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Friday, September 06, 2013

SU Freshmen Learn About Library Resources Through Digital Scavenger Hunt

English 103 students participate in a 2012 digital scavenger hunt.
SALISBURY, MD---Talking in the library? No way.

Texting in the library, however, is a different matter. At Salisbury University, it’s not only encouraged — for more than 600 new students this fall, it’s required.

Students taking freshman English classes at SU this September will participate in the second year of a digital scavenger hunt at SU’s Blackwell Library, focused on teaching them how to best use the facility’s research tools.

Librarians Susan Brazer, Sarah Loudenslager and Chris Woodall created the game in 2012 as a way to help students become more comfortable with the library using digital tools with which most were already familiar. The competition pits freshmen teams against each other to follow a series of clues programmed into iPod Touch devices provided by the library. As teams discover the solutions, using online and hands-on reference materials, they text their answers to library staff.

The librarians respond — often with encouragement, but more importantly, with scores. Teams can track their competition during the half-hour game via a digital leaderboard, often adding to the excitement.

“It creates a memorable event for them,” said Loudenslager, adding that the impressions run deep: Incoming students already have heard about it from orientation leaders and others who participated during the inaugural game last fall.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Brazer.

[Related Links]According to Dr. Loren Loving Marquez, the English Department’s teaching assistant supervisor and director of first-year writing, teaching assistants “often report back to me that the digital scavenger hunt provides a stimulating, interactive component to understanding how to access and categorize genres of information.”

Library scavenger hunts are not a new idea, but adding immediate-response technology increases their effectiveness, she said: “If one team has 300 points and all the other teams have 1,000 points, we can reach out to that team and give them some guidance.”

Bonus incentives give students a reason to reach outside their comfort zones in some cases. Teams, for example, receive extra points for going beyond what they can find online or in physical guides and approaching the librarian on duty for suggestions on other sources, such as research databases.

“The students are getting more comfortable with the library,” said Brazer. “They are more willing to come to us for help later in the semester if we can break the ice early on.”

Organizers have made minor adjustments to the game since its first installment, rewording some questions for clarification and color-coding iPod cases to better keep track of which team is which. Sometimes, students like to take the personalization a little further.

“One of their favorite things to do is to take pictures of themselves and reset that as the phone’s wallpaper,” said Woodall.

The game traditionally begins with instructions on how to use the iPods, but most students are way ahead: “They’re already texting before we finish the first sentence,” he said.

The initiative has caught the attention of others in the industry, including the world’s largest library organization, the American Library Association (ALA). Brazer, Loudenslager and Woodall recently presented on the program during the ALA’s virtual conference, “Mapping Transformation.”

An estimated 6,000 association members watched their presentation live, and several offered positive comments via Twitter and the ALA Web site. Some 10,000 members will have access to their talk via the ALA archives. SU’s coordinators also gave a similar presentation for the Maryland Information Literacy Exchange earlier this year.

“It’s such a broad idea, you can really adapt it to any location,” including school and public libraries, said Loudenslager.

In the end, the winning team receives candy and sometimes extra credit points for the class. However, the real prize comes when it’s time to write that first paper.

“That’s when it hits them that the game was really more than just a fun experience,” said Brazer. “They learned how to use the library.”

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.

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Related Information:

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    Salisbury University 410-543-6000
    1101 Camden Ave. Salisbury, MD 21801