User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘narratives

Game Jam: Creating a Video Game

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The Game Jam was developed for and offered through the Santa Fe Public Schools’ SAGE (Services for Advanced and Gifted Education) Program although any school or youth group could enter. The game categories were: Board, Card, Action, and Video games. The criteria used to judge the games:

The contest was conceived and developed by Steve Heil – Santa Fe Public Schools Gifted Program Support Specialist. For more information, contact him at

I encouraged my 5th and 6th grade gifted learners at one of my schools to enter the video game category. I scaffolded instruction (described below) but they created their story narratives, storyboards, and video games.

Introduction to Story Narratives

They were introduced to world and character through the following Pixar in a Box video.

Storyboarding with Storyboard That

Learners used Storyboard That to create the storyboards for their video games.

Storyboard That is a graphic organizer and storyboard creator . The program provides pre-made scenes, characters, text boxes, shapes, and other images to choose from,  Students are able to drag and drop these items into their chosen layout. Scenes are organized into locational and thematic categories (e.g. school). Characters are organized similarly and can be customized with hair color, eye color, and other edits. Text boxes allow the student to give voice to their characters. Shapes and additional images add props to the story. (

It was continually reinforced that their storyboards needed to include strong characters, settings, and plot.

Video Game Creation

Learners were given the option of two game creation platforms:-

  1. Scratch –
  2. Makecode Arcade –

To help them make their decision about which platform to use, they were asked to do tutorials offered by each of these platforms. Two of the teams selected MakeCode Arcade and one of the teams selected Scratch. The MakeCode teams were able to create their characters using the pixel image creation function, and the Scratch team created their characters using this platform’s drawing tool.

MakeCode Avatars

Scratch Avatars

Links to the Learner Created Games

Video Overviews

As part of the game jam submission procedures, learners had to record a video overview. Here are their video overviews:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 24, 2019 at 10:26 pm

Narratives in the 21st Century: Narratives in Search of Contexts

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As someone trained in counseling, the therapeutic modality that resonated most deeply with me was Narrative Therapy.  Simple stated, narrative therapy is about telling one’s story and having witnesses that story. (For more about Narrative Therapy, see

People want to tell their stories AND want witnesses to theses stories. Evidence of this is seen in today’s world through the amazing popularity and growth of status posts via Twitter and Facebook, and through all of those personal movies being uploaded to Youtube at an unbelievable pace.

So when I saw the  recent posts of by John Nagel and Walter McKenzie about narratives, I began thinking about what they mean in this post-modern/21st century and its implications within education.

John Hagel, in The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context, discusses narratives and their place in this post-modern era.  Key points he mentions are:

In our digital world, content providers progressively chunk up their offerings to provide more choice and easier access. . . . As this occurs, value moves from content to context.  In the old days, context came in various forms.  It came in the package that delivered the content (you often could judge a book by its cover) or, even more broadly, it came from the stable surroundings that produced the content. . . .  As our world fragments and changes ever more rapidly, we find that context cannot be taken for granted – it must be defined.

We have already seen a growing emphasis on experience as an important element of context. Stories have become increasingly important to provide even broader context.  We are now on the cusp of a revival of narrative as an even more valuable context

The role that narratives play:

  • Narratives provide stability and continuity in our lives. Narratives help to orient us.
  • Narratives have the potential to profoundly shape the future.
  • Narratives also help participants construct meaning, purpose and identity for themselves.
  • Narratives help to ignite and nurture passion within us.

We desperately need new narratives that will provide alternatives to the older, more confining narratives.  These new narratives must embrace the fragmentation and change that give us more choice and options while helping to orient us and calling us to more fully realize the potential that we all have.

What we need are narratives of explorers, rather than narratives of true believers.  The narratives of explorers emphasize the opportunity to learn and grow by constantly framing new questions and embarking on quests to gain new insight through action. They focus on the possibilities to be discovered rather than the certainties to be recovered.

The tools required to take on this task are becoming more and more powerful and ubiquitous.  Digital technology provides all of us the ability to define and communicate narratives in rich and textured ways.

McKenzie also discusses the need for contexts for information (like narratives) and how they can lead to insight and innovation.

Referred to as the Information Age, the first ten years of this new century are characterized first and foremost by an information explosion. At the outset, the challenge seemed to be to simply be able to manage the data with which we are inundated. But as the tools to manage data have become more and more user friendly, the next challenge is to find contexts for the pertinent information we encounter…context provided by the experience and expertise we bring to understanding information. When we have meaningful understanding of information, insight is created…the kind of insight that identifies opportunities for innovation.

Not only do people want to tell their story – they want their stories embedded into a place and time. Thus, this time in history can be subtitled as, Narratives in Search of Contexts. As such, technologies are being developed to provide context to stories.

As this is an education blog, the implications and support for constructivist and personalized education become even more evident within this discussion of narratives. Educators and parents should gain an understanding of the need for personal narratives as a source of personal understanding of self, environment and community, and the world-at-large.  They need to provide the guidance for young people to create their own narratives safely and respectfully within post-modern contexts. It is also important to take this opportunity, as Hagel states, to assist the new generation in becoming explorers, in developing their narratives (and related contexts) for framing new questions and embarking on quests to gain new insight through action.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 1, 2011 at 2:20 am

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