Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

If you were in elementary school in the era where video games were far less impressive (where Mario and Donkey Kong were cutting edge), you know about Choose Your Own Adventure books. One would always start the story in a particularly bad situation, like a plane crash or alien invasion, and at the end of each page it gives you a choice and a page number to go with that choice. For example, do you try and fight the cyborg-zombie gorilla—turn to page 263— or reason with him?—turn to page 174. Apparently, they are still published. However, I remember going through dozens of them as a kid, always making sure that I had my fingers in about 8 different pages to make sure that I never made a really bad choice.

My students just happened to be studying cause and effect in reading class—how one thing leads to another in a story. They also just happened to be working on PowerPoint in technology class. Now, I like PowerPoint and other presentation programs, but I can’t help feeling that they are often incorrectly used. Most presentations are long, dry affairs that cause people to “turn off” during a presentation. Mostly because PowerPoint presentations are made to be passive and not interactive, a presenter talks about what is on the slide, goes to the next slide, repeat. I find they are often linear and dull.

In an attempt to make PowerPoint more interesting, I showed students how to use a rather forgotten feature of any of the Office programs: hyperlinks. A student can easily link to different slides using hyperlinks and change the linear and often boring presentation into an interactive one. Instead of listing the characters one after another, they pick the characters from a menu, and so on.

This all came together one day when a good part of my class was out on a ski-club trip. Using Inspiration, a great graphic organizer application, we created a story with several dozen events, each with two possible outcomes. By making slides and linking the choices to yet more slides, we were able to generate a creative writing project that demonstrated cause and effect. The result was a game where students could choose how the stories could shape up. And now the result of our labor: The Flight of Icarus. (Clicking on the link will download a PDF.)

The Flight of Icarus: Click on the image to follow the adventure. (PDF download)

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