Game Mechanics to Promote New Understandings of Identity and Ethnic Minority Stereotypes

By Aurora Arevalo, Fil Bacarro, Bridget Esqueda, & Sarah Kaminski

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/lee.pdf

Citation: Lee, J.J. (2013). Game mechanics to promote new understandings of identity and ethnic minority stereotypes. Digital Culture & Education, 5(2), pg. 127-150.

This study uses interactive game mechanics to create digital games that address the influence and perceptions of ethnic minority stereotypes, specifically to Asian Americans. The influence of stereotypes on Asian Americans can affect such areas as academic performance, mental health, and identity development. The Model Minority stereotype prevents issues Asian Americans may be experiencing from being addressed, such as identity issues that can arise from internalization of this stereotype and having to navigate Western and traditional Eastern worldviews. The game design used in this study creates a non-threatening and interactive environment that allows participants to increase their understanding of how labeling and stereotypes can impact the experiences of Asian American youth. Particular areas of interest include the development of identity and self-concept in relation to stereotypes, and the perceptions and assumptions participants may hold toward Asian Americans.

The author’s overarching research question is, “Can game mechanics be used to promote new understandings of identity and ethnic minority stereotypes?” The primary research questions are:

1) Do ISGs affect Asian students’ perceptions of self-identities in relationship to stereotypes?
2) Do ISGs promote new perceptions and understandings of Asian culture?
3) Are ISGs effective in educating players about facts regarding Asian culture and
stereotypes?

Methods:

Lee uses a mixed-methods design broken into two phases. Phase 1 was for brainstorming and game design. The second phase was playing of the game and gathering of information. This study contributed an important investigation on how game mechanics help players learn about cultures and themselves which provides a way for players to move closer to identity achievement. By using a simple survey of five open ended questions; recurring stereotypes emerged within the ethnic group which were implanted in the game.

Two game prototypes that were created using the information from the first phase.

1. Flying Asian Stereotypes! Game- participants choose stereotypes for their character. Each stereotype has different consequences such as the “nerdy” stereotype make the character have a nerdy appearance. The objectives were to allow participants to reflect on their identity, educate players of Asian and Asian-American issues, and give a simulated experience of what it’s like to be labeled as an Asian stereotype. Participants were asked to play three rounds, each time constructing a different identity.

2. The A-Culture-Rate Game- participants had to rate the acculturation and biographical information of ten people of Asian descent from a scale of 1 to 5 once. The objective of this game was for the participant to realize that it’s not easy to determine someone’s character based on physical appearance.

Before and after the games, participants had to fill a 95-item survey in order to catch shifts in the areas of knowledge of Asian culture, perceptions and attitudes, and self-identity in relation to these stereotypes. The pre-test was given in paper format and the post-test was given via online survey.

Findings and Conclusions

The results were derived by quantitative data (pre- and post-tests were analyzed for general trends within groups) and qualitative data (open coding and thematic analysis of interview data was performed).

1. Lee found out that ISGs do affect the self-identities of Asian students. Pre-test scores revealed that first generation Asians had the highest change in self-identity, followed by the second generation Asian-Americans. Non-Asians had virtually no change in their self-identity. The semi-structured interviews’ results “supported finding that players were able to learn new understanding of themselves. In several instances, players were able to reflect upon self-identities, verbalize goals and possible future/selves (p. 144).” The interview results show that Asian-American players were able to identify with stereotypes and issues raised in the game. Based on the study, ISGs do in fact change the perception of self-identity of Asian students.

2. Results from the pre- and post-test assessments implied awareness of existing stereotypes were low for Asians while Asian-Americans were high. Results also indicated games helped comprehend Asian stereotypes. The same conclusion was derived from qualitative data. Before the ISGs, Asian students were not fully aware of the Asian stereotypes; the results from this study clearly suggest that the ISGs do promote new perceptions and understandings of Asian culture.

3. The results indicated the mini-games had a positive effect on learning facts regarding Asian culture and participants learned facts related to Asian culture. It implied ISGs were effective in educating players about facts regarding Asian culture and stereotypes.

Lee concluded that through ISGs, Asian players were able to understand their self-identity and roles stereotypes played in their life. Lee suggests that this study can be adapted to explore the consequences of stereotypes faced by other minority groups. If ISGs worked well within the Asian community, many other minorities can benefit from the information that ISGs can provide.

Unanswered questions and future research

While this study brought to light a different way to educate the impact of stereotypes on the identity of people of different ethnic backgrounds, how does this new approach compare to traditional interventions? Are ISGs more effective than traditional means? What is the difference in impact to the self-identity of the people who participate in the different interventions? Are different interventions needed for different learners? Since every person learns in a different way, does this affect the effectiveness of these interventions?

Other unanswered questions: could stereotypes be taught through a mainstream game format? While ISGs were effective in impacting the self-identity of the Asian participants, they weren’t a game that would be actively sought out. These games were designed with a study in mind rather than in a broad application.

Future research could look at the application of these concepts to a more mainstream format. Could a hand-held game be developed for a wider audience? Can this concept only be approached in a classroom setting?

Lee acknowledges that that there was no way of knowing which combinations of features led to the study’s success. Could the features of the game be narrowed to see which were the most effective? And could they apply them to a new program and study the result?

Educating generation next: Screen media use, digital competencies and tertiary education

By Erin Doerner, Daniel Szmagalski, Victoria Lucero, Seoyoung Kim

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/cinque.pdf

Article Synopsis

Educating Generation Next: Screen Media Use, Digital Competencies and Tertiary Education, by Toija Cinque and Adam Brown is an article that looks at 367 first year undergraduate university students from Melbourne and Geelong, Australia. The article does not attempt to resolve how “new media innovation should be adopted” in the classroom, but simply seeks to explore how “Generation Next” is engaging with contemporary screen culture (p. 16).

In contemporary literature, there appears to be a pressing toward “institutions and teachers…to alter existing practices” in presenting knowledge to students based on a presumed fact that this generation is more tech savvy. (p. 1) The authors want to know if it is true: is Generation Next more competent in their technological know-how and skills as the literature seems to indicate? The hope is that this article’s findings will lead to improved teaching knowledge, and further highlight the research into student use of communication and digital competencies.

The literature review presented shows that much has been written on the subject of new media in education. It is a well written “assumption” that today’s students are highly competent in new technology (p. 2). Therefore education must be presented in such a way that it will capture their attention. Of course, literature representing viewpoints in opposition to this assumption are prevalent. David Noble condemns using technology in an educational setting (p. 2).

Literature here is reviewed, not only by Australians, but from Canadian and American perspectives, as well. In looking at the literature, the authors do not try to build the case for one argument or the other. Rather, they seek only to better understand current perceptions and trends regarding new media and education.

The authors investigated new media use, communications technologies, and other digital competencies for possible applications to educational purposes. The first year students were given a questionnaire entitled, “New Media: Perceptions and Use.” Of the 367 students responding, 104 were male, and 263 were female. The mean age was 18. Student respondents were derived from 43 different majors, with a majority coming from disciplines in Media and Communications, Public Relations, and Education.

Findings and Conclusions

Students provided answers to 9 questions, each with the opening phrase: “How many hours…” Four questions asked about their television habits, comparing a shift in media usage. Students were asked questions related to their online activities and Internet use for 1) everyday, 2) work-related, 3) study-related, and 4) recreational/entertainment purposes. Results indicated that students viewed about 1-3 hours of television daily for entertainment. (p. 10) Sixty-seven percent of participants spent about 2-5 hours using the Internet daily. (p. 10)

The findings showed internet use was much more pervasive than television (4 hours of internet vs 1.5 hours of television). In comparing the amount of time students used the internet for studying and recreation, studying received a mean of 1.96 hours, whereas recreation use a mean of 2.69 hours. Television use for education or knowledge was well below one hour.

The authors succeeded in showing that student preference and competence toward the internet is far greater than television, and students do utilize the internet for studying.

Thirty-seven percent of students reported watching television online (pp. 6-7 and 11). The authors note the possibility that students have the television on while using the Internet, but could not determine the extent to which this might happen (p. 11). Students also reported using a wide variety of social networking and news websites; some of the most popular were Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google, Google Scholar, and Wikipedia (pp. 13-14).

The authors conclude that more students are using new media — specifically the Internet — over television for entertainment/recreational purposes, and that this preference is “newly embedded within the cultural practices” of the students (p. 15). Suggestions for future research include investigating “higher education students’ engagement with contemporary screen culture” (p. 15).

Unanswered Questions: What might future research address?

In the future, the specific solutions applying realities in higher education should be produced actively from other researchers. Cinque & Brown wished that this research would “highlight areas of further research in student use of communications technologies and digital competencies” (p. 1).

Through the literature review, the authors point out that these areas involve lots of complex issues. For example, they cited the “prominence of [the] utopian-dystopian controversy,” relating to new media perception, and cite from Dutton and Loader (2002, p.20). “While utopian views of new media innovation are often expressed by institutions…, many students exhibit a dystopian perspective of new media…, thus …does not conform to (stereotypical) assumptions about the interests, desires and capabilities of ‘Generation Next.” (p. 5).

Normally, online education support teams are enthusiastic about using a variety of new media to achieve their goals, as with students’ educational success and satisfaction. However, a team should exercise patience in introducing the latest in educational technology. Here, two further questions could be suggested.

First, how can we know when the time is right to introduce some new technology in education? This could be answered with 4W and 1H questions (What, When, Where, Why, and How). These questions definitely should be approached from the standpoint of students. Only continuous research of student trends in new technology, such as those described in Cinque & Brown’s paper would enable a team to know which technology was properly introduced in the education area at that time. Cinque & Brown described student trends as “higher education students’ engagement with contemporary digital screen culture” (p. 15).

Second, the authors emphasize how “the subsequent development of organizational policies and plans that arise from these, need to be grappled with…” (p. 15). That is, after deciding to introduce some new educational technology, how will the organizations properly research and develop appropriate policies and plans relating to that technology? These questions, and others, should be considered.

Using Open Source Tools to Create a Mobile Optimized, Crowdsourcing Translation Tool

By Molly Sherman, Jared Fair, Nicole Josephson, Dee Ann Huihui

Link to article: http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/9496

Article synopsis and core research question(s):
One of the main questions Oregon State University Libraries and Press (OSULP) described in this article was the need for a cost-effective solution to publish books in local languages and dialects using crowdsourcing. OSULP intends to create a tool that will benefit children ages two to five years old, while still allowing older children to benefit as well. OSULP found that children are taught to read later in their lives and in some cases, such as in Busia, are taught Swahili up until about third grade and then are taught in English from then on. With so many dialects, it is difficult to find a tool allowing for many dialects to be available.

This article discusses how to find or create a tool allowing for users, initially in Africa, to vote on the correct dialect of children’s books in order to make them available. With creating a tool such as this there are many aspects that must be considered such as the tools simplicity of its interface and usability, is there the ability to access it offline, what are the screen limitations, how quick can users vote, can users edit the books’ pages to add a new translation, and also the need for a system that takes the highest voted sections and combines them to create a completely translated text. OSULP created their tool in GitLab in order to keep the tool and its beginnings open only to their staff; hoping to later release it through GitHub for others to tailor it to their own needs.

Methods used to answer research questions:
In addressing how to create a tool that allows multilanguage translation in promotion of literacy for children in Africa, the following methods and applications of practice were used. First a network of libraries called Maria’s Libraries came together with OSULP to discuss technologies for consideration in a resource poor environment. It was decided that the testing methods would be delivered by mobile device interactions through a website using the following open source libraries: Wink Toolkit and Globalize3. Language translations were accessed as multiple database entries into an application called Ruby on Rails.

In creating this crowdsourcing platform the goal was to have a gateway tool for enabling users to translate folk tales and existing children’s books into their own languages and dialects. This practice was implemented with a simple interface offering a choice of languages. A username and password approach for users along with icons symbols and a voting process were part of a simple user setup. In order to support the most accurate translations of single languages and dialects, user abilities were set to allow for new dialect identification.
The following items were also included in the method design:
· Tablet Computers for easy interactivity.
· A simple interface utilizing language choices.
· Display carousel of books marked for translation.
· Easy navigation between book pages.
· A User voting process for each translation.
· A User editing process with original translation comparisons.
As part of the methods used, a voter incentive process based on comparison of translations was set as default. The simultaneously experience for users is to see all translations that have been made and be able to make the most accurate choice.

Findings:
As the article assigned to us; Using Open Source Tools to Create a Mobile Optimized, Crowdsourced Translation Tool, was not written within a standard format for academic literature and captured only the first phase of an ongoing project, the findings were less formal and more linear than might be expected.
That said, the project explored in this article found that there were three vital parts that presented significant problems and needed to be addressed: administration; additional crowdsourcing and offline functionality.
The administration woes were two fold: 1) the participants were unable to use the interface to upload stories that contained both images and texts, and, 2) the administrators had no ability to override the participants intentions and this fault left them open to “poisoned” or unreliable records.
Additionally, without further crowdsourcing, many users were unable to recommend new languages and dialects for stories or books to be translated into, rendering some of the work inaccessible.
Finally, authors also suggested that without improved offline capabilities the stories and participants work would be greatly diminished.

Conclusion:
The broad, main intent of this project began as an attempt to help literacy in Africa. They discovered that their tool and research were relevant beyond this intent. Indeed, it held exciting potential to do much more; “We are very excited about the possibilities of the usefulness of the platform as a way of publishing books in lesser-known languages or in regions where dialectic publishing is cost prohibitive.”

Unanswered questions you have and what future research might address:
After reading this article, there are a few questions that could be addressed. There is the potential to build a database of sub-dialects with this technology. Will the text be available for export after local translation has taken place? If enough members of a community participate in the translation process and if the texts could be exported into a central database, the potential for published works in each sub-dialect increases.

Will the translations move across the geography in a wave, so each new area has the closest possible translation available from neighboring villages? Or will each linguistic geographical area begin with the same base text? The linguistic preferences of each user will be remembered and set as the default when they log in, but once a book is translated into a specific dialect, will the rest of the tablets in the same geographic area automatically set their defaults to that dialect? Can a mother and child share default settings, while maintaining their own accounts?

What are the consequences of exposing sub-dialect communities to the written text of other areas? Could this tool be used to encourage the building of a shared national language? Are there possible negative consequences of this action, such as the diminishment of local dialects? Are there cultural and ethical questions that must be asked before proceeding? Future research could address the cultural shifts that will take place as a result of introducing written texts for early readers in local dialects to areas that have not previously experienced it.

A thoughtful attempt to answer your own questions:
The authors’ stated purpose of fostering early literacy in order to prepare children for school success raises the question of how this tool will actually support students entering classes that are not taught in their local language. One possible solution to investigate may be designing the product as a bilingual tool that displays the stories with text in multiple languages simultaneously — for example, in both the learner’s local language and the official language. In addition, the anticipated use of this product in language studies programs leads to the question of how it may be used to facilitate aural learning. In this respect, further development and enhancement to consider may be the integration of programming that allows contributors to upload audio recordings of translations along with text. And finally, considering the product’s potential as a tool to increase literacy, aid in language learning, and enable wider access to multicultural children’s literature, additional research and development is justifiable. Few things are free, however, and one must ask how future R&D is to be funded. Using the tool itself as an example, perhaps the answer lies in crowdsourced funding.

Using Open Source Tools to Create a Mobile Optimized, Crowdsourcing Translation Tool

By Kira Painchaud, Molly Sherman, Jared Fair, Nicole Josephsen, and Dee Ann Huihui

Link to article: http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/9496

Article synopsis and core research question(s):
One of the main questions Oregon State University Libraries and Press (OSULP) described in this article was the need for a cost-effective solution to publish books in local languages and dialects using crowdsourcing. OSULP intends to create a tool that will benefit children ages two to five years old, while still allowing older children to benefit as well. OSULP found that children are taught to read later in their lives and in some cases, such as in Busia, are taught Swahili up until about third grade and then are taught in English from then on. With so many dialects, it is difficult to find a tool allowing for many dialects to be available.

This article discusses how to find or create a tool allowing for users, initially in Africa, to vote on the correct dialect of children’s books in order to make them available. With creating a tool such as this there are many aspects that must be considered such as the tools simplicity of its interface and usability, is there the ability to access it offline, what are the screen limitations, how quick can users vote, can users edit the books’ pages to add a new translation, and also the need for a system that takes the highest voted sections and combines them to create a completely translated text. OSULP created their tool in GitLab in order to keep the tool and its beginnings open only to their staff; hoping to later release it through GitHub for others to tailor it to their own needs.

Methods used to answer research questions:
In addressing how to create a tool that allows multilanguage translation in promotion of literacy for children in Africa, the following methods and applications of practice were used. First a network of libraries called Maria’s Libraries came together with OSULP to discuss technologies for consideration in a resource poor environment. It was decided that the testing methods would be delivered by mobile device interactions through a website using the following open source libraries: Wink Toolkit and Globalize3. Language translations were accessed as multiple database entries into an application called Ruby on Rails.

In creating this crowdsourcing platform the goal was to have a gateway tool for enabling users to translate folk tales and existing children’s books into their own languages and dialects. This practice was implemented with a simple interface offering a choice of languages. A username and password approach for users along with icons symbols and a voting process were part of a simple user setup. In order to support the most accurate translations of single languages and dialects, user abilities were set to allow for new dialect identification.
The following items were also included in the method design:
· Tablet Computers for easy interactivity.
· A simple interface utilizing language choices.
· Display carousel of books marked for translation.
· Easy navigation between book pages.
· A User voting process for each translation.
· A User editing process with original translation comparisons.
As part of the methods used, a voter incentive process based on comparison of translations was set as default. The simultaneously experience for users is to see all translations that have been made and be able to make the most accurate choice.

Findings:
As the article assigned to us; Using Open Source Tools to Create a Mobile Optimized, Crowdsourced Translation Tool, was not written within a standard format for academic literature and captured only the first phase of an ongoing project, the findings were less formal and more linear than might be expected.
That said, the project explored in this article found that there were three vital parts that presented significant problems and needed to be addressed: administration; additional crowdsourcing and offline functionality.
The administration woes were two fold: 1) the participants were unable to use the interface to upload stories that contained both images and texts, and, 2) the administrators had no ability to override the participants intentions and this fault left them open to “poisoned” or unreliable records.
Additionally, without further crowdsourcing, many users were unable to recommend new languages and dialects for stories or books to be translated into, rendering some of the work inaccessible.
Finally, authors also suggested that without improved offline capabilities the stories and participants work would be greatly diminished.

Conclusion:
The broad, main intent of this project began as an attempt to help literacy in Africa. They discovered that their tool and research were relevant beyond this intent. Indeed, it held exciting potential to do much more; “We are very excited about the possibilities of the usefulness of the platform as a way of publishing books in lesser-known languages or in regions where dialectic publishing is cost prohibitive.”

Unanswered questions you have and what future research might address:
After reading this article, there are a few questions that could be addressed. There is the potential to build a database of sub-dialects with this technology. Will the text be available for export after local translation has taken place? If enough members of a community participate in the translation process and if the texts could be exported into a central database, the potential for published works in each sub-dialect increases.

Will the translations move across the geography in a wave, so each new area has the closest possible translation available from neighboring villages? Or will each linguistic geographical area begin with the same base text? The linguistic preferences of each user will be remembered and set as the default when they log in, but once a book is translated into a specific dialect, will the rest of the tablets in the same geographic area automatically set their defaults to that dialect? Can a mother and child share default settings, while maintaining their own accounts?

What are the consequences of exposing sub-dialect communities to the written text of other areas? Could this tool be used to encourage the building of a shared national language? Are there possible negative consequences of this action, such as the diminishment of local dialects? Are there cultural and ethical questions that must be asked before proceeding? Future research could address the cultural shifts that will take place as a result of introducing written texts for early readers in local dialects to areas that have not previously experienced it.

A thoughtful attempt to answer your own questions:
The authors’ stated purpose of fostering early literacy in order to prepare children for school success raises the question of how this tool will actually support students entering classes that are not taught in their local language. One possible solution to investigate may be designing the product as a bilingual tool that displays the stories with text in multiple languages simultaneously — for example, in both the learner’s local language and the official language. In addition, the anticipated use of this product in language studies programs leads to the question of how it may be used to facilitate aural learning. In this respect, further development and enhancement to consider may be the integration of programming that allows contributors to upload audio recordings of translations along with text. And finally, considering the product’s potential as a tool to increase literacy, aid in language learning, and enable wider access to multicultural children’s literature, additional research and development is justifiable. Few things are free, however, and one must ask how future R&D is to be funded. Using the tool itself as an example, perhaps the answer lies in crowdsourced funding.

The language of Webkinz: Early childhood literacy in an online virtual world.

By Christie Cho, Kate Cochrane, Kenneth Lewin, Karen Reuter

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/volume-2/the-language-of-webkinz-early-childhood-literacy-in-an-online-virtual-world/

Black, R. W. (2010). The language of Webkinz: Early childhood literacy in an online virtual world. Digital Culture & Education, 2:1, 7-24.
http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/volume-2/the-language-of-webkinz-early-childhood-literacy-in-an-online-virtual-world/

Introduction:

With the abundance of technological advancements our increasingly digital world is enjoying, new types of virtual worlds are being used for learning in innovative ways. “Shared virtual environments (SVEs) offer particularly compelling examples of the new forms of learning, literacy, and social developments that youth are engaging with online” (Black, 7). Although research efforts exploring the relationship between virtual worlds and knowledge acquisition abound, there is a gap in our understanding of the effect of virtual worlds on children’s learning. Rebecca Black’s article seeks to address this gap in research by offering a case study of Webkinz World (http://www.webkinz.com). Webkinz World is a highly popular SVE targeting children ages 6–13 and attracts roughly 3 million users annually. Using data from participant observation and a qualitative content analysis of the Webkinz World SVE, Black is able to create a map of the site’s contents and help us better understand how users navigate, communicate, and play within this virtual environment.

Methodology:

This study used a qualitative analysis of the the WebKinz website as a starting point for a future qualitative analysis of multiple Share Virtual Environments (SVEs). The analysis focused on mapping the contents of the Webkinz website while also evaluating both the design of the site and its literacy-related features. At the time of the study, the authors had not yet evaluated other SVEs for comparison or for further analysis of the technological and literacy-related features.

Findings:

​The author finds that the Webkinz virtual world inconsistently applies principles of pedagogical design appropriate for the interested demographic. For instance, using vocabulary and content retention speed for an appropriate age level varies from video to video, and even within videos. The author submits that this is somewhat ameliorated by affordances such as characters glancing or gesturing at referenced icons, and printed text appearing along with spoken words, but might suggest a need for developer attention.
The author also makes note of the consumer-centric ethos that pervades the world, specifically mentioning the acquisition of material goods equating to caring for one’s pet. Black asserts that this attitude will have a (negative) impact on impressionable young users’ cultural conceptions. In a similar vein, the author argues that educational potential of this virtual world is squandered by “rampant in-game self-advertising” (Black, 2010, p. 20). The theme of the user being a passive onlooker (reminiscent of dated pedagogical beliefs), rather than an active creative participant in the virtual world, is also expressed. Black references Lankshear & Knobel in this regard, who refer to such passive interaction as “bookspace,” implying a pre-approved interaction with surroundings that stifles creativity and active learning.​

Questions and Directions for Further Research:

Though the Webkinz World site appears on the surface to be replete with new literacies technologies, these technologies, instead of following a true new literacies approach, are used for knowledge acquisition based on conventional forms of learning. Learning and collaboration opportunities using the chat functions are severely limited by the dictionary of words to which children are limited. Though internet safety may dictate these constraints since there are not many ways to ensure safe interaction for young children on the internet, the current messaging system and vocabulary were formulated by adults working in a corporate context who may not understand the interests and values of the young players (Black, R. W., 2010). Increasing the dictionary of available words may also help children communicate more freely while maintaining safety.

Another avenue for exploration may be to assess the impact on learning for children using the free options only vs. children who can pay for the deluxe membership. Questions that may be explored through such a study might include:
–Do socioeconomic status differences impact online learning through sites such as these the same way that they do in schools in many communities?
–Do the limitations to collaboration and static content keep learning differences to a minimum?
The author mentions that ancillary fan sites, not those run by corporations, offer many more opportunities for collaborative, networked learning and interaction that is associated with new literacies (Black 2010). It would be interesting to explore the differences between corporate run sites for children and ancillary fan sites to see how new literacies are used on the different types of sites.

How Well Are You Doing Your Job? You Don’t Know. No One Does

By Jamie Carter Eric Cardoso Ton Vo Ngo Elyssa Gooding Christian Larsen

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/how-well-are-you-doing-your-job-you-dont-know-no-one-does/

This article focuses on how libraries measure and evaluate their job performances. Bonfield asks important a couple of important questions. How does a librarian know how well they are doing their job? What is a library? He thinks of a library as “a cooperative for infrequently needed, relatively inexpensive, durable goods”. This is the traditional view of libraries. When people think of libraries they think of books but libraries are much more than books. Some libraries don’t even have books. So how do they know they are doing a good job? Bonfield discusses other agencies and how they assess and measure their success at serving their constituents. He asks the question “Can libraries measure their job in the same way? Can their success be measured at all”?

Libraries are responsible for improving a patron’s well-being. It doesn’t matter how the library receives funding. The article goes on to discuss principles borrowed from other agencies and applies them to American Public Libraries. How do measure success? Now it involves standard testing but it used to involve graduation rates or whether or not graduates had obtained employment. (This is still true for some universities). He provides 8 different definitions of well-being. Some definitions of well-being are material living standards like income and wealth, health, education, political voice and governance.

One of Bonfield’s core questions was “Why aren’t libraries measuring outcomes?”
Libraries are doing some unplanned, unmeasured, and unscientific methods of measuring their success at improving the well-being of their patrons. This is involves looking at the feedback we get from patrons. Science is expensive. Far too little federal funds go to libraries. They can’t afford to assess whether or not they are succeeding using some science.
The government is too busy assessing healthcare outcomes and education outcomes to focus on library outcomes. This doesn’t mean they do not actually care. They just don’t care to measure the success of a library. Every situation is different. There is no hard science to even evaluate these outcomes. Teachers said the same thing when No Child Left Behind was enacted.

He explained some measurable ways for assessing libraries contribution to the well-being of patrons. First is voting. Are the people in your area voting? Are they voting less or more than one would expect for the demographic? Libraries can find ways to help patrons participate in democracy. Second is literacies. Libraries can test for this even if it is expensive. They can then assist each other with improvements and compare notes. He does not mention where the initial funding will come from. Third is social capitol. Libraries create opportunities for patrons to get to know their neighbors. There are numerous ways to measure their contribution to social capitol but does not list any. Last is employment. Libraries can introduce programs to help patrons obtain employment and then measure their success. The point Bonfield is trying to make is that people focus on what they measure.

The article concluded libraries are not measuring how their services and programming are affecting the lives of patrons they serve. Bonfield discussed how libraries focused too much on outputs rather than outcomes. Libraries measure quantitative outputs such as library visits, number of items circulated, patron attendance at programs, number of library employees and amount of library spending. Instead, they should focus on qualitative aspects. Libraries should focus more on outcome-based programming. He believes libraries need to strive for outcome measurements on how they can improve lives in the community. What is it they want to address and change? What are positive outcomes? It starts with identifying the needs and aspirations of patrons.

Libraries are willing to catch up with other public services on this particular issue. For example, the PLA (Public Library Association) President Carloyn Anthony created a Performance Measurement Task Force. The task force will spend three years to identify appropriate library outcomes that would make a positive impact in the community. Also, how libraries can help patrons achieve them.

Bonfield expressed concerns about libraries running out of time on outcome standards. He emphasized the need for libraries to work together to develop and measure outcomes. He suspects agencies from other fields will implement library outcomes for them. They might not truly reflect the values of libraries or the best ways to serve the public.

The article left unanswered questions for LIS professionals to ponder about what libraries can do moving forward. What aspects of well-being do libraries wish to promote? Which types of literacies would libraries measure?

References
Bonfield, B. (2014). How well are you doing your job? you don’t know. no one does. In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Formality in Chat Reference: Perceptions of 17- to 25-Year-Old University Students

By Grace Song, Kristi Hansen, Dana Kim, Stephanie Miko, Monica Diege

Link to article: https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/17911

Formality in Chat Reference: Perceptions of 17- to 25-Year-Old University Students

Today’s kids aren’t taking up arms against their parents—they’re too busy texting them.—Nancy Gibbs, American Essayist

Online chat and virtual reference service (VRS) and is becoming a more common form of service in both the public and college library. Young people,17-25 year olds, the Millennials, are the electronic generation. With complete anonymity behind the screen, it is difficult to judge to whom one is speaking, so it is impossible for the librarian to know in advance how to steer the tone of the conversation.

The article, Formality in Chat Reference: Perceptions of 17-to-25-Year-Old University Students, by Jennifer Waugh, outlines the results of a study looking at two different VRS transcripts. One was polite, but very casual, full of “fun” exclamation marks and slang. The other was more formal with complete sentences and full punctuation. The students’ reactions were divided.

Since the introduction of the Virtual Reference Service (VRS), its popularity has been seen through the use of our younger generation. However there have been arguments whether librarians should use a formal, professional language during the reference interview or if librarians should an informal language to address our younger generation so that librarians may appear casual and friendly. It is assumed that the virtual world is a place of impersonal communication and “robotic” responses by the sender.

Librarians were skeptical whether computer-mediated communication would appear “less friendly and personal” (p.21).
Prior to this study our author did acknowledge a trait that the younger generation, or Millennials, maintained. This generation has adapted to technology as second nature and as a means of initial communication between each other (p.20). Waugh also recognized that this age group has a “unique online communication style” that is full of “nonverbal cues” that “facilitate relationship building”. This style of communication can be seen through the use of abbreviations, emoji’s, and excessive punctuations (p.22).

As a result, this study was created to help determine if certain virtual reference scripts between librarian and patron appear to be less friendly or a very satisfying interaction. A group of five students, between the ages of 17 and 25 years old, were told to read a series of transcripts and conclude whether authenticity was meet, if trust was built, and if the librarian maintain a professional tone. Ultimately findings did suggest that formality did play an important role in the virtual reference interaction according to these students. Students were much more inclined to approach and establish an interpersonal connection virtually when informal language is used (p.29)

Ultimately, you might be asking the question of how all of this fits into the topic of diversity. If you look at it in just one way, it doesn’t have much to do with diversity on the surface. But we really think that everything and anything about libraries can be discussed in terms of diversity and multiculturalism—even online chatting and virtual reference services. Offering great customer/public service is an umbrella that includes VRS. The research addressed in this article only includes 17-25 year old college students who are considered as Millennials with previous instant messaging experience—how can we open up the discussion to include older folks and possibly those without much instant messaging experience? Also, librarians are coming from all different backgrounds. Can we somehow incorporate that diversity into our online conversations as well? We think so!

What’s great about VRS is that the people can’t see each other and therefore can’t pass judgment on a person based on their race or appearance. But while some may argue that not being able to see each other can also present issues because of the nature of instant messaging and not being able to show a physical smile or a nice tone of voice, the article mentions that you can indeed show a smile through an emoticon or a simple ‘colon-parenthesis’ :) and put an exclamation point to show enthusiasm. For those who grew up with instant messaging: remember all those times you were able to sense something was wrong just by the way your friend was typing? Remember those moments you could feel that your crush was flirting with you through his/her messages (or perhaps you mistook them for flirtations, but the point is that you can flirt via online chatting)? The fact is, many people nowadays are growing up using CMC (computer-mediated communication) via Google Chat, texting, and more, and it happens on a daily basis for many.

For librarians, this is something to think about as we design new ways to communicate and offer services to people who grew up with something we may not have grown up with. Also, we can think about ways that we can teach people how to use these kinds of communication tools—and it does not necessarily mean showing them how to use it in one specific way. Everyone will use it differently to their liking. And while we can understand how people may see informality as being inexperienced and not as credible, it doesn’t have to be that way. Perhaps being both informal and formal when you need to be is a great balance for librarians to obtain.

Live chat services can definitely be improved not just for one type of user, but for many different types of users. It’s a reference service that we can all be more thoughtful about, especially at a time in which CMC is very much used in our society. Opening up the discussion to people who may not be as familiar with chat services because of lower levels of information and technology literacies can open up ways in which the library as a whole can be more centered on diverse values.

Teaching in an Age of Ubiquitous Computing: A Decelerated Curriculum

By Julia Engel, Jody McKenzie, Kelsey Scrobis, and Cynthia Thompson

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/McRae.pdf

Article Synopsis and Core Research Questions

The current generation of young students are referred to as “digital natives”. The research in this article seeks to understand how educators can use these tools that students are familiar with to help reach them, as their information needs and behaviors have changed due to the ubiquity of technological tools being used in their everyday life. Though the perception of the use of these tools in a school setting has occasionally been negative, more and more educators have realized that they must study how to bridge the gaps that have been created between learning styles and previous teaching styles. This article discusses how teaching methods can change to help accommodate learners in the current age in which electronic devices are a main source with which educational materials are accessed. It evaluates how teachers use technological tools to bring information to students and seeks to answer the question of when using certain tools is most effective and appropriate. Traits inherent in these tools such as switching between screens and how it may affect whether learning occurs using a certain tool. It also discusses how analogue tools can be combined with digital tools.

Findings and Conclusions

Within this article, the author has many words of advice for teachers utilizing digital learning practices and advocates for switching to a decelerated curriculum which focuses on learning through a variety of literacies. Due to the constant presence of technology, “students have little trouble Googling information online and replicating it in assignments. They struggle however, when moving into higher level instruction where more complex deployment and interpretation of that information is required” (p. 136). McRae highlights the ways in which such a system can help students fully comprehend information processes and points out direct steps educators can take to implement a similar learning environment; embracing a decelerated learning environment means requiring a “course syllabus that explicitly provides spaces for contemplation built into the course content and assessment outcomes where students must move between digital and analogue interfaces and in that process, slow their movement and understanding of ideas” (p. 137).

McRae cites a study which compared students who were exposed to a decelerated classroom versus those who experienced the standard, outcome based curriculum, noting that the findings supported the ways in which multiliteracies “facilitate complexity, multiple experiences, and different attentions within and through methods that harnessed design platforms and pedagogic provocations to offer progressive alternatives to staid teaching and learning practices that were structured for empowered, singular and nationalised identities and learning modes” (p. 139). Overall, “instead of asking the students to focus on content, weekly outcomes and questions to consider, they focus on processes that mobilise information into critically engaged networks of knowledge” (p. 143); by offering students a chance to learn in a more concrete, conscientious way, the focus is switched from the routine completion of tasks to the awareness of the process by which we process information and connect ideas in our minds.

Deceleration Example

McRae used a decelerated curriculum in her course “Media and Social Context” at Curtin University in Western Australia. The assessment structure she had been using required students to do definitional work around ideology, conduct textual analysis, and then write an essay involving ideological analysis of their chosen text. With the course aimed at international students, she found that too much work needed to be done in the specified timeframe for the students to fully understand and develop the ideas needed to write the final essay. She changed the assessment to include tasks that slowly build knowledge through progressive assignments.

First, students were asked to select a topic and create a single-sentence thesis statement. They were required to provide a rationale for their statement and outline why the topic was important They also chose five articles from the set reading and create an annotated bibliography assessing each article. During the second part of the assessment, students created another annotated bibliography composed of ten resources not on the set reading list. Additionally, the resources were required to come from prescribed sources (e.g., two refereed articles, a blog, and a YouTube clip), encouraging an understanding and comparison between different types of resources. After doing this, students created an outline for their essay, indicating major themes

Overall, the students spent eight weeks on the same topic and completed their research by writing the essay. This is not a new type of assessment structure and is referred to as “building an information scaffold” (Brabazon, 2008). McRae found that adding the element of a long timeframe, however, “…can offer new modes to think and teach through that also critically connect technology, spaces and screens” (p. 141).

Critical Thinking

The author’s use of the terms “ubiquitous computing” and the controversial “digital natives” attracts maximum attention to her call for educators to rethink their use of digital learning objects and to dial back the complexity of assignments in order to achieve educational objectives. The term “digital native” originated in 2001 when Mark Prensky claimed in an article continual exposure to digital devices changed the brain structures of Americans born after 1980. A few years later in another article Prensky went so far as to title his article with the term “H. Sapiens Digital…” All other people born before 1980 (and not in America?) were labeled “digital immigrants” as they presumably adopted technology later in life. Prensky’s label begs the question; who conceived and built the “ubiquitous” digital environment that gave rise to his digital natives? By his own definition, it must have been those primitive digital immigrants. McRae’s anecdotes do not constitute empirical evidence of digital native behavior. Perhaps that is the point, even with access to nearly every type of digital tool, students are still unable to maintain focus and complete long-term assignments. There is a need to examine the effects in classrooms and in online learning environments of students accessing knowledge through multiple learning devices. It is the role of educators to provide the appropriate pedagogic praxis. On page 132, McRae calls on teachers to “have a reflexive understanding of the role that digital technologies play…” and to use professional judgment when incorporating digital tools and literacies in their curriculums.

Reference

Brabazon, T. (2008). Transforming learning: Building an information scaffold. Networks Magazine, Issue 4, http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/62740
/Transforming-Learning-Tara-Brabazon-issue-4.pdf

Education Remix: New Media, Literacies, and the Emerging Digital Geographies

By Sara Evans, Jessica Gilbert Redman, Joanne Rumig, & Marcia Seaton-Martin

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dce1034_vasudevan_2010.pdf

Article Synopsis & Core Research Questions

Vasudevan (2010) explores the way in which emerging digital geographies are making a difference in the way our youth population are being educated today, whether in the classroom or outside the school, as well as how technology is changing the way in which they communicate with their peers and teachers. Her research focus is to examine the types of digital spaces that youth are participating in and how they can be incorporated into current education practices. YouTube, Flickr, and other digital literacies such as cell phones, mp3 players, social networking sites, and virtual worlds have all contributed to this movement where students are engaged in the learning process both online and in the classroom. This affects the instruction models and assessment tools already in place.

In this particular article Vasudevan examines the social media practices and the technologies used by two youths, Joey and EJ, that are currently involved in an alternative to incarceration program (ATIP). Using portable technologies, Joey and EJ explored digital geographies in various workshops and improved writing skills using various digital spaces. In both examples the relationships between literacies and modalities are highlighted, and how their experiences will shape curriculum design in youth education.

Methods Used

The primary methods employed are case study examples from Joey and EJ in the ATIP workshops. Both completed different creative projects in different cycles of the program. Joey’s project was a part of a digital media workshop, where students were asked to create “movies,” and EJ’s project was a part of a larger program called The Insight Theatre Project, where students were asked to co-write scripts which were performed by other participants. The researchers used ethnography styled approaches to examine the processes of the either student in creating their projects, though these approaches were complicated by the students immersion in virtual spaces where the researcher could not necessarily situate themselves.The focus, however, was examining how either project highlighted the digital literacy and level of media engagement of the student, and how either changed throughout the course and with the addition of more virtual spaces for the students to occupy.

Findings & Conclusions

As a result of the digital medial workshop, Joey was able to use a digital camera not only as a tool but as a space to show the layered geography of his life. He used his PSP as a tool to transfer files from the camera to his online profile, while gaining new skills of customizing backgrounds and uploading music and multimedia poems. Through the use of ProTools, Joey was able to create beats for his multimedia narrative and later create a collection of beats for other multimodal compositions. He got a renewed sense of exploring his personal history with the PSP and the digital camera.

EJ began to navigate new spaces, starting with writing blogs, which helped him develop more of an appreciation for multiple audiences. With the blogging and observations he made, he started to identify himself not only as an intern but also as an ethnographer. As his composing evolved, his digital geographies began to include Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. By accessing many digital composing spaces, EJ was able to participate in new communities, be recognized for new identities, and gain new audiences.

“By paying attention to digital geographies, particularly the navigation across digital spaces and orchestration of multiple modalities, educators can cultivate youth’ literacies while at the same time inspire new sites of education” (Vasudevan, 2010, p. 79).

Further Research Opportunities & Unanswered Questions

Given the few student examples we see, it would be interesting to see how students use the digital landscape on a wider basis. One student uses technology in interesting and unusual ways, but how common is this “thinking outside the box”? What percentage of students get to know their technology this well, so they are able to think up new ways to use the technology? It would be helpful to know what students are using and to what point they are being creative with technology.

We often see students who are so-called digital natives who do not have what many consider basic digital skills (e.g., being able to enter a web address in the address bar of a browser instead of using Google to find the site and then clicking on it from the search results). Based on these observations, how many students are actively and eagerly participating in furthering their technological skills and knowledge beyond what is required for basic interpersonal communication (texting, Facebook, etc.)? By this, what we really want to know is if the Joeys and the EJs of the student world are outliers or if they are the norm. How much technological inquisitiveness can we expect from the average student? Are they willing (and/or able) to go above and beyond the normal requirements of a task or project to learn new skills or to bring together disparate skills in order to create something new?

Is it logical to believe that schools should have such varied types of technology (such as gaming systems or different types of computer OSes) available to students, just in case they might be able to use it creatively? Beyond that, do budgets allow for this possibility?

With schools fighting the influx of technology by often passing “screens down” or “phone basket” (where students put their phones in a basket upon entering a classroom to avoid the temptation of looking at it throughout class) regulations school-wide, where is the happy medium to make sure students are using technology effectively but not tuning out during the school day?

References
Vasudevan, L. (2010). Education remix: New media, literacies, and the emerging digital geographies. Digital Culture & Education, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com