ALA Techsource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium

Check out The Shifted Librarian blog today. It’s focus is the ALA Techsource and Association of College Research Libraries (ACRL) on the Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium that just wrapped up in Chicago. There is a wiki of information shared at the symposium, a very valuable resource for perusing.

A note on folksonomy or ethnoclassification management: the event wiki recommends the use of GLLS2007 as the tag of choice. I’d love to see our academics here sharing out faculty-specific tags…just give me more time…perhaps getting approval from the web developers to put it on the website will help drive the initiative.

Mark the symposium on your calendars for next year.

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Digi-learning: maximizing the benefits of social economies

The value of collaborative development is widely acknowledged (see proprietary software development release dates versus those of open source programs – guess which advances more rapidly). How can these proven techniques be leveraged to advance education?  Recent studies by IBM (reign in your scepticism, please) show : “hours spent playing online can hone skills related to collaboration, self-organisation, risk-taking, openness, influence and communication”.  In the article Gaming the System… Herz opines “the networked eco-system of online gaming is vastly more multidimensional than the 19th-Century paradigm of classroom instruction” due to its provision of a greater array of challenges to its users. A single player can be faced with learning the game, coaching newbies on its use, and working collaboratively to solve or further develop the game. Not only do students engage in the content, then, but are deep into “conventions of interpersonal interaction that define status, identity, and affiliation”, or “social ecology”. Doshi notes the need stated by students and staff alike to make sessions in Libraries more interactive; lectures should be molded into “knowledge quests” (Walter Scaachi, quoted by Doshi). Herz presses further: “to become meaningful, online content needs to leverage the social ecology that drives networked interaction.” Yet this does not support the incursion of adults into teen-defined social networking sites, which only reduces the amount of space left to teenagers in which to participate in their own social ecology. Students may benefit more from operating in online environments unmediated by educators’ imposed rules; like Danah Boyd riffing about MySpace, Herz recognizes the importance of defining and enculturating their own norms. (See my earlier notes on this topic.)

Instead, educational models need to develop means in which information learned should be reinvested in projects of benefit to the group. Benefits include not only the gathering of new information, higher rate of encoding in long-term memory, and advanced social interaction development, but recognition from peers (see my earlier posts citing egoboo as it relates to the collaborative activity of social bookmarking). Given the collaborative nature of the gaming world, social recognition of one’s efforts is very high; Herz contends the classic model of education lacks such effective models of team-building. [Herz sends us to Slashdot for a great performance model.]

Herz grabs my attention with the suggestion of a more nuanced model of grading: “instead of a binary framework where… requirements are either met or not met, they might be considered attributes that are continuously strengthened.” In the North American model of public education, students are graded on scales and continually throughout the academic year; the framework isn’t binary. But I appreciate his suggestion for the way in which it could serve to increase the current systems pedagogic influence. Tying grades into group performance, ongoing collaboration, as well as observed effort and demonstrated performance may not be that far from being actualized in the mainstream; after all, instructors of well-designed distributed education courses are already making great inroads into collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools such as social bookmarking, RSS feeds, and online social networking arenas can equip learners with opportunities for sharing and reinvesting their new knowledge and derive greater results with a wider variety of learners than before.

User-designated tagging and Libraries

I’m a big fan of social tagging and the fabulously handy results one gets from pairing subscribing to tag streams. Sharing search results amongst others is so simple; no longer do I have to write explanatory emails and address them appropriately for whomever I think might be interested. Instead, tags can help to ensure the information is categorized and that other like-minded researchers will find it. My online time, always more limited than I want it to be, is now more effectively used; I’m generating a greater number of returns for the searches I do, because I can run them over a longer period of time through the wonder of RSS.

In this week’s readings I was impressed by Sam H. Kome’s Master’s paper Hierarchical subject relationships in folksonomies (2005). While he did not cite Peter Merholz’ 2004 work Metadata for the masses, I think they share some complementary beliefs. Merholz opined, “once you have a preliminary system in place [i.e., a naming system], you can use the most common tags to develop a controlled vocabulary that truly speaks the users’ language.” Kome mentions “several decades of research into human cognition and categorization activities have found that categorization is fundamental human activity” and identified an existant hierarchical naming structure within his sampling of user-designated tagging.

Other favourite quotes: John Udell, Conucopia of the commons: “Self-interested use leads to collective abundance.”

Joshua Porter, The Del.icio.us lesson: “Personal value precedes network value.”

Rashmi Sinha, A social analysis of tagging: “All good systems need to serve the individual motive. Tagging works because it strikes a balance between the individual and the social.”

Together with an awareness of contemporary librarianship, these works help me to believe cataloguing can be revolutionized to be more meaningful for the end-users and yet still maintain an organizational structure.