5th Grade Game Designers in the Library

A group of 5th graders joined me in the library learning loft after school this past semester to work on a gamification project. Because Project Based Learning has been emphasized in academia as a way to promote real world learning in the 21st century, the goal of our tech club was to conquer a real need that students have in today’s digital culture: understanding the responsibilities of digital citizenship and cyber safety. My role was to provide the space, the technology tools, and to facilitate the learning experience, but the project would be totally developed and designed by 5th graders.

The Project Began

Since I have a background in virtual worlds and machinima, I was comfortable with building in 3D and shooting video inside a game world. However, I had never played Minecraft and wanted to be sure the students understood the educational purpose of our club. Parental permission and school district approval were first and foremost before the students could begin work.

Initial problems

Because this was the first project in a virtual online game at my school (or that I am aware of in my school district), I needed to get support from administration. I was given the okay to use MinecraftEDU rather than the regular Minecraft game most likely because the “edu” clearly focuses on a collaboration of educators. After receiving approval from my principal and district administration, I was given a purchase order for a classroom set of Minecraftedu game licenses to use with up to 25 students.

I was already aware that Minecraft is currently a very popular game with children because the icon on my desktop caused a constant chatter in the library for weeks before the club began. “Hey, look- she plays Minecraft!” was heard in almost every class- even kindergarten. I decided to hide the icon rather than tell the students that only a small group would be able to take part in the Minecraft project.
Although I consider myself a tech savvy librarian, am comfortable in a variety of virtual worlds, and have embraced Web 2.0 and multi-media tools, I had a difficult time getting the server up. A private server would assure that students would not run into strangers. During the busy school day, I tried several times to host the server but never could get in and began to worry that we would not be able to get into the game on the first day of the Minecraft Club. My first student entered the library after school that day and together we had it running in less than five minutes, which led to a blog post on the concept of digital natives.

Critical Thinking Skills

Watching the students work in Minecraft validated my research in virtual worlds. This next generation of young adults will be quite ready to utilize 3D immersive learning and will not find it as complex as the generation ahead of them. It was amazing to see how quickly the students built homes and buildings and it confirmed the idea that there is something innate in humans that makes us want to create.
Although the students were immediately engaged in creativity, I found my role as teacher imperative to this project. The students needed guidance in identifying an educational topic that would clearly focus on an essential driving question. After the first few club meetings, the students agreed on the need to help younger children learn digital citizenship and cyber safety. The challenge for the project was to design a game that would help students understand those concepts in a fun and immersive way. Once this driving question became the challenge, the students took off building a maze inside the “Budder Library of Digital Citizenship”. Game design came naturally to them as they built levers to open doors when questions were answered correctly.

Students as Project Leaders

Since I had very little experience in the game, the students were empowered as leaders and felt they were teaching me. They had no idea that I could film inside the game (using machinima capture software) but one boy showed me that he has a Youtube channel and films inside the game himself using Bandicam. I thought I was a pioneer in 3D learning and was humbled to see a ten year old boy film machinima easily.
Another boy asked, “Do you know what a griefer is?” These students understood griefing and other gaming terms and taught me the user-interface (how to teleport, text, etc) with excellent explanation of shortcuts. I overheard them joking with each other about trolling which led to discussion about being good digital citizens in practice not only theory.

Our project took place over just a few months but I am proud of the accomplishments of my 5th graders in that short time.

The Students Graduate to Middle School

Whether or not this project continues to grow, I know that I learned as much from this experience as my students did. As they leave for middle school, I know they are hard workers and they understand taking personal responsibility for digital citizenship. In an ever-changing world of digital media, the future is in good hands.

3D Sci-Fi Library Exhibit in Inworldz

Virtual worlds may not have taken off at the rapid pace predicted in the Gartner Report 2007, but they continue to provide creative spaces for educators and librarians to create and share content.

For example, a professor of library and information science at San Jose State University led a project in the virtual world of Inworldz to share sci-fi resources. The exhibit includes interactive sci-fi objects and experiences, such as a worm hole and spaceships.  Science fiction movies, television shows and over 50 sci-fi books inspired the content which can be explored on several levels.  Details are included on the Community Library blog.

Photos from the grand opening on May 4, 2013 can be viewed in my Animoto slideshow.

 

 

Take-Aways from the King of Information Literacy in Schools

I was honored to introduce Mike Eisenberg at the Texas Library Association Convention 2013 in the exact same building where I saw Elvis Presley! I was just as excited to hear Mike as I was to hear Elvis. So I introduced him as the King of Information Literacy because he truly is a champion for teacher librarians.  Here are a few take-aways from a leader in teacher librarianship who is always innovating and continually evolving in the information age.

Embed information literacy learning opportunities
A teacher librarian can utilize online spaces alongside physical spaces. As we transform our physical libraries with flexible collaborative seating areas, we can also share tools for creating user-generated content. We can infuse high quality, credible sources into courses and curriculum. I had to rush off after Mike’s presentation to present on a panel about that very topic: Embedded Librarianship. (See my presentation below which validates his perspective.)

Embrace Wikipedia!
Currently, the top three information sources in the world are Google, Youtube, and Wikipedia. Let’s embrace them! The first “go-to” sources are a great place to start but not always the best or the only source for the problem-solving process. As information professionals, our role is to teach critical evaluation as learners face a flood of incoming information daily. For years, educators have been reluctant to allow students to cite Wikipedia but the accuracy of the content continues to prove to be as reliable as most print resources. Students today demand convenience and real-time access and the time has come to shift our thinking from the resources to the process of deep thinking and self-assessment (personal responsibility for learning).

Offer consultation-coaching services
Through wikis and online spaces, we can offer both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities to teach information literacy. Librarians today can be available physically, virtually, digitally, electronically, and even through augmented reality and mixed reality venues.  My elementary library is evolving into an exciting physical space that embraces new media and information literacy in all formats.

Thanks for a wonderful session, Mike, even if you didn’t sing Jailhouse Rock!

 (click below to see my school library/learning lounge-loft.)

learninglounge

This is “Our Gutenberg Moment”

As libraries change from primarily circulating print-based materials to providing information in a variety of formats in both physical and virtual spaces, my quest has been to follow colleagues who strive to balance the rich heritage of the past with the rapidly evolving changes of digital culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have used T. Scott Plutchak’s quote (click on the picture to enlarge) to end many presentations and slideshows on the topic of libraries and the information revolution. T. Scott continues to inspire me with a positive outlook on the future of civilization as we continue to value knowledge and literacy. Be sure to listen to the closing remarks in this video about librarians and publishers sharing common values. T. Scott says’ “This really is our Gutenberg moment.”

 

 

Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.
www.bigfoto.com

Revisiting Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: a Tribute to Marc Prensky

Many of my colleagues and I have cited Marc Prensky and his “digital natives and digital immigrants” for over a decade. After spending years striving diligently to keep up with innovative technology trends, I have never felt like younger people knew more or were more adept at technology than myself. I admit, of course, I am a “digital immigrant” when one defines the term to mean someone born before the Internet and digital life became commonplace.

Today, I saw something that re-opened my eyes to the difference between the two– the natives and the immigrants. I had been struggling (between classes , paperwork, and other tasks) to conquer the server issues to start a MinecraftEDU club in my school library. After several attempts and a few emails to the company, I still was unable to get into the MinecraftEDU world. Lacking time, I delegated a 5th grade boy as sidekick to start the club. He eagerly entered the library after school, where we sat down and were able to get it up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Of course, I have experienced the “two heads are better than one” method of troubleshooting technology countless times before. Often two of us can solve an issue simply by tackling it from two different perspectives. So, I am not saying that I am not smarter than a 5th grader! However, I underestimated a 5th grader’s ability to navigate server issues and ip addresses. I stood there in awe as I watched him effortlessly click numerous settings at the speed of light.

I write this post as a tribute to Marc Prensky because it was only today that I fully understood my personal immigration status and that simple moment reminded me that we have only begun to understand the toppled hierarchy of information (and learning) due to digital culture.

This global information community in which we live, continues to inspire, alarm, challenge, and intrigue me each day. Last week, I got a message that Marc Prensky was following me on twitter and I felt honored! It is a small (yet huge) world we live in….a world full of opposites: oxymorons and formulas, scientific facts and wild imagination. Today, I am honored to be followed by the guy who introduced us all to digital natives and digital immigrants and also honored to be leading a digital native who is helping me realize that I am but an immigrant to a new land. I am both teacher and learner. Sometimes we can know something for a long time before we actually comprehend it.

Beyond the Digital Line- February 13, 2054

Little One, your hands are beautiful
and they hold all knowledge

Move your finger and surroundings change
to your favorite color—
swirls of blue with silver sparkles

Touch your ear and musical harmonies slowly swell
Wave your hand to augment history

Look into my eyes and they will tell you of another time

For these eyes saw a different world
where colors could not change
Only nature held the power
That world was unprogrammed and unsafe

My body was separate from the digital realm
And each person was required
to learn how to think

But you, Little One, are
safely digitized
You have never seen broken things
Books with worn, tattered pages
Cars with flat tires
Bruises or skinned knees
You live in the simulated shell of digital protection

Gingerbread and hot cider appear when you blink
and friends await you at all points of Earth

But now, I want to tell you what I miss
from the world before
the Singularity
I miss…

having to wait.

Embedding Content within Content, Hyperlinked to Content to be Curated

Today is Digital Learning Day and I am whirling through tecnology tools and formats (alongside physical resources) in my school library as I seek best practices for teaching digital literacy in what has become “participatory culture”.

My 4th graders are studying poetry and I am teaching them to share through our library blog. I want them to understand the importance of striving for meaningful content, not just posting and tweeting nonstop. Digital citizenship requires us to be responsible for both our consumption and production of information. I sometimes think that because we are so excited about all the cool “Web 2.0” applications that allow us to produce and share online, we forget to emphasize revision and reflection.

Buried deep beneath the clutter, four or five hyperlinked clicks away, is there some really important meaningful content of high quality or aesthetic appeal? For years, I have empasized process over product in education because all learning, like life, is a process. Now, in the digital age (as content floods my screens nonstop), I am realizing there has to be balance between process and product. At some point, the author or the artist must say “here is what I have done.” The goal is to say something worthwhile.

My “So Called” Lives (Physical and Virtual) Gangnam Style

We all now live both physical and virtual lives.  If you don’t agree, take a look at how close your digital device is at this moment.  We are networking, connected, and always online. This evolution of networked culture has challenged me to be both a physical world librarian and a virtual world librarian.

Within this past month, I was coincidentally (I am not sure if that is the right word when you realize how pop culture inspired this post) asked to edit a Gangnam Style video in both worlds.

As a school librarian, I was asked to edit a video showing student engagement.  The popular Gangnam Style dance parody was embraced by everyone from kindergarten to our principal, pictured dancing in my library loft.

 

 
Just a few days later, as a virtual world librarian leading an exhibit tour to the Museum of Virtual Media, I was asked to edit another Gangnam Style dance- this time with avatars from around the globe. One of the tour guides, from Argentina, gave the participants a dance animation for the closing festivities. The exhibit was built by the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual Worlds Class of 2012 and features the evolution of media from ancient cave paintings, through radio & movies, into the future. Being asked to produce a video by two completely different patron communities fascinated me.

We all hear every day, as educators and librarians, about how we now live in a participatory culture. Spending time editing such diverse groups, in both physical and virtual worlds, made participatory culture clear to me in a way that I had never before experienced. Learning theorists, like Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey, proposed that learning is social in nature nearly a century ago, way before digital culture took hold. Witnessing this human desire to be part of a social experience through the global phenomenon of a popular dance video illustrated a new frontier in constructivist learning.

Disposable Media and Intellectual Junk Food

Smart phones and mobile devices, equipped with high quality cameras and global networking, have made unlimited transfer of the documentation of our daily lives quotidian (a new word I picked up from Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman). I wonder, dear reader, if you are beginning to feel (as I am) that you have seen enough photos of day-to-day life to last a lifetime. Various entrees, potty training, new shoes, and cute animals may be interesting to those involved, but become meaningless with exponential increase.

I see a trend toward disposable media, such as the Snapchat app.  The raw, unrevised information uploaded every second could be described as “intellectual junk food” which does little to nourish our minds.

 

Bruce Sterling, media futurist and design geek, predicts that augmented reality may soon congest the world with 3D spam (geolocative information trash) (Coleman, p.153). AR may have purpose for historical documentation, both personal and global; however, some people view the mixed reality heading our way as a kind of “reality hack” that blurs boundaries.  An example, is a ghostly overlay of the twin towers created by Wikitude.  The towers, through augmented reality, may be interpreted as an historical and symbolic icon.  Yet, advertisements and a barrage of 3D images may soon compete with historical data, current events, and personal user-generated content.

 

How are we preparing ourselves for the “X-reality” evolution described by Coleman(p.65)?  Currently, educators and librarians are gathering strategies to prepare 21st century learners for information literacy in unforeseen territory.  The young adult fascination for the “zombie apocalypse” may have some interesting symbolic interpretation!  Get ready…who knows what lies in our future. As we navigate the information sea of chaos, each individual becomes responsible for information intake.

Beware!

Choose wisely-  both your sources of information and your personal network.

 

Welcome New Year: Garden or Garbage Dump

Welcome 2013

I’ve always enjoyed the metaphor of a library as a garden. The librarian tends the garden by planting and weeding. In Texas, the CREW method (continuous review, evaluation and weeding) proposes an ongoing way to promote a healthy library which Ranganathan defined as a “living organism”.

The Internet may be viewed with a similar metaphor and may certainly be defined as a “living organism”. However, there is no weeding method for maintaining the health of the Internet and one might compare it to a tangled forest of overgrowth or a continually growing monstrosity. Rather than a garden, the web seems more like a garbage dump with treasure buried under mounds of rubbish. Of course, there are reliable databases and sites, such as the Internet Public Library, but how many people go beyond the first page of Google hits or beyond Youtube for how-to’s on just about anything? Close-enough is sufficient and convenience trumps quality, authority, and reliability. With thousands of images at our fingertips, who really cares where they came from (other than librarians and a scholars)?

Beautiful Trash
My son and I once glimpsed something truly stunning outside the window of the parlor car on a train: a junkyard filled with cars, each with the hood up. The sun was shining at a angle that made the cars sparkle in many colors and we thought it looked like a garden. There is beauty everywhere- there are poems hidden under leaves and in my purse. Who am I to question where and how anyone finds what they seek? I suppose, a career in information science for over 20 years allows me just a bit of knowledge on the subject; yet I keep referring in my blog to the “toppling of the information hierarchy”. My professional role has been to help others find the best quality in information resources in any location or format (whether in a garden or a garbage dump?).

Thrift Store

Thrift Store creative commons photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/500212463/



The Old and the New

As a thrift store shopper, I understand that the “old” can sometimes be the “new”. I have found lovely clothes and treasures hidden in thrift shops. Often the newer articles are cheaply constructed and not worth the cost. Instead of comparing the Internet to a garbage dump, perhaps a better metaphor is a giant thrift store full of treasures mingled with crazy crafts and user-generated gadgetry.

Currently, I am reading Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman. The book discusses how we are witnessing the moment of crossover into pervasive media technologies (p. 41). Ubiquitous computing has arrived and we can choose to perceive the change as frightening (Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together) or investigate ways to adapt to the three C’s: communication, community, and collaboration (p.23).

A gardener can work alone among the flora and the weeds; but we need each other to uncover the buried treasure (physical, virtual, digital, and augmented) in the gigantic tangled cyberworld in which we now live.