When I was in sixth grade we were tasked with one of my favorite school projects of all time. We were allowed to choose a book to read and then, instead of taking a test or writing a report, had to create a diorama of the internal mindset and psyche of the main character.
I was loving the Redwall series of books in sixth grade and had to create a diorama based on the inner workings of Martin (the main character who was a mouse).
I spent hours figuring out what to put in the diorama that would represent the story, Martin’s contribution to the overall series, and also showcasing his biggest fears, as well as successes.
What was fascinating was then seeing all of my other classmate’s characters come to life in their diorama’s as well. After that project and “gallery walk” seeing my peer’s work, I had a reading list that doubled in size!
A lot of folks dismiss diorama’s or projects like this as fluff, but when done with the right purpose, the learning can be an engaging and empowering experience.
Today’s students may not get as excited about creating a diorama (although I still think it would be a great option) and I’ve seen this characterization type project being done with sketches, cartoons, powtoons, and videos.
The project I share below is the diorama with a twist.
You see, when I built the diorama, it stopped after I was completed and handed it in.
There was no iteration, modification, and launching it to the world.
My project was for an audience of 25 people and would go on to be thrown in the trash a few months later.
What if we could take that same level of engagement and transfer it to a project that empowers students to dive deep into their character’s minds, but then share it with an audience, and continue to build on it and improve it in the weeks and months that follow.
Enter “The Character Chatbot” Project!
Replacing Character Sketches and Diorama’s with a Character Chatbot – Design Thinking Style
When John Spencer and I wrote LAUNCH, we did so with the main goal to inspire teachers to take their students projects and transform them into something that could be launched to the world.
Design Thinking starts with a problem, and the LAUNCH Cycle is the process of finding a creative solution to that problem, and then seeing if it actually works out in the world!
Now, here is where the fun comes in. Your students can go through the entire LAUNCH Cycle while creating a chatbot for their character.
The chatbot can function as a place for the character to come alive. Not only for the student making the bot, but for the rest of the class, the school, and the world to engage and interact with this character!
After making the chatbot, students can share their character with other students from their own school, students in other schools, and even the author online. The applications are endless with chatbots, and I show you the simplest way to make one in the short guide below.
How to Create a Chatbot 101
Rebot.me is the best solution I found for easily and quickly creating a chatbot that works in multiple interfaces, can be programmed by any students that know how to read and write, and can be embedded into a website/blog.
When you go to Rebot.me you’ll get this screen, where you are prompted to “Create Robot” – go ahead and do it:
You’ll then need to sign-up and create an account (please note for students under 13 this may require parental permission, or you can do it as the teacher with a group in the class).
From there you’ll be able to log in and start building your chatbot. In the settings you’ll enter in your name, greeting message, and select a picture for your profile/avatar.
A chatbot has one main function: Answer questions that people ask of you. However, in order to get a chatbot working you have to “Improve Your Bot” by building up a knowledge base of answers to commonly asked questions. Click on the “Knowledge” tab to start adding new questions and answers that will populate the knowledge base.
You’ll see I started to populate it with questions people would ask of me (potentially) only on my website where the chatbot would be embedded.
Then you can test it out (key word here is TEST) on the “View Your Chatbot” tab. Ask a question that is pre-populated in the knowledge section and get a live response!
But, for the sake of this project, I changed my chatbot to Harry Potter! Which I could quickly do in the settings area. Change the name and the profile picture, but left my email and other settings the same.
For building the characterization, I’d add questions and answers in the Knowledge section. First, start with the basics of each character, with questions and answers you can find in the text (such as, what is your Owl’s name for Harry).
Then students can go deeper by asking and answering questions about the social, emotional, mental, and psychological pieces of their character.
You can also add questions (via the Questions tab) that your Chatbot can say when they can’t find anything to say or don’t know the answer to the question that was asked.
From there you can check through the Chatlogs to see what questions were asked, and then go in and answer them so next time someone asks your bot that question they’ll be able to respond with an actual answer.
When your students are ready to go LIVE with their chatbots, click the “Embed” tab and copy/paste the embed code into your website/blog (make sure you are editing the HTML).
You are all set to go with your Character Chatbot! You can improve, iterate, and LAUNCH this character to the world 😉
Want More Information on Design Thinking Projects?
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