A new, interactive educational game for children created at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) allows children to create, print and share their own stories. Called "My StoryMaker," the program is now available at all 18 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches.
"Partnering with the Carnegie Library has been immensely stimulating and educating," said Don Marinelli, executive producer at the ETC. "The ultimate goal of an ETC project is for the students and faculty to learn as much as the client learns from our technological experiments and implementation."
He added, "This is one project that truly delivered on all accounts."
Funded by a grant from The Grable Foundation, My StoryMaker was developed by a team of ETC graduate students exclusively for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It is aimed at increasing literacy rates in children during their formative learning years. To achieve this goal, the students, faculty advisors and library staff harnessed the power of fairy tales from books and combined them with the interactivity of gaming and the Internet.
"We were challenged to find an innovative way to reach children — many of whom have never known of a life without computers — that would be both educational and engaging," said Mike Nangia, director of information technology at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. "The team was fortunate to play-test the initial prototype at several local elementary schools. It gave us insight on how children learn and utilize technology."
In My StoryMaker, children can control characters, scenery and props. The game uses artificial intelligence to form sentences in relation to how the child is interacting with the story.
Patte Kelley, who is head of the children's department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main Library, has noticed that the children are very drawn to the kiosk where they can read other children's stories.
"At that point we approach and them and tell them, 'do you know you can write a story just like it?'" she explained. "Recently, we had a family in from Uruguay, and they typed their story in Spanish. It was an exciting first!"
Kelley added, "What excites me as a librarian is that it takes the art of storytelling beyond the oral and print and into technology. So, it's really wonderful to see a story transcend those three media."