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Andrewlewis multimedia-children-libraries-lilac-2005-04-05

  1. 1. Andrew Lewis.Exploring multimedia for engaging children with libraries inWindsor and Maidenhead.Library and Information ServicesRoyal Borough of Windsor and MaidenheadLILAC 2005, Imperial College, London. 5th April 2005.AbstractThis paper accompanies the presentation given at LILAC 2005, and outlines the workof Multi-Lib, an electronic service development sub-programme looking at multimediain libraries primarily aimed at children, within Library and Information Services in theRoyal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Multi-Lib aims to explore the ways inwhich libraries’ work and missions can be promoted using the media that areembedded in children’s everyday lives. It explores ways of using multimedia fordelivering core library service to children such as reading, using ICT and access toand the use of information, and the marketing of these services.Multimedia for children is part of their social culture. They play, learn, communicateand socialise using it. Failure to accept this means we may be alienating ourselves,and may mean we limit how well we can get our messages across.It is not within the scope of this paper to detail the evidence for using computergames and related multimedia for learning. For this please refer to the shortbibliography provided in Appendix A. Listed here is Mitchell and Savill-Smith’ssubstantial literature review for the Department of Learning and Skills in which theyconclude that: “…producing educational games that are true games is a worthwhile activity… a necessary development if we are to reach out to current and future generations in ways that cater for their needs and expectations.” [2004, p69]A more detailed article about the work within Phase 1 of Multi-Lib features in the NewReview of Children’s Literature and Librarianship: Volume 11, Number 1.
  2. 2. AcknowledgementsThe author would like to thank the organisers of LILAC 2005 for their hard work.
  3. 3. IntroductionThis paper describes real experience of the use of multimedia to develop marketingmodels for attracting children onto library computers, using computer games andanimation cartoons. It discusses issues such as balancing content design tomaximise return on investment, approaches to evaluation, and using networks tocommunicate user behaviour.This paper does not assume any great technical knowledge. It offers practicalexperience of issues that can arise in a real environment where resources are notunlimited. And is aimed at anyone looking to use multimedia for service developmentin the following areas: Issues surrounding content creation In marketing services beyond simple printed media such as posters and text The collection of user behaviour data for evaluating learning and progressThe information presented is based upon work implemented within the public sector,but is presented in generic terms. It is hoped that is relevant to anyone thinking ofdeveloping multimedia content for learning, or development programmes such asinformation literacy.Multi-Lib Phase 1 (2002-2004):The main work within Multi-Lib Phase 1 concentrated on the use of computer gamesas a motivational marketing tool to overcome perceptions of ICT amongst customersin libraries, especially children and their accompanying adults. It aimed to developbasic ICT skills for very young children and also explored the creation of multimediareader development resources.Based upon this some experiments were undertaken in developing animation-basedmarketing. The first of these involved pre-launch promotion of new games availableonly on computers within libraries, using an animated trailer via the library webpages. A second promotion used character based cartoon trailers to alert computerusers to the Reading Rollercoaster Summer reading scheme.Objectives within Multi-Lib Phase 1The main aims of Phase 1 were to encourage use of new library computers,especially by children, to overcome the observed behaviour of adults who
  4. 4. accompanied child customers and who appeared to be afraid to allow children to usethem, and to change perceptions of the library service in general. It was intended toensure the service was recognised as technically up to date and leading, asproviding early years skills for children in ICT. The strategy was to do this bycreating in-house content and using this to embed library messages within thiscontentThe work involved creating a suite of ICT skills games aimed at 3-9 year olds forcontent and level. These used very simple bright bold designs and each was limitedto a single simple mouse task such as clicking with a mouse, dragging and droppingand double clicking. The game play for these was developed to be appealing andfun, so that young users who played the games learned to develop each skill byactually doing it, but without necessarily being made aware they were developingskills in doing so. There were deliberately no messages about learning oreducational benefits within the gameplay to avoid being too seen as patronising. Thekey selling point was fun; the developmental benefits came simply from playing them.The other main audience was parents and accompanying adults of children. Forthese, there were subtle library messages about the learning aspects and thebenefits of the libraries. Creating the content in-house gave complete control overthe style and design, as well as the messages contained within the games. Thesemessages not only promoted the library service, but also were pitched to reassureparents that the content was created specifically for their children’s development.A multimedia-based guide to the Hobbit was later developed as an interactive readerdevelopment aid aimed at older children. This was intended to see how usersreacted to alternative media rich presentation.There were two animated promotions within the later stages of Multi-Lib Phase 1used. The first used an animated GIF on the library web pages. The objective wasto alert web page users at home to new games content on the computers within thelibraries.The second promotion used cartoon trailers on the main games interface on thelibrary computers to alert children using the computer games that reading schemeswere also taking place. The objective of this cross marketing of services was toutilise the proven appeal of the games to expose potential readers in a new way. Itwas hoped that this tactic might reach users who might not immediately think of
  5. 5. taking part in a reading scheme. A secondary objective of this promotion was toattempt to record user behaviour with a simple branching interface that gave users achoice of whether to play the games, or look at further information about the scheme.Evaluation of Multi-Lib Phase 1The games were very popular as soon as they were introduced. Despite no publicity,and relying upon word of mouth alone, usage of the games was quickly established,rose steeply, and has continued to rise. The 6 games are accessed over 3,600 timeseach month (averaged over the period April 2003 – January 2005) and have beenaccessed over 100,000 times in the two and a half year period between August 2002and April 2005. In addition there is a clear correlation between children’s holidaysand usage with repeated peaks of use over holiday periods.The trailers for the Reading Rollercoaster were successful as a simple model forrecording what people did. During the campaign, potential games players had towatch a short 30-second trailer first before getting to the main interface. Of theseabout 30% then chose to watch a further trailer in first month instead of just playingthe games. This tailed off in the second month.This information obtained by this method may be crude, but it did demonstrate anexample of using a simple model to understand users behaviour. The simple methodof allowing a choice of access to two game files, and by using a web statsprogramme recording the numbers users choosing each option, gave not only thenumber of people who made a particular choice, but also because of the trailing off ofinterest over time, an indication that they were repeat users.A link between the computer game promotion and uptake of reading was also made:at least 2 reading participants of the scheme specifically said they found out about itfrom the games on their reading card. This could in fact have been much higher, butthe scheme’s national evaluation form was not designed to consider this localexperiment. For example a large number of returns indicated simply that they foundout about the scheme in the library.The Web trailer that promoted the new game DoubleClicketyWinks was not proven tobe directly effective. The new game became popular quickly, but the data wasinconclusive as to whether this was directly due to the web trailer
  6. 6. Perceptions of the library service were felt to have been promoted successfully.Corporately, this was demonstrated by this positive quotation from councillor RichardFagence in a press release for DoubleClicketyWinks in July 2004: “Children who read do better in life. That’s why libraries are so important to get adults of the future reading when they are very young. These games are an innovative part of a variety of schemes which encourage children to join in the fun at their local library.”This positive and newspaper friendly publicity in turn led to a corporate responsibilitygrant from Computer Associates for nearly £1,000, and a further research grant fromSEMLAC for nearly £5,000. Income generation has made the Library andInformation Service’s profile much higher.Within the library profession, the work has attracted positive attention and wasjudged winner of the Multi-media and Web Publicity category within the CILIPPublicity and Public Relations Awards in November 2004. This quote is from theirsummary: “The judges feel that this serious use of computer games has great potential to encourage the use of libraries”Again this publicity has helped maintain the library’s profile within the local authority.Customers comments such as this received in November 2004 have also beenpositive: “I like...the Hobbit game as I am reading the book, so I already know some of the characters.”(From a child.) “My son had great fun playing on the computer games. Pirate Pete (sic) is a good introduction to mouse control”(From a parent)
  7. 7. LessonsMultimedia is undoubtedly popular. The games have maintained high usage, positivefeedback from users, positive publicity and generated income. However thispopularity requires careful management. It is suggested that projects should startsmall and not build expectation that cannot be met.Content production is resource heavy, and requires some specialist skill. To harnessthe benefits of the popularity of multimedia, the investment required needs to beplanned to get the maximum return. It is clearly important to identify the key aimsthat need to be conveyed, to use content that does not date, and that applies to thewidest audience possible. The design brief should include these aims as objectives,as well as an appropriate design to appeal to the target audience.The means of evaluation should also be incorporated at the design stage. WithinMulti-Lib Phase 1, the use of the web trailer promotion was hastily implemented, andthe method of measuring success was not thought out in advance, leading to a lackof conclusive evidence from it. The cartoon trailer promotion that followed, learnt thislesson, and used a method that allowed a controlled method for collection data thatprovided reliable evidence.Generic content is likely to be the most effective in terms of return on investment.The DoubleClicketyWinks game took around 32 hours of staff time to create, but wasaccessed over 2000 times in the first 6 months. The simple appeal of the games to avery large audience has been felt to be key to their success.Specific content may also be effective, but probably only if targeted carefully. TheHobbit was not felt to be scaleable as its scope was too small for the effort. TheHobbit is a very well known book with wide appeal, and benefited from contemporaryinterest due to the release of The Lord of the Rings. To create one of these guidesfor every book however would not be an effective use of resources.It was felt that core subjects are scaleable once an optimum audience size isreached. This would typically include marketing activities with large audiences, anddevelopment tools for core subjects. For libraries this would clearly includeinformation literacy.
  8. 8. In financial terms, it was felt that the use of multimedia was be efficient where theabove issues are considered. The work within Multi-Lib Phase One has in a crudesense been at no cost to library service customers when one considers that theincome generated by the programme to date has exceeded the cost of staff timespent developing it.In advocacy terms multimedia can be used successfully, as long as sensitivity isgiven to issues surrounding attitudes to games and related media. As Kirriemuir andMcFarlane point out, these tend to polarise into those who suspicious of socialconcerns about the use of computer game, and those who defend their use inlearning [2004, p7]. They go on to warn of the risk of potential bias in research fromthese stances.The approach in Windsor and Maidenhead taken has been to start quietly and tobuild trust based on evaluation. The careful use of customer comments, publicityand graphs to illustrate popularity has been effective.It is recommended to use the inherent capabilities of the technology to record activity,and adopt a cautious approach using the minimum you can to achieve what youwant, rather than alarming partners with heavy demands. This is especially true of ITdepartments, and should be backed with a professional approach to their concerns ofissues such as network security. Adopt an informed, planned approach that showsyou mean business.Multi-Lib Phase 2 and Information literacyThis paper has been presented within LILAC, and some mention should be made ofwhere this fits with information literacy. Multi-Lib Phase 2 is a research andevaluation phase. Phase 2 will cover the period 2004 until early 2006 and aims tobuild upon Phase 1, which though successful, was perhaps not as clearly scoped asit should have been.Phase 2 takes an evidence based developmental approach to make best use oflimited resources. The key aims of Phase 2 are the promotion of information literacyand library resources, to formally analyse identify Phase 1 and identify its pros andcons, and to undertake user consultation on games amongst children. The latterincludes attitudes to games, learning and libraries and usability and preferences fromprevious gaming experience. New game design approaches will be developed from
  9. 9. this and aim to further develop ways in which user behaviour can be evaluated bycapturing progress via game data.A key area to be explored is to develop interactive game type environments whereplayers undertake activity in simulated environment that requires them to act in aninformation literate way to reach objectives. This is hoped to provide means ofidentifying what people are actually doing. The promotion of information literacy aimsto be via active engagement, rather than passive reception of text or lecture-baseddelivery.The ability of computer games technology to record user behaviour - what peopleactually do - has huge potential. For example user data about individuals can berecorded over time to indicate skills that have achieved, how long this took andpatterns of use. The use of networks for delivering games allows remotecommunication of data, and immediate feedback from the users. By comparingdirect evidence of behaviour with other evaluative means such as pre- and post-project benchmarking, it should be possible to assess impact in a very rich way.It is hoped that the issues and experience covered in this paper will be of use andhelp inform the debate for practitioners considering the use of multimedia indevelopmental programmes.12 April 2005Andrew Lewise-Services OfficerLibrary and Information ServicesThe Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
  10. 10. Appendix A – BibliographyThese sources are a mixture of academic and others which have useful informationon the issues of computer games in serious applications. The details and commentsare the author’s offered to inform, but are not endorsements of any of these.Amory, A. et al. The Use of Computer Games as an Educational tool: Identification ofappropriate game types and games elements. In: British Journal of EducationalTechnology. vol 30(4) 1999.Digicult. Games Technology Resources web page. [WWW] 12/04/2005Game Studies - the international journal of computer game research. [WWW] 12/04/2005Kirriemuir John and McFarlane Angela. Literature Review in Games and Learning.Nesta Futurelab Series: literature review number 8. 2004.Available at: 12/04/2005Mitchell, Alice and Savill-Smith, Carol. The use of computer and video games forlearning. A review of the literature. ULTRALAB report for the Learning and SkillsDevelopment Agency. 2004Available at: 12/04/2005Serious Games Initiative. Serious Games Reading List web page. [WWW] 12/04/2005
  11. 11. Appendix B – Rationale for using games technologyCulturalMultimedia is embedded in children’s culture and that of many young adults. If wedon’t use their cultural channels, we may alienate people. Today’s children andtomorrow’s adults may not listen to usPedagogicalPlaying is fundamental within learning and computer games are popular. Learningthrough games simulation is more about doing it than studying it and so may have agreater impact, and potentially reach non-academic and disaffected audiences.In life, information is provided in many more ways than simple text. This requires amultimedia approach to information literacy.TechnologicalAt a simple level, multimedia can offer sound, vision and communication beyond text.But its real strength lies in its ability to offer built-in progress monitoring based onuser behaviour
  12. 12. Appendix C - Attitudes to computer gamesThese two quotes illustrate two different views on the use of computer games at thetime of this paper (April 2005). Multi-Lib aims to inform the ongoing debate about theusefulness or otherwise of computer games by the use of via evidence basedpractise. “[the reason computers in libraries are there] is not so that people can play games on them”COATES, TIM. in evidence to Select Committee on Culture, Media and SportMinutes of Evidence Examination of Witnesses (Question 37). 17 November 2004 “Borrowing ideas from the world of interactive games, we can motivate even reluctant learners to practice complex skills and achieve much more than they would through traditional means.”DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS: e-Strategy Harnessing Technology- Transforming Learning and Children’s Services. 15 March 2005 also Kirrimuir and McFarlane, and Mitchell and Savill-Smith in the bibliography.