I've wondered in the past how important interactive storytelling might be in educational games. The potential to use story for more than just engagement seems high. In just over a week, a colleague and I are going to run an experiment that will test how useful (not necessarily interactive) story is in teaching computer science concepts to complete beginners.
Our experiment is going to be done in the context of my mini-course, Computer Science and Games: Just for Girls! This year's class has 22 students, mostly in grade 8, so even if not everyone consents to participate (in which case we simply don't record their data), we should have a decent sample size.
I have always done many interactive activities in my mini-course, including several CS Unplugged activities. I like to do the Image Representation activity when teaching computer graphics, and the Finite State Automata in the context of artificial intelligence. For the experiment, I've been working on writing some stories we can embed the activities into.
The idea is this: We are going to split our class into two groups for both activities. One group will do the activity as per usual, while the other group will do the story-based version. The groups will swap for the other activity so everyone gets to see both styles of teaching. During the activity we will record observations of the students (looking mostly for engagement), and after we will have the students do an evaluative worksheet to see how well they understand the topic.
I'm really curious to see what difference the story will make in the students' ability to understand. I am guessing it will help, but I'm not sure how much.