Initial Publication Date: November 25, 2020

An Interactive Fiction Game for Information Literacy in STEM Courses

Dana Atwood-Blaine, University of Northern Iowa, David Grant, University of Northern Iowa, Anne Marie Gruber, University of Northern Iowa

Catalog Description

This is a digital interactive fiction game for undergraduate STEM students to "choose their own adventure" and engage in, practice, and learn information literacy skills. Within a science-fiction scenario with characters crafted to reflect diversity in science, students will evaluate and act upon provided information types and sources to understand a mysterious set of events that unfold on their arrival at an outpost on Saturn's moon, Titan. Gameplay and post-play reflective activities will require critical thinking, problem-solving, and dealing with ambiguity in order to unravel different potential endings about the existence of an extraterrestrial life form. Thus, effective gameplay will require players to draw upon foundational, meta, and humanistic knowledge domains.

This project is based upon work supported by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium under NASA Award No. 80NSSC20M0107.Game Details »

Program Summary

In an environment with mis- and disinformation, particularly regarding science content, it has become increasingly important to teach students how to discern and selectively consume across a spectrum of information sources. This project entails developing a web-based interactive fiction game to support information literacy in undergraduate STEM Education courses. As our university re-envisions its General Education sequence, there is a perceived need and opportunity to address metaknowledge and humanistic dimensions in all required courses. The game-based tool, built with the platform Twine, will allow students to engage with information literacy practices outside the classroom as they make contextual choices based on the quality and reliability of the information presented. Subsequently, students will reflect on their choices during gameplay to gain metaknowledge about information literacy.

Our audience will be primarily pre-service STEM education and STEM majors. To meet these students early in their curriculum, the courses will be General Education science courses. We envision course integration through partnerships in Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Science Education, Technical Communication, and the university library. Faculty who incorporate the game within courses will be provided disciplinary examples of mis- and disinformation issues and ancillaries such as reflective discussion questions.

Program Goals

  • This program addresses the following knowledge domains:
    • Humanistic knowledge: Game characters will be designed to reflect diversity in many forms to allow players to see themselves reflected, especially if not traditionally part of the majority in STEM. Scenarios require ethical reasoning to make particular choices.
    • Meta knowledge: Gameplay and reflective activities will require critical thinking, problem-solving, and dealing with ambiguity and problems with no clear path to a solution.
    • Foundational knowledge: While core content knowledge in the sciences isn't a prerequisite for gameplay, information literacy skills are the key focus and cross-disciplinary knowledge will be emphasized. Students will engage with information literacy issues relevant to STEM education.
  • This program will:
    • Craft an interactive experience that strengthens students' information literacy skills.
    • Discover what kinds of information students value in making in-game decisions to meet goals.
    • Provide actively inclusive game space for students.
    • Foster conversations among faculty and staff about integrating information literacy in their pedagogies and curricula.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Learning Outcome 1
    Students will recognize how the need for information may help to determine the level of authority required.
  • Learning Outcome 2
    Students will assess the quality of the claims and evidence used to support them.
  • Learning Outcome 3
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science through identifying the strongest argument or claim.
  • Learning Outcome 4
    Students will identify the most effective explanation of a science concept for a particular audience.
  • Note: This program supports the UNI General Education critical thinking student learning outcome.

Assessing Program Goals

Decision-making data from within gameplay will be quantitatively analyzed to determine how students valued and navigated conflicting and/or contrasting information in order to achieve game goal(s).

We will use control groups to evaluate effectiveness of the game itself. A common writing assignment based on provided sources will be given to both the game-playing group and a control group to compare information literacy outcomes.

Students will write reflections from a prompt about their own metacognitive awareness as it relates to information literacy. This will be scored using a rubric and those scores will be aggregated to determine program effectiveness.

Student and faculty feedback will be gathered regarding gameplay and connection with course/program goals.

Assessing Student Learning Outcomes

Students' written reflections will be scored against a rubric [Outcomes 1 & 2].

  • Reflections will also be analyzed qualitatively to determine how students evaluate claims and evidence [Outcome 4].

Students will respond to decision-making scenarios within the common writing assignment after gameplay. Writing rubric will be adapted from an informed source to ensure both validity and reliability [Outcomes 3 & 4].

Game Description

The program exemplar provides a description of the game and decide how each choice tells us about the player's information literacy skills.

Game Details »