Choose Your Own Adventure on Youtube

Last Spring I spent a couple posts discussing a digital Choose Your Own Adventure game using YouTube annotations and cards. The second post covered all of the “how-to” details, but I did not follow up with the finished project. We ended up with 23 connected videos in the final version. Here it is:

The students were very happy with the finished project. My new class of third graders (and even my 3 year old niece) love playing the game, and my Autumn after-school class is at work on a new story (involving a boy ninja and a haunted house).

The only technical point I’d add to the explanation post is a quick tip on how to use cards (in addition to annotations) to link the story together:

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This allows users to play on phones and tablets (where annotations don’t always work).

To polish the beginning, we created a nice title screen with PicCollage, and we used computer iMovie (instead of the iPad version) for a couple of early videos.

If your students want to play an adventure game, or if you have a listening center as part of your literacy block, give them a link to our story and I’m sure they’ll have fun. I will update in a few weeks with our new story.

P. S. Print this document to help your students find all of the different endings.

Digital Choose Your Own Adventure Story (update)

It’s been a couple of months since I first wrote about the idea of having students use YouTube annotations to create a Choose Your Own Adventure Story. The group working on this only meets for an hour a week, so the progress is coming gradually, but before we publish I can discuss the process. We are in “bells and whistles” mode, so hopefully the final story will be done soon.

Writing Process

Story Board and Illustrations

The first thing we did was discuss story ideas. We brainstormed and chose a beginning, but a branching story has room for almost every idea. Spoiler alert: our final story will have bears, yetis, wobbly bridges, piranhas, mountain climbing, cliff jumping, fighting, trespassing, fairies, prison, and more things I can’t remember. We didn’t map out the entire thing, but we decided that our story would start with a girl entering the forest to pick berries. She comes to a fork in the road and chooses which way to go. Adventure ensues.

Each segment of the story is less than a minute, so we used a simple graphic organizer to plan the words and pictures. When the scripts were finished, the students created small color pictures and then got out the technology.

A Rough Plan of our Branching Story

iMovie (ipads)

The movies were created on iPad minis. The mobile version of iMovie is simple and easy to use compared to the desktop version, which is a bonus when working with younger students (these were 3rd and 4th graders, but I think K-2 could pull it off with help). The students snapped photos of their drawn pictures, and then they recorded the story. Simple.

Doodlecast Pro

This is my favorite iPad app and what we used for vocabulary videos and math tutorials. For the digital stories, we used the screencast so we could have at least one digital picture and to use the cursor to direct the viewer where to click. Check the end of any video for an example.

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When the Doodlecasts were finished, we saved them to the iPad camera roll and then imported them into iMovie (a 10 second process).

YouTube Annotations

The videos were published from iMovie to YouTube, where the students linked videos together using annotations. I’ve written about YouTube Annotations before, but the interesting thing is that YouTube released “cards” in the last two weeks, which we may add to the videos soon. I need to research a little more, but basically, annotations don’t work on mobile devices, and cards are YouTube’s solution to this problem. I’ll write about it after experimenting a little more, but it was simple to add a card to our latest math video.

Adding Music

This is our first time to use the “audio” feature of YouTube video editor. This warrants a post of its own, coming soon, but I will quickly say that my students were able to effectively add music to their videos in a short amount of time. Watch this video until the 23 second mark to see how it sounds:

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Finishing Up

So that’s where we are now. I hope that we’ll be done after a couple more classes. I’m looking forward to sharing their finished product soon.

70,000 Views on My Student/Teacher YouTube Channel

A little over two years ago, I uploaded the first video to my school YouTube channel. It was a four minute song performance from third graders, “unlisted” so only people with the link could view it. A few months later, I added my first “public” video, a plant documentary created by my students. Slowly and steadily, I added more videos, experimenting with flipped learning and math tutorials, student produced iMovies, and heaps and heaps of student created vocabulary videos.
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I currently have more than 355 videos, of which 200+ are public on my channel, and what started as a way of providing homework help to my students and a global audience for their creations has grown to a level I never expected. This week we are about to pass 70,000 views on the channel, but we have recently been clocking about 10,000 views each month, and I can only imagine that number will keep growing. When compared to the stars of YouTube, it’s a drop in the bucket, but considering the content, and the fact that I’ve put little effort into promoting the channel or videos, it’s a large number. 

Here’s how it breaks down:

Student Produced Documentaries and Stories
The coolest part of tracking these numbers is seeing student creations reach such a large viewership. The first round of plant iMovies my third graders made really caught on, with more than a thousand views for a few, and several hundred for others. 
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A year and a half ago my summer school class turned a Japanese folk tale into a digital story, and it is our most popular student-created video, with about 2000 views. I saw some of these students, currently 5th graders, in the hall recently and mentioned that their video was quite popular. It was fun to see them whip out their phones, search for their video on YouTube, and marvel at the number of people who had seen it.
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Vocabulary Videos
My students have made a lot of vocabulary videos, mostly last year, but the current class has just started to get rolling and I would imagine the number doubling to well over 200 within the next few months. All of them are here. I would like to see their video dictionary reach a critical mass so it could become a resource for students all over the world, and I also would love to see other schools get involved with adding videos to the collection. My students love making them, and they are very motivated when they receive comments and accolades from people in other countries. Last week a third grade teacher in the States commented that “we had fans in far away places.”

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Math Tutorials
While I’m most excited about student produced work, the majority of views to our channel have come through the math tutorials that I created. Eight of the the top ten videos are math tutorials, including 10,000+ views for one thrilling lesson on subtraction (warning: not thrilling at all):
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Nevertheless, I’m happy that students in other places are learning from the videos. My main thought here: if I had known so many people would be watching these things, I would have put forth a little more effort. The tutorials are functional but simple, created hastily during my planning periods (listen for ringing school bells in the background), with almost zero production value. Perhaps the simplicity is part of the appeal. In the future I will at least try to add nicer introductions with VideoScribe, which I’ve experimented with in my newer tutorials.

Performance and Sports
In addition to the three categories above, I have tons of videos of student performances and of my basketball teams, but other than the occasional highlight video, almost all of those are “unlisted.” Still, I’ve found YouTube to be the easiest way to share performances/games with parents/students.
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So, after an unexpected 70,000+ views, what’s next? I guess the first step is to get our current channel better organized. All we’ve done is upload lots of videos. We currently have: no profile picture, no channel artwork, no video organization, no engagement with our 180+ subscribers, and no knowledge of how the YouTube network works. There are a lot of resources on this, so I’ll do some research and report back in a future post. 

YouTube Annotations and Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

As a kid, my favorite book series was Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA), the classic sci-fi/adventure series where you made decisions throughout the story to change the outcome. The stories started the same, but quickly changed based on your choices, leading to as many as 40 possible endings. I devoured these books, reading through them with dozens of bookmarks poking out, which let me go back and see the results of different decisions.IMG_0098

It turns out, I was not alone. More than a quarter of a billion of these books were sold in the 1980s and 90s. There were 185 books in the original series, published in 38 languages, over a 100 spinoffs, and the series weighed in as the 4th most popular of all time, behind Harry Potter and Goosebumps (more history here and here).  When I started teaching 3rd grade, perhaps the lower range of students who can comprehend the well-written text (originally aimed for 10-14 year olds), I bought a bunch of the classics on ebay one summer and used them mostly as read alouds. My students loved them, and we wrote our own version of a CYOA story.

Publishing the story turned out to be too much of a hassle, so we moved on. Almost exactly two years ago, I went to the first Google Apps for Education summit in Tokyo. I learned about YouTube annotating and linking, which, combined with digital storytelling, was the perfect tool for a modern version of a CYOA story. It’s been done before, but the material I found was more for nostalgic adults, and there weren’t many kid-friendly CYOA stories on YouTube. I found a few live action versions, and this one made with videoscribe, but that’s about it (let me know if you have something better). I wrote about doing this idea in an early blog post, but he amount of time required for students to put something together was not available, so again, we let it drop.

This semester, however, I will be teaching an after school activity for digital storytelling, and it may be time to revive the idea of a kid-created, YouTube-based CYOA story. I have 12 creative and artistic 3rd and 4th graders, who happen to enjoy CYOA stories, and on Monday I will run the idea by them and see what they think. I created an example to show them what it might look like (you’ll have to wait until Monday to see the choices):

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This was created with Doodlecast Pro on the iPad, but I’m not sure if that’s the best tool. A simple drawing app plus iMovie might be a better choice (I’d love to hear your suggestions). Check back on Monday to see the choices here, and I’ll post soon to see if my students have chosen to run with the project.