Talking Truth in the KnowledgeLab

Talking Truth in the KnowledgeLab

On Friday, April 20th, the KnowledgeLab and Smith College Libraries hosted Talking Truth @ Smith: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis. This was a day dedicated to talking about climate change and featured workshops, activities, and discussion in five different events. The goal was to provide a space where students and community members could engage with others on their thoughts and feelings about the changing environment and how they can stay informed. The KnowledgeLab had a great turnout as many participants arrived early and stayed throughout the day.

Virtual Reality Experience

During the first event, participants got to play a game in virtual reality on the KnowledgeLab’s Vive that taught them about the effects of climate change-induced ocean acidification on coral reefs. This was a very popular portion of the day – around fifteen students and community members were able to experience the game. Afterward, several people shared insightful feedback on a discussion board. Many of them had never used VR before and thought it was “surprisingly realistic and interactive.” Another player commented that “being immersed helped me understand ocean acidification issues.” The element of realism especially helped with this, and one person thought the game, or VR in general, might be helpful in academic settings “to help people visualize somewhat abstract concepts.”


Finding Your Purpose

At the next event, Madeleine Charney, co-founder of UMass’s Talking Truth, shared her personal journey of incorporating discussion around climate change into her career as a librarian. She encouraged following one’s inner compass, or trusting one’s gut, and always taking time to be mindful of what is most important in one’s life without being clouded by everyday distractions and routines.


Identity & Place

Up next was an interactive event on personal discovery in relation to how the natural environment influences our sense of place, and how sense of place affects our identity. Directed by Jodi Shaw, participants were instructed to answer one or several of many questions about their childhood home. They could write about a particular space within their home and why it was particularly meaningful to them, draw a picture of the space or diagram of the block where they lived, or reflect on their transition from home to Smith and the emotions associated with that. Several people shared their writing or drawing with the rest of the group.

Neilson & Sustainability 

The next event was run by Janet Spongberg and Kay Colletti who talked about plans for the New Neilson Library and how it will facilitate future conversations and scholarship about climate change. The group discussed how to define “sustainability” and how the New Neilson will support sustainability in all its forms. Discussion also turned to what the most important aspects of a library are from the perspectives of students, faculty, and staff. The consensus was that a library should be a physical and social space in which learning and sharing of knowledge can occur in the most inclusive space possible.

Zine Making Workshop

At this final event, participants wrote letters to future Smithies, specifically regarding their feelings about climate change. This workshop was designed to facilitate intergenerational communication about a topic that will always be relevant and important. Current Smithies relayed their hopes and worries to those following in their footsteps so that future Smithies can use their comments to effect change in their own lives and reflect on the changing perspectives of each generation.

End of Semester Arabic Program Party

End of Semester Arabic Program Party

On Tuesday, April 17th, over 40 students, faculty, and staff gathered in Davis Ballroom for an end of the semester Arabic program party. The event was organized by May George (Lecturer,  Middle East Studies) and featured food from Taste of Lebanon Restaurant and live music while participants learned the Dabka, a traditional Lebanese dance.

Attendees viewed video projects created by students using WeVideo, a collaborative cloud-based video editing software. These presentations documented the students’ experience ordering food in Arabic with native speakers, as well as reflections on the Middle Eastern food they tried.

This event was funded by a KnowledgeLab mini-grant, which are available to support experiments in technology, services, and programming for the New Neilson library. While Neilson is closed and there currently isn’t a natural space on campus for events that present and celebrate student digital scholarship, KnowledgeLab mini-grants allow us to pilot and experiment in collaboration with students and faculty.  Events like this allow us to build new partnerships while learning what sorts of spaces, physical, mental, and technological, we need to design for the New Neilson Library. Keep an eye out for more KnowledgeLab-sponsored events in the future!

Student Feedback on Bettering the KnowledgeLab

Student Feedback on Bettering the KnowledgeLab

The KnowledgeLab is preparing to purchase new materials for the space and has been gathering responses from students in regards to what changes they might like to see. Thank you to everyone who filled out our Google Form survey or responded to our questions on the whiteboards in the KnowledgeLab!

When asked if they would rather we purchase new furniture or new technology for the space, a small majority said furniture. Many students told us they liked our beanbag chairs and would love new ones!  Other ideas included more art supplies and puzzles for our prototyping cart. These purchases would definitely help the KnowledgeLab become more of a creative space where students come not just to study, but for study breaks or other extracurricular purposes, as well.

Several people liked the idea of the KnowledgeLab hosting more academic or special studies presentations. This would benefit both those looking for a more informal space to present their work and those open to hearing new ideas and talents being shared. More open houses and more org events were popular suggestions, as well. One student even suggested that it might be nice to have workshops for specific materials in the space to show students how they might use them in a collaborative setting. In general, a wider variety of events seem to be the best way to please everyone in terms of the fuctionality of the KnowledgeLab.

Our student feedback these past few weeks was hugely helpful – we’re so glad you care about the space enough to want more for it!

VR Across Campus

VR Across Campus

On Friday, March 30th, the KnowledgeLab hosted the first ever gaming event to take place at three locations across campus where students could compete against each other in virtual reality. Attendees played Rec Room, a multiplayer mini-game collection where each person played laser tag and disc golf in games against other real players in different Smith locations. We also played Star Trek: Bridge Crew, an action-adventure game that places you right into the Starfleet ship. Both games provided fully immersive atmospheres where the players could experience the world of the game from the perspectives of their avatars and could move around freely and explore the virtual space.

Those who joined us in the KnowledgeLab really enjoyed the experience and the spectators had just as much fun watching them play and interact with virtual opponents and teammates. GAP presented several discussion questions for the gamers to think about as they played.

The first question, “What were your preconceived ideas of VR before coming here today? How did your experience today change those?”, sparked a lot of conversation. Both players of Rec Room felt much more immersed in the virtual reality than they had expected to, even though the graphics were more cartoonish than realistic. One student wrote:

“During the disc golf game, I really felt immersed in the game. At one point, I was trying to throw the disc upwards to get it up a hill, and accidentally hit the ceiling with the remote in my hand. I wasn’t even aware of the space outside of me at this point, so much so that I was not aware of the limitations of the space (including the height of the ceiling) so I really found this experience to be something completely new and more immersive and interactive then I thought possible.”

It typically took the players a moment to adjust to both the virtual avatars and those physically in the space with them communicating with them simultaneously, but they quickly caught on to balancing both. The players even high fived their virtual teammates and became competitive with their opponents. In response to Question 2, “What was your experience with regard to communication, collaboration, and cooperation while playing this game? How did VR enhance this?”, one student remarked:

“With ambient noise, it was a little difficult to pick out voices [of the other players in the game], but once you connected voices with faces, communicating came very easily. The people felt very real and I felt a real sense of collaboration and conversation, even when competing.”

We didn’t have very much time to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew at our event, but a student did get to briefly sit inside the ship and work the controls. The player’s avatar is seated in this game and we found that it was disorienting for the player if they were not seated in real life as well.

After gameplay, a few students stuck around to discuss educational applications of VR, or Question 4, “How do you think you could use this for a class project? How can multiplayer factor into VR’s use in the classroom?” One student brainstormed a variety of ways it could be beneficial in an academic setting:

“It can be used to talk with people around the world, which would be useful for languages, and you can explore and interact with different places. You could use it to teach basic skills or explore relevant places from around the world. You can also use it for classroom bonding, to make people more comfortable at the beginning of the semester.”

The KnowledgeLab Vive is open for student use during Joce Kofke’s hours – Tuesday/Thursday 12-2pm and Friday 1-3pm – or by appointment by emailing

GAP Playthrough: Gone Home

GAP Playthrough: Gone Home

On Friday, February 9th, GAP (the Gaming Archives Project) had its first playthrough event of the semester. We played Gone Home, a single player walking simulator game, all the way through from start to finish. Gone Home is told through the perspective of Katie, who just got back from being abroad and comes home to a deserted house, her family nowhere to be found. Set in the 90’s, before cellphones, Katie must search around the house for clues and read letters from her sister to find out where they are and what happened while she was gone.

Only one controller was in use during our playthrough as it is a single player game, but our player often read the notes and messages aloud for the entire room as Katie picked them up, and took input from others on where in the house we wanted to explore. Though only one person had the controls, it felt like a collective interactive experience, a bit like watching a film unfold in front of you, but having agency in what and how things happen.

After finishing the game, there was a brief discussion about our thoughts on the design and the narrative. We talked about how the setting leads us to believe it is a horror game since it is set in an enormous mansion during a thunderstorm, and we have to turn on the lights as we enter each new dark and spooky room. For this reason, it was fun to play in a group rather than alone. We also compared it to What Remains of Edith Finch, a similar game that has more interactive minigames as the player advances through the narrative. Some people liked this better than Gone Home, which is strictly narrative without any flashback to the past or cut to the the events Katie’s sister describes in her letters.

There will be a playthrough every other Friday in the KnowledgeLab and everyone is welcome to join us in playing or watching. If you have a suggestion of a game for the next playthrough or to play on your own, email Joce at The gaming laptop is free to use whenever the KnowledgeLab is open, and new VR games can be played during Joce’s hours there: Tuesdays and Thursdays after 12:00pm and Fridays after 1:00pm.

WIG Playthrough: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

WIG Playthrough: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Last Friday, WIG hosted a Playthrough event in the CMP featuring the game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. 

This game was played on the Vive, a virtual reality system which allowed one player to become immersed in a room with a bomb where they must describe what they see in order to diffuse it before time runs out. Everyone else has the bomb’s instructions and must teach the player how to diffuse it without being able to see what is happening.

Every student who attended this event got a turn with the Vive to try to defuse the bomb. Overall, students effectively communicated and were able to stop the bomb from blowing up, but on a few more difficult levels, they were unsuccessful. It was especially hard when memory was required on both parts – sometimes the bomb diffuser would have to remember a sequence of colors or numbers, and the instructors would have to remember both the diffuser’s sequence in addition to another sequence that corresponded with it. These portions, in particular, caused several bombs to explode.

Students also had the chance to share their input on virtual reality games like this one and how they might be applied to life outside of the video game setting.

In response to the first question, “Can simulated cooperative puzzle solving help teach effective communication?” one student wrote: “Yes, especially when we take turns being the bomb diffuser because some people are more likely to take charge with instructions and others are good at physically doing the puzzles so everyone gets a chance to communicate and participate.”

To the second question, “Does the simulated urgency effectively teach communication under pressure? Can this be applied to other real-world situations (e.g. the ER?)” students were a little more on the fence. One student wrote: “I think the fact that it’s a team effort and the goal is to have fun actually lessens the experience of doing a task under pressure because I was trying to not contribute too much because I wanted everyone to participate and have fun. [In real life] in an emergency, you care about getting it done, not everyone getting to participate.”

This event had high attendance and was a great use of the CMP space and equipment. To book this space, simply contact Dan Bennett, CMP Media Producer, at You can also join Joce and Tori in the KnowledgeLab on Tuesdays 12-2 and Thursdays 2-5 for their gaming open hours. This is just the first of several playthrough events WIG plans to host this year with a variety of games. Ellie Danford, club president of the Smith Gaming Club, voiced interest in collaborating with WIG next semester, as well.

WIG Playthrough Event

WIG Playthrough Event

Join Women in Gaming, Smith’s Experiential Learning Through Gameplay Student-led Research Interest Group, on December 1st from 1:00-3:00pm at the CMP for our first Playthrough Event! The CMP is located in Henshaw D, behind Helen Hills Hills Chapel. At this event, WIG will be playing our new VR game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, which is a multiplayer game in which one person can see the bomb and not the manual, and another person can see the manual and not the bomb, and must instruct the other person how to deactivate it.

This game will be played on the Vive, which is totally immersive virtual reality gaming system where the game replaces your surroundings, and controllers act as your hands. The game play will be followed by a discussion on the game and other topics of interest for members of WIG and anyone else with questions or ideas. Everyone is welcome!

Here’s my Library Day in the KnowledgeLab

Here’s my Library Day in the KnowledgeLab

Thursday, October 12th was Here’s my Library Day at all the Smith Libraries across campus. The KnowledgeLab was one of the hosting locations of this event and provided refreshments and activities as well as all the resources already offered.

Libraries student assistant Adriana Valerio ‘AC helps students make a sticker using the vinyl cutter. Photo credit: Brendan O’Connell

Students learned how to make stickers with our vinyl cutter by first choosing an icon, printing it with the vinyl cutter, and then prepping it before sticking it to a surface. We had a lot of fun with this, and made a variety of stickers from dogs to shrimp, which we used to decorate students’ water bottles as well as the walls. The vinyl cutter is available to use whenever a staff member is there, which is currently on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. If you would like to schedule an appointment to be trained on or use the vinyl cutter, feel free to contact Tori Clayton at

Students set up the KnowledgeLab gaming laptop for open gaming. Photo credit: Brendan O’Connell

Another big hit was our gaming laptop connected to the Apple TV. This allowed us to play games that the Women in Gaming group had purchased for the laptop. We played several multiplayer games and one that was single player, but were still able to collaborate by connecting to the large Apple TV screen. The laptop is always available to use during the KnowledgeLab’s open hours, and controllers and headphones are available to check out at the service desk in the hall.

We hope this event demonstrated more possibilities for the KnowledgeLab, and encourage students to continue to use the space to study, create, and play games!

Gaming Archives Project

Gaming Archives Project

gaming archives project logo
Hey, wasn’t this WIG?


Yes, this group was previously known as Women in Gaming. However, it came to our attention this was not inclusive to the entirety of the Smith community, and did not represent our goal to create a space for all marginalized groups to explore gaming, not just women. After bouncing around a few ideas (we were almost EGG!) we ended up going for the Gaming Archives Project, or GAP. We aim to create a platform for those typically without a voice to write about their experiences with video games, and to bridge the gap in the gaming industry and culture. The goal and heart of this group hasn’t changed, just the name.

This group is for anyone with an interest in a range of possibilities in the world of gaming, from researching certain topics within games, such as the typical portrayal of women, to more about women in the gaming industry.
Join us in the KnowledgeLab every other Friday for playthrough events, and during Joce’s gaming hours on Tuesday/Thursday 12-2 and Friday 1-3 to check out our collection of games.
Games we have purchased for the Knowledge Lab include:

We would love to hear more suggestions or ideas about what this group could entail. If at all interested, please join us at our next meeting or contact Tammy Lockett with questions at For more information, visit our website at

Prototyping Cart!

Prototyping Cart!

Thanks to Alex Widstrand ’17, a senior Engineering major and Design Thinking Initiative student, there is now a brand new prototyping cart for students to use in the KnowledgeLab. This cart has an assorted supply of useful and creative items, from colored pencils, glue sticks, and scissors to balloons, yarn, and Legos.


Alex worked with the KnowledgeLab staff to order the materials and assemble the cart. “As a student worker for the Design Thinking Initiative, one of the main projects I’m working on is enabling students across campus to have access to prototyping materials,” says Alex. She clarifies that absolutely everyone can use the materials in the cart.

Alex says that “one of the biggest parts of the design thinking approach to problem-solving is prototyping, in order to test how a user interacts with your design. We want everyone to have access to the materials and tools they need to build and test their ideas.”

Another interesting aspect about the cart is that it will most likely be constantly changing. Some standard materials will probably remain in supply, but “other things change due to popularity, availability, or even what other people contribute to the cart,” says Alex. “That’s part of what makes prototyping interesting – there is always something new and inspiring to work with.”


Alex encourages students to suggest materials they might want to see in the prototyping cart, though it will ultimately depend on what is affordable. She also pointed out that if students are looking for more advanced technologies to use, “our laser cutter, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and 3D-printing pens can be found in Capen Annex.”

The honor system is in place here as the materials are left out in the KnowledgeLab, so we hope that students will return reusable items, especially glue guns, Legos, scissors, etc. “Since we don’t yet have a system in place for checking things out, we hope students are considerate of others; however, it would be possible in the future to move toward a system for checking items in and out for use elsewhere, similar to the Center for Media and Production.”

I for one am super excited to test out all the new materials now available. If you ever need a new space for drawing, knitting, crafting, or any other creative outlet you can think of, the KnowledgeLab is now the perfect place to do it. Alex recommends that other students suggest their ideas for the space through the KnowledgeLab mini-grants program. “All in all, I think it was a fairly straightforward process; I would definitely encourage other students to submit ideas or suggestions for ways to improve the space even further. It never hurts to ask!”


About the Author:

Tori Clayton is a Junior at Smith College who is majoring in both English and Music. She is a Libraries Project Assistant in Neilson Library.