It’s time to cut the CRAAP

I do not have a good understanding of what academic librarians are currently teaching students in regards to evaluating information they find on the Internet. Rather than read the literature, I searched for the word CRAAP in my custom Google Search Engine for Ontario Academic Libraries. I found that many libraries – including my own place of work – advocate the use of the CRAAP checklist-approach to evaluating information found online.

I have never been particularly enthusiastic about the CRAAP checklist approach to evaluating information and I know that I’m not the only librarian who feels this way. But until recently, if you had asked me what I would suggest as an alternative, I would have struggled to articulate the structure of what to replace it.

As my last series of posts can attest, I have been recently creating creative-commons licensed learning objects with H5P through eCampus Ontario. I am doing so because in these unprecedented times much of the teaching on the university campus has transitioned to asynchronous online learning and as such, I believe that my teaching should transition as well.

This week, I made this short presentation introducing the reader to two methods that I think should replace the use of the CRAAP checklist.

This presentation introduces the reader to the COR (Civic Online Reasoning) Curriculum and the SIFT Method. Both are comprised of a short series of steps to help the reader separate fact from fiction on the Internet. Both methods are built from the strategies employed by professional fact-checkers.

Mike Caulfield, who created and advocates for the SIFT method, has explained why the CRAAP checklist is insufficient in these two interviews that are best read in full: “Getting Beyond the CRAAP Test: A Conversation with Mike Caulfield” and “Truth Is in the Network” from Project Information Literacy.

I also found his post, A Short History of CRAAP as particularly enlightening. My jaw dropped a bit at this particular connection:

So when the web came into being, library staff, tasked with teaching students web literacy, began to teach students how to use collection development criteria they had learned in library science programs. The first example of this I know of is Tate & Alexander’s 1996 paper which outlines a lesson plan using the “traditional evaluation criteria of accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage.” ….

… So let’s keep that in mind as we consider what to do in the future: contrary to public belief we did teach students online information literacy. It’s just that we taught them methodologies that were developed to decide whether to purchase reference sets for libraries

A Short History of CRAAP

Perhaps this is the reason why librarians have such a hard time letting go of this particular approach.

Personality Testing using H5P

We don’t all play games the same way. One useful means by which we can categorize types of players by their style of play is through the use of Bartle Types, named after Richard Bartle who formed the characterizations from observing participants playing MUDs:

So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they’re always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).

Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDS“, Richard Bartles

I’m not aware of any system that categorizes university students by their behaviours and motivations and this, I think, is for the best. It is useful to remember that there will always be a percentage of students who are in the process of trying to create or discover their own motivations and personal identity, especially when we are working with young people.

I’ve been engaging in this line of thinking because I noticed that the H5P Framework offers a format called ‘Personality Quiz’ and I’ve been trying to imagine how it can be used in an educational context.

I don’t think I have properly articulated why I’ve become so intrigued by H5P. I only became aware of the H5P Framework once it was made available through eCampus Ontario for Ontario educators in the university and college some months ago. Once I learned that the HTML5 based framework allowed for both accessible and lightweight learning objects (slide presentations, quizzes, simple puzzles) that could be embedded in systems such as Blackboard, WordPress, and Drupal, I invested in the time to learn more. I’m particularly impressed that most of the items I’ve found in both Laurier’s and eCampus Ontario’s catalogues have been licenced openly to encourage re-use.

Here’s a presentation I created using the framework earlier this week:

For the last three weeks, I’ve been spending some time playing around with the formats of H5P, as previous posts in the ludo series can attest.

From the exploration I’ve done this week, I believe that by labeling the H5P format a ‘Personality Quiz’, we might be overlooking that we could use this mechanic to weigh imperfect answers and present the most compelling choice after a series of questions. This might prove to be a more efficient means of guiding a user to a particular answer rather than presenting a large number of binary choices in which every answer is a single end-node of a decision tree.

For example, in a library context we present to the user a list of different databases they might want to use when they perform research. In my place of work, each librarian chooses a subset of options and lists them on a single page, often separated into groups. Here’s the list of resources that I’ve put together as the liaison librarian for UWindsor’s School of Environmental Science: http://leddy.uwindsor.ca/earth-science

I try not to overwhelm the reader with too many choices and have opted to group the options from most specific to more general and then added some options for tools from related disciplines at the bottom of the page. This layout requires the reader to review the entire page of options before making a choice.

But what if I also presented the choices via a quiz to make this decision-making more palatable?

Screen capture of behind the scenes…

This is clearly not going to be as fun as a Buzzfeed Quiz, but it may be a better means to convey to the reader why there are so many available options and that some options may be better for some specific purposes than others. If you have any advice or experiences with this quiz – good or bad – please leave a comment and let me know.

I’m still interested in exploring further and trying other tools of Interactive Fiction to help a reader or researcher navigate through their research journey. I am working on an idea that I hope to showcase in the near future. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I’m hoping to achieve but I will let you know that it is going to be themed around the idea of the manifesto.

Make good choices

I’ve decided to assign all the game-related posts here with the label of ludo. The word ludo is likely related to the words, luden and lusory that you can learn more about from my first-games related post in this series.

Ludo is the name the Danes call the game that Canadians would call Sorry… unless those Canadians were The Dream Warriors, and in that case they would call it Luuuuuudi… lulululu luuuuudi…

Speaking of previous posts, remember when I told you that The Game of the Goose was one of the world’s first board games? Evidently, a thousand years before its known existence, Indians were playing something very similar called Pachisi.

Now Ludo or The Game of the Goose are not very good examples of games that can be used for educational purposes. They are not even particularly interesting games. The only people who like to play these Candyland-like racing games are small children. My theory is that they like it only because they haven’t figured out that no amount of magical thinking is going to change the outcome of the game once it starts. The cards or the dice determines who wins and who loses and there is no way for a parent to (legally) intervene if it is apparent that said small child is not emotionally able to handle losing.

(This is why we buy Hoot Owl Hoot! for our friends’ small children instead of Candyland).

Sid Meier, the (Sarnia-born!) game designer of Sid Meier’s Pirates and Civilization, is thought to have said “a good game is a series of interesting decisions.” Now, I don’t believe Meier believes that interesting decisions is the only characteristic that defines a game, but I do agree with him — games with meaningful and interesting decisions, lead themselves to become be games.

“It’s easier to look at it as what is not an interesting decision,” says the legendary creator of Civilization. If a player always chooses the first from among a set of three choices, it’s probably not an interesting choice; nor is a random selection…

… Interesting decisions are persistent and affect the game for a certain amount of time, as long as the player has enough information to make the decision – when early choices can ruin the game experience down the road, developers need to present them in a fashion appropriate to that…

Systems that allow for branching can be quite powerful. They form the fundamental mechanic behind simple quizzes: if you choose the right answer, you are awarded a point and can move to the next question in the series; and if you choose incorrectly, you are given an opportunity to try again, or to proceed to the next scenario but just without a score.

Quizzes – built from branching scenarios – can be a useful and powerful means to help the reader recall with what have just been read as well as provide formative assessment on their current understanding.

Branching scenarios can also provide enough mechanics to power text dungeon crawlers. Here’s a simple prototype I made using eCampus Ontario’s H5P Toolkit:

Branching systems also make possible the genre of games/writing called IF or Interactive Fiction. I have played several IF games and I believe they exist as this wonderful space in and between game and story and they expand the way we think about and appreciate text in games.

I know that there have been a number of librarians who have created library-related educational experiences using Twine, one of the most accessible IF systems. I hope to join their ranks shortly. It’s time to level up.

I just need to choose to do so.

The Untitled Game of the Goose

No, not that Goose game

I am an aspiring game designer in the same way that so many people are aspiring writers. I have been meaning to design games for several years now but despite my good intentions, I haven’t found a way to sit down and do the work.

I have done some self-reflection on why I fail to start particular projects. My conclusion is that I am prone to suffer from analysis paralysis. For example, despite wanting to grow a vegetable garden for many years, it was only until I signed up with a local gardening subscription program that prescribes all the major decisions for me, that I was able to move from intention to action. 

To overcome this inertia around game-design, I am going to use what has almost always worked for me in the past: I am going to write a series of blog posts on games and try to develop simple prototype to showcase in these posts.

My intention is not to develop one, singular and epic, amazing game but to create many tiny games that will hopefully improve in their design over the course of their creation. Years ago, I remember listening to a game designer once advise, “Your first 99 games are going to be terrible so you are best to get them over with as soon as possible.” While I didn’t make use of this advice, I kept these words tucked away for future use. I love that this game designer’s simple directive is a distillation of the oft-told Ceramics Assignment story.

My goal is not to become a full-time game designer.  What I am hoping for is a better understanding of how I can create well-designed games for play and learning at home, in the classroom, and in the library. 

But where to start?

Well, let’s try the beginning.

What’s the first image that comes to mind from the words, board game?

My children’s mega-game: Candyland + Chutes & Ladders + Snakes & Ladders + Busytown

Chances are, you thought of something that looked like one of the boards above.

Candyland, Sorry, and Snakes and Ladders are all ‘racing games’ that are variations of ‘The Game of the Goose‘ – a game that has been around since the end of the 15th century.

Game of the Goose Board

A version of the game was given as a gift by Francesco I de’ Medici of Florence to King Philip II of Spain sometime between 1574 and 1587. In June 1597 John Wolfe enters the game in the Stationers’ Register, as “the newe and most pleasant game of the goose”.

Game of the Goose from Wikipedia

I have played many, many, many Game of the Goose Game variations with my children when they were young. Yes, these games were boring for me but my children loved playing them. As we played together, I experienced a not-insignificant-amount of pride and joy watching my children slowly mastering the adding and subtracting of numbers. While I will always recommend playing such games with small children over making them do worksheets (*shudder*) there is no getting around the fact that these games are boring to grown ups.

And you might be thinking, how could such a boring game been so well-played for so much of history?  

The answer to that question is, is the same answer to why adults (used to) gather together and play the children’s game of BINGO: gambling

I found that historical tidbit as well as other lovely historical insights into this game from this episode of the podcast, Ludology.

Traditionally, game of the goose games are played with two dice, although they can be designed to be played by flipping a coin, as this game board that I found in Villains Beastro illustrates:

Over the course of my life, I have made quite a few ‘Game of the Goose’ board games. When I was in my elementary school years, many of my independent study projects were a combination of a racing game board and Trivial Pursuit, which was all the rage at the time.

Years ago, I imagined the ‘presentation deck’ as a potential game board. I couldn’t figure out how to turn my own slides into a game, but I did create a game board using Prezi and movement cards from our Candyland set and I pitted half my talk’s audience against each other for prizes.

I will share with you the last Game of the Goose Game I made. I made it some weeks ago when I was suffering from a particularly bad bout of paralysis and thought I would try to solve it with a little game theory. I took a bunch of index cards and cut them up. On each strip, I wrote down something I had been meaning to do – both pleasant (play the video game version of Walden) and less pleasant (spend 25 minutes cleaning the garage) and arranged them on a board. When I found myself spending more time weighing what I should do next than actually doing something, I rolled a die and let fate dictate my next action.

Keeping in the spirit of my self-imposed challenge, I spent part of this morning trying to make a Game the Goose prototype using the H5P Toolkit.

It has proven to be a little bit of a challenge because the framework lacks the ability to easily import a dice mechanic into a presentation format.

While I’m happy that I was able to come up with a movement mechanic for this one-person game, I don’t believe the end-product is a particularly fun experience. Still, here it is for your enjoyment:

Like so many other aspects of our lives, working on the game has felt like three steps forward and two steps back.

But I am trying not to forget that this still means progress.

And most importantly, it means learning.