to have begun thinking about them at this point).  They talk about their ideas in their teams, blog about it, and then we start talking about Augmented Reality Games, Virtual Reality, and Research.  This transitions us into our library game. You can see an example of the slides for the first part of class here.  Within 45 minutes, though, I want them off and started on the game.  We review the rules, and I set them on their way.  During the Game, I sit in the Lane Reading Room, field questions through email, send out time challenges, etc., from there.
  • THE AFTERMATH.  During the next class, I hand out a review handout that enumerates what I hope students got of out the game, just in case they were so full of adrenaline that some of the deeper lessons of the activity didn’t sink in. This is usually the library workshop day, so our librarian often checks in with them about the game and asks them to articulate some of what they learned/accomplished (to reinforce the learning).  If we've agreed to have a brief tour as part of her workshop session, she often asks them to take turns leading us to places (like the Media and Microtext area) to give them some authority based on what they learned.   I announce the winning team (having tallied up all the points), and the winners usually get some sort of prize – sometimes it’s candy, sometimes it’s gaming action figures – it depends on the group.  Also, don't forget to go back to Green Library and pick up any unclaimed clues!  This would only be something to do if any of the groups don't finish.

Activity notes:  My students consider this one of the most useful and memorable elements of the class, but it does take a lot of work to pull off.   I’m happy to collaborate and consult on your own  less gaming-heavy versions, and I’d love to see what you come up with!