Friday, July 6, 2012

Interactive Stories: The Way of the Future....

The way of the future... The way of the future...

Just kidding.
But I'm fascinated by this fairly new type of story telling. Of course it's all relative. When I was a kid, I was hooked on the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.

And I recently discovered that there are junior editions of these books.
That's fantastic!
But I don't carry "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in my classroom library. I instead favor the "Twisted Journey" series.

The "Twisted Journeys" series is part graphic novel,

and part traditional "Choose Your Own Adventure" style text.
You see, I'm a sucker for mixed genre stories. And "Twisted Journeys" does this beautifully. It's sort of like the Dragon Breath series by Ursula Vernon, or, in a more abstract analogy, if publishers found a way to combine the old Bone series with the new "Quest for the Spark" series.
The difference is that the "Twisted Journey" series has the added benefit of having the reader choose the story-telling path. 
So it's no surprise that I'm enthralled with the potential of interactive stories in education, which in a very real sense is a new kind of mixed genre story that, just like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" and "Twisted Journey" books, make you more a part of the story somehow. Interactive stories do this by combining text, animations, voice, music, sound effects, mini-games, and web sites into a story telling experience. Not only have I seen them "trick" reluctant readers into reading, enjoying, and producing thoughtful written responses, but they also encourage a new type of creativity, mixing story telling with design. Given both my liberal arts and computer science background, forgive me if I get stuck saying, "The way of the future" when I find an interactive story doing it right.

The following is a list of a few interactive stories that you'll need a computer (or a phone) to fully appreciate. 
My next post will focus on interactive stories for the iPad.

Internet-Enhanced Interactive Stories

1) Patrick Carman is a pioneer in multimedia story telling. He has several books and series that combines text and video to tell the whole story. He uses the combination to great effect in his Skeleton Creek series.
I was extremely excited to share this type of story with my fourth grade class, so during Halloween last year I chose it as our class read aloud. I occasionally jump into things without fully thinking them through:

That's intense! The interactive story was so vivid that it scared at least one 9 year old into a sleepless night, and so I stopped. The parent of that child suggested an approach that I absolutely love though. The next time I want to scare my class, I'll try to teach the horror genre. In other words, while reading the story, I'll ask how the author and the film makers make the words and the videos scary. This I hope will remove some of the mysticism surrounding this series, making it enjoyable in a less frightening way.

2) Trackers is another series by Patrick Carman, and although I haven't read it yet, it seems just as seamlessly assembled, and not nearly as frightening.

3) When I visited a Barnes & Nobles in Brooklyn this summer, I was floored when I found a "Paranormal Romance"section. That's awesome! And depressing. And awesome! In this vein, there is the Cathy's Book series by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. 

This book and its sequels are above my students' level (because of the paranormal relationship gunk, I assume), but I love the idea of having real phone numbers that you can call, listening to the characters' voice mail.

4) Inanimate Alice
I've talked about Inanimate Alice before. This is a strictly web based story. There are several teacher guides that go with several of the chapters, but they are tailored for middle school classrooms. It wouldn't take much time, but the discussion questions and activities need to be customized for an upper elementary class.

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