Biography: Raymond Pun is the research/instruction librarian at Alder Graduate School of Education. He is also a doctoral student in California State University (CODEL). Previously, he was a reference and research services librarian at New York University Shanghai. He has presented widely at conferences such as ALA, SLA, IFLA, and the American Historical Association. His work has appeared in many publications, including The Huffington Post, Library Hi Tech, Reference Services Review, and Library Trends. His professional and research interests include gamification and emerging technologies in libraries, community engagement, data management, and digital scholarship.
AM: What aim and objectives have you had in choosing games based learning for information literacy?
RP: The aim/objective of choosing game-based learning for information literacy is to encourage interaction, engagement and scalability. We want students to be engaged with what they are learning, many students are very comfortable with digital learning objects or tutorials but they may not like to use them or they may find them boring. Game-based learning allows us to create new interactions for students to study independently, in teams or simply to have fun. We want to ensure that our efforts are also scalable. We have many students to teach, if we have a system that utilizes game-based learning and that can reach many students all at once, this will help expand the library’s services to supporting information literacy for a broader group.
АМ: Have you designed a new game or adapted other existing games? And in the second situation, which is the level of “coaching” or support to add to reach learning outcomes?
RP: I have designed and adapted game-based learning workshops that utilize similar features of video game concepts; they are often difficult and tricky because you aren’t sure what the feedback will be. Will students actually enjoy these activities or will they also learn anything from this experience? We want to take concepts from video games or other games, and create new learning environments for students to engage with the content in a more fun and interactive way. Some of my colleagues in the US have designed mobile learning games to teach students how to conduct library orientation on their own. These take a lot of group work to code and design such projects but librarians have been finding ways to get these creative apps out there to their students. Learning outcomes are tricky, we want to ensure that they are designed, measurable and achievable. Many times, we focus on basic skill developments where students gain specific skills from these experiences. For example, the concept of “gating,” which requires players to master a particularly skill such as book catalog search before moving to the next stage can be important ways to encourage, mentor and coach students to achieve these learning outcomes on their own or in groups with a librarian as a guide/facilitator. These self-learning and self-discovery opportunities can reinforce skill development, and enhance information literacy skills.
AM: What kind of games are more successful in developing the students’ information literacy competencies: real live or virtual serious games?
RP: That’s a very good question. Both are important. They are all dependent on the librarian’s interest and the class’ learning outcomes. Students have different needs; some may prefer real life or others prefer virtual games. I personally think it’s important to include realistic scenarios (online or in person) so students can feel connected to the content and sources, and for them to identify research as a necessary skill for “survival” or development, not just for their own assignments or for school but for their personal development. As long as the games are created with enthusiasm and commitment, and all students are encouraged to participate and reflect, these opportunities can really help shape the games to promote information literacy skills.
AM: How do you choose the learning outcomes you want your student achieve through the games?
RP: This is very hard to do; I usually speak with professors and student services staff to see what do they want from these experiences/library workshops. Do they want students to learn the basics? Do they want students to develop sharp critical and analytical thinking skills when it comes to research? It all depends on the collaborators. I generally create learning outcomes that focus on building foundational skills in research and information literacy. Students often think they can google their answers but sometimes they realize they may get more than a million response, and need to think how to tell which website is credible or not and how to use the library’s databases to find similar or credible content compared to their google results. I would encourage all librarians to work with professors in designing the learning outcomes or library research assignment, afterwards, you can create a game-based learning workshop from these outcomes.
AM: Do you think that in the information literacy competency framework, some competencies are easier or harder to be learnt through information literacy games?
RP: It depends on the students’ interest and learning abilities. I think if students are not comfortable with numbers and data, they will have a hard time find data and statistics in library resources and make sense out of them. Some students are visual learners, so visual literacy can help them improve their information literacy. Other students need specific assistance so online tutorials that support information literacy need to have good audio and caption and visual so students will not have these barriers to overcome. I think it’s hard for students to learn how to narrow down their topics using keywords and to find articles that are relevant to their topics. They need to craft an argument using evidence, but the evidence may not be there, so they may have to think of other ways to describe the evidence or to do more research to find a good argument. They usually search for the first 10 items in the first page in a database and then give up if nothing comes up. This is tricky, and I think hard for students to accept that they need to keep searching and not give up. Students are very used to finding information instantly so this behavior can transfer over to their experience in digital research too.
AM: What are the competencies/qualifications in the game design and development of the librarians who are involved in your gamification projects?
RP: Librarians can have basic coding skills which can help them create basic mobile learning games. They should also be instructional designers and know how to create online tutorials that are engaging, supportive and interactive. Librarians who are into outreach work may be helpful in designing in-person experiences that utilize game-based learning. A lot of qualifications come down to the personality: risk-taking, experimental, eager, passionate, and curious. These personality traits in the job may help the librarian try new things and see what works and what doesn’t and to be collaborative and responsive to the changes too.
AM: According to you what is the difference and where is the border between the interactive tutorial and the educational game?
RP: Good question. Interactive tutorial is more focused on learning a specific content while the learner is engaged in the process. It may not contain game-based learning, which means the learner or user may find the activity to be interactive but doesn’t actually have to “play” compared to educational game where there are a lot of game-based features that directly engage with the learners. Sometimes people do not like educational game because they can be perceived as gimmicky or unreal, but sometimes they can be helpful to stimulate learning differently. Interactive tutorial is more broader approach while education games can also be interactive tutorials but also more specifically involved in game-based features.
AM: Considering your experience do you think that a general theoretical strategy in the field of information literacy games is needed and to be developed
RP: I think it is important for students to actually play the game that utilizes real life experiences/scenarios and resources. Wikipedia, google, social media tools, these are all online resources that have information, students need to know how and when to use them effectively. I think if there is a way to utilize these tools that are connected to library’s own resources, it can help students see the fundamental differences among the online tools for personal use and for research purposes. They may see that these tools are beneficial in certain context while information sharing and storing are also important things for them to think about. It’s a challenge because the field is always growing. The theoretical strategy is needed, but will also be evolving as our students become more and more mobile and digital, and we need to think of ways to re-connect and focus on specific skills in information literacy that they can learn, not just for their classes for life, when they search for other things online like health, jobs, travel, etc. We need to think of ways to make these points more interactive/game-based in the process.
18 Sept. 2018, Florence