Point and Click Adventures in History Class

Post date: Dec 6, 2018 11:36:46 PM

I wanted to design a lesson to highlight some of the more complex changes that happened as a result of the Reformation. I ended up with a fairly pretty looking Powerpoint that visually contrasted 10 different topics from the Medieval period to the Reformation. It was simple but looked nice and I think it would have worked fine.

Then I saw a post from Amanda Sandoval (@historysandoval) about using Hyperdocs via Google Slides in history classes. I've long wanted to build a Point and Click Adventure using PowerPoint but the problem is that my students use Chromebooks and can't run PPT files. (They can use PPT online but it often has small issues with the Chromebooks that I can't quite fix.) Amanda's presentation inspired me to try to do it with Slides.

I immediately ran into an issue.

PowerPoint has a mode called "Kiosk" which disables mouse and keyboard clicks so you can control exactly how your audience advances through your presentation. Slides doesn't have this mode so if students clicked on the slide it would advance to the next - even if I didn't want it to. For a Point and Click to work students need to be able to click on pictures and text boxes to advance to specific slides. Slides can do that but it can't easily prevent kids from just clicking somewhere else to advance to the next slide. So, I had to find a work around.

Amanda directed me to another teacher who had started a similar project. Looking at his file gave me an idea - and it turned out to be really easy. For each slide I just added a transparent box that covered the whole thing. I made that box a clickable link that just linked back to that same slide. So, if the students clicked on the "wrong" object it would just seem like nothing happened. I then put the hyperlinked boxes and images on a layer above that transparent box. It worked perfectly!

HOT TIP #1: Complete your entire story and animations before adding your hyperlink layers!

With the technology figured out I had no excuse not to pursue the idea any more so on we go!

I took the 10 topics and tried to figure out which would most easily turn into a story. I started with the changes in Indulgences. I quickly settled on the idea of having two (or more) characters to choose from which immediately doubled my workload. I hadn't considered the fact that every choice I added meant two versions of every future slide.

HOT TIP #2: Reuse as many story slides as possible in your various pathways and save your "choices" for later in the story!

This first story came out great but very short. It's 17 slides of work on my end but the students will only ever see 6 or 7 of them depending on their choices. That is a casualty of the medium but, on the plus side, it encourages players to play through the game again so see what they missed.

I continued with the other chapters, quickly realizing 10 wasn't going to happen. I settled on the 5 I felt I could do best as interactive stories. While I'd like to go back and add a couple more deadlines exist and it was go time for this lesson so it has 5 right now. I also learned how much better the game looked if I used timed animations on each graphic and textbook. Yes, it was a little thing but it added a ton to the presentation.

Always be plussin'! (Paraphrased from Disney Legend Marty Sklar)

When the chapters were "done" I created a guide sheet for students. Originally, I had planned to make it far more in-depth. It was going to have boxes to circle showing which character they chose and a section to summarize what happened to them along the way. I ultimately decided that I didn't want to constantly pull their attention away from the game. I didn't take any notes while playing through Breath of the Wild last month and I can still recount most of my 30ish hours I spent on the game because I intensely engaged. If the game is good enough it shouldn't need extra notes to force attention. (This is also true of videos we might choose to show in class I might add.)

I ran a quick beta test on one of my student's Chromebooks and found a few broken/missing links right away. In one case a silly typo in a hyperlink had me stumped for nearly 10 minutes. Even with this test I still ran into a couple more once my students got their hands on it.


Enter the game. Kids came in today to play for the first time and I was greeted with a huge smile from one of my girls who said "I already loaded up the game I can't wait to choose my character!" I hadn't said anything about it other than the link to it on our class LMS page. I briefly went over the controls and passed out the guide. I was originally planning to play through the first chapter with them but I could see how excited they were to play so I just let them go. It was awesome. They were so into it. I heard literal gasps and "No!"s around the room when bad or unexpected things happened.

I even had one student say "Hey, this is like those Tell Tale games." Yes! Exactly!

Only one asked me where to find the answers to the questions. Most were happy to read the content embedded in the game. I had envisioned them locking in silently to play through the game but within a few minutes the noise level started to pick up. I let it happen because every conversation was "What did you choose on this one?" or "how did you get that to happen to you?" I heard plenty negotiating with one another deciding who would play each story because they wanted to know what happened. They were truly engaged and excited.

I saw kids reading intently with some even softly speaking every word out loud. There is a great deal of text here but making it feel like a game made them happy to engage with it.

HOT TIP #4: Let them play!

It took most students about 25 minutes to play through the 5 chapters and answer the questions. It worked perfectly for our 30 minute minimum-day schedules. For a full 50 minute period I'd add a solid bellwork activity and a 5 minute debrief to fill out the period. I may go back and create a couple more chapters for next year but 5 felt just about right. You could also just have kids replay the chapters with different choices as an extension.

I had mine do a short survey after finishing that I'm eager to see the results of. Until then I'll have to go on my snapshot of asking for thumbs up if they'd like to do a lesson like this again. I got a near unanimous yes. My only no came from one student who apparently doesn't want to do anything requiring any reading at all.

Time Warp: Transformation - Ch1 Indulgences

Here are the file links if you'd like them for yourself. Just go to File > Make a Copy to add it to your Drive. Also, you will need to update the final links on each chapter as they are currently linked to open the file on my school drive. If you click on the button you can change the link by clicking on the chain link looking icon in the top right corner of Google Slides. Alternately, you can just delete that button and just provide students with links to each chapter.

Chapter 1: Indulgences

Chapter 2: Source of Truth

Chapter 3: Language

Chapter 4: America

Chapter 5: Political Power

I am excited to create another one of these once I find the right topic. I think various explorers could work well except that is the next unit already and I'd rather not do them so close to one another. It could honestly work with just about any topic. It is just a matter of finding something you want your students to experience (like in this case change) that isn't easily experienced physically.

Give it a shot! It is definitely a ton of work but at least for this first run seems well worth it.


UPDATE 1/26/19

I've completed a second game. This one is about the Age of Exploration. This one is set up a little bit differently. It is designed to require only one starter file - the tutorial. From there you are automatically linked to the other explorers. Here are the files!

Tutorial: Christopher Columbus



Walter Raleigh

Corte-Real Brothers

Francis Drake

Panfilo de Narvaez

Vasco Da Gama