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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Game Based Learning - Academic Case Studies

Revolution! Russell Francis - MIT History Course


In his article, “Toward a theory of game based pedagogy,” Russell Francis, points out that there is a growing consensus that educational designers and instructional technologists can stand to learn from professional game designers in terms of their educational designs for the purposes of pedagogy. In this article, Francis describes an initiative that he designed in a course length history class that he taught at MIT. The experience was conducted in collaboration with the Educational Arcade Initiative at MIT. The game that was used to engage students, Revolution, was “purposefully designed as a platform for assisting teaching and learning about aspects of social history.” It situates players in the role of ordinary people that are living during a specific historic time, for example, a carpenter, seamstress. Within their role, they must interact with other characters, with specific variables, specific historical setting, and must carry out a specific task. Francis used the game in 5 3.5 hr workshops, and for himself, approached it in the logic of a design experiment. Throughout the course, it appeared that the learning controls did not present challenges for students. The challenge lay in making students reflect on the knowledge acquired through a role playing game.

Francis noted that the game appeared to support an inclusive discussion grounded in a designed experience. Also, since the pedagogy in games based courses is not encoded, the level of questioning could be adjusted. He also stated that as a result of the game, each student acquired a unique perspective, and the game provided a good opportunity to teach about class divisions, strategies for resistance, predicaments of marginalized groups. However, Francis notes that “faculty members had to work hard to draw out tacit knowledge and to get students to reflect on the experience, guiding them on the way to knowledge co-construction,” but that the game sometimes failed to provide a common framework for reference. Additional activities were thus required from the students that allowed students to gain insight. Overall, Francis states that a multiplayer role playing game such as Revolution allows for understanding into history not possible with a traditional approach, as the traditional approach typically is committed to a single linear structure, and that for him, the use of the game allowed for the development of understanding for alternative and revisionist structure.

Peer Driven Instruction in a First Year Writing Course, Lee Skallerup Bessette, University of Kentucky

In her article, “It’s Time to Play: Games, Gamification, and Active Learning,” Bessette, a faculty member and Faculty Instructional Consultant at the University of Kentucky,  describes two approaches to her use of games in the classroom to illustrate varied effectiveness.The author has used peer-driven learning in several writing classes that she has taught. The first time that she used this technique, some of her students used a Jeopardy template in PowerPoint to “quiz” their classmates on the materials that they were supposed to have familiarized themselves with. Due to the nature of the game, the questions that could be asked were closed-ended and only involved knowing superficial or factual information. Bessette, however, felt unsatisfied with this approach because there was no way of knowing what the readings were trying to get across on a more conceptual level.

Bessette contrasts this example with the example of what she considers a more effective game. In the next semester of the peer-driven learning focused writing class, students created a “real-life” Farmville/Monopoly board game. The nature of the game provoked higher level learning skills: the students in the class began think about sustainable farming and how they get their food. In order to create the game,  the students researched the actual cost of running a farm and integrated that into play. They included “Chance” cards such as hurricanes, drought, sickness, and rises or drops in commodity prices. The nature of this game allowed for the stimulation of discussion around issues of sustainability, cost, and exactly how much work goes into food production. Bessette states that “Games can lead to insight and reflection. Play, however, opens space for discovery and creativity. My students’ Jeopardy game encouraged rote memorization and winning. The Monopoly/Farmville game play, on the other hand, initiated real discussion, investigation, and action.” Bessette asks the reader to consider gamification, and whether it is instilling in students a set of skills that will allow them to continue learning once the game is over? She wants the reader to consider the fact that  making something into a game does not automatically make it a more enriching learning experience.

Game Based Learning for Information Literacy - Examples from the Literature

Who is doing it - Case Studies


In her article, “Learning through Quests and Contests," Maura Smale briefly describes numerous examples of academic libraries using both digital and analog games for the purposes of information literacy. Here is a small cross section of the initiatives that she describes. Please see the bibliography in the Games section of this libguide for citations to full case studies.

Digital Games

Smale states that most libraries create their own video games for information literacy, and that sometimes this is done through partnering with computer science departments. Some existing initiatives include:

  • Arizona State University Library: Quarantined! Axl Wise and the information outbreak, which is a web-based boardgame originally designed for information literacy instruction for English Composition Students. A fairly straightforward question and answer game, it originated in analog form and was eventually made available online.

  • At George Washington University, the librarians use a game when teaching information literacy for the Journalism students, called Muckrakers, in which students compete for a feature story in their magazine’s “next issue.” There is a big emphasis on peer-evaluation within this game.

  • Digital games can be used for orientation as well. In Ohio State University, the librarians devised a mystery game they called Head Hunt. The premise of the game is that students must find the missing head of Brutus Buckeye, the school mascot, which is hidden in the library, by learning about the library while finding clues. Each IL question they answer brings them closer to the solution.

  • Librarians at Carnegie Mellon enlisted students completing the Masters of Entertainment Technology degree program to help develop digital games for the library. The students developed six modules, each addressing an ACRL info lit standard. Two full modules were created by the students. Entitled the Library Arcade Mini Games, the modules are meant to teach students how information is organized within the academic library.

  • At James Madison University created an IMLS funded project to develop info literacy games for undergraduate students, who, at James Madison University, are required to pass a test evaluating information literacy skills. A series of games were created including Citation Tic-Tac-Toe, and Magnetic Keyword which allows students to generate keywords


Non-Digital Information Classes

The author states that digital games frequently get more attention as they sometimes seem more high profile, but analog games can work just as well in many circumstances. Smale refers to numerous examples, including the following:

  • At Georgia State University, librarians use a website that reenact a question/answer game (reminiscent of Jeopardy), with students answering questions read by librarians during information literacy sessions.

  • Additionally, at the University of Notre Dame, librarians use simply modified pen and paper games such as tic-tac-toe, crossword puzzles, word finds, and word jumbles that test students information literacy skills. Students got small prizes as compensation for participation.

  • At Nassau Community College, the librarians have devised a including Reality TV show techniques in which students had to work together to discover answers to information literacy questions, present the answers to their peers, and then vote on the best results. This was specifically done with students in the computer science and math departments.

  • The University of Florida runs a campus wide game entitled Zombies versus Humans. The librarians added a library mission which included two information literacy components where students had to get acquainted with the library