eXperience Produce

If you are interested in participating in eXperience Play (XP) remotely, I am going to provide a to-do list of items each week. These to-do lists will include a variety of tasks such as playing games, reflecting, blogging, and portions of game development. If you complete all five to-do lists, you will produce an educational text-based game in five weeks. For more information on this professional development, read this blog post, visit the eXperience Play website, or contact me via Twitter or email.

This post corresponds with the third session of XP.

Part 1 – Game Development

1. Install Twine 2.0 on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.

2. View this video introduction of Twine 2.0:

3. Review these two Twine Syntaxes we’ll use to build games this week (from the Harlowe story format):

Basic Twine Syntax

Link 2 Twine Passages

Add Text Within A Twine Passage

4. Start building your game using your outline and storyboard from last week and the two Twine Syntaxes presented above.

Experiment with Twine as you are building, and realize your game will morph as you learn more. Plan on adding as much content as possible using the two outlined Twine Syntaxes. Next week, we will continue developing our games using more syntax tools, media, etc.

Here’s an example of an in-progress Twine game from XP:

 

5. Find someone to play your in-progress game and give you feedback. I’d recommend an individual in your vicinity since your game is stored locally on your computer for now.

Part 2 – Professional Development

6. Write a blog post about your experience building your game using the following prompt:

Blog Prompt
  • Document how your game looks and functions as you are building it in Twine.
  • Write about what students are creating in your courses. (Ex: projects, papers, data analysis, etc.) How are these opportunities intended to engage students creatively?
  • Reflect and write about where game design might fit into your courses? What would you want students to learn from a game design project?

Please start building your text-based game using the outlined Twine Syntaxes.  Share screenshots of your progress with me via Twitter or email or reach out with any questions.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Sven Scheuermeier via Unsplash.

10 Notable Ideas From InstructureCON 2016

I’m aware that this post is overdue since InstructureCON concluded two months ago, but I wanted to share a few ideas from the conference. If you prefer a breakdown of the sessions I attended, I recommend checking out John Stewart’s eleven posts linked in his concluding reflection.

EdCamp – InstructureCON Un-Conference

1. Canvas Mentor Professors: This idea capitalizes on transforming both the early adaptors and heavy users of Canvas into becoming mentors of other instructors across campus. The goal is to crowdsource the Canvas support system for faculty and showcase examples of ideal Canvas implementations, giving instructors context for how Canvas might be used in their own courses.

2. Student Feedback Of Courses: Have students provide anonymous feedback on the structure and design of courses to help faculty improve their designs. Too often, we make course design decisions from the perspective of an instructor rather than a student. This pragmatic approach is an opportunity to enhance our courses to best meet the needs of our students.

3. Educating Teachers & Students On OER: One of the practices I heard from other institutions, was using Canvas trainings as an opportunity to engage both faculty & students in learning more about copyright, open-educational resources (OER), and media literacy. Teaching faculty about Canvas Commons and OER in tandem aims to empower instructors to incorporate open materials into their curriculum and know what that means for their courses.

Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER
Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER

4. Canvas Camp Via Email: One idea with similar intentions to the Canvas Camp trainings we host was broadcasting daily Canvas challenges via email. This aims to engage faculty in learning a little more about Canvas everyday. If faculty complete all of the challenges outlined in these emails during the week, they would end up producing an entire Canvas Course. With the right amount of scaffolding (instructional videos, written guides, etc.) the reach of this type of self-directed training could be significant.

InstructureCON – Day 1

5. Student Information Systems (SIS) Are Not Always Necessary: I understand this is a heated topic, but I witnessed one person replace the functions of a SIS using Google Apps Scripts and the Canvas API. Student data was housed in Canvas and the operations of the SIS were performed using a few lines of code and Google Forms. Interestingly, this setup was both efficient and easy to use since interactions with the student data were simplified to a few forms. Feel free to explore a Canvas course that outlines how this was accomplished or read more about the session where this idea was shared.

6. Moving From API To LTI Integration Can Be Detrimental: I have to pick on TurnItIn for a second since this is a perfect example. Here was the API implementation of TurnItIn:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.00.51 PM

What is great about this is the discreet implementation of the TurnItIn service. In other words, the API integration made it easy for instructors to enable this feature. Additionally, instructors could enable TurnItIn in conjunction with “Media Recordings,” “Website URL,” or “File Uploads” assignments through Canvas. However, the new LTI implementation looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.04.08 PM

Not only is this less accessible as a service, but it also makes Canvas less functional. For example, when the TurnItIn “External Tool” is enabled, it takes over the Submission Type. Meaning if an instructor wants to use TurnItIn for a paper in tandem with a video of a student presentation, the teacher will have to make two assignments to receive both of these pieces of content. In this case the TurnItIn LTI effectively dissuades people from using more that traditional written assignment types—another example of how educational technologies impact the design decisions in our courses.

7. Build with Accessible Tools: One irritation I had during a couple of the sessions were these beautiful courses that were build using (HTML) pages in Canvas. Design-wise they were excellent, but functionality-wise, they always seemed to ignore the mobile accessibility of their course. To me, sacrificing the mobile experience of a course does not benefit students. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of extra work this involves.

InstructureCON – Day 2

8. Live API Lowers Entry Barrier to APIs: If you have not already seen the Live API page on your instance of Canvas, you should view it now. The URL to access the Live API requires your school’s Canvas domain as follows:

[your-schools-domain].instructure.com/doc/api/live

Alternative, here’s a generic preview of the Live API:

Screen capture of Canvas LiveAPI website

9. Educating Teachers About Online Instruction: Similar to how Canvas professional development is infused with opportunities to teach instructors about OER materials, there’s room to engage faculty in what it means to teach online. This was apparent during InstructureCON, but I’ve seen evidence of this more and more. For example, I’ve witnessed a shift in organization of content in the LMS. Instead of distributing course contents by topic, instructors are now choosing to order their materials chronologically to simplify the presentation of their Canvas courses.

Bonus Idea

10. Making Internet Accessible To All Students: I have to share one idea that was presented during the Pack Light for Performance session. The presenter was in a district that used Kajeet Smartspots in conjunction with Chromebooks to give all students access to the web. This equalization of technology access meant that teachers were confident their online assignments were available to all students. Since, I’m passionate about overcoming socioeconomic barriers and am constantly explore the validity of low cost technologies in the classroom (1, 2), I was ecstatic to see the cellular hotspot approach to making internet accessible to all students!

Please Note

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that post has been difficult to complete. I started writing it during InstructureCON and intended to publish it shortly after, but family matters kept that from happening. Anyways, I just wanted to note that much of this content deserves more in-depth explanations, so if you have any questions, please let me know. I would like to revisit many topics, but at this moment, this blog post is as much a highlight of my Canvas Conference experience as it is a scar that needs to reach conclusion.

eXperience Plan

If you are interested in participating in eXperience Play (XP) remotely, I am going to provide a to-do list of items each week. These to-do lists will include a variety of tasks such as playing games, reflecting, blogging, and portions of game development. If you complete all five to-do lists, you will produce an educational text-based game in five weeks. For more information on this professional development, read this blog post, visit the eXperience Play website, or contact me via Twitter or email.

This post corresponds with the second session of XP.

Part 1 – Game Development

1. Watch this video:

Think about the scope of the game you want to build and know that you do not have to make a perfect game on your first try. You are learning!

2. Outline the story/choices of your game (from the idea you were brainstorming last week).

3. Create a storyboard to visually organize the outline of your game. Hold onto this storyboard for next week. Here’s an examples of how the connections in your storyboard may look:

Digital flow chart illustrating liner and circular organizations of stories in text-based games.

Please note that I’m not concerned with an “official” way to storyboard or plan your game. XP participants have developed flow charts on whiteboards, used notecards to represent each “scene” of their text-based game, setup spreadsheets to map out choices, and created digital flow charts using software like CmapTools. Use whatever tools you need/want while planning your game. If you have questions about this or want to engage with us, please reach out to us.

Here’s another example of the planning taking place in XP:

Part 2 – Professional Development

4. Write a blog post about your experience planning your game using the following prompt:

Blog Prompt
  • Write an overview of the process you followed while planning your game. Document what tools you used (whiteboard, notecards, software, other, etc.) and include screenshots of your planning artifacts (complete or in-progress).
  • Reflect and write about how this outlining and storyboarding exercise helped you while planning your game. Alternatively, applying this activity to the classroom, how can outlining and storyboarding a concept or project aid a student?
  • Research & define “Digital Storytelling” in your own words. Describe your outlining and storyboarding exercise in the context of your definition of “Digital Storytelling.”

Please have your plan/storyboard for your text-based game ready by September 26th.  Share your storyboard with me via Twitter or email or reach out with any questions.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Olu Eletu via Unsplash.

I Made My First Game

Lots of things are happening, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about a project from last month. I participated in my first game jam! Serenity Forge hosted this event over the weekend of August 5-7th and the theme was to build games about “Healing.” Due to the timing and the theme of this game jam, I was compelled to develop my first game!

The Tool – Twine

To build my game I used Twine—an open source tool for developing text-based games that are often labelled as “interactive fiction.” Twine is an interesting game development tool because it is far easier to learn than any other game engine. (In fact, this is the reason John and I decided to use Twine in the professional development for game design that we’re hosting this semester.) Since it is free and accessible, I invite you to give Twine a try. You can learn more about how to use it here.

The main menu of Twine.
The main menu of Twine.

The Story

Since the timing of this game jam coincided with the passing of my grandmother, I chose to create a game around the healing I was seeking at that time. The most difficult part of this project was reflecting on my pain to decipher what steps I was taking to heal—examining my emotions and exploring how writing memories of my grandmother was cathartic. The narrative of my game evolved from these experiences, and rather than rewriting the story here, let me show you the game:

 

Reflections

Did making a game about my pain help me heal? – At the time it was being developed I would have answered “no.” Having to listen to voicemails from my grandmother and watching videos of our adventures together was disheartening. In fact, I struggled to listen to her final voicemail to me, which I had not yet listened to at that point. But building “Healing Words” and coming to terms with her death required me to address my feelings.

Looking back on this experience after about a month I can adamantly say “Yes, making a game about my grandmother’s death did help me heal.” It wasn’t the process of making the game that helped—rather, that part was painful. Instead, it was the process of sharing my experience with others through the game that helped me heal. Using a game to communicate my emotions and then to engage others after their playthrough was the point where I felt the most healing. From people expressing their condolences or sharing their own memories as part of the game, soulful relations bloomed as a result. These connections then manifested in healing.

Would I recommend doing this? – Game design made me think about human experiences and communicating ideas in ways I never would have dreamed. Thinking through how text, media, and choice impact players was a metacognitive exercise for me. I had to translate both my emotions and the responses to those emotions into physical mediums. In so doing, I learned a lot about myself and how I want others to play my story. In other words, I would recommend developing a game to commemorate a loved one. Although it will be painful, the personal growth and connections to others that will be made are worth the investment.

Questions? – If you have any more questions, please let me know. Healing Words has been a big part of my life in the last month. Thank you to the 50+ people who’ve played my game and helped me heal.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Moritz Schmidt via Unsplash.