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Journaling With Online Story Games

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

One pillar of my educational design at Luck Of Legends is collaborative work using a Google Slides deck. Slides is one of the best tools I’ve found for playing a game with a group of middle-school aged kids - especially in this time of social distancing. I taught through an entire year of virtual school, and I’m very familiar with all of the struggles - engagement, participation, vulnerability, investment. Though nothing can fix all of these, Google Slides - used a very particular way - can bridge many of the gaps and even create advantages that tabletop gaming lacks.

This is a list of all the skills it helps me teach and reinforce:

  • Reading comprehension

  • Writing

  • Layout

  • Editing

  • Organization

  • Presentation

  • Collaboration

As a short example of how this works, check out Foster Monster - it’s a game I released in which kids write stories about raising an orphaned baby critter, and can be easily added into any game you like where kids might want to have companion creatures. The game is built on Slides, and comes with short slides explaining the rules, slides with space for writing stories, loads of prompts to get kids writing, and space for inspirational art.

This is one major reason that Google Slides works - it creates a particularly effective way for kids to share and celebrate each other’s work. That’s a primary motivator for people of all ages, but especially for middle and high school students.

When asking kids to generate creative and academic content, one of the goals should always be agency - letting kids own their output, feel pride in their creations, and be celebrated for their work. Google Slides creates a digital portfolio that, instead of feeling like a moderated space where work is judged, comes across like a personal project - a collective artistic expression and record of the story kids are telling together. It can even be, at the end of a game, printed out in color and bound as a storybook memento shared with everyone and anyone who might love a copy (yet another way to build kids’ pride in their work and sense of ownership of the stories they tell).

In a collectively shared Google Slides doc, you open the door to let kids who aren’t comfortable contributing artistically share images and ideas that will be compelling by doing a quick search (of course, you’ll want to install appropriate SafeSearch tools, but learning to do image searches is a huge part of presentations and basic digital literacy). The basics of creating a slide for each player’s character and backstory is a great way to start - now every kid can see each other’s character and understand and remember their story (fostering reading comprehension along the way, as kids always feel compelled to read one another’s work!).

You can create slides with prompts for kids to answer between games, letting them generate stories on their own time, read up on each other’s stories, and riff off each other’s ideas (Foster Monster has a ton). You can also keep the basic events of the game and the extra characters in the mix, with short descriptions and images for every person or event of interest. You can have a slide with the mysteries and questions the players are trying to answer, and slides with rough explanations of whatever rules you’re using. I like to include slides with rough summaries of our most dramatic scenes - when I trigger Drama Clocks - and quick lists of all the heroic Moves kids made to prevent disaster and save the day as a record of their exploits. The fact that they can add professional art and make the slides LOOK professional helps them develop immediate pride in their creations.

Finally, Slides Decks liberate and democratize the idea of MAKING games. I’ve played countless hours with hundreds of kids, and nothing has gotten kids making their own games more quickly than Google Slides. I’ve had students create Warriors decks (for the set of novels about cats living in the wild), a game in which kids took on the roles of animals struggling through ecological chance at Yellowstone National Park, and games about mechs riding dragons trying to prevent a war between humans and “monsters.” The fact that rules and prompts were right there in the slides was an obvious invitation to kids, bridging the gap between “consuming” the game and OWNING the game - they could easily pick a slide deck with an appropriate theme, copy a few rules slides, and start building their own stories for each other.

As an educator, this is the apex of learning: when your students become able to teach what they’ve learned to others and continue learning independently.

If you'd like to use Slides, I highly recommend, which has a huge library of pre-populated and nicely designed templates for any sort of story, from science fiction to fantasy to high school hijinx. I also recommend Game-Icons.Net, which is a great place to find symbols that work wonderfully for games as stat or resource markers.



Want to sign a student up? Check for open classes, or reach out to find your own time!

If you'd like to check out some of the tools I use with students, take a look at my games.

If you'd like to hear a bit more about my approach, here's a video where I explain a bit more!

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