English Faculty and Students Teach High School Students How to Create Interactive Digital Story Games

Posted on 3/19/2019 8:20:42 PM

In March 2019, students at Franklin Regional middle and senior high schools and Indiana Area junior and senior high schools are learning how to create interactive digital “storygames” using Twine, a free, open-source software program that enables users to create texts similar to choose-your-own-adventure stories.

The workshops are led by IUP English Professor Mike Sell with the assistance of Literature and Criticism doctoral students Bradley Markle, Shane Sedlemyer, Zeeshan Siddique, and Barbara Shultz, and undergraduate English education majors Haley Cook, Kendra Hughes, Emily O’Donnell, and Maddie Aloia.

To create a fun, memorable Twine storygame, students must not only know how to write code but tell a great story. Jennifer Beer, seventh-grade English language arts teacher at Indiana Area Junior High School, is excited by the opportunity to blend STEM and Language Arts: “Last year my classes participated in this partnership with IUP, and the experience was invaluable! Students love this challenging and creative educational experience that allows them to think outside the box while engaging in the writing process.”

Maddie Aloia, student teacher with Beer, agrees: “Twine is engaging, collaborative, interactive, and fun. The students are ecstatic. And it’s inspired me to provide more opportunities for technology use in my future classroom.”

Emma Masengale, a student at IAJHS, is enjoying the process of creating her own storygame: “Twine gives me new ways to express myself through writing. I can create different endings to my stories if I want to, and I let the reader decide which pathway they’d like to take. Twine helps me learn how to code, it enhances my imagination, and it really gives a fresh way of writing.”

Franklin Regional School District gifted coordinator Susan White is a long-time participant in the Twine project and has helped develop the curriculum: “This is a perfect opportunity for students with an interest in technology and coding to blend that interest with a love of literature and writing. It really allows them to tell a story in a different way. On one hand, they are learning to code, to adapt their visions to the limits of the software, and to troubleshoot. On the other, they are creating an original work of art that requires the use of imagination, empathy, ethical decision-making, and aesthetic appreciation.”

Mike Farina is a language arts teacher at Indiana Area Senior High School. He hosted a workshop last year and has now incorporated it into three of his English classes. Like White, he appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of Twine storygame design: “All of my students were really engaged with this. There is literally something to like about it for every student. Some like the storytelling/creative components, some like the coding, and some like the building/engineering components.” He is joined by Larry Nath, who has incorporated Twine into his senior Creative Writing course.

The workshops at Franklin Regional will continue through March. Participants will have their completed storygames assessed by IUP faculty and students, with prizes awarded to the best in each school and overall. Last year, first prize was won by FRMS students Elaina and John Ciecerski for their Twine storygame Flo, the Baby Fly; and second prize by FRHS student Brando Sell for Monksworth and IAJHS student Neveah Stiffey for Why. These winning storygames are all available to play online.

Department of English