To game or not to game? It is a question that still divides many teacher-librarians in schools today.
Even though 21st century libraries are vastly different spaces to those of the past, some teacher-librarians still believe games – particularly computer games and consoles have no place in modern school libraries. Fears over excessive screen time, a perceived lack of educational benefit and the difficulty in regulating the appropriate use of games have led to the exclusion of gaming in some school libraries.
This is despite research finding that digital games are beneficial in supporting the development of 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication.
Benefits of Gaming
The reality is digital games are here to stay, with the Digital Australia Report (2020) finding two out of three (66%) Australians regularly play video games. Of this number, more than 72% have more than one gaming device in their household. Respondents to the report indicate that computer games help their thinking skills, emotional wellbeing and social connection with others.
In her article Twelve reason to let your children play video games this Christmas Dr. Parry argues we should worry less about letting children play computer games due to the numerous benefits, including improved problem-solving, creativity and social skills. She believes games are essentially stories that can teach children about narrative structure and characters.
Teacher-Librarians need to embrace game play in their school libraries in order to transfer the skills and strategies students are learning informally into the school environment. In the role of technology leaders and innovators, school libraries are perfectly positioned to integrate gaming into the library program in order to enhance 21st century literacies.
Not only do games have the potential to improve student literacy, they also provide a way for library staff to connect with their patrons and get students in the door. An American School Librarian, Jason McCoy, won an award for doing just that through his “Gaming in the Library” program.
As well as increasing student and staff engagement, readership and circulation rates also improved with students reading both fiction and non-fiction books associated with the games they were playing. At a time when school libraries are increasingly under pressure and constantly proving their relevance to school administrators this engagement is more important than ever.
The gaming program also provided a positive social experience for teens, highlighting the important role the school library plays in enhancing and contributing to student well-being. A lunchtime gaming club could be just what your library needs to reconnect with disadvantaged students who may not have access to technology in their homes.
Things to Consider
Although the research has highlighted many positive benefits associated with gaming, it is important to plan for barriers you may face in introducing gaming into your library. Things to consider include your current workload and time availability, support from staff and administration as well as the cost involved in purchasing the necessary gaming equipment. It is worth spending some time planning, strategizing and putting some policies in place to answer questions such as:
- What games will you use?
- What consoles or computers do I need?
- When and where will you offer the program?
- Who will be responsible for supervising students?
- What is the school policy on inappropriate student use of games?
Once you have a plan in place, start small and gain the support of the early adopters in your school staff. A weekly lunchtime or after school gaming club can be an easy way to start. Don’t be afraid to make changes and let your students take ownership and lead the way. Above all else don’t forget to have some fun and learn something new!