There are several ways to build Choose Your Own Adventure Games for free, but what if Canvas, itself, can be the game platform? Union County College and Montclair State University are partnering to create a student-authored CYA game right within Canvas based on Margaret Atwood’s novel and recent Hulu famed series, The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Handmaid’s Tale, and Atwood’s body of literary work, has always been near and dear to me, as I wrote my undergraduate thesis on THT. She is not only one of the best writers of our time, but her voice echoes both the celebrations and struggles of women everywhere. As a modern novelist now in her 70s, Ms. Atwood remains active on social media, and is committed to championing the causes she holds most dear. She is, truly, an inspiration.
Prior to becoming a Canvas Admin and Instructional Designer, I celebrated a long and engaging career as a tenured Instructor of English at a community college in PA. I loved infusing all kinds of technology into the teaching of composition and literature, and would often find partners at four-year schools like Drexel and Montclair. Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley, an organic chemistry professor at Drexel, and I modified UnReal Tournament 2004 so that my emerging writing students could learn grammar by shooting at commas within the game. I used Second Life to recreate Dante’s Inferno, Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, and 63 other pieces of literature. In this virtual world, through the many academic partnerships formed in that virtual space, I met Dr. Laura Nicosia, Professor of English, of Montclair State University in New Jersey.
Laura and I bonded instantly. There are two schools of English professors: those who love technology, and those who love the classic approach. I came from a department rooted in the classical approach, and Laura was a breath of fresh air. Like Atwood, Laura was inspirational. Her energy and enthusiasm helped me see that I wasn’t alone in wanting to try any way possible to get students to love literature. Our experience is that students appreciate literature more and retain a better understanding of themes if they are immersed in the study of it. Reading is too passive; discussions are sometimes too fleeting.
Over the years, Laura and I partnered on several projects and presented at MLA and other conferences. When I moved over to administration, our opportunities to partner were less frequent despite our best efforts. And then Hulu happened.
I called up one of our innovative junior faculty members, Dr. Melissa Sande, and asked how she would feel about partnering with Laura on a Canvas-based project focused on THT. At the time, I didn’t know what it would be like, but just had the desire to work with two amazing and imaginative digital humanities professors on a favorite text.
In thinking about all the resources open to creating a collaborative game, I knew that I wanted it to be housed within Canvas. Both Union County College and Montclair State are Canvas schools, so that makes it easier, but I really wanted to figure out a way to use Canvas AS the platform and not just the host of a link out to something else.
As we near the completion of the planning phase, I think we have a good approach. Students will use an interactive Google form to generate their Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories, and I will use fancy hyperlinking within Canvas to create the games.
Laura, Melissa, and I will be donating the final games to the Commons as well as the template used to build the stories. Want to collaborate with our team on this project? Check out this post in the Canvas Community.
Director of Instructional Design and American Honors, Union County College (New Jersey)