Using Gaming to Teach Information Literacy Skills

Looking for new ideas this school year?  We’ll be looking at some reviews from the 2011 AKLA Conference reports by AkASL members who received Professional Development Grants.  Check out this article by Jennifer Lynch, Campbell Elementary School Librarian.

One of the most interesting sessions that I attended at the 2011 Alaska Library Association Conference was titled “Using Gaming for Instructional Purposes”.  It was presented by Jenny Levine, who works as an Internet Development Specialist and Strategy Guide for the American Library Association.

The session proved to be a worthy one.  Levine began by discussing how the learning methods of our children are different now than they were in the past, and these methods are also different from the ways many librarians learn.  Levine stated that kids are visual and experiential learners who no longer feel that there is only one way to one answer.  Instead, Millennials focus on finding the best path to the best possible answer of many.  In contrast, most librarians are text learners who focus on finding the one right answer.  Levine summed it up with a Stephen Abram quote: “Librarians are the Lisa Simpsons trying to teach the Bart Simpsons of the world”.

So how do we bridge the gap between the Lisa’s and the Bart’s? One way is to play games! Levine stated that games are great teaching tools because they teach strategy and reflection, two things that are hard to teach in other ways.  They also teach information literacy skills to kids in ways that are vital to them and that they understand.  Games can help kids learn how to synthesize information and apply it, two higher-level thinking skills that are vital parts of information literacy.

Many libraries are putting this idea into practice by bringing in electronic games, but board games work just as well.  Levine suggested choosing games where kids can develop and apply strategy.  She also suggested choosing mainstream games rather than purely educational ones as kids are more likely to reach for those.  They need to be fun for the students, or they won’t leave the shelf. Another great way to incorporate games is to have kids create their own, using programs like Game Maker, which can be downloaded for free.

For those who are interested, there are a variety of gaming grants available to schools and school libraries, but not as many yet for public libraries. Levine suggested visiting the Opportunities Exchange (OppEx) on the ALA’s website ( <> ) to find available grants.  The ALA also offers a Library Gaming Toolkit ( to help libraries establish gaming programs for their patrons.