Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Teaching Public Library Administration through Epistemic Gaming

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Teaching Public Library Administration through Epistemic Gaming

Article excerpt

This paper describes the design of an innovative educational experience that took place during the summer of 2011 with a cohort of library science students at Appalachian State University. This group of students, working online in their own virtual public libraries, engaged in an extended epistemic game that required the participants to undertake the experience as if they were practicing professionals in charge of a library. The paper describes, through analysis of an end-of-course questionnaire and follow-up interviews conducted one year after the completion of the course, students' perceptions of the ways in which the epistemic gaming format employed in the course affected their learning experience.

Keywords: Public library administration, epistemic gaming, role-playing, management, student survey, interviews


Because of changing enrollment patterns, Appalachian State University's Library Science Program has been gradually shifting to an all-online model, with most of the coursework offered in Teleplace, a 3D immersive environment. Bronack, Sanders, Cheney, Reidl, Tashner, and Matzen (2008) describe the philosophy of teaching supported by this virtual environment as Presence Pedagogy (P2), a pedagogy that facilitates the building of an online community in which students and instructors meet, both at prearranged times and spontaneously, to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and reflect on their educational experiences (p. 61). In the summer of 201 1, the authors transitioned LIB 5045: Administration of the Public Library from a hybrid (with some in-person meetings and some online work) to a fully-online course in Teleplace. They decided that the course content - emphasizing the responsibilities and challenges of public library managers - coupled with Teleplace' s potential to facilitate student-centered, collaborative, dynamic learning, presented an opportunity to introduce epistemic gaming to the curriculum. In the newly redesigned course, students - already adept at using Telepace to communicate and collaborate with instructors and peers - would now use it to role play as public library mangers. Each week, they would be presented with challenges designed to help them develop the content knowledge, skill set, and epistemic frame of their desired profession. Once the class was implemented, the authors designed and administered an end-of-course survey and then conducted follow-up interviews one year later to determine students' perceptions of this pedagogical approach.

Theory and Practice in Epistemic Gaming

Many educational professionals have been reluctant to embrace the idea of introducing gaming into the classroom because games have long been considered frivolous and unproductive. There have been several recent efforts to move beyond this limited view of games and to work toward seeing their potential to engage students in their educational endeavors. McGonigal (2011) quotes Bernard Suits, who defines games as "the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" (p. 22). This elegant and simple definition speaks directly to the type of engagement that educators wish to engender in their classrooms. The question, though, is what kinds of games would be most advantageous to learning environments? This is particularly important given the high-stakes nature of current educational practices. Shaffer (2008), when discussing the utility of games in K-12 settings, takes exception to the underlying foundations of the high-stakes testing movement by saying:

(Y)oung people in the United States today are being prepared - in school and at home - for standardized jobs in a world that will, very soon, punish those who can't innovate . . . But we can't "skill and drill" our way to innovation. Standardized testing produces standardized skills. Our standards-driven curriculum, especially in urban schools, is not preparing children to be innovators at the highest technical levels that will pay off most in a high-tech, global economy, (p. …

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