Presentation from #macul16: Making your own educational games with Twine

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh

I few months ago, I shared some of the thoughts I had shared at a professional development day at a school here in Michigan. I intentionally left out part of the presentation with the intention of coming back to it later, which I never did. Last week, I dusted off those thoughts and shared an improved version of the presentation at the 2016 conference of the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL).

In the last blog post (and in my presentation), I describe three possible ways of thinking about games and learning, ultimately arguing that an effective educational game simulates a real phenomenon and situates a player in an authentic role where they need to understand that phenomenon and then respond to it appropriately. What I didn’t do in the blog post—but did in my presentations then and last week—was to take that thinking to the next step: Finding a game that does that for the phenomenon and the role that a teacher is interested in.

To be perfectly frank, that’s tough. To go back to my French classroom of yore, I don’t think I ever would or could have found a game that would simulate the issues I was concerned with and put players in the roles that I wanted them to assume. So, what is a teacher to do? Over the past several months, I’ve been playing with Twine, an open-source tool for designing interactive digital stories that can also easily be used for designing simple educational games.

The great thing about Twine is that it combines a low threshold for entry with an amazing amount of power and flexibility. In other words, you can start making a story in Twine by learning a single line of code, but the more Web design tricks you learn, the more you can do with Twine.

Here’s a link to the presentation I shared at MACUL. It’s a little sparse, but for good reason: I decided to turn my presentation into a proof of concept by doing it in Twine rather than in Google Slides, like I usually do. I try to show off a couple of things that Twine can do, like embedded YouTube videos and images. I had been hoping to add in a few more bells and whistles to both make this a more accessible presentation and show off more that Twine can do, but no luck so far. I’m curious, though, whether there’s some potential to do more conference presentations in Twine: With the right additions, you could potentially create a stand-alone presentation that would let someoone walk themselves through your presentation even if they can’t attend in person.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.