Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Games for Teaching Information Literacy Skills

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Games for Teaching Information Literacy Skills

Article excerpt

Active Learning Activities

Two hydrogen atoms bumped into each other recently. One said, "Why do you look so sad?" The other responded, "I lost an electron." Concerned, the first one asked "Are you sure?" The other replied, "I'm positive."

Admittedly, this is a silly joke, but it represents a creative way to introduce search terms into a class discussion or simply get a chuckle from students in an information literacy course. The joke is short and can be placed on cover sheets for returned graded assignments. It does not detract from the class, and is one example of humor, which is an active learning technique used as part of the Chemical Information Research Skills course for academic credit taught at the University of Notre Dame. This course is mandatory for sophomore Chemistry/Biochemistry majors.

The original instructor for this course taught two one-credit sections during the spring semesters of 2004 and 2005. Previous course evaluations revealed that while students were for the most part enthusiastic of the class content, the original instructor could see their bored looks during the 40-minute lectures and instructor-led demonstrations. The part the students really enjoyed was the ten minute hands-on section at the end of each class. Moreover, their boredom during the lecture and demonstrations could provide future ammunition for faculty members who failed to see the value of this course.

I was assigned by the original instructor the task of incorporating active learning activities into one of the two weekly literacy skills sections and checking for continuity between the lecture, hands-on demonstration, and assignments. To that end, active learning activities were created for each week's lesson plan. The original instructor taught on Tuesdays without using active learning techniques, while I taught a section on Thursdays that had the same format and content as the Tuesday section but also had active learning activities. Both sections consisted of twenty-one students and used identical lecture materials and hands-on practice exercises. The active learning activities were integrated into the course curriculum of the second section to reinforce lecture materials and keep students engaged. In the remainder of this article, I review previous research relating to Generation Y characteristics; brain-based educational theory and learning style preferences. I then introduce specific active learning application examples used in the redesigned Chemical Information Research Skills course. Finally, I argue that active learning techniques effectively reduce student boredom and keep students engaged in information literacy classes.


Student boredom does not reflect negatively on the original information literacy instructor. Research shows this is a prevalent pedagogical obstacle. One explanation for boredom is inability to captivate students' attention. Mandatory classes can make students feel like academic hostages, resentful of classes they do not perceive a real need for (Adams, 1985). In 2001, more than thirty percent of libraries offered information literacy credit courses. Unfortunately, studies found that students ranked credit-courses as their least preferred means of getting library instruction, compared with individual instruction conducted at the point of need while students are actively seeking information (Davidson, 2001).

Active learning theorists encourage instructors to consider the motivational context for students during course design. The premise is that students learn best when they feel a need to know. Integrating exercises into the curriculum prompts this need to know. Activities which provide rewards or prizes serve as a motivational force. This new generation of students is characterized as having low thresholds for boredom as well as having short attention spans (Brown, 2002); hence, interaction, group activities, and levity have become essential pedagogical practices. …

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