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.
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):
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.