Digital Narrative Changes Gear

“My name is Alice. I’m nineteen years old, I have a boyfriend and I work at a remote gas station just outside the city. I’m up against the clock to deliver my latest college assignment before the deadline, but as usual things aren’t exactly going to plan. I’m surrounded by clutter and paperwork, bombarded by alerts and text messages. The last thing I need is a mysterious customer turning up in a gas-guzzling sports car…”

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The new-look Inanimate Alice website

Fans of Inanimate Alice, the popular digital novel for young adults, will be delighted that the much-awaited Episode 6 is due for imminent release. Building on the life experiences of the young protagonist Alice Field, Episode 6 takes the series to a new level, both in terms of the narrative and digital storytelling itself, moving from 2-D to a 3-D gaming platform and what is described as a ‘fully immersive’ experience for readers. Alice is now aged 19, and working in a remote gas station on the outskirts of town to pay for her studies at the local college, where she is …………well……….creating her own story. And this time around readers get to see under the bonnet and inside the engine of the story via Alice’s development blog, where she talks to the reader about scripting, 3D audio, video game graphics, spatial narratives and more.(http://devblog.inanimatealice.info/). This is a feature which started with the beautifully-crafted ‘Development Journal’ to accompany Episode 5: Hometown 2, and is especially interesting for students who are developing their own digital stories. Here is how the story-makers for the Bradfield Company describe what they are trying to achieve:-

“With Episode 6, I’ve been exploring Alice’s drive to become a games designer using the sort of technology and approach I could very much imagine Alice herself getting excited about. This episode feels like an immersive game – you literally are in Alice’s shoes. It’s quite multi-layered. As she gets older, the issues Alice has to deal with as her story unfolds get more complicated, and the more ambitious, adventurous and (hopefully) accomplished she becomes with new media.”

Andy Campbell, Director of Digital Media at One Development Trust (and Inanimate Alice developer)

“The challenge with Alice, traditionally a linear narrative, has been to build up her storytelling strengths (add more emotional arcs and depth, create three-dimensional characters) while responding to the user’s actions with a greater measure of agency (meaning, your choices have real consequences). The episode is in Unity 3D, which introduced a range of new interfaces and a free-roam environment with a first-person point of view. Instead of “playing as Alice,” my idea is to play as a “friend of Alice”—going along on her adventures, interacting with her, and occasionally making choices and taking actions that she might not like. The trick is, fans of Alice know that the user never actually sees her. In past episodes, her presence is most prominently featured in the form of narrative statements—simple text on the screen, aimed at her audience in an indirect but personal way. We’ll see how that plays out in this new format.”

Lorri Hopping, Game Developer, writer and narrative designer on Episode 6: The last Gas Station

If you can’t wait for the official release of Episode 6, you can watch the trailer and sign up for early access on Alice’s website at http://www.inanimatealice.com which will also give you free access to the Development Journal referred to earlier and some sneak previews of Episode 6 screenshots. I also have it on good authority that plans are underway for a special Teachers’ Edition of IA some time in the New Year, which will bring all of the educational resources from Episodes 1-5 into one neat package for use in the classroom.

In the meantime don’t forget that you can already access these episodes and some fantastic resources absolutely free by going to the website and clicking on Education. The Create link will take you to a gallery of content created by students of all ages from around the world, as well as the ‘featured classroom’ of Kristal Doolin, young ‘Teacher of the Year’ who talks about how Inanimate Alice transformed the way her students developed their literacy skills.

Finally, for a comprehensive overview of the learning opportunities afforded by using Inanimate Alice in the classroom, I would suggest you check out this article by Robert Stumbles, an educator with over 15 years experience teaching in schools in Australia and Japan. Fantastic stuff. Enjoy!

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50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers

I was surprised and delighted yesterday to be contacted by Samantha Miller of Online University Reviews in America, to tell me that The Literacy Adviser had been included in their 50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers. I’ve had a look at the other forty-nine and selected a few of them to give you a flavour of the exalted company which I am more than happy to be keeping. Blogging from outside the USA, which let’s face it is quite a big place, makes the inclusion on the list that bit more special.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day : Every day, Larry Ferlazzo blogs websites of particular interest to the ESL, ELL, and EFL communities, making it an excellent and indispensible resource.

 PainInTheEnglish.com : This very delightful blog explores “the gray areas of the English language,” shedding light on the subjective, perpetually changing nature of human speech.

 Grammar Girl : Mignon Fogarty’s extremely popular blog and podcast at Quick and Dirty Tips answers extremely common grammar questions as well as those pertaining to some of the more esoteric corners of the language.

 Language Log : Teachers and students alike who harbour a love of grammar, the history of communication, phonetics, and other related topics simply must read over (and bookmark!) Language Log.

 The Grammarphobia Blog : Both the blog and the surrounding website make for an excellent reference for teachers and students alike who find themselves baffled by some of the oddities in the English language.

 The Punctuator! : With punctuation being one of the most confounding elements of any language for anyone, it pays to understand all the whats, whys, and hows behind the marks.

 Literacy is Priceless : Bon Education founder Anna Batchelder blends together her love of technology and teaching literacy to offer teachers an excellent, comprehensive resource on promoting reading and writing.

 huffenglish.com : Another blog on the intersection between technology and education, focusing its energy and resources on issues regarding how they apply to teaching English.

 Free Technology for Teachers : Although Free Technology for Teachers targets educators in most subjects, there is enough here to engage and interest those emphasizing literacy to warrant its inclusion on the list.

 The Elegant Variation : The Elegant Variation exists as one of the top literary criticism blogs on the web, helping visitors learn how to hone and apply their reading and comprehension skills

 A Year of Reading : Two seasoned veteran teachers – each with over 20 years of experience under their belts – blog about their thoughts regarding the children’s and young adult books they encounter along the way.

 The Book Bench : Indulge in The New Yorker’s highly literate look at the world of reading and writing and the ways in which it shapes society for better or for worse.

 Flashlight Worthy : Flashlight Worthy, though not structured like a traditional blog, fills a definite niche in the online literature community. Any parents, teachers, students, or bibliophiles looking for reads that fit their needs and wants can easily immerse themselves amongst the listings containing hundreds of specialized recommendations.

View the whole list of 50 here.

A blog is only as good as the extent of the networks you create of course, and this particular blog would be much poorer without the steady stream of ideas from those I follow on Twitter, and the blogs I look at on a regular basis, which are listed under the heading ‘Blogroll’ at the bottom of the right-hand panel.

Big Brother Blogs

Discovered today that the diaries of George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, are being reproduced as a blog, 70 years after they were written. The creator of Big Brother – I wonder how many fans of the reality TV show appreciate where the concept originated – reveals details of his personal life as well as his political thinking in the days leading up to the Second World War. A great idea and an opportunity to see inside the mind of one of the men whose thoughts shaped the way we saw the world in the 20th Century.

Read the diaries at http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com