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Bluetooth Beacon Storytelling

Imagine walking into a theater and, instead of going to a seat in front of a stage, you download an app and take a walking journey where the entire building becomes the stage. You are guided by a series of digital stories delivered to your phone by a series of Bluetooth Beacons. The stories would be written and created by a team of theater arts and computer science students.

It is this engagement, the telling of stories by moving through an environment and interacting with it, that motivated Michael Rau, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance, to look at how he could create an interactive experience for an audience and inspire students to create something new.

There’s this trend right now in theater for immersive, site-specific shows.​​​-  Michael Rau, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance

Funding and Implementation

There was, of course, the issue of how to pay for the technology. The answer was a $ 4,000 Teaching and Learning Technology Innovation Grant offered through Instructional Technologies Support. In awarding the grant, the Instructional Technologies team was intrigued to see how the use of the technology could be applied to meet teaching and learning objectives, outside of a structured academic course.

Working with Instructional Technologies, Michael was able to purchase Bluetooth Beacons, an iPad, Android device, and supporting software licenses and data hosting subscriptions. Additionally, the Instructional Technologies team provided instructional designers and developer assistance to help with overall planning and code guidance.


students working

Bringing Students Together

 To create stories that were original, immersive, and student-built, Rau recruited students from both the Theatre and Dance and Computer Science departments. The computer science students were tasked with building the apps. The theater students were selected to write the stories.  

While students started with a division of responsibilities, the division didn’t last. Professor Rau encouraged theater students to learn basic coding skills and computer science students to engage in story-telling.

The inspiration students found sharing original stories, through a student-built, interactive application proved to be more than just an extra-curricular activity. Stereotypical creative versus technical barriers were broken down, new skills were developed, and friendships made. 

“You could slowly see the groups merge into one unit.” - James Bellian, Student, Department of Computer Science