Posts tagged conferences

ONLINE Northwest Conference & a step back from gaming

I just got back from the 2009 OLNW conference. I love this event. The people and content are always strong and the focus on technology in libraries makes it a very focused single-day event. This time, I did not present on games and learning in libraries and it was a nice change of pace. My colleague Lorena and I gave a little talk on teaching Zotero (a citation manager plugin for FireFox). I enjoyed our talk and working with Lorena (of course!). I recommend OLNW for any librarian who has a bit of the geek in their personality.

Anne-Marie & Rachel gave an interesting and personal talk about how Twitter & other social tech are influencing civic engagement. The conversation was interesting and engaging, plus I think the metaphors really worked. Next, I attended Anna Johnson's  2, 4, 6, GREAT: Handouts they'll appreciate. If it hadn't been Anna, I don't think the presentation title would have lured me in the door. That would have been a HUGE mistake. This was the high point of the conference content-wise. Anna combined Edward Tufte's printed handout design methodologies with a ready-made workflow for a library's instruction program. Chapeau, Anna, Chapeau. Next I attended a nice little bit on a collaboration at Clark College. Clark is our friendly neighbor and parter in educating Clark County students. I was a bit pre-occupied with my upcoming session, so what I really took away from this one is that I'm jealous of librarians who have faculty hungry for partnerships. The last event of the one-day conference was my presentation on Zotero w/ Lorena O'English. I'm pleased with how it went. I did forget to use my favorite metaphor and neglected to say "jiggery-pokery" but it did go fairly smoothly.

This is an insanely stessful and busy time for me at work. I've got my third-year review (part of the tenure process) pending and I'm presening three times in six weeks. This means that my gaming has been strickly limited to playing LOTRO w/ N. and mostly with mundane MMORPG tasks such as collecting resources and grinding my crafting skills higher. There is hope for some new blog content coming up, however. First, I have an idea to write about Alasdair MacIntyre's virtue theory of ethics in relation to games. He uses chess to explain how virtue theory works, and I think most gamers would recognize what he's talking about, even though he uses a different vocabulary. We often hear of politicians or business leaders "gaming the system" or following the letter of the rules to achieve ends that are outside the spirit of the rules. Gamers have a word for that, we call it an "exploit", and in a good game it quickly leads to the exploit in question being "nerfed" or weakened to balance game-play. That is a conversation I'd like to explore further.

Also, Henry Jenkins mentioned a fork in game studies academics. He classifies us as either ludologists or finding a game's central meaning in game-play mechanics or narratologists who find meaning in the story being unfolded/invented by the player(s). You'll find this kind conversation every day on gaming blogs, but I find the application of labels to the taxonomy of gamers to be interesting.

Finally, I started playing Tomb Raider: Underworld this weekend. I bought the game a while ago on Steam, mainly because I'd never played a Lara Croft game and J.P. Gee has interesting things to say about some of the series. I'm really enjoying it, but I'm not sure how far I'll go. I'm using an Xbox 360 controller and finding the control scheme and third-person viewpoint to be very different from the keyboard and mouse WASD control I'm used to. Still, it seems new and fresh to me and I'm sure I'll have things I want to say about it after I play a bit further into the story.

ACRL 2009: Seattle here were come!

My colleagues Serin, Carole and I had our presentation to ACRL 2009 accepted. I'm pretty excited, especially seeing as how national conferences are a real crap-shoot (gaming reference) and there are a LOT of quality ideas that don't get the chance to be voiced at these. Well, we got lucky this time. Here is what we'll be presenting:

We're not playing around: Gaming literate librarians = information literate students

Concerned with reaching the newest generation of college students? Try increasing your gaming and new media literacy. Perhaps you’ve heard that new college students’ learning preferences have been influenced by playing video games, this presentation will present serious adult professionals with tips on increasing their new media literacy without sacrificing their dignity or academic rigor.

There is no denying that video games are all the buzz, but how just much attention should academic librarians pay to them? With all the competing demands on our time and attention, can we justify keeping up with what amounts to a frivolous pastime? We can, because good games are successful at teaching skills that we would like to see our students apply to information literacy. Librarians who understand how a well designed game engages and teaches students are better able to apply those lessons to their own instruction.

The key to isolating the pedagogically useful information in video games is to separate the underlying design and structure of games from their content. When we look beyond the admittedly childish content of many video games, we see that our students are learning how to think actively and critically while they play. They remain committed to the learning process and persistently build new skill sets to achieve success. Librarians striving to engage students in active and critical research processes can learn much from observing how games teach. This session will explain why games are important, draw connections between good video game design and good pedagogy, and present librarians with information and techniques for becoming literate in the new media.

The presentation will be framed for an audience not already familiar with history and culture that surround video games. We will open with an introduction to video games as a media and present the effect this media has had on the shared culture and learning preferences of college students. Next, we explore how good game designers teach their players. This will reveal both the learning preferences of the gamer generation and highlight innovative pedagogies we can adapt for our own instruction. Finally we will present practical tips for librarians to increase their gaming literacy and to use that literacy to engage their students in serious academic research.

a sign of a great conference presentation

You can tell when you've attended a great conference presentation when someone in the audience admits that the talk has sparked an ontological crisis and caused him to question who he is.

I attended such a presentation today at LOEX of the West. Kate Groenmeyer and Anne Marie Dietering gave a talk tilted: Peer Review 2.0 about teaching evaluation skills and the processes of academic communication to undergraduate students with an eye to the collaborative communication tools that come with Web 2.0. It really spoke to the information geek in me and confirmed that I'm in the right profession because we get to think about some damned interesting topics and our job of teaching students to handle information is important, vital, and fun.

A LOT of great information is available from the presentation on Anne Marie's most excellent blog: So by all means run, don't walk, there to check it out. Kate is a contributor at, which is going into my feed reader as I type.

This conference has been a good one for content. Conferences tend to be full of meetings for me, so I don't typically have time or energy left to try and find the best sessions. Here, there is a surfeit of great content. Yesterday I attended Kaijsa Calkins' wonderful case study of a project at the University of Wyoming that embedded a librarian in a learning community of at-risk (conditionally admitted) first year students. I've been a bit struck by Professor X's bleak but enlightening and seemingly right-on-the-money article about the challenges of teaching students who are not prepared for the rigors of college work in The Atlantic, so this look into ways of intervening in the work of at-risk students was timely and appreciated. I also enjoyed a well organized presentation by Paul Waelchi & Sara Holladay. Paul and Sara talked about using fantasy sports as a hook to engage students athletes and other students into information literacy activities. I'm very much on board with attempts to highlight information literacy and critical thinking activities that take place in the non-academic lives of our students and using them to bridge the gap between new college students and the daunting culture of the academy. Sara and Paul had some good structures for bridging this gap and some excellent techniques for structuring lessons, engaging with faculty, and convincing administration and faculty that talking about leisure activities can lead to real learning.

It has been a great conference so far. I have high hopes for my presentation, but I have yet to give it so wish me luck!