by Kate Lyons and Karin Lundberg
Twine (http://twinery.org/) describes itself as “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” It is similar to the print-based, “Choose Your Own Adventure Series” (https://www.cyoa.com/). A user playing a Twine game reads a passage and then makes a choice about how the story will continue, by clicking on a link. Twine is a powerful tool educators can use to gamify and digitize their own course content, and then assess students’ learning. Harnessing the playfulness inherent in Twine helps students unlock the emotional state that leads to deeper learning.
We used Twine to create and implement an interactive, non-linear story (http://commons.hostos.cuny.edu/esl/) that encourages college-level English Language Learners to practice grammar concepts as they play the game narrative we wrote. In the game’s narrative, students played the role of the main character, who was visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) for the first time. This content tied into the themes of the ESL course curriculum, as this and other ESL courses at Hostos often involve a trip to the MET. As they played the game, students earned points based on their grammar choices, and then depending on their final scores, they were presented with varying creative writing prompts.
The creative writing prompts at the end of the story were meant to trigger students’ imaginations based on their experiences playing the game. They formed connections between the course content, the grammar and the new domain-specific language they were exposed to as they played the game about an art museum. In their narratives they were able to re-activate vocabulary words and grammar structures they learned earlier in the course, and bring that to this assignment. In this way, students were able to synthesize and own their language and explore their authorial voices. Although our experience using this Twine assignment is anecdotal, we observed that the writing students produced demonstrated a higher level of fluency, creativity and slightly more control over language mechanics, than on traditional formal assignments that would otherwise be assigned at that point in the course.
The model of using Twine to deliver content could be adapted to any General Education Course. Twine was beneficial as a means to create non-traditional assessments. As a tool to create games, Twine is intuitive and opens a door for educators to engage students in active learning and rethink the way they deliver content. In this case, the assignment was given in the hybrid ESL 86 course, so students were already accustomed to experimenting with technology, and they were open to non-traditional assessments and methodology.