Media Tool Project #2: Twine X Interactive Game
For my second media tool project, I wanted to create a role-play/choice game on Twine. To be honest, while we were demo-ing Twine in class, I was having trouble getting the codes right when trying to insert photos, hyperlinks or videos. So this time, I wanted to challenge myself with exploring this media tool and introduce myself to the world of coding.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Twine Game from last year’s Multimodal Literacies class, I wanted to create something similar, but relate the theme to this week’s topic on critical literacies. So, I created a character that the user assumes. This character is completing their last teaching practicum before they attain their Bachelor of Education and notices how their Mentor Teacher mentions Trump’s fake tweets, but dismisses opportunities to further discuss about critical media literacy. The character has to then choose whether or not they would neglect critical media literacy as their Mentor Teacher does or become more informed about it. Thus, I used the Twine Game to create an interactive, non-linear narrative summarizing the main themes of the readings and made connections with other issues discussed in our course.
In relation to our course themes, I think that Twine is a perfect example of production pedagogies and constructionism. By putting learners as makers, Twine provides users with the opportunity to shift away from the mode of explication that subjects students under a pedagogical fiction in which they possess no agency and are dependent on a ‘circle of powerlessness’. With strong roots in deCastelle’s ‘production pedagogy’ and Papert’s ‘constructivism’, Twine facilitates meaningful learning opportunities about digital and media literacy and other subjects through purposeful making by engaging with digital technology and multimodal literacies. Through experimentation, exploration, improvisation, ludic epistemology and serious play, Twine users will become more engaged with the curriculum and media tools at large, especially by designing a project that is meant for a critical audience.
In addition of being able to incorporate various media (i.e., images, sound, videos, websites, etc.) into one digital medium, another affordance of Twine is definitely its various options for sharing. As you mentioned in your “Info to Twine” tab on your website, the fact that we have several options to easily share our Twines is amazing itself. We could use Philome.la, Dropbox, Google Drive and even host Twine HTML on Wordpress.
As a beginner to Twine and coding, I chose a pretty basic stylesheet (CSS) with a photo as a header and then text at the bottom. However, I had a very difficult time trying to change the header picture for different passages and was unsuccessful at doing so. After consulting DMG Twin ‘How-To, various Youtube tutorials and the stylesheet website where I got the stylesheet CSS, I felt super defeated and exhausted after altering and copying the exact code into the stylesheet, following the precise instructions in order to possibly change the header for each passage. Despite this failure, I wanted to continue creating this game even though it won’t be as perfect or the exact vision of what I originally planned. I did feel a sense of achievement or accomplishment whenever my attempts to write successful codes to alter the style of the text to bold or italics as well as to link external photos, videos, research articles and websites in my narrative actually worked! After numerous trial-and-error moments at altering the codes, I felt deeply engaged with the media tool and felt that even though I am unable to change my header image for the other passages, that my project is still worth continuing since I plan to share it on my Wordpress.
Here is the link to HTML of my Twine game:
Possible usage for my final project? Well, I am open to using it, but since I'm still a beginner with coding and am not as confident or comfortable with it (especially since I was unable to fix the header images), I may just stick with my original intention of using iBook Author. However, in my future classroom, I will definitely consider introducing Twine as a tool for multimedia and digital storytelling!
The Need for Coding in a 21st Century Curriculum
While I spent my childhood in the early nineties primarily playing outside with other kids, I started to become more cooped up at home, perhaps even a “homebody”, when the computer and AOL dial-up were introduced along with some of the first gaming consoles for Nintendo and Play Station. Now, I notice that even less children can be seen playing outside with nature since they are inside, their eyes glued to multiple screens where they are playing computer games, gaming on various game consoles and playing even more games on their phones and tablets. Consequently, Boost (2015) points out how “software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world.” So, if this is reflective of current reality, why haven’t we learned about this language in school? If we did, then we would become more informed of how the technological tools we use and what other potentials they possess.
Jenson & Droumeva (2016) further highlight that "Ontario does not currently have any mandatory computer science related curricula at the grade 6 level” (p. 114). There are rumours that coding may be incorporated into the Ontario Curriculum, but no actions have been made as of yet. Last year, when I taught in England, I was surprised that kids all over southeast London were learning how to code games, use Scratch and even program robots. All of the kids looked so meaningfully engaged in their learning, especially since they are learning how to create things through coding. Accordingly, Rushkoff (2012) stresses that “code literacy is a requirement for participation in a digital world.” If the Ontario Curriculum does not ‘get with the times’ and make a stronger effort to incorporate coding into the school curriculum, then they are doing Ontario’s students a disservice as they will be unequipped with the computational thinking and digital literacy skills that are required to partake in our world, which has become so heavily influenced by technology or as Rushkoff would say, a world that worships technology and computers.
But how would curriculum designers go about incorporating coding into the current curriculum? Would teachers need to allot separate time in their already hectic days for coding? Not exactly. Many cross-curricular connections can be made with coding, especially with STEAM subjects like math and science. In fact, Jenson & Droumeva (2016) ardently argue that computational thinking and algorithmic logic “ought to be considered a kind of ‘core literacy’ that needs to be incorporated into the school curriculum alongside numeracy, textual literacy and scientific thinking” (p. 112).
One of the huge concerns for incorporating coding into the curriculum is that it would potentially engage only the boys in the class rather than the girls, especially since boys are stereotypically the ones more associated with video games and there is no primarily visible presence of female gamers. Jenson & Droumeva (2016) claims that these gender differences may influence “access to and use of computers and gaming consoles, which likely speaks to cultural advertising that targets boys for high-end consoles such as XBOX4 and PlayStation, while establishing a wider audience for ‘educational’ tools” (p. 116). If computer and gaming companies tend to target boys who interact with more strategy games, then how can we introduce how to code these into our classrooms in a gender-friendly way, a way that would involve the girls and help them build their confidence? This is no easy task. There are small organizations in Toronto like Ladies Who Code who do coding workshops that target girls in order to do just this, but for the most part, the world of computer programming tends to be predominantly male.
In accordance with this, Rushkoff (2012) highlights how “code literate kids stop accepting the applications and websites they use at face value, and begin to engage critically and purposefully with them instead.” Considering this, it is easy for educators to promote a culture of inquiry, critical thinking skills and deep learning opportunities by incorporating coding into the curriculum, allowing the students to meaningfully engage with things they use in their daily lives in different and novel ways.