One dose Austen, please..

Jane Austen, the British author, died almost 200 years ago, but her works have never been more popular. A couple of years ago I wrote a paper for a course in literary sociology. The paper (published (in Norwegian) on my website) was called “The Austen mania”, and it tried to give some possible answers to why Jane Austens works are so popular today. I won`t repeat all that, but there is definately something about the characters, the setting and the stories that makes new Janeites (a nick name for really devoted Jane Austen fans) every day.

I am ready to confess that I am one of those fans. There is nothing like a dose of “anything Austen” to cure me if I have had an exhausting day. Maybe it is sugar and gossip that makes the tea sweet, but it is buttered scones and Austen that makes a wrong day come right. Therefore, I decided to venture into the great market of Austen fan- fiction. Until about a week ago, I hadn`t really dared to go there in fear of being disappointed. Then I came across something that caught my eye. It was a novel called The Dashwood sisters tell all by Beth Pattillo. I knew the name well as I already follow her on twitter, but I hadn`t gotten around to reading about her books until she announced that her novel was available in the Kindle Store.

The novel is a modern day twist to Sense and Sensibility (in a broad sense). The two American sisters, Ellen and Mimi, travel to England to fulfil their deceased mother`s last wish. They are obligated to participate in an Austen walking tour and to find a place to scatter their mother`s ashes. And of course, there is a mystery to be solved, too.

I don`t think that the author would be very upset if I said that I think the originals will outlive this one. It isn`t the kind of novel that you read thinking that you just experienced something important and eternal, like when you read Dickens or Austen, but still.. it was well worth the $7.79 I paid in the Kindle store. I don`t think I would recommend it to someone who hadn`t read Austen, simply because there are many references to the Austen novels. To a fan like myself, however, it is comforting and funny. It leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, just like eating a really delicious piece of Belgian chocolate.

I just had my first fan- fiction moment, and even though, like I said, it`s not the “Great American Novel”, I went straight to the Kindle store and found another of Beth Pattillo`s books. Jane Austen ruined my life – here I come..

Gaming as a way of learning information skills?

I attended a lecture given by the very talented Simon McCallum here at GUC today. He was giving a lecture on Game Mechanics as part of “Mediedagen 2011“. It got me thinking about how to deliver meaningful and engaging information literacy classes.

Librarians who teach find themselves in a tight sqeeze between schedules, teachers and students, and we are usually given 1-2 hours at our disposal when we are going to teach the students something about information skills, searching databases, ethics in research, how to write academically and so on. We get one chance to do it right, there is no such thing as “We`ll cover that in the session next week”. I think it`s safe to say that giving a lecture on e.g. writing processes is very far from actually writing a paper, and it takes a very good teacher and very motivated students to get a decent effect out of it. So, there is definitely room for improvement on many levels. Although I believe more in tutoring and talking to students in smaller groups, it isn`t always practical. Sometimes we need to give a lecture..

One way may be to make the lectures more engaging through games and actively involving students through the lectures. The University library in Oslo tested a tool called “clickers” where the students are asked some questions through the lecture and are asked to vote for an alternative or find the right answer to a question. The answers then pop up on the screen and everyone can see the statistics. The teacher then uses the results when s/he continues with the lecture. Another way may be to make a sort of treasure hunt or a game where the students have to make some choices and the teacher acts in a certain way after the choices are made. Teaching students in this way is of course more challenging because it`s less predictable than just going from one slide to another on a ready-made Powerpoint presentation, but it would also be much more interesting.

So, my question is: Who wants to volunteer to make me a game that could work?