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Narrative as Curriculum


Charles Dickens - courtesy of
Working in the 21st century knowledge industry and being the 21st century synthesizer that i am, i think i have come across and interesting and relatively novel concept; Using Alternate reality Games in education as a form of project based learning.

For my own sake, i have opted to treat this concept as “Narrative as Curriculum” or “Instructional Narrative”

What is an alternate Reality game?

ARG’s weave together real-world artifacts with clues and puzzles hidden online to create an engaging, collective experience for players. In an ARG players follow a narrative through clues, puzzles and events orchestrated by the game designer. ARG’s are not computer games or video games although electronic devices are frequently used.

How is this useful within education??

Alternate and Augmented Reality Games foster collaboration and a type of thinking which is synthetic, where players assemble disparate pieces of information to solve puzzles and make sense of artifacts and other clues, a great exercise in lateral thinking. Alternate Reality Games are enjoyed by people of all ages through varying participation levels and the collaborative effort of groups or the entire group working together to solve some mystery.

In the (free) Novel Little Brother the main characters skip school to play an alternate reality game and a bunch of other things happen. But this kind of participatory culture is on the radar of our kids. Little Brother is a novel aimed at the late middle – early/mid high school generation. But i find the book to be QUITE entertaining myself.

I am working with the English department at my school to develop a Narrative as Curriculum for a Charles Dickens Unit that multiple sections of English I will use. The goal of the unit is to have students

understand how poverty limited opportunity for young people in Victorian England. We want them to understand that attitudes toward children and childhood differed greatly from contemporary attitudes. We want them to understand how poverty as a social “ill” was framed in Victorian England–who or what was to blame and what remedies were considered practical and moral. We want them to understand why Dickens was outraged by poverty and attacked his society’s indifference to it in his work.

To accomplish these goals in a new and novel way we are going to use Narrative as Curriculum to have students examine the Victorian attitudes and societal norms through inquiry. This inquiry is the “Game” aspect where clues, puzzles and artifacts are presented for students to examine and piece together some form of mystery or to come to some conclusion. The artifacts, puzzles et cetera are to be used as centerpieces for discussion, debate and examination of Charles Dickens, child poverty and the ensuing changes in society.

Alternate reality gaming and Narratives as fiction are ways to train students in the art of synthesis, self directed problem solving and lateral thinking; skills that are valuable in today’s knowledge centric environment. Understanding the social evolution from Victorian England to the time we live in is a very important lesson for children since we are still dealing with some implications from that time. But how we learn about that era of history is also important.

I am excited to start piecing together the Narrative and creating some cool and interesting artifacts.

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