Thursday, December 30, 2010

Information Literacy + Role-Playing Game = ILRPG?

The basic idea is this:
  • To develop (in my case, preferably an online) role playing game structure as one possible way for college students to explore and engage in the various aspects of the research and knowledge creation processes. 
  • To tap students' existing critical thinking and social networking skills to effectively interact with information and do research. 
  • To reward that learning process through a role-playing lens by allowing them to gain "experience points" and "level up their skills" and "gather loot" - and ideally, to do so collaboratively and competitively with their peers.
    via Flickr CC license, by Narisa
    This idea (which is not original by any stretch) is seeing light on my blog now due to several factors:
    1. I am an unabashed game geek. Not only am I a bit addicted to role playing video games, but I was an old-school AD&D and other pen and pencil RPG player way back in the early days of the genre.
    2. The growing popularity of online, socially networked RPG-style games like World of Warcraft, Farmville, etc.
    3. Growing evidence that integrating aspects of gaming into education, when done right, can be effective. Example studies.
    4. Rise of some (limited at present) tools that allow the creation of online games without necessarily needing hardcore programming skills, long term development time frames and large capital investments.
    5. Recent changes in my job responsibilities have allowed me the luxury of a few spare moments on most days to actually sit down and think theoretically and strategically about library instruction and information literacy (rather than spending every moment putting out fires and managing people).
    6. Most recently, reading this post, from the CUNY Games Network: Developmental Writing, the RPG
    Flick CC, by BCth
    Some very initial, pie-in-the-sky ideas along these lines:
    • A detective or P.I.-based game where each student mocks up their own avatar and takes on "cases" solo or in co-op or groups. They might then solve mysteries or cases that tasked them with locating specific pieces of evidence (facts) and piecing them together to make an arrest or conviction.
    • A cyberpunk game where each student is an underground resistance "information hacker" in a dystopian future where all information is controlled by some nefarious government. Their job is to find evidence of information tampering and put together that information in a way that will expose the truth to the repressed citizenry.
    • A medieval/fantasy setting where the student is a young knight, monk or scholar who must locate and convey knowledge and skills to his or her small fiefdom and citizenry in order to bring prosperity and technological advancements to the people and expand the borders of "civilization" or keep the monsters/villains of ignorance at bay.
    In each case, a player might create an avatar of some kind and get or choose stats, that might then influence what quests they would get. Upon completing missions/cases/quests they would level up their character and acquire experience points, choose better skills, weapons, trophies or spells (e.g., "Illuminate" or "Pick Lock" or "Smiting Hammer of Justice," and perhaps even the ability to form guilds or groups based around common interests or areas of study when they reach a certain experience level, which then might lead to the development of larger-scale quests that would require groups of people working simultaneously on multiple fronts to resolve.

    As I said above, this is all pie-in-the-sky unfinished ideas at present. I have no real data whether such a system could be effectively created (even on pen and paper), let alone implemented successfully to teach information literacy online. I think it's something worth further investigation on my part, though, to see where it takes me...

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