Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Storytelling in Education and Games

Imagine bringing the magic of storytelling into your classroom.  But not just any classroom - in your math classroom.

Storytelling @ Thurdays

If that sounds strange to you, then you haven't been following the work of Dan Meyer.  He's the guy that told us math classrooms need a makeover in his TEDxNYED talk.  A recent blog post of his describes The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story.
  • Act One: "Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, using as few words as possible."
  • Act Two: "The protagonist/student overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools."
  • Act Three: "Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension."
Besides the fact that I think this would work equally as well in computer science classrooms, it got me thinking about an idea I had a while back for educational games.  There's a GRAND project called BELIEVE that's all about making it easier to tell stories in games:
Research to discover new mechanisms to allow game designers to create helpful allies and challenging opponents by generating scripts automatically can support authors in providing creative high-level direction to these agents. A multi-queue behavior architecture with prioritized interruptible and resumable independent and collaborative behaviours will be employed.  BELIEVE will provide authors a library of highlevel behaviour, plot patterns, and game story idiom scripts for adaption to the story at hand.
When I heard about BELIEVE, my immediate thought was that we need something similar for educational games.  We know narrative is important, but I don't think the standard mechanisms for storytelling in games would necessarily work.  After all, there is a hidden agenda of actually teaching something specific.  Once we figure out the secret formula for how to weave learning into a game in a way that is both fun and effective, it makes sense to create tools that help others get the same good results.

To tie it all together, I wonder if the techniques Dan uses can inform or influence how we tell stories with educational games.  Something to think about the next little while.


Anonymous said...

I have a Kickstarter project for a storytelling board game I've invented that has been successful at engaging children 7-10 as well as adults at

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