A new survey from the Games and Learning Publishing Council sheds light on just how commonplace games have become in today’s classrooms. Among the findings:

  • Among K-8 teachers surveyed who use digital games in teaching,’ 55%’ have students play games at least weekly
  • 72% typically’ use a desktop or laptop computer for gaming
  • Nearly half believe that’ low-performing students benefit the most from digital games
  • Word of mouth is the biggest influence when selecting games

So what can librarians take away from this data?

First, it’s important to think about what’s’ not in the report. The survey only included K-8 teachers, but gaming is a huge part of many teens’ lives. As the YALSABlog reported in 2008, a Pew Research Internet Project report found that fully’ 97%’ of teens ages 12-17 play digital games. Those teens were using computers, but nearly half were also using a mobile device.

As schools relax restrictions on mobile devices in classrooms and laptops and tablets become as common as calculators and pencils, how can librarians support the gaming needs of teachers and students? Whether we’re in school libraries or programming for teens at public libraries, where does gaming fit into library services?

The Games and Learning report reveals that many teachers let their own gaming experiences and preferences guide them when it comes to using digital games with students. I can certainly attest to that; when I first introduced gaming nights at my high school, I brought my own consoles and games, then joined forces with another teacher to expand our selections. If you’re new to gaming with teens, you may be more comfortable starting with a familiar game or selection of games.

Erin Daly, Youth Services Coordinator at Chicopee Public Library, puts it this way: “We probably need to spend some time playing games ourselves and thinking about how to incorporate games into our classrooms and libraries. We really don’t know what works until we play.”

Many teachers cite time as a major obstacle when it comes to using games in the classroom. Just as teachers rely on librarians for readers’ advisory when matching books to teens, they need our help with games. And they’re listening! 48% of teachers surveyed cite other teachers’ opinions’ about a game as a factor in their decision-making process.’ Here’s Daly again:
“Gaming, like everything, requires curation: we need to pick the best, most interesting things to share. Good thing that’s pretty much what librarians do best. (Gamers’ advisory, if you will). In a classroom, ‘the best’ includes the way in which the game is relevant to the curriculum standards. In the public library ‘the best’ is the game that engages the player’s interest and makes them think.”
What does gaming look like in your library? Are your teens addicted to apps or playing Halo on consoles? Have you used Minecraft or Scratch to explore programming and designing?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

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