The latest One-Question Survey has demonstrated the growth of school library programs in terms of offering gaming options. Survey data from 2016 and data collected this month show the number of libraries not participating in gaming of any kind has fallen from 60% to 16%. This incredible shift seems to speak to librarians' seeing the advantages of gaming for both students and library programs. Attitudes and practices are shifting. However, this doesn't mean we are as confident or knowledgeable as we could be. In fact, 28% of respondents indicated they were using some kind of gaming, but still felt like they wanted to do more and didn't know where to start. And that's what I'd like to dedicate this post to: some of my favorite (and pretty easy) ways to use gaming in the library.
Survey data says the most popular kind of gaming librarians are using is of the educational breakout variety. If you haven't tried this, make sure to check out this month's article that breaks it down for beginners by Stephanie F. Frey. Breakout games can easily be designed around a book, which might appeal to those of you who want to focus on reading and literacy promotion. My co-librarian, James Allen, and I are using a homemade breakout experience as the end-of-program incentive for our first forty-book challenge. The kids are so excited and view it as a special treat they don't want to miss.
Several survey respondents indicated the reason they don't use gaming within the library is the lack of devices or technology with which to game. Perhaps they were only considering this particular category of gaming. While the number tech tools that teach coding is impressive, there are plenty of low- to no-tech ways to introduce coding. My lowest-grade students LOVE Lego coding. It doesn't even take very many Legos. A quick online search can lay out specifics if you haven't done it before. It's very possible to teach and explore computer science without a computer. The website CS Unplugged (https://csunplugged.org/) is a great place to start. You'll find printables and lessons for ages five through fourteen.
I don't want to leave out game design. I have noticed when I teach game design or give students the opportunity to do it in the library, they often continue that work at home. We use Bloxels, and it is not uncommon at all for students to be inspired by what they learn at school and continue their learning at home. When we facilitate students' learning how to design a video game, they are then equipped with the skills to demonstrate their learning in ways they probably haven't before. I've seen Bloxel levels designed around historical events and literature. When teachers are made aware of students' access and interest in game making, they are wonderful about integrating it into projects so that it can be vehicle for demonstrating learning.
It can be hard to work gaming in to a busy library schedule. One easy way I do is I bring it with me to my duty. I have a middle school lunch duty, and I bring a Bomb Defusing Manual and a laptop with Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (http://www.keeptalkinggame.com/) on it. After introducing a few students to the concept of the game (many have already heard about it or played it), I just let small groups take turns defusing bombs while they eat. It's fun, it's satisfyingly challenging, and best of all: I build relationships with students I never otherwise would. I truly believe this will benefit both them and the library program eventually. If you feel like adding gaming to your library programming doesn't help you meet your program's goals, please check out James Allen's article in the December issue to better understand WHY we should be supporting gaming. Then take a deep breath and try something new!