An Interactive Story with 57° North for MERGE Cube

This app goes out to all my fellow children of the 80s who loved a good Choose Your Own Adventure book. The team at Mighty Coconut have created a beautiful augment reality choose your own adventure story for the MERGE Cube called 57° North.

The Story

57° North is the story of two cousins who are stranded on an island in the Alaskan wilderness. Their survival is in your hands as you choose the direction of the story. The story is intense and action-packed. (I’m going to try to give no spoilers here – so this will be vague.) It is part survival, part mystery as you help the two main characters navigate through the plot. According to the Mighty Coconut website, the story is for 10 and up and should take about an hour to go through once. However, just like any good CYOA story, you have to go back and try all the different paths to see how the story changes.

The Artwork

As you can see from the video and the screenshots, the artwork is gorgeous. Viewing this on the MERGE Cube gives you some depth to the artwork. As you can see in the video, you can move the scene around. The music also pairs really well with the feel of the story. Overall, it is a very nice piece of media.

Playing the StoryScreenshot_20181104-160407.png

To watch the story, you need a Merge Cube (read more about MERGE Cube here), a device, and the 57° North app. The app will run on both iOS and Android. It costs a mere $2.99, less than an ebook. You might also want a set of headphone. The sound works best with headphones and you won’t have nosy folks looking over your shoulder won=der what you are watching. To start the story, open the app with your device and scan the MERGE Cube. The story will launch. What I really like is that you do not need to finish the whole story in one sitting. If you close the app mid story, it will remember where you are and pick up where you left off. You move through the scene by rotating the MERGE Cube. As you can see in the video, when you come to a decision point, you rotate the cube to make your choice. It is a fun way to experience the story.  You can also play this using MERGE VR/AR goggles instead of the MERGE Cube.

In the Classroom

There are many different ways you could use this in the classroom. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Engage those reluctant readers. Get them hooked with this type of interactive storytelling and then hand them a vintage CYOA book or a great graphic novel.
  • Use the plot points in the story to explore STEAM concepts – STEM Read style. Visit the STEM Read website for inspiration. There are some great STEAM concepts in this story to explore.
  • Have your students create their own branching story. They can write one and leave it as a text-based story or turn it into a graphic novel.  Have them create a virtual version of their story. Go old school text-based with a tool like Twine. Read my review of Twine from last year’s 30 in 30. Or use visual tools like PowerPoint, Google slides or even Prezi, to create a digital version of their non-linear story.  I would love to figure out a way to have students create their own virtual stories on MERGE Cube. Maybe I will discover that as I explore the other apps.

I hope this is just the beginning of this type of storytelling. I also hope that Mighty Coconut continues to make interactive stories. I visited their website and there are a couple more VR/AR games available. They are not stories like 57 North but they do look cool. I really want to check out Laser Mazer! I might have to add that to this months list!

Inspiring Stories: Breaking Boundaries in Science from Filament Games

Inspiring kids to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a large part of what I do on a daily basis. Now, thanks to Filament Games, we have a beautiful new VR experience to add to our toolbox – Breaking Boundaries in Science.

The Experience

Filament Games is known for their high quality, fun, educational games. Breaking Boundaries in Science is no exception. Created for Samsung VR and Oculus Go, Breaking Boundaries lets you or your students explore the working spaces of three groundbreaking female scientists: Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, and Marie Curie. When you first enter the experience, you are standing in a great hall in front of portraits of the great women. Selecting a portrait sends you to a beautifully detailed virtual recreation of their workspaces. Once you are in these spaces, you can move through and explore these amazing spaces. In the space, you can select items and hear, in the scientist’s voice, a bit about their own story as it related to the item. Cool fun fact – Jane Goodall herself voiced her vignette. It is incredible to hear about her work from her.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN SCIENCE
A Screenshot of the scientists from the Breaking Boundaries website.

The gameplay experience is open exploration. The developers at Filament call it a form of non-linear storytelling, told through objects that held personal meaning to the scientists. It is almost like an unstructured Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Using this strategy, Breaking Boundaries tells a multi-faceted story about the scientific breakthroughs that made these women pioneers in their field and, more importantly, an intimate portrait of who these women were as people.

My Experience

My colleague and I had the opportunity to play Breaking Boundaries back in late August at the Filament Games offices. The experience was impressive. I had to sit while my colleague played first. I sat with anticipation while she oohed and aahed over what she saw in-world.  I was a bit impatient for her to finish so I could have my turn. If you are using it with your students, be prepared for a few impatient cries of “Is it my turn yet?”

When I (finally) got to play, I could see what she was oohing and aahing about. The detail in-world was gorgeous. From the stars in the sky and bugs on the ground in Jane Goodall’s camp to the sparking equipment and dusty chalkboards of Grace Hopper’s office. Marie Curie’s lab ceiling even leaked when it rained. It was inspiring to hear their stories in their own voices. (The voice actors for Hopper and Curie were spot on.)

I didn’t get to experience it, but my colleague selected the right things to get Marie Curie herself to appear! I wanted to keep trying but, we couldn’t stay there forever.

Classroom Uses

If you have a Samsung VR or Oculus Go, I highly recommend this VR experience. It is a free download. There are lots of ways you can use this in the classroom. Full disclosure – my office at NIU worked with Filament to write the accompanying activity guide. So – check it out for ideas on using this in the classroom. You can access the resources here.  It was a lot of fun to think about all the ways to use this with students.

Extras

While we were at Filament, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Norton, the Cheif Creative Officer of Filament and Ethan Cayko, the producer of Breaking Boundaries. We picked their brain about all kinds of things. Everything from designing educational video games, career paths in the gaming industry, and their own paths to get them to where they are today. It was a fascinating interview with two fascinating people.

STEM Read Podcast!
STEM Read Podcast!

You can listen to our interview with them and author Jennifer L. Holm on Episode 12: Games, Goldfish, and Greatness.

I hope you and your students enjoy Breaking Boundaries in Science as much as I did!

Doodlers and Daydreamers: STEM Read Podcast Ep 6

The STEM Read Podcast Episode 6: Doodlers and Daydreamers. Talking creativity with Dr. Rhonda Robinson and Tom Lichtenheld.

We’ve all seen those kids. Off in the corner of the room. Staring out the window. Drawing in their notebooks instead of taking notes. We know those kids. Heck, maybe you were one of those kids. The Doodlers and the Daydreamers. The creative spirits who, with the right encouragement and support, might someday change the world.

Doodles
A peek at some of my doodle masterpieces.

In this episode of STEM Read Podcast, Gillian (@gkingcargile) and I talk to two of our favorite doodlers and daydreamers, Dr. Rhonda Robinson and author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people about fun topics like visual literacy, creativity, perseverance, and collaboration, we recorded in Tom’s studio surrounded by art, books, and inspiration. And there were cookies there to boot. It was amazing!

Head over to the STEM Read Podcast page to give the episode a listen and check out the show notes. We have links to all of the books we discussed, information on visual literacy, and pics from the studio.

You can find the STEM Read Podcast on iTunes or on our home page on Northern Public Radio. Check out past episodes and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss new episodes. Also, check out all our resources over on stemread.com.

Want to learn more about teaching visual literacy and creativity in the classroom? Check out these past posts,  Friday Five: Build Visual Literacy Skills and Five Tips for Unleashing Your Creative Self in 2018.

 

 

STEM Read Podcast Episode 5

My reflections on STEM Read Podcast Episode 5. The one with all the swearing. Warning: Strong language.

The Rise of WHAT?!?

The fifth episode of the STEM Read Podcast posted on December 22nd. It has taken me a long time to write about it, not because I have nothing to say but because of WHAT I said.

In this episode, The Rise of F%@kwe discuss (you guessed it) swearing. We have a very colorful conversation with linguist Melissa Wright about why we swear,  the role it plays in culture, and how words became taboo. This is followed by an interview with M.C. Atwood (a.k.a Megan Atwood), author of the YA novel The Devils You KnowIn that interview we talk about how language, especially that of the foul variety, is used as a part of character development as well as how it helps us, the reader, form a connection with our fictional friends.

I found each of our discussions fascinating and informational. (I know, I am a bit biased. I always find myself fascinating.) I learned a lot from both of our guests. It has even prompted me to do more reading on the subject. However, I have to admit, I was (and still am) a bit nervous sharing this one.

Me and My Big Mouth

Anyone who knows me IRL, knows that I am not a stranger to the occasional F-bomb or perfectly place curse. In fact, my use of prolific profanity is directly proportional to my level of comfort with you. In other words…I swears if I like you.

If that is the case, why is this episode giving me pause and causing me anxiety? I think it goes back to the idea of context. We have different norms for different situations. It also might have to do with the different ways language is connected to our different identities. The STEM Read Podcast is connected to my professional identity. Non professional me swears like a drunken pirate. Professional me does not usually use such “unprofessional” vernacular. Professional me usually keeps it, well, professional. For me, this podcast pushed me outside of my professional comfort zone. Even though I know what we discussed was intellectually intriguing, professional me is saying, “But you said F%@k. A lot.”

It was a show about swearing. What the f%@k was I supposed to say?

Listen Anyway

Language is fun. How we use it. How it changes from culture to culture. How it shifts from decade to decade. It’s fun to talk about language. In fact, as I was writing this post, a colleague stepped into my office and we had a 15 minute conversation about swearing. Imagine the conversations you can have with your students around language when you use books like Feed by M.T. Anderson or The Martian by Andy Weir. In Feed, the language serves a key purpose in the story. When you dig deeper into the language choice, you see that in many ways, the book is all about language and the impact technology has on how we communicate. The language used in the book is an excellent starting point for a conversation about the language we use and why we use it.

So, if you are easily offended by the occasional obscenity or two, or ten, you might want to skip this episode. Or at the very least, don’t listen to it around your children. (My 18 and 19 year-old kids..er…young adults, were in the car when I played it for my husband. Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable.) But, don’t let the extra expletives prevent you from queuing it up, giving it a listen, and having a discussion.

As I said in the show. “Don’t let the use of strong language stop you from selecting a book with a strong message.” The same holds true for a podcast.

Follow the link to listen to Episode 5: The Rise of F%@k. And check out the show notes for more info on our guests, resources, and other fun stuff.

Also – do us a solid and leave us a review. Pretty f%@king please. 🙂

STEM Read Podcast – E4: Learning by Doing

Listen to episode 4 of the STEM Read podcast – Learning by Doing for strategies for engaging girls in STEM.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 4 is Live!!

In case you missed it last Friday, the fourth installment of the STEM Read podcast is now live. Follow the link to listen and view the show notes – Learning by Doing! 

You can hear all the episode on the STEM Read podcast page on WNIJ.

In this episode, we discuss different ways to engage girls in STEM (or any student who might not see themselves as a “STEM” person) and help all see the possibilities of a STEM career. I reflect a little about my own experiences as a female engineer, from college to career. We discuss what helped to boost my confidence as young female engineer in the world of cold forming. Gillian also has some fun with my former job title.

Our first two guests are NIU engineering students and STEM educators with STEM Outreach and NIU STEAM, Jasmine Carey and Mackenzie Thompson. They talk about their experiences as female engineering students, the work they do to encourage girls in STEM and STEM Divas!

The second segment is a panel discussion with Gillian (@gkingcargile), author Nancy Cavanaugh (@NancyJCavanaugh) and NIU Literacy faculty member, Melanie Koss (@melaniekoss) recorded at NIU STEMfest in October 2017. They talk about the power of children’s literature in supporting students’ interest in STEM. Come for the discussion, stay for the fun fish facts.

If you are looking for tips and ideas for helping all kids gain confidence in STEM and learn by doing as well as some giggles, give it a listen. We’d love to hear what you think. Leave us a review or comment.

 

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 18 QR Codes and Google Forms

Day 18: QR Codes and Pre-filled Google Forms

Today’s tool is not a tool but a tip for a tool most of you already use mashed with a tip for another tool you already use. In simple words, how to create QR codes that open a Google form with pre-filled fields.

Why would you want to do this you ask. Isn’t the better question, Why would you not First the how, then I’ll give you some whys.

The steps are simple.

  1. First, open your form. (Be sure you are in edit mode, not preview.)
  2. Open the More menu. Up in the right hand corner of the screen, you should see the More menu, the three vertical dots right next to the smiling face associated with your Google account.
  3. Select, “Get pre-filled link.” This will open your form so you can enter date.
  4. Enter the information in the fields you want pre-filled. Choose one or all. Its up to you.
  5. Click submit.
  6. A URL will appear at the top. This link will open the form again with the data you entered already filled in.
  7. Copy that link into your favorite QR code generator.
  8. Save it. Print it. Scan it. Boom.

That’s it. When you scan the QR code, you will open the form with your data pre-filled.

Cool, right?

One way to use this in the classroom is to give each student a QR code with their name pre-filled into a form of your choice. When scanned, they open the form and it already has their name. Your form can ask them if they understood today’s lesson or if they need more information about a topic. You could use this for:

  • Attendance
  • Check ins
  • Exit slips
  • Sign-up sheets
  • Formative assessments

The possibilities are endless. Any time you want to have some pre-set data combined with custom entries. For example, I just set this up for a game we did as part of our STEM Read program. We created a store scenario where teams had to buy goods. Each item for purchase had its own QR code. When scanned, the item name, price, and other details pre-populated. The players entered their group number and the quantity they wanted to buy. It was a super easy way to track what they bought as the game played out.

Next time you are using a Google form to collect data and want to simplify the process by having some data pre-entered, think about using QR Codes that open pre-filled forms.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

All good things start with a question.

Listen to this episode of the STEM Read podcast and hear Gillian and I talk to social studies teacher and fellow podcaster Zack Gilbert (http://edgamer.net/) and award-winning author M.T. Anderson (http://mt-anderson.com/) about the power of inquiry.

Follow the link to listen to the episode and view the show notes.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 2

In case you missed it, episode 2 of the STEM Read Podcast dropped last week.

In this episode, we ask the question “What if?” with Hugo award-winning editor,  co-producer and editor of Uncanny Magazine, and all around cool person, Lynne M. Thomas and amazing author Aaron Starmer. Gillian and I did our best to not go completely crazy fangirl over Aaron. We are both huge fans of his work so it was cool to peek behind the curtain and see what goes on in his writing brain.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people, we also got to talk about unicorns. It’s always a good day when you can spend your time talking about unicorns. Am I right?

Unicorn
All About Unicorns

Special shout out to my Independent Study teacher, Dodie Merritt. She was that one teacher who allowed me and so many others, to ask what if and follow my curiosity. For me, her program taught me how to learn. She was doing project-based learning before it was cool. I still have the unicorn book that I created back in 4th grade as well as my book from 1st and 5th grade. You could say her program was life-changing. In my 1st grade book, I wrote about another student in the program who was building a telegraph. That telegraph kid is now my husband of over 20 years. Further proof that curiosity leads to amazing things.

So, take a few minutes and give this episode a listen.  Hopefully, we’ll spark some ideas for how you can inspire your students to embrace their curiosity and ask “What if?” Who knows where the question will take them.

Follow this link to STEM Read Podcast Episode 2. Don’t forget to explore the show notes for resources and fun stuff.

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 1

Very excited to announce that the NIU STEM Read Podcast is live! Check it out on WNIJ and subscribe!

Listen to the first episode, Science and Storytellingwith special guests biophysicist and science writer Erika Gebel Berg (@erikagebelberg) and award-winning author Mike Mullin (mikemullinauthor.com).

Here is a sneak peak of the behind the scenes fun with me (@kbrynteson) and Gillian King-Carlige (@gkingcargile). We’d love to hear from you in the comments!