For about a year and a half now I’ve been peering enviously over the wall at those incredibly inventive teachers who been teaching and enjoying the amazing Inanimate Alice, the interactive digital narrative which has been lighting up classrooms for a few years now. The blog posts, the wikis, the web pages I visited all glowed with the originality and depth of this new, modern and ground-breaking narrative form.
A mixture of words, sounds and visuals, the intended ten episodes follow Alice as she grows up in an increasingly complex world. My envy has finally got the better of me. Following a New Year bout of soul-searching about the things I could teach easily and the things which would challenge both the students in my class and me as a teacher, I have taken the plunge. This week, Inanimate Alice has consumed my teaching life.
The key word in that last paragraph was ‘challenge’. After ten years in the classroom I think I could happily take any written text and teach it well but over the last couple of years it has increasingly felt like I’ve been ‘phoning it in’. The challenge was not always there. I could also say that, while my students enjoy the texts I teach, I was missing out on a bigger part of their ability to access information and different ways of interacting with stories and other texts. Inanimate Alice looked like it could be perfect.
So, for the purposes of my own reflection, as well as a record of the success and failures we experience as a group of learners, I’m going to blog my thoughts and findings as I work my way through the series of lessons, perhaps noting my ‘Eureka’ moments along the way. Perhaps, if you’ve been tempted to enter Alice’s world, there may be some helpful advice here.
- I read everything I could find on Inanimate Alice on the web. I found Wikis, the ‘Alice’ website, Bill Boyd’s excellent blog post. Alice’s School report was particularly helpful for advice and tips. There are some great people out there who’ve been fighting Alice’s corner. Pull on their coat tails. Learn from them.
- I watched Episode One – China – over and over until I was happy with what I thought the students might get from it. I would normally read a text at least twice before teaching it so this was standard for me. I would recommend this as it focused my mind on the idea of reading a media narrative. What did I see and hear? What might my students think as they watched and listened and read?
- Before I began, on Monday of this week, I wanted to construct a list of questions which I wanted to answer as I progressed through the lessons. I was holding off on Learning Intentions as I wanted this to remain open to an extent. I’m hoping the students will adapt those LI s as we go.
· How do you read a text?
· What do we mean by ‘text’?
· Are there different ways of reading texts?
· And others along those lines...