Everyone is playing games

Game playing in my Years 7 & 8 library has forever been a hot topic, what is considered acceptable and what isn’t has often been a contentious issue with the students.  While our library houses many of the traditional games mentioned by Beth Galloway in her YouTube clip ‘Welcome to the librarian’s guide to gaming’ such as board games, puzzles and table top (we even host a strategic games club), there is a very strict not console or computer game policy.  I am also constantly finding myself having to talk to students about watching video game clips on YouTube during their allocated study time. Having just recently installed iPads in the library there have been many heated conversations about what apps we should install and the fine line between an app been informative and educational or being perceived as a game.  Ito, et al.  in 2010 stated that electronic gaming has become one of the main forms of entertainment for today’s youth and that males are more likely to play these recreationally, extremely relevant to our library as it is in an all-boys school.  He also highlights that gaming provides an all-inclusive opportunity to participate in an activity, very valuable for individuals who have learning or physical restraints which is the case for some students that frequent our library.

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Playing Minecraft by Wesley Fryer from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This year our Makerspace club introduced ‘Minecraft’ and it has not been without its controversies.  Staff and parents were concerned that the program would distract students during their learning time and was too computer based and not social enough.  Tech Soup published a report titled ‘Gaming in Libraries’ which warns about being prepared for these kinds of concerns from staff and parents and we were, we had gathered articles on the educational benefits of Minecraft and visited schools which were successfully implementing Minecraft clubs and using it in the classroom.  Through the ideas from these meetings, we had created a lockout which only allowed students to access Minecraft during the times the club ran, meaning there was no possibility that they would be playing it during any other times of the day, especially during class.  Our Makerspace TL had created a program where the students (12 were selected for the trial period) were given roles and the task of building a model that would be suitable for a subject they were studying, this concluded with all students writing a report at the end of the term about how successful this would be.  As Michael Dezuanni mentions in his 2015 article for ‘The Conversation’ titled ‘Tapping into kid’s passion for Minecraft in the classroom’, students developed a huge desire to learn more and more about Minecraft, generating very constructive discussions around the topic as the time progressed and were extremely enthusiastic and thoughtful when writing their reports at the conclusion.

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student iPad 013 by Brad Flickinger from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gaming provides an opportunity for problem solving and learning with a much lower danger for making mistakes than in other learning environment as highlighted by Jenkins, et al. in their 2006 report titled ‘Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century’  and I think it is because of this that students approached the challenges with so much enthusiasm and were so passionate about addressing the confusion held by many that they were playing for fun instead of engaging in learning.  Don’t get me wrong, Minecraft is a great fun way of building towns and objects but it can also be used in a variety of subjects.  Dezuanni (2015) notes that it requires a range of skills from maths to art and geography to build something in Minecraft and I have in the past witnessed it implemented in various schools, in history presentations where students have created ancient Roman towns which they have then toured the class through while describing details about life in that era to Indonesian classes building maps of the school and then labelling the various areas in both languages.   The options really are endless, from design challenges suggested by both Tech Soup and Dezuanni to making your favourite setting from a story come to life.  I for one will advocate for the introduction of Minecraft into the curriculum for many years to come and direct those in doubt to consider why we are so keen to promote creativity, maths and problem-solving yet shy away from something that offers all these skills and more.

References:

Beth Galloway: Welcome to the librarian’s guide to gaming! (6 mins 59 secs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1NHI-Z9j4g

Dezuanni, Michael (2015) Tapping into Kids passion for Minecraft in The Conversation https://theconversation.com/tapping-into-kids-passion-for-minecraft-in-the-classroom-43461

Gaming in Libraries | TechSoup for Libraries. (2016).Retrieved from http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/planning-for-success/innovation/gaming-in-libraries/

Ito, M. et al. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. The MIT Press.http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11889&mode=toc

Jenkins, H. et al. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century. MacArthur Foundation.http://digitallearning.macfound.org/site/c.enJLKQNlFiG/b.2108773/apps/nl/content2.asp?content_id={CD911571-0240-4714-A93B-1D0C07C7B6C1}¬oc=1

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