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A. Ramnarine-Rieks

Syracuse University (UNITED STATES)
This quasi-experimental study explores the teaching of information literacy (IL) in a constructionist learning environment. IL is considered critical in a growing number of social and academic contexts. However, despite the importance of IL many learners still have little idea how to evaluate information for relevance, accuracy or authority and are generally uncritical about messages offered to them through online media. Alternative approaches to teaching IL concepts are increasingly being addressed in library practitioner oriented literature. As such there has been the introduction of gaming activities but few of these programs offer the design component. Scratch, a visual programming environment is used to create a environment that lets users create interactive, media-rich projects such as games and narratives.

The sample is a non-probability convenience sample of undergraduate students enrolled in a six-week program that provides 200 pre-freshmen an opportunity to become familiar with the academic, social, and cultural life at the college level. The program activities included student’s participation in library sessions, where they became familiar with library resources and services offered on the campus. Typically sessions are done in a classroom setting, where students passively learn about the library services and IL concepts.

For the purposes of this study the library activity was modified to introduce a game design activity using Scratch. Prior to the library session all students were exposed to Scratch and designed game narratives, animate characters, add music, etc. They also played with completed Scratch games to get a better sense of what design creations were possible. All students were given a pre-test to establish a baseline measure for comparison with the post-test outcome measure. Post tests were given to the students a couple of weeks after the activity.

Four groups of students visited the library during one of the scheduled sessions. The first session served as the control. That meant that the class took place without a design intervention. At the second session (first treatment) students played a pre made game that focused on some of the elements of the self guided tour. The second treatment was similar to the first; in this case students developed a plan for a game or created one in Scratch. The artifacts developed were planned along the content of the self guided tour. All activities were video recorded offering firsthand examination of the participants’ engagement in library instruction and gaming activities. Field notes were also taken to supplement recordings. Artifacts that students created were also collected and analyzed.

Findings show that despite brief exposure to Scratch; students were able to successfully design functional games using various functionalities. There was a gain in learning retention between the pre and post test for those students exposed to the Scratch design activity. A more detailed analysis of the data and artifacts created will be presented along with the challenges faced. Findings from this study can help toward the incorporation of game design into conventional library instructional courses and other learning activities. These results provide evidence that constructionist learning environments can improve the learning retention of IL concepts. This study would help foster discussions surrounding these new approaches to teaching information literacy.