Using Twine for Classroom Engagement

What is Twine?

Twine is a free web-based tool for creating interactive story simulations. The stories are designed in a non-linear format, meaning they don’t have a structured outline of how the stories progress. The tool mainly uses text-based narratives and it branches off throughout the story based on the user’s decisions. Twine uses standard web formats such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, allowing anyone with a browser the ability to create or play Twine games.

What can Twine be used for in the Classroom?

Twine is used to make classroom learning more engaging. Instructors can create interactive simulations based on their course content. Students engage in the content through prompts to make decisions about what a character will do next in a given scenario. These decisions, and the outcome data that comes with it, can help the instructors understand their students’ behavioural practices in simulations that reflect real-world problem-solving scenarios. Although Twine is a tool for creating “games”, this project goes beyond games and gamification to think creatively about how the functions of Twine can be used to create activities that allow students to more directly engage with learning content in a hands-on experiential format that may not be possible in a traditional classroom learning space. A key goal of the project is to also explore how data from Twine might be used to better allow instructors to analyze student’s decisions across situations to assess how students are using classroom knowledge in an experiential learning context.

How did this Project start?

Professor Kosha Bramesfeld

Kosha Bramesfeld, PhD, an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, with the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, has been playing with the idea of how to use games to enrich teaching and learning. Prof. Bramesfeld started with this idea of creating games for the classroom in 2013 by creating educational games and has extended this idea to the present day.  The idea of connecting games with education not only creates an engaging classroom experience, it also brings a whole new instructional method to enhance learning experiences.

The educational game that sparked this project was ‘The Food Security Quest’, a project Prof. Bramesfeld helped lead. It is a game based on 4 different characters, with different roles and lives. Students read about each character’s situations and decide which one they will enact in the game. The outcome of the game is based on the choices/decisions the student makes for their character. There are no right or wrong answers. The Food Security Quest helps students develop empathy by being situated within the narrative to gain more perspective from another person’s situations. Students learn about how different decisions can affect the character’s life. After the simulation is over the students learn more about the effects and the results.

Screen Shot: Food Security Quest Game
Screen Shot: Food Security Quest Game

The Food Security Quest was just the start for endless possibilities of what could come from bringing games into classrooms, using Twine. Students can gain more knowledge on experiences that they may not have an opportunity or be able to experience otherwise. Such as learning about the consequences of different decisions, because some things are best learned through simulations than in real life scenarios

What is the future of Twine at the University of Toronto?

The University of Toronto has integrated many different tools to help enhance student learning and to assist instructors in creating engaging learning experiences. With Twine, instructors can create scenarios for both building on knowledge and to assess their students’ understanding of course material. The Twine project is in the early stages. Currently the team is exploring ways in which Twine can be used more fully as a teaching and learning tool, such as building in assessment components for learning analytics and how it could be made easily available for faculty to use.


By Sankhi Liyanage