The Journal of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) published a long article by me in 2013 entitled “Expanding Learning Opportunities with Transmedia Practices: Inanimate Alice as an Exemplar”. I have decided to convert the article into readable chunks and serialize it here on my blog, particularly in light of this new wave of digital assessments that require our learners to think and communicate effectively across all forms of media.
At a time in which standards, data, and testing are driving educational change in our country as well as across the world, there exists a paradox at the heart of these changes. Perhaps despite such changes, and maybe even because of such changes, there sits alongside them an identifiable process of de-institutionalization that is happening in education at the present time, and it is a process that has profound implications for schooling as we know it. The paradox lies in the fact that, at the same time that political and economic forces are pushing the agenda of standardization with some determination, the social-technological environment that we now inhabit is pushing education in the opposite direction. In a real sense, learning is breaking free from the tradition model of education—with school as the central paradigm in that model—simply because the walls of the school can no longer contain all the knowledge and content and desire to learn that is now flowing freely across the ether and intermingling across borders without constraint.
While the traditional learning environment of the school remains a very powerful component in the overall educational eco-system, learning is nonetheless being freed from restriction and is embedding itself into everyday settings and interactions, distributed across the widest transliterate sense. In a very real way, the locus of control in learning is shifting decisively from teacher to learner, and from institution to individual. The paradox does not necessarily indicate that these divergent trends are mutually exclusive. Indeed, through emerging technologies, teachers are gaining new opportunities to design innovative lesson plans and assignments. Teachers who can see the opportunities opening up know the interactivity and connectivity of transmedia techniques can bring learning to life by maximizing engagement, stimulating learners’ minds, and allowing learning to happen organically.
We now live in an age in which learning can take place across multiple media platforms. The expansion and improvement in the practice of media literacy in the United States is shaped not only by the decisions of policy makers but also increasingly from the bottom through by the decisions made moment-to-moment by learners themselves. The digital explosion has leveled the playing field, making everyone both a consumer and a producer. The plethora of free tools allows everyone to create. Students can now enter their learning in ways that meet their needs (we know, for instance, that young learners today are much less willing to submit to rote learning than students in the past) and educators can draw upon the strengths, and maximize the impact, of individual platforms.
Young people today are committed (although not necessarily skilled) multi-taskers and are happy to take on different roles in their learning either as a student or even as a teacher themselves. Information is easily accessed and immediately applicable.