Teachers and trainers as executive producers

We are about to launch Chatscaper, a tool that allows anybody to create visually in minutes (or hours, or weeks, for a complex project) a fun and exciting game built around non-linear (branching) logic. We’re actually looking for creative-minded beta testers, trainers or teachers who are interested in:

  • ways of motivating learners,
  • ways of getting them to invest seriously in the learning.

We expect these trainers to be prepared to remodel their way of doing things. And to accept a more relaxed, collaborative and creative way of working with learners.

When we look at what learners can do with Chatscaper we discover a range of activities and inputs. It leads us to define the learning activities as identical to certain key jobs in a film production:

  • screenwriting
  • acting
  • directing
  • producing
  • and even distributing!

These are the things the learners would be doing, and in so doing, structuring their learning. So what will the trainer or teacher be doing? The answer: playing the role of executive producer! The trainer will of course be involved in all those activities, at least as a guide, but with the task of hiring (and of course coaching) the “specialists” who will be collaborating on the full project.

How it works

Imagine you launch the project of creating a fairly complex game meant to illustrate and develop an understanding of and a feeling for the different ways of handling a problem or situation. Some of those ways may be excellent, some valid, some less valid, others very questionable, leading among other things to opportunities for humor.

The subject could be for certain trainers or teachers:

  • conducting a sales interview (sales training)
  • conducting a disciplinary interview (management training)
  • understanding a philosophical concept (philosophy)
  • critiquing a book (English literature)
  • learning banking English, French or Chinese (foreign language learning)
  • understanding how to create a business relationship with a Japanese partner (intercultural training).

To conduct this type of project, a number of phases are required, just as in a serious film project:

1. Development or initial decision-making

  • What situation?
  • What characters?
  • What context?
  • What specific ideas or themes should be included?
  • Research

2. Pre-production

  • Strategic design: defining the multiple outcomes of a scene that will orientate the decision-making along the way, emotions to be revealed
  • Stylistic choice: tone and dramatic effects (e.g. comedy or melodrama for the “poor choices” in the scenario)
  • Screenwriting: this is where Chatscaper is the main tool that allows for developing ALL the ideas of a scene, exploring multiple hypotheses of decisions, actions and interactions. The story develops in parallel threads and always poses new questions and choices. Exploration is both imaginative and analytical as links in the repartie must be justified.
  • Storyboarding: Chatscaper requires associating pictures with each node. In other words, it is by definition a storyboard. The pictures are typically the face of the character speaking with an appropriate attitude, but they can also be specific illustrations of the scene (original pictures).
  • Casting: Because the text-to-speech function automatically simulates the multimedia game, it is possible to be satisfied with the immediate result. But a complete production will use the recording function that allows the learners to supply the right voice with the right style and intonation.

3. Production

Working with Chatscaper, production is essentially experimental screenwriting, acting and avatar management.

  • Screenwriting during the production phase is of the equivalent of on set dialogue writing or rewriting. The director adjusts the dialogue to the needs of the scene.
  • Acting is the voice recording that will replace the text-to-speech output.
  • Avatar management means selecting or producing the images of the character that correspond best to the dialogue, the context and the emotions of each point in the scene.

4. Post-production

No post-production is necessary because Chatscaper outputs a complete executable game or scene simulation at any given point of elaboration. But Chatscaper projects can be exported into Gamescaper and produced with more elaborate media and more sophisticated game logic. The game itself can be packaged for publication on the Worldscaper website.

4. Distribution

Chatscaper or Gamescaper projects can be packaged and published for sharing or for sale. At the beginning of a project, time could be taken to imagine who will be playing the game and what they might be expecting from it. This puts a marketing angle into the project, which can be used as a guide to the criteria for quality throughout the phases of production.

Sounds complicated… but it isn’t!

Now this may sound complicated, but the only skill required for the trainer or teacher is to know how to organize this kind of project and allocate the tasks. The only tool required is Chatscaper itself, which is accessible to everyone and incredibly easy to use. Much of the work of creating can be done outside of the training room. Other tools can be introduced and exploited, such as graphics software to vary the storyboard or model the characters and their emotions. The game itself could be linked to other learning software.

So what are the learners doing as the project develops?

Apart from learning to work together on something that other people will be invited to use — a rarity in education and training — they will be actively acquiring the following skills:

  • Having engaged in research for different aspects of the content in the development phase, they will be refining their research skills and examining critically the content they are responsible for.
  • Writing with purpose (i.e. with a notion of appropriateness to context and awareness of techniques of communication and the impact of style and formulation). This includes, by the way, getting the spelling write right.
  • Analyzing ideas, specific aspects of content, contradictions, mistakes, best and worst practice, persuasion, humor, etc.
  • Making reasoned decisions about alternatives. It’s worth noting that the branching structure means alternatives can be developed and compared rather than treated as good and bad, right and wrong.

Now the question we have to ask ourselves is this: does this kind of practice have its place in education and training? Many will see it as anarchic or a waste of time.

What do you think? … and

What will you think after you’ve tried it?

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About pisackson

The cosmos is non-linear. Sub-atomic physical reality is non-linear. Our lives are non-linear. We are persuaded by well-intentioned guides, politicians and teachers to believe otherwise, but my mission is to help people discover the joy of non-linear thinking and acting, otherwise known as...creativity.
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