Using Twine to Build a Choose Your Own Adventure Lesson

If you haven't seen Dan Meyer's talk on using the structures of video games to make math class resemble things students like, you need to do so now. You could wait until after Christmas, I guess, but not too much longer.

There's an interesting mix of comments on that blog post. The thread that interests me most is that on the relationship between the story telling aspect of video games, and the equivalent story telling that happens in good math problems. I'm not convinced that there needs to be a good backstory for a game to be compelling, just as a real world context doesn't tend to be sufficient to get most students enthusiastic about a particular problem.

One comment from Kevin Hall, however, tapped into an idea I've also been mulling over since finding one of my own Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books during a trip back home in November. Here's Kevin writing in a comment on Dan's post:

I’ve thought about embedding videos in a Google Form so students can choose their own adventure and see the consequence of their choices. For example, if each pizza is $6 and delivery is $1.50, you could ask how much it would cost to get 2 pizzas delivered. If a student selected $13.50, you’d take them to a video of a single delivery guy bringing 2 pizzas. If the student said $15, you’d show a guy bringing 1 pizza, driving back to the pizza place, and bringing the other pizza separately. But it’s a lot of work and, I think, a critical aspect of making math more like video games.

The work of putting together such a task is not to be ignored. I do think though that getting students thinking about their thinking in a way that doesn't require whole class discussion is worth investigating. Some carefully crafted questions, ones that we might ask the entire class based on student responses, might also have some power for individual students to go through before sharing thoughts with others.

I also recently learned about an online tool called Twine that takes away some of the difficulty of putting these together. You can edit your adventure in the browser, link pages together without too much hassle, and add links to pictures or videos online using standard HTML. If you know Javascript, you can use it to add even more interactivity to the story. The tool allows you to piece together a truly individualized path.

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I'm interested in piecing together some activities using Twine as a starting point for some explorations next semester. I've done things like this on paper before, but the limitations of paper are such that it's impossible to progressively reveal questions based on student responses. The way that Twine reduces the friction for doing this seems just enough to make this an option to explore. I'm writing this out now as a way to get some of you to push me to actually do it.

I'd love to see what happens when the math-twitter-blog-o-sphere gives Choose Your Own Adventure a try. Give it a go, and let me know what you create. I'll be here.

5 thoughts on “Using Twine to Build a Choose Your Own Adventure Lesson

  1. Cool idea! The only struggle I have thinking about this is how to predict the types of mistakes students will make. That's, of course, the same problem with any sort of multiple choice approach. I wonder what it would take to make it handle any numeric response from the student?

    1. That's definitely a concern. Its easy to handle for compare tasks, but challenging otherwise. Some JS might make it possible to show/hide links based on an entered numerical value. Combining a back end to collect data would also make this really powerful.

      1. Have either of y'all played with Oppia? It allows you to send a response based on any kind of input. I thought it had a lot of potential, but took way too long for me to build. I've been wanting to do something like this though, so I'm excited to try out Twine, thanks for sharing Evan!

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