Expanding Learning Opportunities with Transmedia Practices (part 1)


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.

The proliferation of digital and networking technologies enables us to rethink, restructure, and redefine teaching and learning. Transmedia storytelling takes advantage of the rapid convergence of media and allows teachers and learners to participate in rich virtual (and physical) environments that have been shown to foster students’ real emotional engagement with the process of learning. Transmedia learning applies storytelling techniques across multiple platforms to create immersive educational experiences that enable multiple entry and exit points for learning and teaching. By utilizing constructivist and connectivist precepts in the application of these techniques, we can create pedagogies that are transformative on many levels. Encapsulating these notions in the concept of the Transmedia LearningWorld (TLW) allows educators to combine the exciting affordances of the digital technologies with real-life experiences and truly learner-focused pedagogies to produce profoundly productive and powerful learning experiences.

In the US, the advent of Common Core State Standards is pushing schools and districts across the country to consider carefully the requirements for digital learning, including aspects of personalization, interoperability, taking our understanding of eLearning beyond a narrow focus on digital content, and encouraging significant shifts in pedagogical thinking and practice. The application of transmedia techniques and, in particular, the recognition of the power of the TLW give teachers tools that allow them to reach every child, including otherwise “reluctant” learners, and indeed that allow children themselves to drive their own learning. The digital novel Inanimate Alice is a proven example of a transmedia resource that can immerse students in an intense and motivating learning experience over time. Transmedia techniques leverage the power of collective intelligence in learners, and they enable educators to weave the narrative of curricula through media in a seamless and wholly interactive and participative fashion.

Transmedia storytelling exemplifies learning in the twenty-first century. As a school library media specialist, I have realized the profound implications for effectively producing and consuming content across media platforms for both educators and learners. As an educator, I have come to recognize the place of transmedia in learning and how it applies to our instructional practices. This includes, amongst many others, the eternal power of storytelling, literacy in the digital age, the shifting locus of control in education from teacher to learner, the need now to consider a spectrum of transliteracies for our young people, and the merging of storytelling with the current crop of digital and networking technologies.

In the era of media convergence, transmedia (cross-media/cross-platform/multi-platform) narratives are catering to users who are willing to immerse themselves in their favorite entertainment content. The inherent interactivity of the Internet and the emotional engagement of story can lead to innovative pedagogies in media rich environments. My perspective and work has focused on transmedia storytelling as a pedagogical practice, with the digital novel Inanimate Alice (2005) at the forefront of my investigation.

Technologies have allowed us the opportunity to rethink, restructure, and redefine instruction in order to best advance media literacy education for all. A transmedia pedagogy allows learners and content to flow fluidly across media platforms. Students can enter their learning in a way that meets their needs and educators can draw upon the strengths of and maximize the power of individual platforms. Transcending content in this way allows for the collaborative sharing and proliferation of knowledge across the globe.