Thursday, May 1, 2014

How To Design "Choose Your Own Adventure" Stories in 4th Grade (part 2)

In this post I'm going to go over the particulars of how we used Google Apps to make our "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.
In later posts I'll outline the scenarios we use for our unit on Forests.
So if you're not doing a unit on Forests, than this is the post for you! But you may want to skip down to the how-to section of this post because...

First a word or two about Google's tools for education

Chromebooks Should Rule School!
Afterall there are six reasons educators are choosing Chromebooks over everything else (even if there are only 5 reasons Chromebooks make sense in schools).

So obviously Chromebooks and education = A perfect match!

But what if ...

they aren't?

What if instead people are blinded by the monetary savings, and then that blinding light goes into their eyeballs and infects their brains and makes them spout nonsensical praise and unrelated hyperbolic rationale for switching to Chromebooks. Advantages like "Usability", "More Time Teaching, Less Time Troubleshooting", and "Ease of Use" are thrown around for why Chromebooks are super-cool-awesome, and when I read those statements scattered haphazardly over these Internets, I feel a bit like Wonko The Sane:

“It seemed to me,' said Wonko the Sane, 'that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.” 
― Douglas AdamsSo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Wonko lost his sanity because the world started overstating the obvious. So that's why I said I only feel a bit like him. Those reasons for choosing Chromebooks are not overstating the obvious. But they are reasons that are just as ridiculous as overstating the obvious, in that no one in a rational world would ever confuse Chromebooks and Google apps with "ease of use."
And there's a very important reason why.
It's because they are not easy to use.
But also because when you turn on a Chromebook or access Google Apps from any computer today, you are accessing it from 2014. But Google Apps is an advanced integrated time-traveling technology, so that even though you are in 2014, you are actually accessing a live application from 1995.
Clunky Interface? Check
Poor Graphics? Check
Inexplicable format issues? Check
Ugly design that scares children? Check
Poor design that scares new users? Check
Google Apps brings the best of 1995 right to your 2014 screen.
It's quite remarkable. And I would love it if the TechStuff podcast could do a episode on this worm hole technology.
 But until then I'll have to build my house inside out, and access Google Sites and Google Forms through the same technology that James Spader used to visit the Ancient Egyptians in Stargate:
Is that Larry Page front and center?

How To Design "Choose Your Own Adventure" Stories in 4th Grade part 2
Quick Disclaimer: I have almost no experience with Google Forms. There are probably a billion ways better to do this. If you have suggestions, please let me know

Step 1: 
Write the story in Google Docs. Write a page # for each branch of the story. Here's an example using the format I discussed in part 1 of this series:

Page 1

Once upon a time, in a forest not too far from here, you were a beautiful young maiden. Your name is Harriet, and you loved the magic of Nature, with all its magnificent plants and animals.
One lovely spring morning, you decided to take a stroll along your favorite woodland trail. “What wondrous things will I see today?” you thought to yourself.
Soon you met a family of grey squirrels, who came bounding toward you, unafraid and looking for a possible treat. Gathering nuts from a nearby tree, you decide to…

a) feed the cute squirrels.
b) throw the nuts at the squirrels.

Page 2
You feed the cute squirrels.
Uh-oh. You fed some grey squirrels, which carry many more diseases than red squirrels. The diseases don’t hurt you, but they do help kill the native red squirrels. Congratulations. You are a forest creature killer. THE END.

FACTS: The spread of grey squirrels is the main threat to red squirrel survival and the main reason for their catastrophic decline in Britain.  Grey squirrels compete more successfully than red squirrels for food and habitat, they are larger and more robust, and can digest seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, more efficiently. Grey squirrels can also carry squirrel-pox virus (SQPV), which causes severe clinical disease and mortality in red squirrels without causing any symptoms in the grey carriers. Source:

Page 3
You throw the nuts at the squirrels.
Great! You got rid of those grey squirrel pests. Grey squirrels are way more aggressive and less cute than red squirrels.
Let’s continue on our journey!
You come to a beautiful lake. On the edge of the lake you what looks like a turtle.  “Mr. Turtle!” You scream. “What are you doing out of the water?” You pick it up and rub its nose. “Would you like to return to the water?”
You decide to….

a) Leave the reptile alone.
b) Throw it in the water.

Step 2: 
Create a Google Form. To create multiple pages on the form, go to Insert->page break.
Label the pages the same as the page numbers in Google Docs:

Step 3: 
Copy the story part in the "Description" section of each page.

Step 4: 
Create a multiple-choice question for each branch. Click on the "Go to page based on answer" checkbox. Then assign the Go-to page for each response:

Step 5: 
Now the story is now pretty much set up. The live form looks like this:

The problem with this is that annoying Continue button in the lower left corner. I haven't figured out how to hide that. But there are ways to mask it so it doesn't jump ahead in the story.

Step 6: 
Set the "Continue" button to Submit Form, and add some images to make the adventure story look pretty. At any point you can check out the "live" version of your story by clicking view live form at the top.

It's not too hard, but the clunkiness and poor design of Google Forms makes it more confusing than it should be. In my next post I'll start detailing the other scenarios I designed for the kids to develop. Again, I'm no expert in Google Forms so if you have any suggestions for me, please let me know.

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