Alternate Reality and Library School
posted June 17, 2013 2:15 PM by Julie Steenson
When I started my summer classes, I walked into an alternate reality - literally. I have never been a gamer, but this summer, I am joining my colleagues in LIS 404 Management, LIS 407 Reference, and LIS 450 Management in Public Libraries in an online alternate reality game to Save Kingston, a fictitious town in central Massachusetts that suffers from time and space issues; It appears and disappears due to the instability of its Library & Information Science (LIS) industry. A team of talented Simmons GSLIS consultants have been tasked with saving Kingston, by providing their services to the many LIS organizations in this town - Kingston has public libraries, a school library, high school library, corporate library, hospital library, law library, an archive, an art museum, and of course (my personal favorite), a correctional facility library.
This is, by far, the most creatively designed and empowering class I have encountered anywhere. Our leader in this endeavor is our very own Dr. Mary Wilkins Jordan, who explained her motivation to create this alternate world for her online students this summer:
"I had wanted to do something to help build community in the summer online classes; then I read "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal and thought an ARG would be something fun for us! The main goals are to, of course, learn all the material students would learn in a traditional class. But this format gives participants the opportunity to work on their communication skills in a variety of settings, to practice leadership and planning skills, and to collaborate with a variety of different people for the semester. And it lets everyone have a chance to work creatively - something very important in the LIS field, where things change fast, training may not be abundant (or exist), and professionals need to be able to react quickly to all sorts of situations! And, I love summer school, so wanted to have some fun in class!!"
We have all joined library organizations that interest us and line up with our professional goals, as we tackle the course material relevant to our classes. I am in the Management group so my tasks relate to theory and ethics, personnel issues, planning and disaster planning, budgeting, fundraising, grant writing, assessment and evaluation, advocacy and marketing, teamwork and conflict resolution, and leadership. The Reference group and the Public Libraries group have their own tasks related to their course material. Since all of us have relevant tasks for our organizations, we are able to collaborate across organizations and across classes to (hopefully) Save Kingston! Our class material includes the usual: readings, lectures, videos, slides, forums, our professor and our peers, but also a unique learning opportunity to have instructor privileges on our Kingston page on Moodle (our online course management system here at GSLIS). When we graduate, we may all participate in some level of instructional design and having this opportunity to develop useful skills in using this powerful tool is an amazing addition to our librarian toolboxes.
I hope to update you in the future that we succeeded in saving Kingston, but why wait to hear from me? You can follow us on Twitter @SavingKingston.