By Laura Fleming and John Connell
Until just a few years ago, stories we were told mostly through a single medium – it might be a book, a movie, a radio program, a cartoon.
Today, we can tell stories across a wide variety of media, all at the same time. That’s the premise behind the term “transmedia.”
Transmedia is a new way of thinking about how stories are told: creating and consuming stories simultaneously through text, images, the spoken word, music, video, animation. We can even bring computer games into our stories, allowing the reader to solve puzzles or choose alternative routes through the tale. Rather than just retelling the story, the different media help to extend the story. At the same time, today’s ever-expanding social networks are creating opportunities for us to interact with a story, and this, combined with all the digital tools at our disposal, enable us to play our own part in deciding how a story unfolds.
Take Inanimate Alice, for example. Created as digital text, the transmedia story allows learners, fourth grade and up, to interact with the central character, Alice, and to help her advance her story. Text, audio, video, special effects and gaming are all used to deliver the narrative in a compelling way. Inanimate Alice one of five resources in the National Writing Project’s “Digital Is” website, which is a repository of ideas about how educators use transmedia to teach writing.
With Inanimate Alice, the complexity and interactivity increases with each episode, directly correlating with Alice’s personal growth as the games designer she is set to become. Through embedded puzzles and games, Inanimate Alice makes the reader a direct participant in telling the story. Kids connect intimately with the story as they walk in the shoes of the main character.
Though the website is pretty self-explanatory, educators can download the iTeach education resource pack, which is supported with lessons. Alice’s community includes a Facebook presence, where parents and teachers can share their success stories, ask questions, and find opportunities for collaboration. A number of interactive hands-on whiteboard lessons are also available.
Laura Fleming is a media specialist and a teacher. John Connell is an education strategist and business development manager for Cisco.