George Lucas Educational Foundation
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As a School Library Media Specialist, storytelling is at the core of what I do each and every day. Over the years, I have seen many children who struggle with reading because of a lack of engagement with traditional books and stories. The new media that surrounds educators and learners forced me to rethink the concept of storytelling for our 21st-century learners. After some experimenting within my classes, I found a way to successfully engage and capture the attention of all of my students. As a result of this, a new model of storytelling emerged for me: Transmedia.

What Is Transmedia?

There are two components that must be present in transmedia storytelling. 1) Critical parts of the story must be told across multiple story spaces, and 2) there must be active participation on the part of the readers. The roots of transmedia lie in pop culture and in the creation of media franchises. In education, these same techniques can be used to create a powerful connection with curricular content. Transmedia storytelling speaks to learners in a way that they inherently understand, and when purposefully designed, it can be an effective tool for all age groups and in all learning environments.

An Example of Transmedia

The leading example of this transmedia in education phenomenon is the born-digital story Inanimate Alice. Written by award-winning author Kate Pullinger, directed by digital artist Chris Joseph, and produced by Ian Harper, this transmedia story introduces us to Alice, a young girl growing up in the first half of the 21st century, and her digital imaginary friend, Brad. "Born digitally," Inanimate Alice was conceived, written and created entirely within the digital domain. The multimedia episodes are interactive and use a combination of text, sound, images, and games to tell the story of her life. The media itself becomes a part of the story when Alice herself becomes a video game animator, and the reader is immersed into the story by playing games and solving puzzles to progress the story.

Free Resources for Educators

Through a free downloadable iTeach education resource pack, Inanimate Alice is supported by lessons, which include making connections with the story and the medium. Their vibrant Facebook community allows for educators to share their success stories as well as to find opportunities for collaboration globally. In addition, teachers now have available to them interactive whiteboard lessons that are hands-on and address the needs of all learners. Because of their immersion into a storyworld, participants in transmedia narratives are inspired to repurpose the content and generate their own; thus encouraging creativity and innovation. With Inanimate Alice, it is the inspiration of her story that motivates students to want to create next episodes of the series.

21st Century Literature = Engagement

Developing a narrative over multiple platforms while interweaving learning outcomes creates transformational learning experiences. Participants engage, inform, inspire, connect and collaborate over content. It is this interconnectedness that fosters a dialogue which connects learners around the world. This global interconnectivity allow for the collaborative sharing and proliferation of knowledge. Transmedia storytelling exemplifies learning in the 21st century.

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Barry Kort's picture
Barry Kort
Retired Volunteer Science Educator at the Boston Museum of Science

I agree that we need to make more use of storycraft in education -- especially STEM education.

The Bardic Arts in Education

Tannie Braziel's picture

Transmedia should also be an effective teaching strategy for instruction to English Language Learners who are culturally or linguistically diverse, to help them become mainstream curriculum proficient in reading, listening, and responding in English.

Denise M. Cassano's picture
Denise M. Cassano
Artist, Educator, Dog Lover

Fantastic post- the most important part is, "Participants engage, inform, inspire, connect and collaborate over content. It is this interconnectedness that fosters a dialogue which connects learners around the world." The more we can get students to communicate with people from other places, the more literate -and peaceful- the world will be.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Laura,
I must confess that I have never heard of transmedia - and that is something that I will endeavour to remedy immediately. It's a fascinating idea, and as a teacher, I've always tried to explain/ demonstrate/ show/ tell in three different ways each important idea or concept, so that suggests a certain similarity with transmedia.

Thank you for the resources.

Connie Jordan's picture

Major studios and publishers have forgotten that there is a big difference between story-showing, and storytelling. You can't tell a good story without an engaged audience.

Natalia Leon Amador's picture
Natalia Leon Amador
Author, Podcaster, and Teacher Consultant.

"Developing a narrative over multiple platforms while interweaving learning outcomes creates transformational learning experiences." I could not have said it better myself. Transmedia storytelling has shifted the life of my students, my brothers, and even boyfriends. I have seen how empowering it is for a student to create content and start a conversation about their learning process-even if they think they're not talking about education, because yeah that's boring. I am advocate and absolute passionate storyteller and what a more beautiful way to tell one where you combine all the possibilities at hand.

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