There are some days when teaching is merely a series of small battles. With management, with colleagues, with pupils, with parents even; with computers which get huffy at exactly the same time you want them to be your friend. I had some of those battles this week in preparing for Episode Three of Inanimate Alice. It seems that every computer suite in the school was overbooked for weeks ahead and the fabulous notebooks we used last week were nowhere to be seen. For two days, all of my preparation had to stay on hold. But did I lose heart? Well, yes, I did a bit.
The first two weeks had gone so well that perhaps inevitably I was forgetting that, when teaching something so completely new and, to me , original, it can be a rocky road at times. I’ve never been through the process. Next time I’ll be more aware. I teach in a school of 1800 kids; the ICT provision is ‘unhelpful’ at times; and, yes, I did replace another word with ‘unhelpful’. Trying something like ‘Inanimate Alice’ takes a lot of preparation; but it’s worth it.
My class and I had recently set up Individual Blogs on GLOW – Scotland’s National Intranet for Schools – and, as a temporary measure until I could gain access to notebooks , I asked the students to Blog their thoughts on Episodes One and Two. This week, I’ll let them tell you their story.
“When I first saw Inanimate Alice, I had walked into the middle of it because I was at a music lesson. After I came in, I quickly tuned into the story. Once a few scenes had passed I noticed that it was the same story we read a few days ago. When I first saw it I read the words and then noticed the background images and film. I also heard strange music which made me uncomfortable.
The first time I saw “Inanimate Alice” I really loved the idea of it and watched it at my home, it is a very different experience to reading which I love. I also love film and music so it was a very enjoyable experience.”
“To read the online story you need to be aware of everything you are watching, hearing and reading. I tried to look at every part of the screen so I didn’t miss any picture or movement in the story. The sound is really helpful as it helps you imagine how Alice is feeling whereas with just the words it is not as obvious. The thing I really enjoyed was the interaction in the online stories because it is fun and it makes you feel part of the story.
My favourite part of the story so far is when Alice falls out in the snow in the second one because the sounds are loud and fast and it makes you hold your breath!”
“The part of Inanimate Alice that worked for me was the puzzles because they made the story more fun. In Episode Two I was more used to the screen layout and I did not get distracted from reading the words. My reading skills changed after reading Episode Two because I became more able to read with things distracting me from reading. A tip I would share with other digital story readers is to try and not get distracted.”
Inanimate Alice has been great!
"The music and the images just make the whole thing really exciting. Sometimes though, the music was quite uncomfortable. I’ve never seen anything like it and it was so good when we got to use the netbooks. We could go at our own pace and notice more because it was closer to us.
I’ve enjoyed everything from Inanimate Alice so far. The group work has been good because we all put our ideas together and came up with what we think the next episode will be like. We’ve noticed things that each other hasn’t, giving us more questions to think about!
Trying to make sense of the story is difficult though, I have so many questions like, Who is Brad, is he real or totally made up, and how can he speak?
I can’t wait till we can make our own Inanimate Alice episode. I have some pretty good ideas and even though it looks quite difficult it’ll be loads of fun!”
“I really like ‘Inanimate Alice’. I like the way you were seeing everything through Alice’s eyes. It was cool the way it had the black background and the white text because usually it is a white background with black text. I like the way you need to play a game on the player to get to the next scene. My favourite game on the player is the bicycle game where you need to make the whole bicycle pink.”
“When I was reading this I couldn’t get my eyes away from the screen. It literally brought you in and wouldn’t let go of you. When I was reading I scanned my eyes up and down and all around.
What really worked was it actually made you read between the lines and not just skim it quickly, you actually read it, looked around the screen then read it again to really take it in. My favourite part was when Brad speaks to her because I have so many questions that haven’t been answered about this part. How does he speak? Is he based on a real person? Is it her imagination?”
“In my English class we used netbooks for the second episode of Inanimate Alice. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen, it was that good. The best bit I thought was in Episode Two and it was the part where Alice was going to go to ski school, but she fell in the snow. That got my heart thumping.
The most difficult part to read is when the writing is flashing to make the part look scary. The music worked very well with the story. By the time I read the second episode I knew what to expect. I would tell people who are reading their first digital story - ‘focus on everything you read, see and hear.’”
I apologise for such a long post this week but I was delighted with the kids’ responses. We eventually got to see Episode Three late on Friday but had no real time to follow up. We’ll do that on Monday. However, what I’ve learned this week is that, even though I prepare my lessons thoroughly at all times, if you are considering Inanimate Alice for your class, make sure that every aspect is covered. With schools cutting back all over the place, don’t let a lack of hardware get in the way of the student experience.