Expanding Learning Opportunities with Transmedia Practices (part 8)


 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.

Just as learning is turning transmedia, it is also becoming dominated by a kind of collective intelligence. The dictionary defines intelligence as:

“…the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations.” (Webster)

The usual connotation is that intelligence relates to self. However, the constant flood of new technologies is forcing us to consider intelligence in relation to the collective. Wikipedia (2013) defines collective intelligence as:

“…a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals.”

At even the earliest of ages, we as educators lay the foundation for harnessing the cognitive powers of a group through cooperative learning. Cooperative learning sets the stage for a more sophisticated, collaborative pooling of information in collective intelligence. Whether educators recognize it or not, our learners are already influenced by this concept, since the media that surrounds them makes students aware that learning extends beyond the four walls of a classroom and that we are a part of a greater global community.

Many children take it upon themselves to participate actively in this networked society in the form of wikis, blogs, or many of the other Web 2.0 tools available to them. As students prepare to enter the workforce, where, of course, the need for collective intelligence dominates, it is the responsibility of all educators to create a classroom where knowledge is acquired not by a learner memorizing facts and data, but by a collective group—or more accurately, by a constantly shifting matrix of collectives—working towards a common purpose. According to Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence (2007). Implemented effectively, transmedia learning expands learning and connects learners around the globe, and therefore leveraging the power of the collective.

My experiences as an educator along with my journey with Inanimate Alice have made it clear to me that we have reached a tipping point with educational technology—our instructional practices will never be the same again. Technology and learning are inextricably linked—one can no longer perceive learning as happening without it. Teachers have unprecedented access to high-quality digital content that offers students the capacity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in exciting and stimulating ways. Preparing all students to succeed in this global economy requires a shift from teacher-centric instruction to a learner-centered culture. Learners prefer to construct their own learning, assembling tools and information from a wide variety of different sources. A transmedia model of learning poses new challenges to learners and requires us all to attain a broader spectrum of media literacy skills in order to be competent learners in the digital age. We need to ensure that our students are skilled consumers and producers of digital media and that the transliteracies learned through experiences, such as Inanimate Alice, should be a part of our instruction.

Educators now have to consider weaving the narrative of curricula through media in a seamless and fully interactive fashion. A transmedia methodology can help shape our educational delivery. With content proliferated across different media platforms, we can seek success with all learners, no matter their starting point. It helps students to construct knowledge and to convey complex messages through meaningful, challenging, technology-enhanced experiences. This dynamic ecosystem allows for a synergy to develop across different varieties of learning models and pedagogies that will take students and teachers around the world into new realms. Effective storytelling, combined with the use of transmedia techniques, creates opportunities for exploration, interpretation, and expansion.

Leveraging the power of transmedia will fully immerse and engage the students in their learning. If executed effectively, the curriculum and the technology become one, and at the core is the interaction between technology and story, creating a deep, rich LearningWorld.