Development Blog – Week 1

While our official Week 1 ended on 9/4, the team actually got started the previous week by meeting with one of our clients. Ian Harper, Content Contributor at The Inanimate Alice Research Group, met with us via Zoom to discuss what he is potentially looking for in the project. In addition, Ian gave us some jumping-off points to consider, including a Unity teaching tool. The meeting ended with Ian giving the team access to Inanimate Alice’s first five episodes so we can finally dive into Alice’s world and learn more about this transmedia and multimodal approach to learning.

The team poured over the episodes shortly afterward. We took copious notes and asked ourselves questions such as “What is working? What is not working? Why are these components working or not working?” in order to make sense of the work presented to us. Inanimate Alice was presented to us as a transmedia story used in classrooms, but as we played through it we came to the realization that we were unsure exactly how it was being used in the classroom.

With the episodes digesting and the team wrestling with the content, we decided to do more digging. We found research papers, reviews, and testimonials written by teachers who utilized Inanimate Alice within their syllabus. This was our first big breakthrough in what gives Inanimate Alice it’s spark: Inanimate Alice acts primarily as a discussion tool rather than a blunt teaching instrument. Through its (arguably ambiguous) usage of narrative by way of multimodality, the work is supposed to ignite discussions, stir up debates, and ultimately lead to communication, collaboration, and creative group work. 

While learning about how Inanimate Alice handles learning though its transmedia approach was a significant lesson, the question still remained of “What are we making this semester?” Ian pushed a blue-skies approach to how we handle our deliverable, but the team wanted to have some trail markers in place; not to showcase a straightforward path, but to give us room to explore and discover along the way. It was our next meeting that gave us a few of those coveted markers.

While Ian is our main point of contact for the client-side of the project, we were also fortunate enough to have Amanda Hovious and Valerie Shinas assisting us when it came to the educational aspects. Our meeting with them was quite fruitful, as they were able to amplify the importance of “gamified education”; how it can lead to mentor texts used by ELA teachers to showcase character and plot analyses, and how it can be used in a STEM-based curriculum to inspire students to dive deeper into these STEM or STEAM fields. 

Interestingly, Amanda and Valerie foresaw our project to lean more towards the game-centric side of things, citing classics like Oregon Trail and Physicus as sources to look into. Combined with the lessons taken from Inanimate Alice, we could now see ourselves going down a clearer path to creating a vertical slice of a game that can be used as a springboard for student collaborations, group discussions, and more while showcasing important lessons in STEM.

During all of these meetings and all of this learning, the topic of what to call ourselves was hotly debated. Should we lean on Inanimate Alice for a name? How can we name ourselves if we don’t exactly know what we’re doing yet? In the end, we picked a name that amplifies two of our core pillars we plan on building on this semester:

Welcome to Interactive Academy.

Let’s learn together.