MNU news

Center to Enhance Learning With Games

MNU Awarded IMLS Grant

By Carol Best
September 16, 2014

 MidAmerica Nazarene University announced today that its Mabee Library and Learning Commons is one of 17 institutions nationwide to receive a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s Sparks! Ignition program. The grant will support MNU’s GOAL21: Gaming Opportunities in Academic Libraries for 21st Century Skills project. Grant project co-directors Lauren Hays, MLS, instructional and research librarian, and Mark Hayse, PhD, professor, said the $20,000 award will help create a Center for Games and Learning at MNU.

Programs developed through the Center will incorporate board games, physical games and role playing games in higher education curricula and academic life, with the goal of promoting 21st Century Skills such as innovation, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. The question, grant co-directors say, is whether the inclusion of games in the classroom result in higher student engagement and achievement.

Professor Hayse, who taught the popular course Games as Learning Systems last spring, says games provide a multitude of opportunities to work together and think outside the box.

“Games make us think hard, work together and solve problems,” he says. “We think that games across the curriculum will help students to reach those goals.”

An interdisciplinary cohort of faculty members will incorporate games into selected courses, and evaluations will be performed to measure how well the desired skills are acquired by students.

“We will gather data to answer the question, ‘do games in class accomplish what we think they do?’” Hayse said. “Ultimately the vision is to become a resource to benefit educators in public and faith-based schools as well as home schools.”

Following the dissemination of these findings, the Center for Games and Learning will remain as a resource for future educators and students. Lauren Hays adds that Mabee Library and Learning Commons will be able to facilitate learning opportunities through the Center’s resources. In fact, some programming will invite students to design their own games and teach others through them.


“We want to create new ways for students to increase their ability in these 21st century skills,” Hays says. “These are the skills students are going to need to be successful in the workplace and in life.”

As well as housing physical and board games, the Library will also invite experts to speak on gaming theory and facilitate discussion between educators on how to create new ways to use games in learning. Library staff plan to promote the Center’s resources by holding game nights in the library. An opening is planned in spring 2015.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.

 

What About Video Games and Learning?

Mark Hayse, PhD, professor of Christian Education and director of the Honors Program at MNU, does not strike one as a video gamer—but he is—and moreover, his research on the subject has been published. Writing about the themes of morality, ethics and religion in video games, Hayse approaches the subject as a game lover, not a naysayer. Video games are learning tools, he thinks.

“Gamers create solutions to problems that haven’t been thought of,” he asserts.

Hayse has investigated video gaming for the last eight years by researching, attending conferences and networking with experts such as Mark J.P. Wolf of Concordia University (WI). The two met when Hayse was earning his doctorate. Wolf’s books include numerous volumes on video gaming from as early as 2001 to his latest Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies (2014) in which Hayse wrote several chapters.

If learning is less about repeating dates and names for a test, and more about applying facts and principles in new settings, then video games can be great learning devices. They require hard work, learning complicated scenarios, the development of strategic thinking skills, and perseverance in the face of failure. In many respects Hayse thinks video games can spark engagement and learning for today’s student.

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