Back in 2010, I was a library media specialist in an elementary school. I began to notice that as the years passed, my students were becoming more and more disengaged with the printed book, were becoming expert multitaskers and thrived in a more participatory type of environment. I knew the debate was not about e-books vs. print, but rather the STORY and how it was EXPERIENCED by my students. As a result, I decided to try a little experiment, I picked one of the grades I taught (fifth grade) and made it my quest to seek out 'interactive' children's literature and compare those experiences to our experiences with the ones we had with print. I documented some of my findings in this Edutopia piece and a few years later, Joyce Valenza wrote a wonderful post about it here. It was at that time that I stumbled upon the concept of transmedia storytelling. I immediately was captivated by how entertainment properties used these techniques to deepen engagement, brand loyalty and ultimately increase their revenues. I wondered how we as educators could leverage those same techniques to reach and engage our learners in ways that were yet unknown to us. I even went on to suggest that transmedia storytelling could serve as a new model of learning for this digital age.
My body of work in the transmedia world has only continued to grow since then, and is even what led me into the makerspace world, as I detailed in my first book. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to recently have been invited to be a guest of Cartoon Network at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City. At this event, I had the honor and privilege of hearing MIT Media Lab's Mitchel Resnick, speak about the stories, concepts, and principles presented in his new book, Lifelong Kindergarten. Following Mitch's captivating keynote, was an eclectic panel that consisted of so many people who have served as an inspiration for my work, including THE Ladyada of Adafruit Industries.
What would you say to those who say kids need to get away from screens to nurture creativity?
How central is youth participation in your efforts?
How do you build brand loyalty without exploiting kids?
How do you instill wonder and awe in kids, even as they get older?
I even asked a question for my students, who were the ones who encouraged me to attend the event:
If you could say anything to my students about being creators in the digital age, what would you say to them?
During our conversation, we touched upon:
- building an ecosystem that kids can come in and out of wherever they are
- branding kids in the digital age
- screens as tools
- the importance of good content
- giving and encouraging kids agency
- respecting kids passions and skills
- unbranding brands and helping kids brand themselves
- how creativity and play can manifest in un-artistic endeavors
- value of there being many ways to tell a story
- inspiring the next generation of creators
- importance of sharing ideas and collaborations
- building creative confidence and voice to share ideas with the world
This conversation is a must listen and can be heard it its entirety below. If you can sit through the background noise on the recording, I promise it will be worth it.
For more on transmedia storytelling and education, be sure to also check out a recent Educated By Design podcast from Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and his conversation with my transmedia idol and mentor, Jeff Gomez.