Twine – A interactive tool for telling stories

Twine

 

Did you ever read those fantasy game books as a child? Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I have to admit it was a bit of a craze among boys in my school. They were the books where they gave the reader a choice at the end of each chapter of what to do next and would ultimately change the potential outcome of the story. This type of book or game is called Interactive Fiction.

This is the 1st of many posts from myself and @ben40forte about what we learnt from visiting #BETT2015 and thank you to @tecknoteacher who we  picked this up from at the Teachmeet.

Twine is a free tool for telling interactive, none-linear stories, you don’t need to be able to code to write one of the stories. I haven’t tried it myself yet however it is supposed to be fairly easy to use.

Here are some quotes about Twine so far:

A new tool has emerged that empowers just about anyone to create a game. It’s called Twine. It’s extremely easy to use, and it has already given rise to a lively and diverse development scene.

Carolyn Petit, Gamespot

Although plenty of independent games venture where mainstream games fear to tread, Twine represents something even more radical: the transformation of video games into something that is not only consumed by the masses but also created by them.

Laura Hudson, The New York Times Magazine

The simple beauty of Twine is this: if you can type words and occasionally put brackets around some of those words, you can make a Twine game.

Kitty Horrorshow

If you’re interested in making interactive fiction then there’s no better place to start than Twine.It’s possibly the simplest game making tool available, it will take you mere minutes to get started, and it has a wonderfully simple visual editor.

Richard Perrin

And aside from being free, it’s really not programming at all — if you can write a story, you can make a Twine game.

Anna Anthropy

Twine is the closest we’ve come to a blank page. It binds itself and it can bind itself along an infinite number of spines extending in any direction.

Why not have a go yourself, I plan to or set it as a long extended homework for students to see what they can produce?

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CAREERS IN THE CLASSROOM?

Careers

Is this the holy grail of careers ed –  careers activities that can be done in curriculum lessons, taught by the subject teachers?

It is certainly on my agenda for this year – again (!)

“If you can find a job you like, you will never have to work a day for the rest of your life” this quote is credited to Confucius, so proving that top class careers advice has been around for a very long time – but how to help our students find that job? (I’m assuming that we have all found ours…)

First of all there is no doubt that everyone from Nicky Morgan downwards is looking for “Real world skills” – you can’t open a paper without reading something on those lines and this is a nationwide ask, I think. Schools are supposed to address this but with no money to do so, so the easiest option would seem to be to incorporate it in the curriculum. We are promised by Nicky Morgan a new Careers body from Sep 2015 which will be “employer led”, but funding is only for a two year period. After that employers are expected to pick up the tab. Is that realistic?

There are many further questions that need answers (and I am often told about all the employers desperately keen to help in school – and there are a few – however from experience when trying to pin someone down to a specific date and time when you are constrained to a particular hour in the week it is not quite so easy!)

An ATL survey of its members found that:

  • Only 5% of teachers think careers advice has improved following Government changes
  • 78% of teachers think there is not enough time in the curriculum dedicated to careers guidance;
  • 78% of teachers think schools and colleges do not get enough funding for careers advice;
  • 69% of teachers think work experience should be compulsory.

Overwhelming opinions, but how to improve?

Most if not all subject teachers/leaders are rightly concerned with their own subject and are often under time pressures to get through the content of their course, let alone add further stuff. It is also understandably outside the comfort zone for many, especially as careers requirements and specifically LMI change constantly and quickly. So how to address this?

I think it’s important first of all to keep everyone informed of the careers ed that IS happening in school. I’ve tried using a weekly blog, twitter & going in to assemblies, attending pastoral and academic staff meetings whenever possible to keep interjecting careers related comments or questions, making sure careers area/notice board is visible and regularly updated, talking to governors about it, publicising Career guidance appointments or apprentice drop-ins  – basically raising the profile as much as possible. This may well lead to suggestions or ideas or offers to help but should at least stop anyone saying they don’t know what is going on!

Once at least some of these are in place, hopefully you can progress by inviting specific involvement from subject teachers eg hosting guest speakers, signing off employability passport activities, undertaking WEx visits, running STEM clubs, options evenings, PSHEE/Citizenship lessons or similar. Subject teachers are usually class tutors too – is there any available tutor time you could use? I’m lucky in that I can inflict regular careers activities via the PSHEE tutorial programme for tutors to deliver!

Once most these are in place – and this is where I think we are after several years in my current role – I am now hoping to encourage more direct engagement with careers by suggesting starters or plenary sessions to subject lessons. It is also often the case that we are already doing many careers related activities in subject curriculum time in school – can we make them more explicit? Sites with clips of different jobs such as www.careersbox.co.uk   can be great and need very little planning preparation from the subject teacher, or simple five minute activities such as write down or discuss all the jobs that might be done in a particular place/what jobs could you do that would use the skills we have just practiced in this lesson/how might you use this knowledge in a particular job area/where could you go for further information on careers in this subject?

Once a teacher/subject is regularly adding in snippets like this, the final step is to add careers activities into the subject SoL; using real world scenarios to teach the skills & information in the first place. I know that some subjects lend themselves to this far more easily than others – if you have any great ideas, I’d love to hear them!

All of this, of course, is only really possible with support for your endeavours from your LG/SLT. The reality is that it is a very rare person who will volunteer to do extra/anything different unless they are guided from above; not necessarily because they don’t think it is a good idea but because of time constraints, and general exhaustion!

We are required to deliver “appropriate & impartial” careers advice for Y8 upwards. If this could have the added benefit of helping students to “see the point of” their curriculum lessons, surely it would be a win-win situation?

careers 2

 

Sue Moreton @suemoreton1 
IAG co-ordinator

Why not try a MOOC*

Journalism MOOC

Easter 2014 saw me sat at my kitchen table beside my son, who was revising for his university exams, completing a course of study from Cardiff University.

Following a challenge from Sharon Davidson (Assistant Head Post-16) to engage with on-line learning, I had signed up for a Future Learn course in Community Journalism.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but felt confident that the Centre for Community Journalism in Cardiff would provide an excellent introduction to my first experience of on-line learning. The main attraction for me was the chance to hear directly from the leading academic staff in my chosen subject.

What an opportunity!

I wasn’t disappointed. Over five weeks, the course offered insights and advice on all aspects of setting up and sharing a community website, identifying and building an audience and managing an on-line community.

Especially valuable was the option of sharing in dialogue and discussion with the course tutors and other learners by using a dedicated hashtag and the on-line forums.

All this was offered free of charge!

Community Journalism was a great course for me but Future Learn has a wide range of titles available from ‘Archaeology of Portus’ (University of Southampton) to ‘The Discovery of the Higgs Boson’ (University of Edinburgh).

There really is something for everyone. All you have to do is get on-line and sign up!

https://www.futurelearn.com

*Massive Open Online Course offered (free of charge) by the best universities around the world

Stop Press:
The Centre is now offering the Community Journalism MOOC for a second time starting on 16 March 2015.
 

Sarah Nicholson

@DHSBoys

The power of the Chromebook

Chromebook

Since September our department has invested in 30 Chromebooks. At first we were not sure of the benefit of them but we had carried out some research and found out that it would be a great tool for what we are doing.  We use Google Classroom, Google sites, Classcharts and Google docs as our main points of application’s. The Chromebook has revolutionised syncing all of these tools to make both the students and teaching interactions seamless.  The flipped learning concept fits right in with these devices, along with the speed of use. By being ready as soon as you open the lid it makes transitions easy. There is now no need to book computer rooms or I-pads which seem to fail when using certain apps or getting students work from the application. The unlimited Google drive area frees up student spaces and does not require IT technicians to increase user space. As a teacher or a student we are now more in control.

They are fast and easy to use, small enough to be on the desk and still have space to work. I can now set work via Google classroom which links to my Google site which allows students to work at their own pace and have all the resources in one place. It is great as students can log on anywhere to their work and still be part of the group. I am now looking at purchasing a Chromecast (£30) which will replace the apple TV for mirroring work. There is also software available to control the set just in case you want to keep control of what your class is looking at.

I was sceptical about the usage of these but we are now at a point where we are considering buying more as the demand for the use of them is so high. As technology is changing and the way in which we learn is changing, the Chromebook along with a selection of applications / software gives the students and teachers an interactive platform to create the digital classroom. At a price of around £100 per unit the cost benefit against buying apple I-pads at 3 or 4 times the cost is a no brainer.

We still use traditional resources to teach from, however by having access to the internet, Google drive and our other applications students now have a choice in the way they can work. They take control of their own learning and engage more within the lessons as the technology is allowing them to work in a way they are used to. The chromebook also works off line so if there is a problem with the internet you can still work offline and sync the work once the Wi-Fi is back working again.  All in all it is a great piece of equipment that will engage learners, make your lessons interactive and allow all students access to the learning by letting them take control.

Nick Berryman @berrymannick

Head of Smeaton House

Teacher of Business & Enterprise

eBook VS Physical Book Debate – What do you think?

ebookvsphysical

 

On Thursday the 15th of January 2015 as part of the Learning Commons promotion week the Devonport Union hosted a debate the motion being “This house would have the school emphasise eBooks and online resources over traditional resources.”

The debate had a great turnout and a good range of year groups in attendance. The first point to be raised was about the emotional attachment that is felt from holding and retaining a physical book. Some felt that they could get more from a physical book because it felt more personal, you can fold the pages, mark the pages and make notes on it. Equally many students prefer the way that you can highlight, immediately look up word definitions and search the book for key words.

It was then raised that some research has been done on the media from which we read from which suggests students retain more information when reading from physical books to eBooks. I have looked up this research and it is an interesting study (Read more here). It concludes “This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for e-text books or computerised courseware, however. Neither Nielsen nor Garland is opposed to using new media for teaching. In fact, both believe that there are many situations in which they can offer real advantages. However, different media have different strengths — and it may be that physical books are best when you want to study complex ideas and concepts that you wish to integrate deeply into your memory.” I am sure a lot more research will be done in this area and hopefully some people will do some research to try and find more of the positives that come from eBooks and study different ranges of students.

Several students felt that it may be a generation thing. Younger generations feel more comfortable using digital resources because it is what they are used to using vs older generations are used to paper therefore that is maybe why information might not be retained as well.

Discussions then went on to the topic of costs many students believe eBooks offer great financial benefits with services such as Amazon Kindle offering thousands of eBooks for free. This was counter argued by Local Authority libraries also being free but with government budget restraints many libraries are now closing and the point was raised as to whether the government could provide an eBook service.

There was also a good staff turnout at the debate and from a member of staff some great points were raised in favour of eBooks. Firstly saying you can annotate on a eBook but you cannot on a school textbook. Also eBooks can be updated easily without the need to throw away and buy new books which has high costs and high impacts on the environment. There are also other benefits that eBooks can offer to people with disabilities such as the book being read out or text being enlarged for visually impaired students.

The general consensus was that eReaders such as the Kindle (not Kindle Fire) was a good replacement but devices such as iPads did not make good eReader devices due to backlit screens causing eye strains, too many distractions and poor battery life (a physical book never runs out of battery).

The debate concluded with 14 to 15 in favour of eBooks vs Physical books. So where next…

Ben Forte @ben40forte

Director of Learning Commons