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young adult shrugging\Games as Motivators

Have you noticed that your students tend to overestimate their search abilities? We certainly have -- see Turning Questions Into Queries (requires a membership). One way to address the problem of overconfidence is to challenge students to demonstrate their search skills so they can get a more accurate picture of their abilities. Well-designed assessments, such as Flash-based assessment games, can do that.

When asked about their skills, students say things like “I always find something.” As the Internet has grown in size and search engines have improved, it has become easier and easier to “find something” on the Internet that is related to what we are searching for.

But for those of us in the educational world, that’s not a very good measure of what we want students to be able to do. We want them to find not just an answer but an accurate answer, not just a document but a reliable document. And we want them to find information without spending what seems to both us and them like an eternity doing it.

We have found that students find challenges genuinely engaging if they are interesting and provide them with immediate feedback, like the online games are used to playing. For an example, see the Flash-based Keyword Challenge.

One of the goals of the Keyword Challenge is to increase awareness among the students of their current search skills and to generate the motivation to improve them. It uses a real-world search example that demonstrates to students how well they can find a specific, reliable answer, not just “something” about a topic. On the basis of their performance, we can point them to specific search strategies that can be helpful in improving their skills.

One spring we worked with our librarians to set up an “Information Kiosk” in the Information Resource Center. It included a timed Broadway Search Challenge as well as related search strategies. It created quite a buzz among our students. The Information Kiosk project eventually led to a more extensive collaboration between our Library staff and a teacher that is described in the interview you’ll find in our InsideOut multimedia story.

Well-designed assessments can be useful for much more than just assigning grades.

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