My big initiative for the Fall 16 semester was to add a narrative element to my flipped classroom digital content. I’ve written about the actual storyline here (Hero’s Quest: “The Underground Collector” Narrative). The elevator pitch is that the students are “collector’s” for an underground history cell in a dystopian future where an autocratic government manipulates the population which has lost its historic memory. The keeps an original archive of material which the collectors go on missions to access. I’ve been debating about wether to keep the effort going in the second semester. I’ve been writing my own story, recording the audio voice acting (with help from some friends), then splicing the audio and pictures into the recorded lectures. It takes hours to finish a 20-30 minute ‘episode’.

  • I had been referring to the digital content by the “standard” of the content. I.e. Standard 2 videos. A student mistakenly called one of these recordings “season 3” by mistake. I loved it and have been calling the overall content standard blocks “Seasons” and the individual recordings as “episodes”. As in, there are 2 episodes in season 5: American Imperialism.

Coming into this semester I’ve been in a time crunch and trying to sort my priorities. Season 6: The Interwar Years starts is set to debut at the end of January. At the moment I have only posted the recordings without the narrative spliced in (for those couple of students that like to work ahead) and a quick storyline introduction. The majority of the plot is mapped already and involves a rival underground cell called “The Patriot’s Cause” – sort of a Magneto group to the “Underground’s” Professor X. Over the last month I’ve been slow to finish videos because, Honestly, I wasn’t sure if the students were interested in the story.

Then Friday a student paid me one of the best compliments of the year.  At the end of class I reminded my students that seasons 5 and 6 were available on our course homepage even though the semester hadn’t officially started yet. Since I teach a year long dual enrollment class (technically I teach a college class and students also receive a high school credit) there is a 3-4 week gap around the winter break were students are not officially in a college course but still attend my class. As students were packing up to leave a girl asked me if I would keep adding the narrative to the recorded lectures. We talked for a minute and I told her that its a lot of time and effort and that I was thinking of doing less. I think she was worried about offending me since I record all of the digital content, but in a very serious tone she told me:

“Honestly the story is the only thing that keeps me going with the notes. I know that in 3-4 minutes I’ll get another piece of the story”.

It guess it was a bit of a backhanded compliment, but I don’t know if she knew how much that meant to me. I’ve had some students tell me that they just skip the storyline pieces which I’m fine with. I’ve had some students ask for a summary of the story because they were interested in the story but had forgotten something about the story or missed an “episode”. This was the first time a student reaffirmed why I started this whole thing in the first place.

I know that people play games for different reasons. Different gamifiers have different player type models and I tend to favor Andrzej Marczewski’s Hexad Model. Most models have a “Free Explorer” type – players that are motivated by exploring the game universe or look for awe and wonder. They want to explore the existing world, role-play within the game’s rules, and immerse themselves a new universe. My guess is that this is why the Harry Potter series, the Marvel universe, and any number of YA fiction is so popular.

So I shall continue to build my “History Underground” universe. If there is one student that feels it is this important then there are probably more that are to shy to tell me. That and our school motto is “#EACH1 Matters”.

If you have read this far – Thank you. The picture above is a still from my “Season 6 – Patriot’s Cause Introduction” see the whole video at Also, please share your thoughts about the article or the storyline in the comments.