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Learning Through Play, the Old School Way: Teaching Information Ethics to Millennials

Learning Through Play, the Old School Way: Teaching Information Ethics to Millennials.

The Library NEWS | Journal | Learning Through Play, the Old School Way: Teaching Information Ethics to Millennials.

by: Lucinda A Rush


Incorporating gaming and active learning elements into library instruction in academic libraries has proven to be an effective way to engage Millennials and increase their retention of knowledge. This article ties research on the learning preferences of Millennials to elements of active and game-based learning. The author describes the process of creating an innovative game based on Candy Land to teach undergraduates about information ethics and makes recommendations for creating non-digital games for instructional purposes based on this experience.

Instruction librarians face a variety of challenges, especially in one-shot instruction situations. How do we make our course materials meaningful, relevant and memorable to our students? How do we best design our instruction to reach college students of today?

This article describes a methodology for active learning that was implemented into a library instruction session on information ethics. Traditional undergraduate students of the Millennial generation are the targeted demographic for this case study. Prior to designing instruction for Millennials, it is essential that we know who these students are and how they learn.

It is well documented that Millennials enjoy learning actively. Active learning generally refers to a student-centered learning environment that includes an experiential, hands-on learning approach. In order for learning to be active, students should be engaged in an activity, such as problem-solving, role-playing, reading, writing or participating in discussion and debate (Bonwell & Eison, 1991).

In active learning environments, the teacher provides the framework and serves as a supporter and a facilitator, while the student takes the responsibility for participating and learning. Detlor, Booker, Serenko and Julien (2012) administered a survey to undergraduate students to compare the effectiveness of active and passive teaching methods in information literacy instruction.

They determined that the students who experienced an active learning environment were able to retain information and achieve the learning outcomes at a higher level than those who were in a lecture-style, passive environment. Notably, they also discovered that the amount of time spent on an activity did not necessarily make a difference after they spent thirty minutes on a particular activity and that it could be possible to integrate active learning techniques into a traditional lecture to raise the level of student learning (Detlor et. al., 2012). Facilitating active learning can be as simple as having students sit and stand for various questions or as complex as designing a Web-based alternate reality game.

Another learning preference of Millennials is to learn through collaboration with peers in a technology-rich environment. Colleges and universities have addressed these preferences, as evidenced in the rise of living learning communities on college campuses (DeBard, 2004) and the growing number of collaboration spaces in university libraries. Millennials can be motivated by competition and enjoy team based learning, whether in-person or via technology (Prensky, 2010). They prefer to have immediate feedback and assessment (Walsh & Inala, 2010), want subject matter to be relevant to their lives, and want to express opinions and make decisions (Prensky, 2010). Because they have grown up playing digital games, they are accustomed to experiential learning (Sweeney, 2005). Active game-based learning, which can involve elements of collaboration, discussion with peers, competition, role play, physical activity, and creativity lends itself well to the learning preferences of Millennials.

Literature Review

The role of the academic librarian as a teacher has become increasingly common over the past 20 years, with teaching currently playing a more important role than in the past, but the traditional one-shot lecture is not as effective with Millennials as with previous generations. According to Lippman (2013), college students do not learn from the traditional lecture format that simply shares information and logistics because they live in a world in which information is easily accessible.

Simply providing information isn’t enough to assist them in learning the information and applying it in the context of their lives (Lippman, 2013). The lecture format produces a teacher-centered atmosphere, which does not take the learning preferences of Millennials into consideration (Lippman, 2013).

As librarians, we may only have the opportunity to teach a particular student once or twice a semester, which can make it difficult to establish a rapport and teach in a manner that will facilitate student retention of knowledge. It is vital that we engage our students and make their experiences in library instruction meaningful and memorable.


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