Diving into Digital Fiction: Some IF and CYOA

Photo courtesy: enersauce on flickrcc

Photo courtesy: enersauce on flickrcc

The line between digital fiction, fiction and gaming is very fuzzy indeed. Choose Your Own Adventure books (CYOA) have always been popular in primary school libraries and books like Encyclopedia Brown adventures provided a little interactivity. So it was not surprising to see that there was so much out there in these areas. Interesting that they are all branded as games not stories.

Choice of … series

This site has several genres of story that  follow the traditional ‘choose your own adventure’ format. I expect it will be blocked at school, but I should be able to request that it be unblocked. So far I’ve played:

Choice of Broadsides

Multiple-choice swashbuckling naval adventure, in the spirit of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books, with a dash of Jane Austen.

It was fun being able to choose an all woman crew for the ship – a little gender equality goes down well with me. And one really has to pay attention to details in this game – your crew depends upon you. This I’ll definitely include for the Year 8’s.

Choice of the Vampire

I’m not a big fan of the vampire/horror genre but this is well-written and takes place in ah historic setting so offers a bit more than Twilight-type stories.

Begin your two-hundred year journey as a vampire in New Orleans, 1815; choose whether you will seek love, power or redemption as you negotiate the growing-pains of the young Republic.

Choice of Romance by Heather Albano

Play as a young aristocrat who comes to court looking for love… and catches the monarch’s eye. Will you find true love? Gain a crown? Lose your head? Choice of Romance is a text-based multiple choice game of romance, deception and court intrigue.

CYOA stories are written from the second person point of view (which takes a bit of getting used to) , and Choice of Romance is on par with some of the lighter pulp romance (think Georgette Heyer, Mills and Boon) Because I’m planning to share with year 8’s I had to work my way through this clicking on the ‘naughtiest’ options to see how much sex might be included. It is very light on; I saw it described as ‘low steam factor’ on another site – I ended up sleeping with the King (how does one say ‘no’ to the King?) but it was described only as ‘beyond my wildest dreams’.

PS Of Note: it is possible to choose a same sex option for this story. Iam interested to see that it is an example of inclusive fiction rather than exclusive , but am undecided at this stage whether the teacher will be comfortable with the mention of sex  of any sort in the story given the age group.

I’ve just discovered that there is also the possibility of putting these stories on hand-held devises for a low cost.

Lost Pig

Another adventure game, described on its site as:

… a text adventure game ( also known as “Interactive Fiction”) about an orc named Grunk and a pig who would much prefer to remain lost. The story is told entirely from Grunk’s perspective, in his own words (just words – no pictures), so the player gets to experience the world through Grunk’s unique point of view.

This really did feel more like a game than a story but I will make it available for students as an option to explore from home. It needs specific game software loaded to play it.

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual: Interactive Illustrated Stories from Retropolis and Beyond

This website has plenty of eye appeal and humour, it  is retro-sci-fi at its quirkiest and its fun to explore all the other parts of the website. The site  has two kinds of stories:  the first are interactive, the second are non-interactive, serial stories with the current one having updates added every Monday and Thursday. As well as the story, the characters carry along with them items such as ID cards that give more back-story when you click on them.

Quick Update on iPod Learning

Things have been quiet on the blog because I’m currently half-way through my practical placement for uni. I’ll blog about it at a later date but wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out journalling my progress with the iPod Touch. Much of the professional literature emphasises that teachers should get plenty of opportunity to familiarize themselves with iPods and what can be done with them. This is common sense advice I willing to indulge in.
I’ve used the earphones with mic now in several library sessions while discussing meanings of text and have found that the mic is quite powerful – able to pick up nearly any child’s voice in a group setting as long as they are speaking at a normal volume. It’s been very useful to replay these sessions to prepare for further discussion and to record remarks for later writing activities with the youngest students.

I’ve been loading, assessing (and in many cases deleting) various educational apps that I’ve run across in readings or have had recommended by people. So far I’ve kept:

  • Etch-a-sketch,
  • BrainPop,
  • iTalk,
  • iChoose, and
  • StoryKit.

I’ve also downloaded Juxio and iKindle Reader apps but haven’t had a chance to explore their potential yet. The sheer number of apps out there is overwhelming and Louise Duncan in her video (see previous blog entry) recommended building a toolbox of review sites to help with selection of appropriate, quality apps. I intend to do this and will set it up on a seperate page of this blog.

I’ve also purchased a Nike sensor for measuring and recording your fitness routines (walking/running). I’m still familiarizing myself with all the bells and whistles of this accessory, but can see a lot of value in it for getting kids active and measuring distances, speed, calories burned etc.

Progression with iPod Touch – recording

My iPod Touch earphones and mic (bloggers own photo)

My iPod Touch earphones and mic (bloggers own photo)

My exploration of iPod Touch for school library/classroom use continues.

I now have earphones with microphone and remote controls.

In the photo you can see the little bar that hangs off the earphone. On verso side is the mic – the smallest I’ve ever seen. I’ve experimented with speaking into it and talking with someone standing/sitting next to me: the mic’s ability is very good. As long as the person beside the mic-wearer isn’t mumbling, this mic will pick up their voice no problem. I’ve yet to experiment with voice + background noise which is a reality in classroom/library use.

The side of the mic that can be seen is the remote  – from it the wearer can adjust the volume up and down with the + and – buttons. The large button in the centre is for fast forwarding/skipping/rewinding.

This bit of hardware has been essential for use with one of the apps that comes loaded on the iPod Touch – Voice Memo. It allows you to record audio notes and short readings. In fact I’m not sure how long you can record on Voice Memo for – I did a five minute reading and it hadn’t cut out so I’m supposing it can go for a decent length of time.

There is a slight disadvantage to this app in that you cannot rename files you’ve recorded so they are named by date and time only. On the upside, the app has a  ‘Share’ function which means the sound file can be emailed to someone. You must set up one of your email accounts on the iPod Touch under Settings – Mail in order to do this.

I was curious to see what format the audio file would be and how one would open the sent file so emailed a trial off to my personal email address from my gmail. When I opened my laptop and email then the file (it was in an .m4a format) my iTunes automatically opened and played the file. Easy! I’ve also emailed a trial off to my work email to see how it might be opened from there. I don’t think I have iTunes loaded at work; something I may have to rectify and may have to include on all our computers at school.

Of course this probably isn’t the app for use in creating podcasts but I can see the value of messages, ideas, readings, stories being sent to/from a teacher/home /fellow student. This could be especially valuable for students with special needs and learning needs.

I just found a fantastic presentation on Mark Warner’s site Ideas to Inspire on ways of incorporating iPods into the classroom:  Fifteen Interesting Ways to use an iPod Touch in the Classroom

I liked the idea of using Voice Memo to create collaborative stories. I’m going to give it a try in one of the library sessions in two weeks time. Sites and their ideas such as these are gold. Ultimately it’s not the apps but the practical applications that will sell the use of these technologies to teachers and institutions. Understanding and sharing how to incorporate the ICT tools into the pedagogy is the goal of my exploration.

TL + iPod Touch – both fresh out of the box

Author's own photo

Author's own photo

Yay! I received my iPod Touch in the post today. Yes, I’m a latecomer to this piece of technology. I already had a mobile phone and an mp3 player and my laptop, I just didn’t see the point of another toy. But now I’m keen to explore the world of handheld technology and learning so Step 1 is securing the new toy.

I thought it would be useful to document my learning journey (read: steep learning curve) as I work out how to use this both technically and pedagogically.

So here is is: hooked up to my laptop. The first thing the little booklet told me I had to do was sync and charge it. Synching it meant that it dumped down all the stuff I already had in my iTunes store onto the Touch, whether I wanted that to happen or not *sigh* so I now have heaps of old podcasts I’ve finished listening to loaded up.  There doesn’t appear to be any way to leave stuff in the store (I don’t want to delete them), which is a shame cuz I don’t want to wade through all 85 podcasts to find the ones I haven’t listened to yet. I obviously have the old mindset of not wanting to carry my whole library around when I’m only reading one book at a time. I’m sure I’ll adjust. =)

The next thing I worked out was how to upload all my contacts and calendar from Outlook which will be very handy.

The third thing I learned is that this baby is designed to be used wirelessly and so if I want to do something on it directly, we need to have our wi-fi reconnected at home (please, boys!) or I work on the iTunes on the laptop then sync stuff onto the iPod. This shouldn’t be a problem when I use it at school, or once the wifi is working here again.

The booklet suggested the Apple site had a guided tour video to watch but the site has been updated since so the link is dead. However, the video tour is available on YouTube. I am about to watch it now. I’ve included the link below –

Apple New iPod Touch – 2nd Gen Guided Tour and New Features (2008)

Also I watched this one to find a few simple apps I could download and have a play with –

Top 15 Free Apps for iPod Touch and iPhone

One of the first things I learned when I tried to download the apps from the iTunes store is that it requires your credit card details even if the app you are after is free! This is a potential problem for educators wishing to use this in a class, although this is perhaps more of an issue for the IT department to work out (if your school has one). Our school does not so I’d need to seek permission to use my corporate card for this.

Next thing to work out? How to delete apps!