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Transmedia Explorations

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The Spark…

At the recent Kaleidoscope 10 Children’s Literature Conference, I listened to Calgary author Jeff Buick present on literature and transmedia, and he described his recent transmedia novel One Child. (See here for a description of what transmedia means in the context of this novel).  Henry Jenkins (2011) describes transmedia thusly:

 Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

One Child, a novel for teens, is about Halima, a small girl in Kandahar, Afghanistan, who dreams that she changes the world. The story plays out across several types of media, including Facebook, Twitter, webpages, video, etc.  It is available in three formats: as a print book, online, as well as an e-book.  The online and iPad version at the time of the release of the novel allowed readers to actively participate as if they were part of the action by having bits/chapters released day by day and readers followed along with the social media links “as the action happened” over several days.  It sounded like a thrilling experience that would engage a reader on many levels.

At the end of the description of his novel and the process that went in to its creation as a transmedia experience, Jeff discussed what a powerful activity the creation of a transmedia piece of literature could be for a group of students.  He explored the utilization of the five senses along with multiple ways of representation, and the obvious connections to many subject areas and disciplines (art, music, ELA, social studies, math, graphic design, computer technology, etc.).  As I scanned the audience, I noticed how excited many of the educator-based audience members seemed as they nodded their heads along with each point Jeff was making.  I know that for myself, it started many synapses firing as I made connections to some recent reading I have been doing around TPACK and transliteracy.

Good Teaching

Greatly distilled, TPACK basically suggests that good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content.  According to Harris, Mishra and Koehler 2009), “the TPCK framework describes how teachers’ understandings of technology, pedagogy, and content can interact with one another to produce effective discipline-based teaching with educational technologies” (p. 4).  Collaboratively planning an activity such as the creation of a transmedia literature experience brought to mind the TPACK-inspired Secondary English Language Arts Learning Activity Types document by Young, Hofer, and Harris (2011) that presents a number of TPACK-inspired activities that attempt to provide scaffolding for teachers as they consider how to best structure learning activities, and how to best support those activities with educational technologies.  Many of the activities on the document list would be apt when planning a transmedia project of this scope.

Necessary Skills 

In order for students to be successful in the creation of a transmedia project, facility with certain skills would be necessary.  Many of these skills could/would fall under the umbrella of transliteracy. Thomas, et al (2007) describe transliteracy as the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. Ipiri (2010) further eloaborates on this definition by pointing out that:

 transliteracy is concerned with what it means to be literate in the 21st century. It analyzes the relationship between people and technology, most specifically social networking, but is fluid enough to not be tied to any particular technology. It focuses more on the social uses of technology, whatever that technology may be. (p. 532)

Much thought would need to be given to digital citizenship when creating fictitious characters/websites/postings on social networks.  Perhaps students could use an environment such as Edmodo or set up a private Ning, etc.  What a perfect opportunity to discuss the social implications of fact versus fiction on the web.  Author Jeff Buick, when asked if any problems had arisen over the realistic nature of the fictitious posts related a story about a mother of a veteran who had made a heart-felt post on the Facebook page of the fictitious war correspondent thanking him for the important and dangerous work that he was doing on behalf of citizens.  It was an awkward situation for the author and his team to be placed in and caused them to think more deeply about repercussions of this realistic ruse.  What a powerful discussion for students, and one that needs to happen before the projects are created.  How will students be intentional in letting viewers know that their creations are a work of fiction?

**See here for a great Scoop.it post on Transmedia Storytelling


Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416. Retrieved from: http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/OtherPages/Koehler_Pubs/TECH_BY_DESIGN/AERA_2007/AERA2007_HarrisMishraKoehler.pdf

Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567 Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.a spx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=55321486&site=ehost-live

Jenkins, H. (2011, Aug. 1). “Transmedia 202: Further Reflections”. Confessions of an AcaFan. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2011/08/defining_transmedia_further_re.html

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Vol.12 (12). Retrieved from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908

Young, C. A., Hofer, M, & Harris, J.. (2011, February). Secondary English language arts learning activity types. Retrieved from College of William and Mary, School of Education, Learning Activity Types Wiki: http://activitytypes.wmwikis.net/file/view/SecEngLangArtsLearningATs-Feb2011.pdf


Author: ephansen

I am passionate about library learning commons and the intersection of information seeking, co-creation and sharing of knowledge. Trans-literacy, inquiry and digital citizenship are also areas of exploration. Emphasis is K-12, but this is important for learners of all ages...

One thought on “Transmedia Explorations

  1. Thank you for a very informative blog post. The example you gave of Jeff Buick’s “book” has really intrigued me. As with all new technologies, (e.g. the printing press) some of the consequences that emerge from its use do not show themselves until after implementation. I agree that creating fictitious characters in social media would provoke powerful discussion with kids.
    I now have a much better sense of trans-literacy and what an essential component of learning and knowledge creation it is. I am curious to know if you came across any information about trans-literacy and younger children. I know there is a sense on our staff that our job is to teach children to become excellent readers and writers and that once they become competent in this area, we branch out into other forms of communication. I wonder if there have been any studies in this area. Children in my class (nine years old) are posting content on YouTube, and using social media (though not always well) outside of school. It is my sense that our job teaching trans-literacy skills begins in kindergarten, perhaps in a structured, scaffolded way. It is often the case that we as teachers underestimate what children can do. Is this the case with trans-literacy? Often with new technologies, (other than ipads) much of the research in its use is related to children grades 5 and up. I am always curious how we might begin the learning journey with younger children. I look forward to continued research and information about trans-literacy.

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