Tag Archives: writing

Gamification Part 2 A Plan for Play

So, I’ve soap boxed about what’s wrong with gamification but how would I actually do something good? What would *I* do to design library-games for a school that worked?

Anyone who’s listened to me talk about this for any length of time will know I’m a big fan of Amazon’s ecosystem. And their Kindle FreeTime initiative—pictured here—is an amazing leap forward in integrating gamification in a meaningful way with kid’s reading practices.PAperwhiteFreetime

There’s no universal panacea for getting gamification to work across different contexts. But, the FreeTime idea of allowing parents or teachers to set individually customised goals, and reward them appropriately really resonates with me.

Rewarding students for borrowing and returning books simply invites cheating, or gaming, the system—a delicious irony I realise. Integrating meaningful tracking metrics into a digital-reading experience is a far more robust approach to fusing play and engagement with ordinary reading activities. There’s an element of mastery to the experience too! Tracking and improving reading speed in a session or over time gives readers goals to meet and surpass. Tackling longer, harder books allows them to see their growth over time, and the achievement is a real, measurable thing.

This of course is entirely dependent on using eReading devices. But devices are becoming so ubiquitous in children these days that there’s no reason to hold back on this idea. Moreover, issues of attention and engagement are critical in young students, and reaching out to them on the platforms and devices they already use is key to getting them on board with literacy. If they see reading–and the rewards for reading–as just another thing they do on the devices they already use then traditional reluctance to pickup a book may diminish.

I’m not in favour of ‘tricking’ students into reading or getting involved in the library. But, coming to them on their own terms and saying “Hey, I get that you like your devices; I get that you like games; did you know we offer a way for you to access library content on your device in a way that acknowledges and tests your reading skills?” seems like a reasonable approach that is low-key enough to at least be worth a shot.

To launch a pilot program like this, I’d be in favour of custom developing unique apps that reflect the character of a given school environment. Every school–and every student–is different, and there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to designing activities that work for every library.

Failing all that, I’m keeping an eye on what Amazon do next with the rollout of FreeTime. When the new Paperwhite Kindle’s launch in October I’m certainly expecting a gamechanger!

 

Games, Gaming, and Gamification – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about Games, Gamification, and Libraries.

There’s a certain stubborn snobbery that associates gaming with children, which therefore assumes that adults who engage in meaningful play-based activities must be in some way juvenile too. It’s a huge generalisation, but there’s a pervasive unpleasantness demonstrated by a certain, narrow-minded breed of professionals that ‘objectively’ rules out games and gamification in a completely arbitrary way that doesn’t need to be explained, defended, or evaluated.

And that’s hugely frustrating!

To derail from the broader discussion for a moment, I’d just like to contextualise my soap boxing a little. I’m pretty savvy when it comes to games and gaming—in fact, if Gladwell’s litmus test of ’10 000 hours of an activity make you an expert’ then I’ve certainly covered the requirements a few times over.  Just this past week I participated in the Indie Speed Run 48 hour game jam—an excellent idea in the middle of a solid block of university assessment. This game jam tasked my team and me with the complete design and development of a game in just 48 hours with a random set of elements to include and adhere to.

GameJam

Immersing myself in a rapid-fire development environment for a whole weekend left me asking some of the high-level, design questions that are fundamental to all sorts of manifestations of ‘games’.

These core principals of play design—whether they in a 2D side-scroller or a library catalogue—ask the same sorts of questions about attention, motivation, and engagement. In taking on the mantle of a game designer I had to ask myself these questions in order to find meaningful verbs to describe play-based activities beyond the mundane tasks being performed.

Take Trove’s text correction initiative for example. Here we have a dull set of actions such as laborious information parsing and data entry. But, it’s packaged in such a way that we see it as exploration, discovery, and competition. Checking and correcting OCR’d articles becomes a quixotic race-to-the-top of who can demonstrate the highest level of commitment. Sure, it’s a highly insular community. But, within the space provided by Trove an entire currency of reputation has grown up around the dubious honour of correcting the most articles.

This isn’t profoundly high-level game design; but it works. The layers of progression and incentives give a positive feedback loop that rewards commitment and engagement. But, bootstrapping game systems onto existing mechanics is always going to be inherently flawed.

This is no ‘ground-up’ design. It’s simply re-contextualising something that already works and trying to make it fun and engaging. It’s really just expressing an existing system through new mechanics.

Play shouldn’t feel like work, and there is a wealth of work that needs to be contributed to libraries. Social data that enriches a catalogue such as tagging, reviewing, recommending, relating, and classifying records enriches a library in an amazing way. Slapping the veneer of a game onto the catalogue to ‘trick’ people into doing this work feels disingenuous, and smacks of exploitation.

Really, it’s a fundamental question of putting content into a game, rather than bootstrapping a game onto content.

Serious games have an element of mastery: your engagement and fun come from a progressive, skill-based unlocking of content. Gamification without meaningful mechanics might as well be a workplace KPI that just tracks your threshold for filling arbitrary quotas to achieve recognition.

 

Seeing the Gorilla

Workshop 5: Evidence Based Practice – Being research led

(This reflection was originally written on April 28, 2013)

The challenge to being more open and receptive to the situation around us is that sometimes, we just don’t see the Gorilla. When it came to understanding evidence based practice I certainly missed what was right in front of me.

Ann Gillespie spoke to us at length about how we can fundamentally adopt a way of thinking about the profession that interrogates data to provide meaningful evidence.

Evidence based practice in librarianship is not something I had any experience with prior to this workshop. Wrangling concrete data from a more holistic, qualitative process was eye opening and gave me pause. I had never considered that there were ways of empirically measuring or evaluating success that didn’t just draw on dry statistics and analytic data.

Calling on intuition and reflection to approach and measure library practices is fascinating. I was really drawn in by the theoretical frameworks espoused by Andrew Booth and Johnathan Elredge in the literature, and was able to contextualise how a practice cribbed from medicine and science could be applicable to LIS decision making.

I was genuinely surprised by the dissent in the classroom about the ‘woolly’ lack of value that EBP has, as it seemed self-evident to me almost immediately how useful and valuable this sort of approach could be. Identifying and iterating on best-practices is always going to be the way forward, and qualitative data can provide a wealth of context for interpreting and applying these practices.

I tend towards more quantitative, theoretical, research-oriented projects, and adopt a healthy level of pragmatism and detachment about the process. But, a more holistic approach to evidence based practice seems to present a much more dynamic, practical way of addressing the day-to-day challenges of the LIS profession.

If anything, this workshop highlighted for me that intuition and reflection are too-valuable as professional tools to be ignored. Evidence based practice is certainly something I intend to adopt in my further studies.

Raised lettering, pale nimbus white…

I should probably get some business cards printed one of these days.

Maybe eggshell.

Failing that, here’s my no longer current CV (Circa 2013).

I’m a firm believer in concise, one-page resumes. Anything beyond that should really be taken care of in a cover letter and/or your response to selection criteria.

The Great Chain

My LinkedIn Proflie.

I’ve had the skeleton of a LinkedIn account haunting me for a few years now. I’ve always had it at the back of my mind to gussy it up and start raking in the job offers, but it never really seemed to pan out.

I’ve attempted to make it pretty comprehensive while keeping the content lean and relevant without the clutter of years gone by.  I suspect that there’s not a great deal of head hunting going on for information studies students with a background in academic writing–but you never know!

To be honest, I’m not really great at the whole self-aggrandising thing and I find it challenging to sell myself without feeling self-consciously boastful or egotistical. But, I am a huge sucker for social data, and I get a real kick out of using LinkedIn as tool for tracking Six Degrees of Separation style connections.

I don’t love the idea of LinkedIn, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At worst it let’s me get a better perspective on who is in my orbit of influence is, and where I need to start searching for networking opportunities.

Boldly Going Somewhere

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Is it even possible to love reading and not love Borges? I don’t know! Frankly, I don’t want to know. But, in all seriousness, I think that quote neatly sums up where I’m starting from when I talk about the library profession.

Career goals are such a ponderous, weighty thing to carry around with you. I have aspirations certainly, but goals seem like too-narrow a way of defining these things.

Ideally, I want to design the sort of career that is resilient enough to navigate the wonderfully disruptive changes going on in just about every industry I’m affiliated with. I want to be flexible and diverse within my roles to be able to grab opportunities that become available to me today and tomorrow. Ideally, I’m seeking something that would offer me the level of challenges and engagement that I thrive on.

I have done plenty of work that was perfectly manageable and sufficiently complex, but had no scope for actually applying my enthusiasm or rewarding me with any sort of fulfillment. Self knowledge is a powerful tool, and realising that I’m determined to pursue fulfilling  experiences over other professional considerations is helpful to understand.

I know I said I didn’t want to get all specific with goals, but let’s try some broader principles instead:

  • I want to respond to new opportunities
  • I want to keep my skills at the forefront of new technologies
  • I want to find roles that allow me to take initiative, increase my responsibility, and innovate where possible
  • I want my career to reflect who I am and what I value

I feel like I have come to a deep enough understanding of myself, who I am, and who I could be that I actually am starting to understand who I want to be.

And who I want to be is changing all the time. I don’t want to shackle myself to one set of goals for a single, subset of employment. Rather, I want to broaden my horizons and aim for employability.

So, why libraries? Well, I don’t necessarily want to limit myself to just libraries. I think there’s a tremendous amount of value in pursuing a formal education in Library and Information Sciences for the kind of professional skills and competencies I’m interested in.

Yes, I gain a vocational skill set that I can apply professionally, but the generic skills I’m learning are so useful, not just in the information profession: the analytical skills, the strategic thinking, the management capabilities, and the commitment to continuous learning all position me to do just about anything.

Do I want to work in libraries? Sure thing! Libraries are amazing spaces where truly amazing things are happening in the foreseeable future.

But, let’s not stop there. There are incredible things happening in the academic world that I want to research, there are fiction books burning there way through the back of my brain and into my soul that need to be written, and there’s my powerful desire to advocate for improving literacy in young men.

There’s a great benefit in creating career goals. But, I increasingly recognise that my goals are always going to be shifting, and the most important thing is to remain flexible, positive, and creative in these times of continuing change.