I wrote a while ago about how I’ve been working with a local grade school teacher to use text adventures to improve literacy with her class. The approach she took with this ‘interactive fiction’ was a bit different than what I expected – but perhaps is a model for others.
She first built a simple adventure using ADRIFT, to get the students used to how the story might work (see my earlier post, Interactive Fiction (Text Adventure!) in the Classroom). Over a series of sessions she had the students divide into groups to work on particular ‘rooms’ for their own adventures. What does the room look like? What will happen in this room? This collaborative work was all done with pencil and paper, followed by students’ swapping their work with each other for group edits. What was interesting about this stage was how – interactively, without a computer – an adventure took place situated in their own school grounds. In most cases, the editing process really improved the descriptions of each room – although there was one group, who upon receiving the edited version of their room, proceeded to erase others’ edits to return it to its original state. When the disparate parts were put together using ADRIFT, remarkably, a plot seemed to emerge. This allowed the teacher to discuss the mechanics of fiction with a group that has an extremely low level of literacy ability.
So… the computer was only used to bracket this project. ‘Interactive fiction’ usually refers to the playing or reading of these works, but in this case, it was actually the creation that demonstrated the interactivity.