Designing Digital Adventures

Designing Digital Adventures

By: Heather Kretschmer

When I was growing up, Choose Your Own Adventure® books were very popular. I vividly remember devouring them around age 12. These books take kids on a fictional adventure, but they’re not set up the way regular novels are. The reader doesn’t follow a protagonist’s adventure. Instead, the reader is the protagonist who makes choices while reading. A typical Choose Your Own Adventure® book begins by introducing the plot in a few pages and then giving the reader two or more options, like this:

    • If you decide to do X, turn to page 45.
    • If you decide to do Y, turn to page 72.

The reader makes a decision, goes to the corresponding page, and keeps reading. After about a page or two, the reader encounters the next choice. Reading continues in this fashion until a particular storyline ends. These books have many choices and endings, which makes it fun for kids to finish one storyline only to go back to the beginning of the book to forge another path.

I loved those books. And when I stumbled on Matt Miller’s article on choice stories, I was immediately hooked. Matt Miller outlines how students can create their own mini Choose Your Own Adventures using Google slides or PowerPoint. After creating digital adventures, students share their work and go on their classmates’ adventures. In his article, Matt Miller explains the process step by step and provides teachers with templates.

I could immediately see the potential for foreign language classes. For example, an EFL teacher could have students create adventures in different places in a country where English is spoken. An ESL teacher might ask students to create adventures taking place in their home countries. Adventures could include cultural aspects or really anything the students want to focus on.

Since I teach Business English at a university, I am very hesitant to ask my students to design Choose Your Own Adventures themselves. However, I liked the idea of using this format to give my students choices as they work through materials on a particular topic. So, when my colleague and I decided to stop using a textbook for our Business English classes, I made a few Choose Your Own Adventures to replace textbook activities we had been using.[1] One adventure was the “Recruitment Hunt.”

To get ready for the lesson on recruitment, students work through the Recruitment Hunt Google slide deck. After accessing the link through our learning management system, students click “slideshow” to view the slides full screen. Each slide gives students instructions. By clicking on gray buttons on the slides, students move to different slides and access online materials (podcasts and articles). The overall goal of the Recruitment Hunt is for students to engage with the content actively and to mine the podcasts and articles for useful vocabulary.

[1] When creating the adventures, I incorporated some of the tips from the September 2021 Think Tank on design.

After completing the Recruitment Hunt for homework, students are well-prepared for the subsequent lesson, in which they discuss recruitment strategies and write job advertisements for their fictitious companies. Feedback from my students this semester was positive. They found the Recruitment Hunt useful, with one student commenting, “It was very good to know the recent shiftings and developments of recruitment, especially now during the pandemic.”

No matter whether students or teachers create them, Choose Your Own Adventures add variety and choice to foreign language classes. It takes some time to design an adventure, but I think the process and results are well worth the effort. So, I invite you to embark on adventures with your students.

Heather Kretschmer (MA German & TESL) enjoys accompanying her Business English students on their journey at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

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