Classroom Card Game Teaches Digital Storytelling Skills

by Aleszu Bajak
November 15, 2017
Two students in a writing for news media course at Eastern Illinois University plan out their digital news media package by using Aleszu Bajak's Storydeck game. (Photo: Amanda Bright)

This story originally appeared on Storybench: Tools, Tips and Takeaways on Digital Storytelling From Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

At the Journalism Interactive conference hosted by the University of Maryland in October 2017, I presented a card game that I have been prototyping for the last year in classrooms from Northeastern University to the Nieman Foundation.

“Storydeck: A Digital News Design Game,” in a nutshell, helps students conceptualize, scaffold and focus a digital story for a specific topic and a specific user.


(Photo: Storybench)

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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


2017 Journalism Interactive Conference from Pearl Mak on Vimeo.

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

Storybench’s editor is Aleszu Bajak, a science journalist and former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He is an alum of Science Friday, the founder of, and is passionate about breaking down the divide between journalists, developers and designers.

Download the game below (and print it on card stock); There Are Two Images Below to Print

Tagged: digital digital storytelling Game learning activity multimedia teaching

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