This post has been adapted from “Social Media as Game Strategy: Twitter in the #infolit Instruction Session” co-presented at the 2nd Annual CUNY Games Fest, with Lydia Willoughby. Read Lydia’s recent post about our #infolit project & game here.

#infolitIn the Spring 2014 semester, I began collaborating with my friend and former library school classmate, Lydia Willoughby (SUNY Plattsburgh), on new ways to introduce library search strategies to students. One of the problems I had been facing in library instruction was competing with the volume of distractions on the Internet (“…I know you’re playing Two Dots, or 2048, but plz follow along.”).

What we developed over the course of this year is an #infolit (information literacy) game that provides students with a ‘gateway’ to library research by incorporating every day Internet applications — social media, specifically, Twitter*. The conept of the game is to teach controlled vocabularies, which can then be applied to research methods in academic databases. In short: get students to recognize skills they already know & use, thereby de-mystifying academic research.

Here’s how to play our #infolit game:

1) Using Twitter, give your class a hashtag. If I’m teaching a one-shot for Environmental Science 110, I would want to assign my class a simple & short hashtag, such as #envisci110. This hashtag acts as the connecting device for the class to particiate in the same game. It is also an introduction to the process of following (or searching for) a specific search term.

2) Next, lead the class in an introduction to search techniques on the Twitter Advanced Search page. Divide the class in to 2-3 teams based on topics, such as #climatechange and #globalwarming (or, anything you’d like! maybe you’d like to use #beyoncefeminism — go ahead!). Have them use Twitter Advanced Search to identify two or three other hashtags (#) in current circulation that relate to their team’s topic.

3) Have each team take their 3-4 hashtags (#), and enter them as keywords into a library database. An essential knowledge transfer happens here — it is likely that students will need to alter the terminology from the hashtag (#) terms in order to retrieve relevant results in the database. A class discussion on the differences between scholarly and popular, and publication time frames could develop — excellent!

4) Each group should now reply to the original Twitter team prompt with links to relevant (scholarly) articles.  The team with the most relevant, non-repeating links (citations), WINS…

Anno-tweeted bibliography

For a full example of how our game works, head over to the dummy Twitter account @game_of_infolit.

BONUS points (for the instructor): Using TAGSExplorer, instructors can use the Twitter API to generate a Google Spreadsheet of class tweets. Instructions and visuals for TAGSExplorer can be found here (scroll down for the video). For the professor, this option can also act as a rubric for class participation, and a link to the class data visualization can be sent out via Twitter. By sharing the visualization, students can go one more level into seeing scholarship-as-conversation develop. Pretty cool.


An example of visualizing a hashtag using TAGSExplorer. Font size corresponds to the number of tweets sent out from that user, & connecting lines display replies.

Concerns: Privacy, and social media accounts. While I have taught library instruction sessions in which every single student in the classroom already had a Twitter account, it is definitely not the norm. In the (likely) event of that not happening, you can set-up dummy Twitter accounts for each group (or team) and each team member can use the same account.
You will need to prep in advance for this activity, by either scheduling tweets to be published at a certain time using HootSuite or TweetDeck, or you can have all the tweets saved as a draft and publish as you go. I have done both methods in class instruction, and actually prefer the latter (more manual) method, as the timing of class doesn’t always go as planned.

If you’re interested in incorporating aspects of this game into your own teaching take a look at this chart we developed, which provides and overview of the game’s 4 elements and learning outcomes. The 4 elements together comprise THE GAME, but can function as separate entities as well.

*Pew Internet Research has shown that active social media users are more likely to use Twitter.
**Cover image created by Lydia for our presentation, where we’re completely gamified into the 1980s game Dream Phone.

Enjoy! & feel free to leave a comment below,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

One thought on “social media as game strategy

  1. Pingback: Palmer Grads Present at CUNY Gamesfest | Palmer School of Library and Information Science

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