Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 5927-5936
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.1511
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Many approaches to the definition of animated story exist, but a good “one size fits all” solution is difficult to adopt and implement. Software for the creation of simple animated stories are often more complex than necessary. Moreover, usually it is not possible to personalize the functionalities provided by the User Interface (UI) to the specific users’ needs. This, in turn, affects the effectiveness of such software.

To address those problems and support such an important educational process, we defined, implemented and tested a methodology to simplify the process of designing software for animated stories. We defined an Intermediate Language (IL) that abstracts basic concepts useful for the description of a story. The components and concepts of the IL were inspired by the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and the Scratch language.

The main idea of the IL is to be flexible and independent of both software UIs, which usually provide a set of graphical features (we see them as a “source language”) employed by users to define the story, and the execution model (the “target language”); this allows programmers to focus on UI features, delegating a significant part of the technical details to our solution. Our approach can be useful for different use-cases, especially educational, rehabilitation or playing time for persons with intellectual disabilities, thanks to the possibility of modifying the source language or the target language, depending on the specific desires, needs of the involved persons or the requirements of a given therapy.

To validate our approach and provide an example of use of the IL, we applied it to the design and implementation of an app for storytelling. The app we created permits to define the story by means of a simple graphical language; then, a first translation module generates an IL representation; finally, a second translation module produces a Scratch executable file.

Our app permits to create simple animated stories with images, sounds and voices. Then, the stories can be played and shared leveraging the Scratch platform. The UI functionalities and animation features were designed to involve students with intellectual disabilities, together with teachers and therapists cooperating with them. Scratch was selected as a target language due to its huge supporting community and popular on-line platform. Note however that, leveraging our IL-based approach, supporting users with totally different needs is just a matter of designing the appropriate UI and write another translation module to the IL. At the same time, changing target language just requires writing the appropriate translation module from the IL.

We tested our app with subjects with intellectual disability at the Esagramma Center (Milan) and at Amicinsieme. Psychologists supervised the experiments and observed improvements in subjects’ vocal expression, attention level and narration quality. In particular, the psychologists pointed out that the most effective features were:
(1) the possibility to create, in a fast and easy way, personalised stories (as shown in:,
(2) the opportunity for a cognitive improvement, as the subjects identified themselves with the characters and the story; and
(3) the possibility for the users to listen to their recorded voice while watching the scene evolution, within a context which helped and motivated them in improving their vocal expression and narration of the scenes.
Storytelling, educational software, rehabilitation, Intellectual Disability, Intermediate Language, graphical language, Scratch.