What Do Teacher Librarians Think About Digital Games? (Study Results)

I am in the last legs of data analysis for my thesis (pretty much just the discussion chapter left, yeah!). I thought I’d share a snapshot of the results, as I think they are pretty interesting.

The study

I applied the barriers research (barriers to using technology, including digital games based on theory of educational change) that has been done on classroom teachers to teacher librarians (TLs). I wanted to know how they are using digital games in the classroom/library, what they think about games as learning tools, and how their pedagogical beliefs influence those attitudes.

I solicited volunteers (they had to be TLs in order to participate) to participate in an online survey through a number of professional listservs. There was a rather large drop-out rate (long survey), but I ended up with a sample size of 117 that was a pretty close match to the TL population as a whole (age, gender, etc…). Participants were geographically widespread – 32 states and 2 countries.

Here is a summary of results:

On gaming experience:

The TLs in this study were casual gamers at most (typical of the age and gender demographics they represent).

On pedagogical beliefs:

The TLs in this study held constructivist beliefs as a whole.

On attitudes about games (and perceived barriers):

Lack of time, lack of support, lack of budget and school policies were seen as greatest external barriers to using digital games. Drawbacks to using games (e.g. not aligned to tests, don’t teach what is in textbook) and lack of incentives were seen as greatest internal barriers to using digital games.

On pedagogical beliefs vs attitudes about games:

Overall, traditionalist TLs perceived greater barriers to using digital games than constructivist TLs. Interestingly, both groups saw the benefits of using games (possibly due to the voluntary nature of survey).

How TLs are using games in lessons

49 out of 117 had used a digital game in a lesson. A similar number had offered gaming initiatives in their libraries (mostly for recreation or reward). Of the TLs who had used games in lessons:

1. Most TLs reported using skills practice games in their lessons (e.g. Shelve-it, Order in the Library, Starfall, Sumdog, Study Island, Smart Board Jeopardy, Kahoot).

2. The majority of games being used by TLs meet learning objectives for lower order thinking skills (LOTS). This reflects the types of games being used.

3. There is a disconnect between TLs’ uses of games and their pedagogical beliefs (constructivist beliefs, traditionalist practices). Similar results have been found with classroom teachers.

4. Good news: TLs are taking a leadership role in designing lessons that use games.

5. Most TLs’ game lessons took one class period or less. Consistently, TLs’ lessons that used roleplaying/simulation or COTS games took longer.

6. TLs described the success of game lessons as engaging, interactive and fun. Few described game lesson success in terms of learning.

7. TLs would like more time and more opportunity for their students to play during the game lessons.


There is some good data here, and I see TLs as being uniquely suited to advocate for digital game-based learning (DGBL). Constructivist beliefs are an important component to that. We just need to work on aligning those beliefs to practices through pre-service training and professional development (classroom teachers need this too).


3 thoughts on “What Do Teacher Librarians Think About Digital Games? (Study Results)

  1. Thank you for sharing, Amanda. This is useful information. Did you ask school librarians what kinds of games/apps they would like to add to their teaching tools? Perhaps if the “games” were content/inquiry process oriented school librarians might describe them in terms of “learning.” (My hope, at least…)

    • Hi Judi,

      The questions asked in the survey were about the use of a digital game to meet a learning or literacy goal. So, the participants who had used a game(s) for such purposes were asked a series of questions about their experiences. Their responses to the question “what made the lesson successful” is where most indicated enjoyment, interactivity, engagement, etc… Those are all important ingredients in learning, but it struck me as interesting that learning outcomes were rarely mentioned (and you’d think that positive learning outcomes or meeting the learning goal would be exactly the thing that makes a lesson successful). Maybe I should have asked “did the game lesson support the learning goal” or some such thing. Future research is definitely needed, and I’d especially like to see some qualitative research to really delve into the what librarians are thinking when it comes to selecting and using games as learning tools.


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