Teaching Students to Be Multimedia Storytellers

Filed in: Media Literacy, Schools

Filed by Sarah Jackson


6.29.11 | We wanted to point Spotlight readers to a new, powerful collection on the National Writing Project’s Digital Is website. Reading and Writing Transmedia is curated by Laura Fleming, a library media specialist in River Edge, N.J., who blogs regularly about the connection between transmedia and education.

One of our earlier stories, “The Future of Reading and Writing is Collaborative,” explains how digital texts combine images, words and sounds. Transmedia storytelling takes this even further: multi-layered stories are told and built upon across multiple media platforms, often by many participants.

Fleming says today’s reading and writing instruction must include teaching students to be collaborative storytellers. In an introductory post on her own blog, she quotes game designer Alex Fleetwood, who says today’s young writers should have an understanding of platforms, collaboration and writing for interaction.

Digital Is (http://digitalis.nwp.org/) is designed as a community for educators (both in school and out) to create and disseminate resources on teaching, writing and new media literacies.

A companion site to the book “Because Digital Writing Matters,” the site features resource collections curated by members of the NWP teacher network and submitted by community members.

And if you haven’t yet visited, this new collection is great reason to check it out.

Reading and Writing Transmedia includes a video of Henry Jenkins talking about his idea of participatory culture, which we’ve written about a great deal on Spotlight. Jenkins may have coined the term transmedia storytelling and his ideas about all of us taking more active roles, as “readers and writers, listeners and speakers, viewers and producers of media” are important in understanding why this collection is so valuable.

Fleming also highlights “Inanimate Alice,” a multimedia book written by Kate Pullinger and published by the BradField Company.  The book uses text, sound, images and games to tell the story of Alice and her imaginary digital friend, Brad.

But most exciting is Flemings’ resource section, Teacher Created Transmedia Experiences, where she builds on the idea of use remixing in the classroom. [See “Remixing as a Classroom Strategy” for more background.]

Fleming describes her own project with fifth graders using the book “Weslandia” by Paul Fleischman. She provides resources on how to remix existing materials into transmedia stories about the main character, Wesley.

Together we read the story Weslandia, and explored places in which we could extend the narrative. Not surprisingly, students wanted to create a Facebook page for Wesley. They felt that seeing who his friends were, what his interests were, and by reading his status updates, we would have a deeper understanding into Wesley as a character and how being an outsider made him feel. Students also expressed interest in examining Wesley’s struggle with fitting in and what events may have occurred before Weslandia that shaped Wesley into the boy that he is.

Fleming describes how the activity extended into music, physical education, journal entries and “participatory improv.”

“An emotional connection to a narrative,” she says, “will bring the content to life in the minds and imaginations of learners.”

View the entire collection at Digital Is.

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