Category Archives: Uncategorized

Little Free Library spotting!

In Myers Point Park, Lansing NY.



With a beautiful exterior design inspired by local wildlife at this lakeside park:


A young patron:


And we confirmed that the wildlife portrayed on the box is indeed resident in the park:


Farewell to the Hyperlinked Library

I’ve been procrastinating on this final post, because I’m so sad the class is ending–as if I could put it off by not posting. And every time I tried to write one it did not feel like the right thing to end with.

Yesterday, this video was going around on Facebook. Well, it seemed fun and it inspired me to make my own silly Frozen parody (with much lower production values) to say goodbye.

This has been such a wonderful class and I will miss interacting with all of you on the course site! I hope to see you around the Web, on Facebook, Twitter, or other places. Have a great summer!




Divine Mistakes

It’s mad! It’s gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that everyone takes,
Everyone breaks!
Everyone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

“The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot, by Lerner and Loewe

It’s May!! The month of “Yes, you may.” My musical song for May fits in perfectly with the Cheetham and Hoenke article.

The song aside, of course I’m not at all against self-discipline and living up to values. Living up to values is one thing, but sometimes we take “dreary vows” that we THINK are about our values, but really are about something else–about boxing ourselves in without really reflecting on what we’re disavowing. “I’ll never use a Kindle, I’m old-fashioned. I like real books.” (OK, I still love real books. Still old-fashioned too. But boy, do I love my Kindle.)

We shouldn’t dance in the library. We don’t need games in the library. We don’t make stuff at the library. And then we find to our surprise that all those things are really wonderful in the library, divine mistakes.

In Casey & Stephens (2007), the authors talk about how “the culture of perfect” can hold back the transparent library. The idea of perfect holds us back from making mistakes, since if mistakes are unacceptable, it’s a lot easier to do nothing. Or alternatively, to act like we’re going to do something, but in fact do nothing except hold meetings, and steering committees, and analyze a project to a lingering death. As Frierson (2011) writes, “You’ve experienced enough strategic planning to know that the majority of the time it’s not going to get you anywhere, and it’s going to take a long time to do so.” A fear of mistakes contributes to this problem: you can’t make huge mistakes if you say the buzzwords everybody else is saying, do only the things everybody else is doing.

Cheetham & Hoenke (2013) write, “By not making mistakes, by not taking responsible risks, by waiting until someone else makes it perfect before can adopt it, we miss an opportunity to benefit from any success of the project now.” We need to bear in mind that although decisions can be hard to make, we can’t get out of them. Not making a decision IS making a decision–and it’s a decision for stagnation and obsolescence. Cheetham & Hoenke further write, “We grow from those mistakes” (Cheetham & Hoenke, 2013). Or, as Big Bird might say “It’s about the little mistakes you make as you begin to grow” (a secret adults ought to know, too!) Stop making mistakes, and you stop growing.

Mistakes can be mopped up and fixed.They can also be learned from. And they can even not be mistakes at all, just a turning path that takes us where we didn’t know we always wanted to go–a path on which the evil spirits cannot make the turns (Stephens, 2014).

“Closer to Fine” is a great musical metaphor for the Internet environment, since the web is not about linear progression or perfect organization, but about unexpected connections, serendipitous paths, all the “crooked lines” we take between one interesting idea and another. While perusing our virtual symposiums, I’ve been struck by all the ways people have connected ideas from the course–mind maps, flow charts, rugged mountain paths, songs and stories. There is no one way to weave the ideas together.

Tallulah Bankhead famously said, “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” Sometimes the greatest regret we have from a risk is that we didn’t take it sooner, and delayed our opportunity to learn, to grow, and to live fully in accord with our most heartfelt values. So as we move on from this class, I hope we all get out there willing to make those divine mistakes.


Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April 1). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Cheetham, W, & Hoenke, J. (2013, August 19). Making mistakes in our daily work: A TTW conversation between Warren Cheetham and Justin Hoenke [Web log post]. Tame The Web. Retrieved from

Doctorow, C. (2013, February 25). Libraries and makerspaces: a match made in heaven [Web log post]. boingboing. Retrieved from

Frierson, E. (2011, August 10). Leading with heart. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014). Reflective Practice [Panopto]. Retrieved from

STGtv [seattletheatregroup]. (2010, July 3). (Official) DANCE this flash mob @ Seattle Library choreographed by Nick and Anna Golla [Video file]. Retrieved from

Valdez, R. (2014, February 16). What’s in a game [Web log post] Retrieved from:


Virtual Symposium: Infomancy

I was inspired by Jolene Kemos’ virtual garden and I used Thinglink for my virtual symposium as well. (Title inspired by Harris, 2006).

Here is the link:

Molly’s Virtual Symposium

Begin with the blue star (lower left), and then explore the others. 🙂 Enjoy!



Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal, 132(6), 30. Retrieved from

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Harris, C. (2006, January 10). SL2.0: Synthesis 2.0  [Web log post]. Infomancy. Retrieved from

Lankes, R.D., Silverstein, J. & Nicholson, S. (2012). Participatory networks: The library as conversation [Ebook]. Smashwords. Retrieved from

McKinney, M. (2014, February 15). Battle of the books [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

McKinney, M. (2014, April 20). Why do songs rhyme? [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

McKinney, M. (2014, February 23). Context book report: the participatory museum by Nina SImon [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

McKinney, M. (2014, February 9). A story about a girl who does stuff [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

McKinney, M. (2014, February 2). Learning on the edge of the cliff [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

McKinney, M. (2014, February 16). The imitation of librarians [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

Morville, P. (2013). Architects of Learning [Slideshare presentation]. Retrieved from:

Stephens, M. (2010, March 2). The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2011, February). The hyperlinked library [White paper]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2012, November). Learning everywhere: A roadmap (Report). ACCESS, 26(4). Reprinted in Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014a). Hyperlinked Communities [Panopto]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014b). Reflective Practice [Panopto]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014, January 13). Reflective practice [Web log post]. Office Hours. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace?].

Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. In C. Locke, R. Levine, D. Searls, & D. Weinberger, The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual (115-159). New York: Basic Books.


“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

“Auroras” by Joanna Klink

“As kingfishers draw fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer” by Wendell Berry

“Choose Something Like a Star” by Robert Frost

“The Divine Image” by William Blake

“i carry your heart with me” by e.e. cummings

“No Man is an Island” by John Donne

“The Phenomenology of Anger” by Adrienne Rich

“The Poets Light but Lamps” by Emily Dickinson

“Renascence” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy

Director’s Brief: Augmented Reality

There is another world, but it is in this one.
(variously attributed to W.B. Yeats and Paul Éluard)


I investigated Augmented Reality (AR) technology use in libraries, primarily because I thought it had potential for developing a “Mission Murals field trip,” an idea that occurred to me and was inspired by Module 10. Here is my earlier blog posting about the Mission Murals and mobile possibilities.

Note: I have no affiliation with the San Francisco Public Library and this proposed project is hypothetical for the purposes of this class.

Director’s Brief Augmented Reality

For those who want the quickest rundown possible on AR, here is a Common Craft video with a basic explanation of augmented reality (although it is not specifically for libraries):

Below, the super adorable Google Field Trip video:

Why DO songs rhyme?

Imagination is a powerful tool
It’s super awesome and really cool
Kids use it all the time
Hey, why do songs rhyme?

This song was composed by my 8 year old son and his friend when they were playing at our house the other day: they came up with it together, rehearsed and then performed it for me. (They cracked themselves up with their punchline.)

In the Infinite Learning module lecture, Stephens quotes Thomas and Brown that “Where imaginations play, learning happens” (Stephens, 2014). Learning based on play can allow more real learning than the rote learning that is what we think of as “real”—that is, formal learning. I’ve always liked most formal learning (geometry being a major exception, shudder), but the learning that sticks with you the most is what happens in the teachable moment, when fully engaged in a way that play facilitates.

In the guest lecture, Peter Morville talks about the need for education to address not just the WHAT but the WHY (Morville, 2013). Why would you want to calculate the area of a circle? (I don’t, see above). Why DO songs rhyme? Kids wonder all sorts of “whys” about how things are, before formal learning beats it out of them. There’s a lot of potential learning in “why do songs rhyme”—language patterns, music patterns, how rhyme and other sound characteristics of words help us memorize and transmit them—especially before writing was invented. It’s not an EASY question to answer, but it would be a productive one to explore and discuss, without necessarily having “an” answer. The “self-paced student-centered model” Morville discusses could work WITH the natural tendency to ask why, instead of focusing on getting students to just shut up and listen.

Morville’s lecture also led me to the animation of Ken Robinson’s lecture on the troubles with our current school system (The RSA, 2010).

For those who don’t want to watch the whole video, it discusses the ways our education system is modeled on 18th and 19th century models (Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution thinking) that don’t fully work anymore, especially the factory model of churning out groups of children in batches by age, treating children as if the most significant thing about them is their “date of manufacture”—quite a contrast to the “mastery” model where the development of understanding is the constant and time is the variable (Rosenberg, 2013).

Conformity and standardization are a priority in the traditional model. If conformity and standardization are a priority, then the childlike habit of asking “why” is a problem, and childlike energy and enthusiasm—if they are not for the “correct” things—are a problem. Stephens writes, “Space for learning should be safe and encourage play and exploration – along with those comes chaos and messiness” (Stephens, 2012). The traditional model of schooling doesn’t accept that chaos and messiness very well.

Robinson includes a shocking map of ADHD diagnosis in the United States—how it intensifies by geography—from west to east. Apparently kids get more hyper as you get close to the Atlantic Ocean, who knew? The original maps are here:

(It’s even more shocking if you click back through the older data and see how quickly both diagnosis and medication of children rises from 2003 to 2011).

Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children's Health

Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children’s Health

Percent of Youth Aged 4-17 Years Currently Taking Medication for ADHD by State: National Survey of Children’s Health

According to Robinson, the “aesthetic experience” is when our senses are all engaged, and we are fully alive, “resonating with the excitement of this thing you are experiencing.” This is transformative learning. The opposite of the “aesthetic” experience is the “anaesthetic” experience—when your senses are shut off, rather than engaged. Robinson says “we are getting our children through education by anaesthetizing them” with ADHD medications.

My children are fond of pointing out to me that kids have a lot of imagination and grownups (yawn) don’t. Turns out they have research on their side. Robinson also mentions a longitudinal study of divergent thinking–an aspect of creativity. Children, beginning as kindergarteners, were followed over several years and given a test for “divergent thinking”—an aspect of creative thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to brainstorm many possibilities and solutions—to think outside the box. The test they were given identified a “genius” level of divergent thinking. The percentage of kindergarten children who measured at this “genius” level was 98 percent. At the age of 8 to 10, only 32 percent of the same children were geniuses at divergent thinking. At ages 13 to 15, it was down to 10 percent. An adult control group of people over 25 years tested abysmally at divergent thinking, with only 2 percent at the genius level (Robinson remarked dryly, “these are the people you’re hiring”).

So we all start with this creative thinking ability and then have it educated out of us.

“We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.” (Ken Robinson, in RSA, 2010). Infinite learning—connected, student focused learning—has tremendous power to wake people up instead of putting them to sleep. We need to build places for learning and exploration where you don’t worry about getting the answers “wrong.” Libraries have always been places for self-chosen learning; it’s a history that can be built on in helping with a transformation of learning for the future. “The library is an act of inspiration architecture and a keystone of culture” (Morville, 2013). Infinite learning is what we should be about.


Morville, P. (2013). Architects of Learning [Slideshare presentation]. Retrieved from:

Rosenberg, T. (2013, October 23). In ‘flipped’ classrooms, a method for mastery [Web log post]. Opinionator: The New York Times. Retrieved from

RSA (October 14, 2010). RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms [YouTube video]. Retrieved from:

Stephens, M. (2012, November). Learning everywhere: A roadmap (Report). ACCESS, 26(4). Reprinted in Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Stephens, M.  (2014) The Hyperlinked Library:  Learning Everywhere. [PanOpto]  Retrieved from


The Opportune Moment

Gagnon (2010) writes, “The discussion of learning environments and mobile media grants educators an opportunity to adopt methods of situated, contextual, just-in-time, participatory, and personalized learning.” Mobile learning has the potential to capitalize on the teachable moment, or the opportune moment.

I think the place-based learning Gagnon describes is one of the most exciting possibilities of mobile/geolocation technology. The “situated documentary” Dow Day allows the user to experience a part of history, the protests against the Dow Chemical Company at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The “documentary” is really a mobile game that puts the user at the scene of the action, experiencing parts of history as s/he moves around the actual location where historical events took place. The Spanish-learning game Mentira is an even more fascinating use of place-based learning–what better way to learn Spanish in a real and useful way than in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood! Enis (2013) mentions the tour London—A City Through Time. Foote (2010) describes SCVNGR, an app that goes beyond Foursquare in providing provide quests or challenges to the user. Mathews (2013) and Russell (2013) describe Google’s Field Trip app that can push content based on location. Hey, field trip!

Mission trip 027

Last week I went on a 5th grade field trip to the Mission District in San Francisco. We went there for a walking tour of the murals of the Mission. After exploring this week’s module, I thought the Mission murals would be a fantastic subject for place-based learning. There are two main alleys with large concentrations of murals, but there are murals, large and small, throughout the Mission, and many decorated surfaces. The murals are often full of symbolism of all types—religious, cultural, political. As an example, here are some shots of a mural decrying the gentrification of the Mission—the older residents being harassed by police on the left, the newer rich elite on the right, and above them, the skull symbolism coupled with symbols for banks and mortgage brokers who profit from everything.

Mission trip 061Mission trip 060

Place-based learning could direct viewers’ attention to small details that convey meaning. For example, in the gentrification mural above, one of the boys being stopped by the police has Skittles sticking out of and falling from his pocket, reminiscent of Trayvon Martin, a compelling symbolic detail added to the scene.

Mission trip 072

The murals are also dynamic works of art, changing over time. One of the more well-known murals is After The Storm by Tina Wolfe, which was painted to commemorate Hurricane Katrina. In its original form it looked like this:

Time wore away some of the decoupage pictures on the mural, and the artist came back to it later, so that when we saw it, it looked like this:

Mission trip 058

The color changes and added pictures and leaves represent life returning to the area devastated by Katrina. Place-based learning could educate readers about how murals change over time, and the meaning of those changes.

We came across one mural as it was being painted, in response to a police shooting that occurred only days before:

Mission trip 105

Some form of user input or curation of murals could keep a place-based learning app current and represent many local voices.

As it turns out, there was a SCVNGR game that provided a tour of the Mission murals. Too bad it was a temporary promotional event for a city guide. It would be nice to see a more permanent “exhibit” allowing people to learn about the rich but always changing art in this fascinating neighborhood.


Enis, M. (2013, February 12). Mobile evolution: How apps are adapting to a new device ecosystem [Web log post]. The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Foote, A. (2010, October 20). Four geolocation trends to watch [Web log post]. Edelman Digital. Retrieved from

Gagnon, D. (2010, September 22). Mobile learning environments [Web log post]. EDUCAUSE review online. Retrieved from

Russell, B. (2013, March 7). App of the week: Google’s Field Trip will help you discover your city’s hidden gems. [Web log post]. Technobuffalo. Retrieved from:



Mobile technology and children

Louis CK (language warning)

I think Louis CK is a very funny guy, but also often profound (in the midst of all the biting humor and foul language). This video was an interesting counterpoint to all the praise of mobile technology we’ve been reading.

So, there are two main points he’s making here—humorously of course, but I think with a vein of truth. The first applies to kids and mobile technology, and the second applies to everyone.

First is the point that mobile technology is particularly problematic for children. As he says, “Kids are mean, and it’s because they’re trying it out.” I’m around kids a lot, and I’ve heard almost all of them say rude stuff that they think is funny. They heard another kid say something like it, or they heard it on a show. They are trying it out, just like they try out jumping from the top of the slide because they wonder what will happen. They inherently want to push limits (if human beings were NOT like this, mobile technology would never have been invented).

I don’t think any amount of kindness curricula and anti-bullying assemblies will ever eliminate kids testing in that way, any more than you can get children not to run around just because it’s easier for the yard duty to supervise if they don’t. (Seriously—we have “running lanes” at the school blacktop and the kids are not supposed to run around except in the running lanes. SMH.)

Running is fun. And while it’s true crashing into other people is unpleasant, or tripping and hurting yourself is unpleasant, running is still REALLY FUN. Playful banter is also fun, but going too far is hurtful—kids learn that line by crossing over it, and having to deal with the consequences. If you run, you risk hurting yourself. If you mouth off, you risk hurting someone else or hurting your own social standing because people get mad at you. “Children learn how to deal with risk only by facing risk” (Lahey, 2014). A computer environment is too safe for this kind of feedback to happen; the risk is too removed from the action for children to learn from it.

I really agree with Louis CK—when you have to face someone that you’ve hurt by your supposed witty remark, it is a lot harder to deny what you’ve done. When you are distanced by technology, it’s easier to minimize someone else’s pain. This echoes the concern raised by librarian Kathy Kleckner in Samtani (2012): “[Kleckner] says that relying on apps for storytelling dilutes the key ingredient in a child’s development: human interaction.” Babies respond more strongly to faces from a very young age, processing information at a more sophisticated level than they do when looking at other objects(Stanford Report, 2012). I hope there will be more research about exactly how children’s brains respond to mobile technology specifically, but in the meantime, I don’t think we can assume it is innocuous for them to interact with an app instead of a person.

Mobile technology is extremely compelling and fun, and I think it is a real concern to prevent technolust (or the incredible convenience of keeping kids quiet and occupied because we don’t want to be bothered by their kidlike antics) from letting kids at the technology without thoughtful reflection on what it adds, and what it might be replacing.

Louis CK’s second point is that connectivity anywhere can be used as a crutch to escape any boredom, discomfort or sadness (or our kids whining or fidgeting). Mobile technology didn’t invent the phenomenon of distracting ourselves, of course. Alcohol, sex, eating, shopping, gambling, television…unhealthy uses of experiences have been around for a long time.

Pretty much all the other problematic things are things we keep away from children or we control for them (no TV until you do your homework, that’s enough cookies for today), because we recognize that they are not yet capable of understanding the potential dark sides to the very attractive, compelling experiences. Yes, the “genie is out of the bottle” (Samtani, 2012). I agree that librarians can’t suppress or ignore apps for kids. In fact, since librarian’s traditional role has always included being a guide to the difference between junk information and reliable information, it is all the more important for librarians serving children to educate themselves about beneficial and harmful uses of mobile technology.

Lahey, J. (January 28, 2014). Recess without rules [Web log post]. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Samtani, H. (2012, December 27). Libraries use iPads and apps to ramp up storytime, but concerns remain [Web log post]. The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Stanford Report. (December 11, 2012). Infants process faces long before they recognize other objects, Stanford vision researchers find [Web log post].Stanford News. .Retrieved from

Emerging Technology Plan: Let the Games Begin

After blogging about The Battle of the Books and reading class materials about gamification, and reading Wendy Derman’s review of Reality Is Broken, I became interested in the possibilities of technology for engaging elementary school children deeply in their learning.

Although I was entranced by the immersive games The 39 Clues  and Spirit Animals, it seemed unlikely that a school library would have the resources to implement anything that impressive. Still, I started researching how games are being used in primary school settings, and discovered MinecraftEdu. Minecraft is a massively popular open world/building game and MinecraftEdu is a mod developed by a schoolteacher to make it easy for teachers to use Minecraft as an immersive learning experience. With a broad fan base and a moderate barrier to entry it looks like it has great potential for gamifying the elementary school library and classroom learning.

This plan is based on the elementary school library where I volunteer and would be a joint school/library project. Since this is a hypothetical project I do not link to the actual school or state its name.


Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

Minecraft is an extremely popular open world  or “sandbox” game in which players have tremendous freedom to explore, create, and select their own objectives (if you have school age kids you probably already knew that!). It is what Jane McGonigal refers to as an “infinite game” (McGonigal, 2011, Loc 439), in which the goal of the game is usually to keep playing—which sounds like learning, when it is at its best and becomes a joyous and lifelong project.

MinecraftEdu is a special mod of Minecraft that was designed by an elementary school teacher, Joel Levin. Teachers can use MinecraftEdu to “drop students into a world of ancient cultures, Chemistry, English, and more” (Waxman, 2012). Minecraft removes certain aspects of the game that may be distracting (monsters and attacking other players can be disabled, for example), gives teachers more efficient building modes so they can set up their own virtual worlds quickly, and gives teachers more oversight to control the virtual learning environment.

Goals for the Technology

“I foresee games that fix our educational systems.” (McGonigal, 2011, Loc 304)

In my previous blog posting I examined the problem of Battle of the Books at the elementary school. While technically a game, it was compelling for some children, but not for others. Smith-Robbins (2011) refers to the problem of “pointsification”—basically, just because we add points or other game-like features to a game, it doesn’t necessarily make it fun. She states that in order to make gamification compelling, we need to do the following:

  1. Make goals clear
  2. Make progress transparent
  3. Think about your own game play (or in this case, the game play of your audience)

Make Goals Clear

The goal of this project is to implement MinecraftEdu in the library computer lab and encourage staff to engage students in immersive learning.

Make Progress Transparent

According to Stephens, “techno-planning is best done in open, collaborative space where everyone has a voice and can share their expertise” (Stephens, 2008). Transparency can be achieved by involving all stakeholders in the implementation: staff, parents and students should all have voices represented in the development of the project. Representatives from all audiences should participate in the project committee and updates should be provided regularly to the community as a whole.

Think About the Gameplay of your Audience

Minecraft is already a very popular game for the elementary school demographic. This project does not require creating a new game environment, but rather uses one that is already familiar to most potential participants. For those that aren’t familiar with the game, introduction to the game could provide a cultural touchstone for them.

MinecraftEdu taps into an existing fan base and can bring a new level of excitement and engagement because of the immersive learning it makes possible. MinecraftEdu is a modestly priced alternative that taps into a vibrant existing community, so that we don’t need to “overthink and die” (Stephens 2008)—we can bring a modest pilot project to our school and test the feasibility of gamifying student education with a robust platform.

Action Brief Statement

Convince library and school staff, parents, and administration that by participating in MinecraftEdu with students, they will engage and motivate them through an activity that will deepen and solidify curriculum content and connect students and teachers in a collaborative learning project, because educational play builds joyous and lifelong learners.

Evidence and Resources to Support Technology

“We’re fast on our way to becoming a society in which a substantial portion of our population devotes its greatest efforts to playing games, creates its best memories in game environments, and experiences its biggest successes in game worlds.” (McGonigal, 2011, Loc 140)

According to the New Media Consortium’s 2014 Horizon Report, education is shifting “from students as consumers to students as creators” (NewMediaConsortium, 2014). Digital natives crave participation rather than passive absorption of information, and they are “suffering more in traditional classrooms than any previous generation” (McGonigal, 2011, Loc 2102). Meanwhile, games and gamification are a growing trend for the midterm future, and “educational game play has proven to foster engagement and critical thinking, creative problem solving, and teamwork” (NewMediaConsortium, 2014). Although parents and school staff have a tendency to think of games as a waste of time, Swanson argues that “learning requires the exact kind of “doing” that games provide” (Swanson, 2014, p. 22). We accept, for example, that science learning requires both lecture and lab in order to cement learning; the virtual world of MinecraftEdu can provide a “lab” environment for a wide variety of lessons.

MinecraftEdu is an excellent choice for an educational gameplay project because it is popular and familiar to a large segment of the elementary population, and there is a large online community with extensive information and resources available. Teachers will be free to create their own virtual worlds for lesson of their choice, but they will not be required to do so. MinecraftEdu comes with access to a free library of virtual environments to explore (for example, the Roman Coliseum and the Globe Theatre), and the MinecraftEdu community provides extensive information, support, and access to mods created by other teachers around the world.


Overview of MinecraftEdu

Lesson Examples

  • A MinecraftEdu lesson about maps

Mission, Guidelines and Policy

Our school mission states:

Our mission at our school is to encourage children to learn and grow in a safe, nurturing environment that promotes literacy, fosters self-esteem, and challenges students to succeed. Each child is an individual of great worth and is entitled to develop his/her potential. With parents and teachers working together as a team towards the same goal, every child will succeed. In order to give each child the best opportunity for success, we ask that we keep children first in all we do. If we accept and make real the pledge to keep children first, then it follows that education is our #1 priority. These two concepts, a core values and a common cause, unite a school community and empower it to do what is needed for educating the children. We know our community is such a place.

The mission of the MinecraftEdu project is in line with this mission and we hope it will result in the following benefits:

  • Increased student engagement in learning
  • Increased trust between teachers and students
  • Increased social connections and collaborative ability from  students working together in the virtual learning environment
  • Increased student grasp of abstract concepts
  • Increased computer skills
  • Increased digital parity (lessening the digital divide)

Policy Considerations:

  • The students already use the computer lab and are expected to read and sign a student code of conduct. This code of conduct should be updated to include standards for behavior in the virtual learning environment.
  • For the initial implementation, MinecraftEdu should be accessible only from the computer lab. This is for both student security reasons and technical reasons (since an externally accessible server is a more expensive and technically complex implementation; a broader implementation should be considered after the project demonstrates its value).
  • In order to allow for unstructured play as well as lessons implemented by the teacher, we should investigate the potential for a staff sponsor for a student club, allowing after school play, or play during student free choice times.

Funding Considerations

MinecraftEdu offers heavily discounted Minecraft licenses to schools. The school library already has a computer lab with 32 computers (sufficient for the use of one full class at a time), so no new equipment will be required for a localized computer lab installation, to be used by one class at a time. Minecraft licenses can be installed on lab computers for an estimated $13 per license plus a server tool fee of $41. This cost is moderate but is unlikely to be covered by district funding.

Possible sources for funding include:

A sample grant proposal from a successful school installation of MinecraftEdu  (Although this grant proposal is for a more ambitious project involving schoolwide licenses and hosting their own dedicated server)

Action Steps and Timeline

  • Approach administration for permission to explore project feasibility
  • Survey teachers/library staff: A preliminary survey should determine if there is sufficient teacher/librarian buy-in for the project to be worthwhile
  • Survey parent association for interest levels and potential volunteer support of project
  • Survey students for interest levels and qualitative input about project
  • Present support for project and project plan to administration
  • Select a project committee consisting of all stakeholders (staff, parents, students)
  • Develop code of conduct/user agreement with stakeholders (staff, parents, students)
  • Acquire and install server/site licenses
  • Host training for staff and parents
  • Train student guides to support other students’ activities
  • Introduce MinecraftEdu activities at school
  • Evaluate project (ongoing)

Project needs to be approved by the principal and district superintendent. Levels of staff, parent and student support can be used to demonstrate the value of the project to administration.

Staffing Considerations

Both teachers and parents who have experience with and interest in technology should be recruited for this project for planning and implementation. Individual teachers and librarians will be responsible for use of MinecraftEdu for their own classes. Parent volunteers may help with in-class assistance, mod development, MinecraftEdu event nights, and supervision of MinecraftEdu use during non-class times (e.g., after school club time, student free time).


Staff/Parent Training

After an initial training led by committee personnel, staff and parent volunteers should be encouraged to explore the many online learning resources that are available (see above under Evidence and Resources). Stephens (2008) advocates inclusive learning as a means to both teach and encourage buy-in from staff. This type of learning “works when staff are encouraged to explore and learn on their own and communicate that learning via blogs” (Stephens, 2008).  A small elementary school and library may not have sufficient participation to keep a blog lively and active, but the community MinecraftEdu blogs and wikis means there is a pre-existing for both staff-users and parent-volunteers that already has robust levels of participation.

Student Training

Teachers will introduce MinecraftEdu to their classes, and can employ the existing Tutorial World in the mod or create their own specialized tutorial. In addition, the project committee should consider the use of student guides. The school already has student volunteer programs for library aides, ball club managers and “Peacemakers” who help with conflict resolution. It may be desirable to capitalize on student volunteerism (and enthusiasm for the game by expert student users) and implement a program of student Minecraft guides, who can help students unfamiliar with the game to learn it. McGonigal cites the concept of “naches,” the pride we feel for the accomplishments of someone we have mentored (McGonigal, 2011, Loc 1469). Both guides and learners would benefit from this collaboration.

Promotion and Marketing

Without sufficient buy-in from staff, the project is unlikely to be successful, therefore before committing to the project, the project should be promoted to staff and parents and interest level evaluated. Proponents of the project should advocate the benefits of the project to staff and key parent community members. The existing popularity of Minecraft makes it likely that the student population is well aware and would require minimal marketing or promotion to be enthusiastic about the project, but making them aware of the potential may lead to their advocating for the project themselves with parents and staff. Project proponents should back this up with the research and evidence demonstrating the true pedagogical value of educational games.

Once the project is underway, two promotion concerns are likely to be paramount: supporting staff, and reaching out across the digital divide.

Staff Support

As mentioned under the Training section above, staff should be encouraged to continually explore the many supporting resources for MinecraftEdu. The committee should stay in continuous contact and be quick to address any staff concerns about the technology.

Digital Divide

Our school is Title I, with a significant percentage of socioeconomically underprivileged community members. Particular care should be taken to reach out to the digital have-nots in the school community. Although many students and parents will be familiar with Minecraft, it will be new to some students and parents. Outreach to this group is critical in order to prevent an increase in the digital divide. When the school district migrated to online registration, schools hosted several open computer lab nights, publicized through parent emails, newsletters and announcements at school assemblies. The open lab nights had volunteers (including translators) to help people learn about unfamiliar technology. A similar approach to encourage engagement in the MinecraftEdu project would increase community buy-in and enthusiasm.


Although studies have demonstrated increased scores from game-based learning (Blunt, 2009), testing as a measure of teacher/student effectiveness is a sensitive subject in today’s educational environment. Furthermore, standardized testing is in flux at the moment as schools transition to the new Common Core curriculum. This will make it difficult to assess student improvement in a quantitative way. However, some attention should be paid to student scores when contrasted to scores from before the implementation.

Stephens writes, “In my mind, the return on investment for many of the emerging technologies will be proven with qualitative data such as positive stories from users and an increased amount of participation via commenting and content creation” (Stephens, 2008). Many of the primary benefits of gamification are difficult to quantify: student engagement, enthusiasm, social skills, establishing cultural common ground. Collecting stories from staff, parents and students to illustrate any of these benefits will be an important aspect of evaluating this program. In addition, a survey of community attitudes would be helpful in demonstrating the value of the program and advocating for continuation or even expansion.

If this initial program is successful, we might investigate expanding at our school by looking into a broader implementation, such as a server installation that allows children to explore the virtual learning worlds from their home computers (this is a significant increase in technical complexity and expense). We may also see the program expanding to other schools or throughout the district.


Blunt, R. (2009). Do serious games work? Results from three studies. eLearn Magazine, December 2009. Retrieved from

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world. [Kindle edition]. New York: Penguin Press.

McKinney, M. (2014, February 15). Battle of the books [Web log post]. Retrieved from :

NewMediaConsortium. (2014, January 31). The NMC Horizon report :: 2014 higher education edition [Video file]. Retrieved from

PBS Idea Channel. (2013, March 6). Is Minecraft the ultimate educational tool? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Smith-Robbins, S. (2011). “This Game Sucks”: How to Improve the Gamification of Education. Educause Review, January/February 2011, 58-59. Retrieved from:

Stephens, M. (2008). Taming technolust: Ten steps for planning in a 2.0 world. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 47(4), 314-317. In Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Swanson, K. (2014). Digital games and learning: A world of opportunities. Technology & Learning, 34(6), 22-22.

Waxman, O.B. (2012, September 21). MinecraftEdu teaches students through virtual world-building [Web log post]. Time. Retrieved from



Transparency when it’s really, really hard

So, this week I had several different ideas, starting points for a reflection on the transparent library. That changed on Friday:

A murder happened Friday across the street from my children’s school, with a husband killing his wife, and the younger daughter of the family is a classmate of my son’s. So, because I knew they would hear about it once they went to school tomorrow, today I had to explain to my children that a little girl they knew just lost her mother and it was because her father shot her and killed her.

Having people get upset about your non-transparent approach to weeding books seemed like an inconsequential problem all of a sudden.

You’re “out there” whether you want to be or not.
(Casey and Stephens, June 2007)

I really did not want to be “out there” on this. I did not want to have to be transparent that a classmate’s mother was dead, allegedly killed by her father. I couldn’t think Friday and Saturday about much else except what I would say to them. But it was out there whether I wanted it to be or not. I knew it would be talked about at school on Monday, possibly quite a lot, and they might hear even wilder stories than what actually did happen (which of course is bad enough). I knew I could not let them walk into that unprepared. But the task of being transparent seemed dreadful and impossible.

The culture of perfect
(Casey and Stephens, April 2007)

For parents, it is not so much the culture of perfect, as the temptation of it, the siren song of perfect, luring you to the rocks with false beauty. We may accept a lack of perfection in any other aspect of our lives, but the idea that we can’t fix everything, can’t make it all right, can’t make it perfect, seems unbearable when it comes to our children. How could I allow them to see that something cruel and unfair like this could happen? And how could I not have the perfect thing to say about it when it did?

I love Agatha Christie books. I have a favorite passage in the mystery The Hollow. A character asks Hercule Poirot if he will someday tell the child of a murder victim the truth about what happened to his father. She is horrified when he answers that he will tell the truth. She thinks the son should be protected from the truth. Poirot’s response struck a deep chord with me:

You do not understand. To you it is unbearable that anyone should be hurt. But to some minds there is something more unbearable still—not to know. You heard the poor woman just a little while ago say: “Terry always has to know.” To the scientific mind, truth comes first. Truth, however bitter, can be accepted, and woven into a design for living. (Christie, 1946, p.257)

I wanted to become a librarian because I always have to know. Because I like to help others to know. I love my children, and I want to protect them. But even more than wanting to protect them, and not wanting to have to tell them, in the end I find the idea of lying to them unbearable. I want them to be able to trust me, to know that if something scares them, I will not lie to them, I am strong enough to tell them the worst truth and to hear whatever truth they have to tell me. Transparency is an act of love—when it matters most I will not lie to you. Opaqueness is an act of distance, and even of disrespect. In his post “Earning Trust|The User Experience” Schmidt (2013) writes, “On a broader level, libraries need to back up the big claims often found in mission statements.” If I tell my children to trust me, I need to be trustworthy, even when it is really hard.

Especially when it is really hard.

They cried when I told them. They asked what would happen to their schoolmate. I said I didn’t know but that people were taking care of both girls (the girls are in protective custody and the police are keeping their whereabouts confidential for now).

My younger son asked me “Why would he do that?” I said that was a really, really good question, and I wished I had a good answer. I said that some people are very troubled and lash out in very bad ways. That they have not learned to argue the way grownups should argue, with their words, and not with hurting. That sexism means there are some men who feel like their wives or girlfriends aren’t really “people,” but are possessions that they can hurt or destroy if they want to. And that if you have a gun, it is very, very easy to hurt someone in a way that can’t be fixed.

I felt very helpless. Then I remembered this quote from Mister Rogers.

So then I told them that although this was a very terrible thing, they should know that there were a lot of people helping. That policemen, social workers, teachers, and extended family were all going to help those girls who have lost both parents. That maybe in a few days, we would learn more and find out a way we could help them too.

I said that terrible things sometimes happen, but there are always the people who run to help. And you can be a helper, too. If a friend at school is scared or upset, you can be a friend. You can encourage them to ask their mom or dad or teacher or principal about what is upsetting them. Look for the helpers. And be a helper.

“In the kingdom of glass everything is transparent, and there is no place to hide a dark heart.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.”
Joseph Pulitzer

When we are opaque, and not transparent, the problems are invisible. Domestic violence is a crime of opaqueness. We don’t see the victims, until it all bursts forth, terribly.

If you are not transparent, you damage trust. And whether it’s about weeding books or something worse, damaging trust breaks connections between people. At their best, librarians can be among the helpers too, because libraries and information are about truth. With truth, and not lies, we can help.


Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April 1). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, June 1). The transparent library: Living out loud. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Christie, A. (1946). The Hollow. New York: Harper Collins.

Schmidt, A. (2013, November 5). Earning trust [Web log post]. The User Experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from