April 30, 2008

H Is for Ham

I work with some fun and inter­est­ing peo­ple. John Chrastka is one of them, and not just because he’s will­ing to ham it up in ser­vice of ALA. John stars in the lat­est AL Focus video, a guide to Annual Con­fer­ence for new atten­dees. Be sure to watch until the very end.

Your ALA Annual Con­fer­ence & You

6:16 am Comments (1)

April 27, 2008

Agreeing with Vint Cerf

What I’ve Learned: Vint Cerf

It may seem like sort of a waste of time to play World of War­craft with your son. But you’re actu­ally inter­act­ing with each other. You’re solv­ing prob­lems. They may seem like sim­ple prob­lems, but you’re solv­ing them. You’re posed with chal­lenges that you have to over­come. You’re on a quest to gain cer­tain capa­bil­i­ties. I haven’t spent a lot of time play­ing World of War­craft, because my impres­sion is that it takes a seri­ous amount of time to play it well.

Humor is the only thing that allows you to sur­vive every pres­sure and crisis.

I find clas­si­cal music a very beau­ti­ful way to focus my thoughts.…

Peo­ple are invent­ing
not only vir­tual places but new eco­nomic prin­ci­ples. We have econ­o­mists in the Sec­ond Life envi­ron­ment study­ing what peo­ple are doing, because these are real peo­ple mak­ing deci­sions. Maybe you want to have a dif­fer­ent hairdo or dif­fer­ent cloth­ing or a boob job — what­ever it is. Peo­ple will pay to enhance their avatar.

Repro­duc­ing isn’t nearly as much fun in Sec­ond Life.

At the roots, peo­ple are still peo­ple. That’s why Shake­speare is so pop­u­lar no mat­ter what the lan­guage.

The closer you look
at some­thing, the more com­plex it seems to be.

Over a period of a hun­dred or a thou­sand years, the prob­a­bil­ity of main­tain­ing con­ti­nu­ity of the soft­ware to inter­pret the old stuff is prob­a­bly close to zero. Where would you find a pro­jec­tor for an 8mm film these days? If the new soft­ware can’t under­stand, we’ve lost the infor­ma­tion. I call this bit rot. It’s a seri­ous problem.

I’d like to know what the Inter­net is going to look like in 2050. Think­ing about it makes me wish I were eight years old.” [Esquire, via the Inter­est­ing Peo­ple mail­ing list]

10:09 pm Comments (3)

April 25, 2008

Talk about Going Where Your Users Are

The Ask Cart with the Library Dude

The ASK cart (actual hot­dog cart) is a mobile library ser­vice offered by the Thun Library to pro­vide ref­er­ence assis­tance. Designed as a sim­ple, effec­tive and fun approach to fac­ulty and stu­dent out­reach, the Library Dude aka Bil­lie Walker and other librar­i­ans offer on-the-spot infor­ma­tion and/or ref­er­ence assis­tance outdoors.

Equipped with wire­less lap­top and var­i­ous good­ies (high­lighters, candy, etc.) the librar­i­ans at Berks are increas­ing vis­i­bil­ity and aware­ness of ref­er­ence ser­vice (one-on-one con­sul­ta­tions, spe­cial­ized data­bases, etc.) and library resources (pod­cast, best­sellers, etc). So when you see the ASK cart please give a shout-out to the Library Dude!” [via Sarah Miller on Facebook]

Penn State's "Ask Cart with the Library Dude"

6:28 am Comments (9)

April 22, 2008

How School Libraries Can Use Board Games

Back in Feb­ru­ary, I was excited that Brian Mayer had tied the New York state cur­ricu­lum stan­dards to board games and that the School Library Sys­tem of Gene­see Val­ley BOCES had invested in a board game col­lec­tion for use by its mem­ber libraries. Since then, how­ever, Brian, Chris Har­ris, and their col­leagues have stepped it up a notch and made the link between gam­ing and edu­ca­tion more applic­a­ble beyond New York by align­ing the use of these games with the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of School Librar­i­ans’ Stan­dards for the 21st-Century Learner.

AASL Stan­dards for the 21st-Century Learner

The new AASL stan­dards are very sup­port­ive of the ideas and skills that make up gam­ing as can be seen in the gam­ing align­ment below. This, doc­u­ment, cre­ated by the mem­ber libraries of the School Library Sys­tem of Gene­see Val­ley BOCES pro­vides sup­port for the use of games as a learn­ing resource in school libraries.”

The 3MB PDF is avail­able here.

If you’re inter­ested in this sub­ject, you’ll def­i­nitely want to fol­low their new Gam­ing blog, which includes a sep­a­rate post explain­ing that gam­ing also strongly cor­re­sponds to many of the Com­mon Beliefs laid out by the AASL. Major thanks to the BOCES crew for doing this work and lead­ing the way in this area.

6:24 am Comments (7)

April 21, 2008

More on How Gaming Promotes Reading and Library Usage

Libraries Lure with Video Games

‘Bellevue’s library, near Belle­vue East High School, hosts a game night twice a month. About two dozen teens take turns thwack­ing vir­tual ten­nis balls or throw­ing super punches on Nin­tendo games. Some do their home­work as they wait. Oth­ers browse the library for comic books and novels.

A.J. Score, a shy 15-year-old, aspired to join the high school’s foot­ball or golf teams. But he was afraid he wouldn’t fit in. Gam­ing was his thing.

At the library’s game nights, he imme­di­ately became a star. And gam­ing gave him some­thing to talk about. He talks smack and teases gamers about their weapon selec­tion. It’s all harm­less fun, he said.

I’m not so much quiet any­more,’ A.J. said.

Any par­ent who has strug­gled to tear a child away from a video game may cringe at the notion that libraries, of all places, are pro­mot­ing them.

But the games are age-appropriate and can help to inter­est kids in books, Wyant said. Library game nights typ­i­cally are open only to those ages 10 to 18 and require a parental per­mis­sion slip.

Some nights, A.J. does home­work or checks out mur­der mys­tery books until his mom picks him up.

Every week he has a new book. It’s great to see a teenager read­ing at the library and not in trou­ble,’ said his mom, Tam Score.

Cir­cu­la­tion of young adult lit­er­a­ture has increased at some libraries with game nights.

Last year, teens bor­rowed 20 to 30 books a month at the Chadron Pub­lic Library. Now it’s well over 300 each month. The rea­son: video games.…

The Loren Corey Eise­ley Branch, which sits a block from a mid­dle school, gets 50 to 80 kid gamers each day. The Arnold Heights Branch held a game day that attracted more than 80 kids dur­ing spring break.

Since Lin­coln libraries have added game nights, teens don’t cause as many dis­rup­tions. They used to run up and down book aisles and talk loudly.

They were just being teens,’ said Greg Mick­ells, Lincoln’s library direc­tor. ‘They’re prob­a­bly still a lot louder than our reg­u­lar patrons, but they know if they’re mis­be­hav­ing they’ll be asked to leave.’

The Coun­cil Bluffs Pub­lic Library hopes to offer game nights or tour­na­ments this summer.

At Plattsmouth’s library, teens have formed a gam­ing coun­cil. The coun­cil plans tour­na­ments and devel­ops rules (such as no cussing).

The library has restricted gam­ing hours to between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. because par­ents com­plained that their chil­dren were spend­ing too much time at the library and not focus­ing on their studies.

Library direc­tor Hunt said video games bring back a sense of com­mu­nity in libraries.

We have kids who come in that have never been to the library before,’ Hunt said. ‘We’re get­ting a sec­tion of read­ers we don’t nor­mally have because of gam­ing.’ ” [Omaha World-Herald]

April 17, 2008

Gaming Presentation in Second Life

Just a quick note that I’ll be giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion in Sec­ond Life tomor­row (Fri­day, April 18) at 11:00 a.m. CDT on ALA Island to cel­e­brate gam­ing @ your library day. It’s free, it’s in-world, it’ll be a fun time. Then after­wards, I get to play games at work, as ALA staff cel­e­brate gam­ing by tak­ing a break to play board, video, and social games.

To cel­e­brate gam­ing in libraries, you can also lis­ten to the first episode of the new Games in Libraries Pod­cast. It’s a monthly pod­cast where experts in dif­fer­ent aspects of gam­ing and libraries present seg­ments about dif­fer­ent pro­grams, gam­ing prod­ucts, and other news from the gam­ing indus­try rel­e­vant to libraries. I hope to con­tribute to future episodes, but Scott Nichol­son is the dri­ving force behind it, and with names like Eli Neiburger, Beth Gall­away, Chris Har­ris, and Kelly Czar­necki involved, you know it’s going to be good.

Adden­dum: The slides from my talk are now avail­able on my pre­sen­ta­tions wiki. This was fun — thank you to every­one that came!

9:29 pm Comments (4)

April 15, 2008

Does Gaming Promote Reading?

The State of Libraries: ‘Fund­ing Down, but Gam­ing Up”

Are we really doing any­thing to tie video gam­ing and lit­er­acy together? I haven’t seen it; I’ve sim­ply seen us hold­ing gam­ing ses­sions because that’s what gets teens — boys in par­tic­u­lar — excited enough to come in and par­tic­i­pate in a library-sponsored activ­ity, thus rack­ing up the num­bers we need for our monthly stats.

Librar­i­ans who are fans of gam­ing pro­grams keep say­ing that teens are lured in by gam­ing, and once they’re through the door, those teens use the library in more tra­di­tional ways. But is there any doc­u­men­ta­tion for this claim? All I keep see­ing are anec­dotes. Are teens who come in for games actu­ally check­ing things out? I’ve rarely seen it myself. I hope some­one will do a study one day soon of how well gam­ing works as a draw to get teens to check things out — espe­cially things with pages and print.” [The Mon­key Speaks]

Walter’s con­cerns are under­stand­able, but there is indeed evi­dence that kids who come to the library for gam­ing also use the book col­lec­tion more.

And yes, there is also a lot of anec­do­tal evi­dence from lead­ers such as Eli Neiburger, Aaron Schmidt, Kelly Czar­necki, and oth­ers. Eli in par­tic­u­lar has a great video he showed at the Tech­Souce Gam­ing, Learn­ing, and Libraries Sym­po­sium last year in which kids talked about how they never knew the library had so much for them until they started com­ing in for the gam­ing. There are more and more reports about this in the press every day.

Gamers Can Play It By the Books

At the Still­wa­ter Free Library, direc­tor Sara Kipp brings in her own PlaySta­tion for mid­dle school and high school stu­dents to use on a game night. In Still­wa­ter, game night is com­bined with a book club.

We already offered a book club, which was luke­warm at best,’ Kipp said in an e-mail explain­ing the program.

So we decided to intro­duce gam­ing in the library in con­junc­tion with the book club. Some libraries sep­a­rate the two, but we cre­ated a pro­gram to meld them in an attempt to give the teens what they are look­ing for all in one shot,’ Kipp continued.

The town of Ball­ston Pub­lic Library will con­nect video gam­ing to the Olympics this sum­mer by hold­ing a Wii Olympics using a pack­age tied to the games. Rebecca Van­der­hay­den, the youth ser­vices librar­ian, said a par­tic­i­pant gets a turn play­ing a game for every 50 pages they read.” [Times Union]

In addi­tion, most librar­i­ans I’ve talked to who have offered gam­ing note that it enhances their con­nec­tion with the kids, which makes it eas­ier for these patrons to ask for help when they need it. Early research from the Pub­lic Library of Char­lotte Meck­len­burg County in North Car­olina indi­cates this holds true for adults, too.

At ALA, we’re hop­ing to mea­sure these kinds of out­comes that sur­round gam­ing in libraries. We’ve received a big grant from the Ver­i­zon Foun­da­tion to edu­cate librar­i­ans about gam­ing, pro­vide best prac­tices, offer a toolkit to help get started, and track the results nation­ally. It’s a two-year grant, so it will be a while before we have num­bers, but there’s a blog about Gam­ing News for the project, as well as an early start on a wiki for Gam­ing Resources.

I’m lucky enough to be work­ing with Dale Lip­schultz, ALA’s Lit­er­acy Offi­cer, on this project. Dale is a well-known and respected expert in the lit­er­acy com­mu­nity, and I’ve learned a lot from her on this sub­ject already. She made the fol­low­ing points about gam­ing and lit­er­acy in a recent email exchange.

  1. Lit­er­acy is more than read­ing and writ­ing — that is it’s more than the acquis­tion of basic skills. Lit­er­acy requires prob­lem solv­ing skills, the abil­ity to for­mu­late and apply hypothe­ses, strat­egy devel­op­ment, etc.
  2. Gam­ing — board, social, and video — is a mean­ing­ful lit­er­acy activ­ity. Kids (and adults) are invested in gam­ing. It’s fun, it’s what they do with their peers, and they like it. There­fore it has mean­ing in their lives. Gam­ing usu­ally requires some read­ing and writ­ing skills. It always involves prob­lem solv­ing and strat­egy skills. Even reluc­tant read­ers will read and prob­lem solve in order to ‘level up’ and mas­ter the game and stay com­pet­i­tive with their peers. That said, along with mas­ter­ing the game, they are improv­ing their basic skills.
  3. Learn­ing to read and write is a pro­foundly social process, and lit­er­acy devel­op­ment doesn’t hap­pen in iso­la­tion. Learn­ing is most effec­tive when the novice is sup­ported by an expert (an adult or peer) who scaf­folds the activ­ity and pro­vides medi­a­tion or instruc­tion as needed. The novice is encour­aged to engage in an activ­ity slightly beyond his/her level of mas­tery and comfort.

As Dale told me last year, Tarzan never would have learned to read with­out Jane. Librar­i­ans are well-positioned to pro­vide the envi­ron­ment, exper­tise, and scaf­fold­ing nec­es­sary for lit­er­acy, and gam­ing enhances that envi­ron­ment. It also adds that social piece that makes the exper­tise more approach­able. As Eli is care­ful to note in his book, you can’t just hand kids a bib­li­og­ra­phy when they’re engaged in gam­ing, but it does pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to offer books, graphic nov­els, and mag­a­zines in the type of envi­ron­ment Dale describes.

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