This summer, I created a Twitter account to expand my Professional Learning Network and become more professionally active as an aspiring teacher librarian. My Twitter feed was soon inundated with a plethora of tweets regarding the recent ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition, leading me to explore its website. Consequently, I came across an article by Dawn Abron (2017) that reflects on Donald Dennis, Sito Sanchez, Anthony Boyd, Yumi Hoashi, and Michael Parker’s panel discussion “Table-Top Games 101.” I was especially interested in this story because I had been contemplating the possible transformation of school libraries into learning commons that include makerspaces and performance spaces for electronic gaming but had not really been considering the integration of tabletop games into programming; however, the aforementioned article brought the advantages of tabletop games to my attention and prompted me to conduct additional research on them.
Game playing, on the one hand, is a recreational activity that allows students to interact with each other in a safe environment (Copeland, Henderson, Mayer, & Nicholson, 2013). Therefore, gaming can help relieve student stress, thereby improving school climate. In support of culturally responsive teaching, game playing can unite patrons of different backgrounds. On the other hand, gaming can be an educational activity; for example, teacher librarians can collaborate with teachers to incorporate games into the curriculum (Copeland, Henderson, Mayer, & Nicholson, 2013). Tabletop gaming can aid in students’ skill development, as the specific “benefits of card games include sportsmanship, problem solving, and strategy,” and “role-playing games . . . allow players to collaboratively use their imagination to tell stories” (Abron, 2017, para.1). Among other things, board games can also contribute to the development and practice of reading and science skills, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination, as well as resilience (Mumtastic, n.d.).
The recreational and educational purposes of school library gaming are not mutually exclusive, however, for “tabletop games, if chosen properly, can be both educational and recreational” (Copeland, Henderson, Mayer, & Nicholson, 2013, p. 825). Recreational tabletop game playing “facilitates social engagement, planning, decision making, and mathematics” (Copeland, Henderson, Mayer, & Nicholson, 2013, p. 825).
Why else might tabletop games be preferable to digital games, even though students are likely to be more familiar with the latter? Tabletop games:
are inexpensive, have a long shelf life, are portable, and can be used in a much wider variety of classroom situations than their digital counterparts. In addition, as the players of the tabletop game have to make the mechanics of the game operate manually, players can gain a better understanding of how the game works than if they are pushing buttons and having a computer facilitate the games. Players can also adapt the game to their play situation, can easily work on teams to play the game, and can speed up or slow down play as needed based on the group. (Copeland, Henderson, Mayer, & Nicholson, 2013, p. 825-826)
To integrate tabletop gaming into school library programming, the teacher librarian can “contact local game shops to choose, teach, and even run games” (Abron, 2017, para. 5). In an audio podcast, Donald Dennis Giles Pritchard (2015) suggest considering, for example, ease of use, durability, number of players, game length, age appropriateness, breadth of collection content (in terms of interests, complexity levels, curriculum areas, etc.), and cost when selecting games. Regarding the latter, if a teacher librarian is working with a minimal budget, friends and parents can be asked to donate old games (Hanson, 2015). Once games have been chosen and acquired, they can be incorporated into library programming in a variety of ways. For instance, book displays can be created that align with games’ themes. Moreover, the library can organize gaming tournaments and schedule weekly game days for students.
Beyond game playing, tabletop gaming spaces can also can provide patrons with opportunities for creation, such as the development of traditional board games or cooperative games; if a 3D printer is available, it may be used to make game pieces (Abron, 2017). Students can design curriculum-based games and share them with other students, thus enriching both creator and player learning. In a webinar, Matthew Farber and Steve Isaacs (2016) discuss the use of game jams–which involve the design of challenge or theme-based games in a short amount of time–in the classroom. Similarly, school libraries can host tabletop game jams, through which students can partake in games about creating (potentially multimedia) games.
Recycled mixed media board game assemblage. By S. T.A.R. Art, n.d.
Furthermore, the library can host make-your-own-board-game nights (Abron, 2017). All patron groups, including family members, can be invited to such library events, thereby building a stronger bridge between the school and home. Parents can thus contribute to and participate in their children’s academic progress by creating curriculum-aligned games for student use. For instance, in a TEDtalk, Brenda Brathwaite (2013) discusses how she designed a game to help her daughter better understand the history of slavery.
Thus, in order to heighten student engagement, increase patronage, and improve student achievement, I hope to provide library tabletop gaming opportunities when I become a school librarian. In the meantime, I, as a teacher, will also endeavor to get in the game more by not only allowing students to create games, as I have done in the past, but also play them as well.
Abron, D. (2017, June 26). The benefits of tabletop games for libraries. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/benefits-tabletop-games-libraries/
Copeland, T., Henderson, B., Mayer, B., & Nicholson, S. (2013). Three different paths for tabletop gaming in school libraries. Library Trends, 61(4), 825-835. Retrieved from https://sjsu-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_museS1559068213400067&context=PC&vid=01CALS_SJO&search_scope=ALL_ARTICLES&tab=articles&lang=en_US
Farber, M., & Isaacs, S. (2016, January 7). Student game jams [Webinar]. Retrieved from http://home.edweb.net/webinar/student-game-jams/
Hanson, J. (2015, July 4). ISTE 2015: Takeaway tips for a library maker space | ISTE 2015. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2015/07/technology/iste-2015-takeaway-tips-for-a-library-maker-space-iste-2015/#_
Mumtastic. (n.d.). 7 ways kids benefit from board games [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.momtastic.com/parenting/692855-7-reasons-board-games-just-bit-fun/
Pritchard, G., & Dennis, D. (Hosts). (2015, July 5). GSL 3: Characteristics of good games for schools and libraries [Audio podcast]. In D. Dennis (Producer), Games in Schools and Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.inversegenius.com/gsl/?offset=1437497757035
S. T.A.R. Art. (n.d.). Recycled mixed media board game assemblage [Pinterest post]. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/499899627365550618/
TED-Ed. [TEDEducation]. (2013, August 21). Brenda Brathwaite: Gaming for understanding [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH83NyjoXbU