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Fall 2009 | Gateway to Learning

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Paul Waelchli
Paul Waelchli (Library)

Game for learning

Video game strategies at work in the college classroom
Web extra
Read Paul Waelchli on teaching information literacy through fantasy football. >>MORE

Video games have come a long way since Pac-Man. Just ask Paul Waelchli, a librarian at the newly dedicated Mulva Library. Waelchli ought to know. He’s been playing video games since a Commodore VIC-20 on a black and white screen.

He has personally experienced the evolution of video games, from those first hand-eye coordination ones that players twitched their way through, to the complex level of involvement of modern video games.

Now he pairs his personal interests with his academic pursuits by introducing strategies from successful gaming to the classroom setting. He is the co-book review editor for the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations and he is part of an expert panel on gaming and literacy for the American Library Association.

Waelchli is the campus’s first information literacy and instruction librarian. His job is to help students find, evaluate and apply the information they need. He talks to students about video games because they are familiar, fun and a practical example of the information literacy skills he’s trying to teach. He might start off a workshop talking about one of Nintendo’s "Legend of Zelda" adventure games. It’s a game that requires both logic and the evaluation of resources on hand to solve a number of puzzles.

Students don’t always think about how their game playing behaviors can apply to an academic behaviors can apply to an academic helps them make that link. Seeking out information for an assignment is much like collecting an inventory of masks for a Zelda game. Some of the resources, or masks, aren’t going to help you with your task at hand. Students have to evaluate the resources they have to work with, draw their own conclusions, apply the information to the game or to their research and then review whether the need was met.

Waelchli is one of many in his field who have seen parallels between good video gaming strategies and good educational theory. Author of “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” (2003), James Paul Gee has found 36 learning principles embedded into the design of good games. These include the fact that games are set up to encourage active learning; that learners are given information both on-demand and just-in-time; that basic skills are not learned in isolation or out of context.

For example, Gee describes an “insider principle” where the learner is an “insider” or “teacher” and not just a “consumer.” Waelchli was able to put this principle into practice by helping a former colleague create a lesson on American Psychological Association (APA) citations. The students worked in groups to create incorrect APA citations in an attempt to stump not only the other groups, but the professor, librarian and writing center staff.

He says, “The students were empowered and motivated to create content and implicitly needed to not only understand APA basics, but the more obscure details in order to be able to explain their citation errors. It worked. There was laughter coming out of the classroom and the students wanted to stay longer to go through more citations.”

Waelchli now has a dedicated classroom space for library instruction. The technology within the instruction lab, particularly the screen-sharing software installed on the computers, provides for more collaborative learning and discussion among students. Waelchli is eager to get started.

Waelchli plans to take advantage of the classroom space and technology of the new instruction lab by occasionally using video games to begin his workshops. He is clear to point out, however, that he is not on a mission to get video games in all the classrooms. He knows that video games and video gaming strategies are just one tool in teaching students about information literacy. He says, “I’m successful when students are successful within their assignments and within the skill sets of using and evaluating information. That’s ultimately the success, whether that comes through one-on-one help, classroom settings, tutorials and workshops or games.”

Fall/Winter 2009 magazine

Web extrasLook here for web-only content that expands on topics presented in the current St. Norbert College Magazine (PDF).

Photo Gallery SNC Day
A gallery of images from the college's biggest-ever open house.

Video Miss Welnick at 103
The college’s oldest alum looks back on more than a century of memories.

Audio Hildegard of Bingen
A Center for Norbertine Studies symposium cast new light on the life of this influential medieval mystic.

Text Extra Game for learning
Paul Waelchli (Library) teaches information literacy through fantasy football.

Text Extra A legacy to celebrate
Meet three families whose ties to St. Norbert have endured across the generations.

Text Extra Adventures in Manila
Laurie MacDiarmid (English) and her daughter chronicle their semester in the Philippines.

Audio The “Twilight” phenomenon
Stephenie Meyers’ series is attracting scholarly attention from, among others, our own John Pennington (English).

Text Extra Keeping track
Jenny Scherer ’10 has been taking her insider’s view of varsity track and field to a national audience.

Photo Gallery The inside view
Gerry Diaz ’04 reports from his new job: covering the Green Bay Packers for

VideoFrom start to finish
The Mulva Library, now open, takes shape before your eyes in this time-lapse sequence of images.

Story ideas? Your ideas for future magazine stories are most welcome. Write to the editor with any suggestions or comments.

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