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Inanimate Alice – Part 1

Last night Lyric and I started Inanimate Alice  after dinner. I say “started” because “read” doesn’t quite fit the activity of what we did and “played” doesn’t quite either. Being curious to see how she handled the computer and her level of computer literacy and her skill level in navigating unknown media, I let her “drive”.

The story started at a decent pace; it was engaging and drew us in almost immediately. We got through the first and second story by clicking our way through the double arrows. The second story was much more visually dynamic, with lots of on-screen movement and a great soundtrack and a mini-game. It occurred to both of us as being a rather dark story, with the soundtrack being at ominous at times. The third story, which really picked up the pace, was about 15 minutes and included a game – you have to click on all of the Matryoshka dolls that are hidden in the scenery to open a mini-game in which you direct Brad to catch another Matryoshka doll. Each major scene has one. Lyric and I took turns pointing them out to each other. She figured out that you can tell whether you have found the doll in that scene by whether the doll in the sidebar is grayed out or not. If it’s still gray – you haven’t found it.  She is familiar with the style of game – the puzzle/hunt game by playing the Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive.

The fourth story was supposed to take 30 minutes but took us about 20. It was much more involved, allowing many more opportunities for clicking and investigation using different visual clues. The need for multitasking significantly increased. There was a section that showed Polaroid pictures of countries where other students were from and they kept passing by on the screen, getting larger each time. It occurred to me that we were supposed to click on them and I said so to Lyric. They opened into another view. By the end of this story, it was a good thing that Brad was around to give us clues, which Lyric was not shy about using. It would have taken a lot longer for me to get through the building if she hadn’t been so free with them.

So – What literacies do young people need to  critically read digital content like this?  To create such content?

  • Reading.
  • Story comprehension.
  • Being able to follow directions and hints online.

Example – Alice needed to get dressed to go out into the cold. There was a silhouette of a girl figure  and a articles of winter clothing floating on the screen. Lyric kept clicking on the clothes but they didn’t go onto the silhouette. Why? She didn’t do it in the right order, which was dictated by a hint – which looked like this

    1. long johns
  • Multitasking  reading the story, watching the animations progress, listening to the soundtrack, looking for specific objects.
  • To notice elements that show up repeatedly or behave differently than others – a sign to click or interact with them. Like the Matryoshka dolls and the Polaroid Pictures.
  • Symbol and Menu interpretation.
  • Spatial reasoning – to get through the building at the end of story 4.

What would it take to create such content?

  • Access to images. 
  • Access to and skill in knowing how to use an image-modification software like Photoshop. (Did you know that you can rent a Photoshop license by month? Very handy!
  • Access to and skill in knowing how to use a music editing software.
  • Skill in knowing how to create User Interfaces, engaging stories, how to put something up on the internet, how to draw, create games and or mini-games.

QUESTION – We are totally intrigued by these and would love to be able to finish the series. Where can we get stories 5-10?


8 responses »

  1. Wendy I loved that you did this with a young person. What a fantastic idea. I think I will go back through this with my daughter who is 9 now that I have been through it once. I will admit, that I appreciated what went into it, but I didn’t enjoy it very much. I can see how kids would like it: fast paced, visually appealing, games and puzzles built in. I like Lyric had a challenging time with two puzzles, the bike and the clothes:) Sometimes I am impatient and I did not follow the directions either. You did a really nice job covering this and again I am going to do this with Annika and get her opinion. I think we need to do this because sometimes, what I enjoy as an adult might not be the same as my students. I want to be in touch and just knowing how to use the tools will not cut it. I enjoyed reading about your “experiment”. Katie

    • Hi Katie, I am curious to know how your review of Inanimate Alice went with Annika. I don’t recall there being a game with the bike – perhaps we missed it! Can you please explain?

  2. Wendy, I too found your comments on the activity provoking. I’m behind myself and just finished it myself, but it was very interesting how these experiences could adapt young minds to function integrally with these literacies that we are reading about. I’m also wondering where we can find episodes 5-10. I didn’t find anything showing that they were finished, however I didn’t find anything saying that they weren’t finished either. This would be a good question for Jane.

    • Watching her “learning on the fly” through trial and error was impressive. It was the first time that I had observed her in any kind of instructional or learning capacity and she was definitely adapting. The neat thing is that she now “knows” these new modes of interaction. I don’t know if all young people will adapt as quickly or integrate them as quickly but I suspect that in most cases they will. As for episodes 5-10, they haven’t been made yet! See the comment below yours – from one of the creators of Inanimate Alice!

  3. Hi,

    thanks for your review of Inanimate Alice – as one of the creators it’s always very interesting to hear how ‘digital natives’ respond to the stories, and the aspects of story and/vs game.

    In answer to the question over episodes 5-10: they are not currently available, however Episode 5 in currently in production. As you might imagine they take quite some time to create, and there isn’t currently any funding available to create them as you might be able to receive from a publisher for a more traditional linear book. But we are trying!


    • Hi Chris! Wow, this is like having a celebrity post a comment to my blog! Lyric and I loved Inanimate Alice and were looking for the rest of them. It makes sense that they haven’t been produced yet. Have you considered KickStarter or some other crowd funding avenue?
      I noticed that there are lots of storyboards out for #5, but it looks like they are assignments for students to create the next one. Neat projects for kids to do and exactly the types of creation that will teach them the types of digital literacy that is so important..
      I am curious to know more about how Inanimate Alice began, if you wouldn’t mind sharing? Frankly, I am also curious to know how you found my blog! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      • Well thanks, I’ve never been called that before!

        Yes, Ian our series producer has been looking into crowd funding options, it’s definitely a possibility.

        The #5 storyboards came about largely because during the wait for this episode several enterprising teachers asked their students to create their own episode 5, and that resulted in some really fantastic work (I’ve got a playlist of the ones hosted on Youtube at ). As you say they are a brilliant way for kids to practically learn about digital literacy, and there are enough free tools out there now that it is within reach of any schools with some computer equipment (or the students can even just make them directly on their phones).

        There’s a nice interview with our series producer Ian at which mentions the origins of the project, but it’s worth noting that when Kate and I started creating them we didn’t foresee them being used in an educational setting, or by children, more just as short and hopefully entertaining digital fictions! So we are still learning a lot ourselves about how to make the stories and resources more useful.

        Oh, I found you via Google Alerts 🙂

      • Hi Chris, If you guys decide to crowd fund, I am sure you’ll make your goal! It’s interesting that you didn’t intend it to be used as an educational tool and it’s such a “sign of the times” that it’s perfect for it. I will be sure to check out Ian’s interview and also look more into Google Alerts – had heard of it and will investigate further. Thanks!

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