A classroom card game to teach digital storytelling skills

Last weekend, at the Journalism Interactive conference hosted by the University of Maryland, I presented a card game that I have been prototyping for the last year in classrooms from Northeastern to the Nieman Foundation. The game, in a nutshell, helps students conceptualize, scaffold and focus a digital story for a specific topic and a specific user.

The game – which you can download free here – is based on the research we’ve conducted through Storybench and it organizes many of the common ingredients that go into a successful digital news article. Here’s how it works:


    1. Before starting the game, students should have fully-formed, focused story pitches and assemble in groups of four to five.


    1. Each card in the deck of 15 contains a digital storytelling element – a map, photography, a game, a before-and-after, a crowdsourcing campaign, 360 or virtual reality, a timeline, a database, a social media campaign, a data table, an illustration, a call-to-action, a chart, audio or video. After deciding on one teammate’s story pitch, students deal the cards out and choose no more than three elements that might work for the story they’ve decided to pursue.


    1. With the help of markers, sticky notes and whiteboards, the students wireframe the story using the three elements, while considering at least one archetypal user experience, the constraints inherent in digital design, and, of course, deadlines and both technical and reporting feasibility.


Extra points for multiple wireframes and detailed annotations. Ideally, the teams report, build and publish this story as a final class project.

Have an idea for improving the game? Contact us at @storybench.

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Thanks to Pearl Mak for producing the following video!

Download the PDF by clicking below and send it off to the printer – ask for thick card stock!

Aleszu Bajak

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