Transmedia time: synergy through digital storytelling, social technology, multimedia and gaming

Annette LambDr. Annette Lamb, a visiting professor who teaches online courses for Indiana University-Indianapolis, leads the day with a discussion on enhancing the classroom with technology. Lamb also runs Eduscapes.com, a site life-long learners of all ages. Her presentation was to cover the following, but it was a lot more.

Discover practical ways educators can build technology-rich, fluid environments for learning using existing online content, resources and tools. Annette will share many examples that can be used in the classroom.

In just over an hour, Lamb took us through a whirlwind journey of transmedia learning. Reflecting on what Lamb discussed during this presentation can be seen in many different forms. For example, you can read about it here, you can view her supporting Web site for much more detail, or you can watch it as a YouTube presentation delivered by the University of Wyoming Outreach (still rendering).

Lamb seems to be neither pro nor against the use of technology. It is a matter of choosing the best resource for the situation. Every technology is the right technology based on the situation. Lamb also seems to be in favor of open access, at least all of her courses are available for others to examine. I am a personal fan of this thought, I also encourage making information available for others. It is through our curation that we make it easier for others to learn.

Lamb points out that all technologies are coming together to help us learn. Presently, we are using different devices to from which to learn from books to televisions and computers to phones. However, these devices are rapidly merging. Our world is also merging through transmedia storytelling. Throughout her presentation, she highlights countless resources which exemplify this concept.

One of the first people she highlighted was Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and technologist who helped write the one of the first iBooks, Life on Earth. Lamb points out that this is a great example because of all the powerful interactive features. We are at a crossroads; presently, we are lacking effective content for the tools in use such as iPads and other mobile devices. The good news is that they are on their way. These new books help make learning interactive because there is an opportunity to explore. Learning can also be global because the textbook can be a jumping off point to an online activity.

Lamb continues by mentioning Pottermore, a place where readers can immerse themselves into the writings of J.K. Rowling. Pottermore allows readers to explore aspects of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts by assuming a character and participating with others around the world. Readers can gain unique information and perspectives not shared in other formats.

Transmedia environments

Lamb explains transmedia environments have been around for approximately ten years. As she continues, transmedia environments include key elements that by themselves are not unique but when weaved together, they become quite powerful. These elements include storytelling, interactivity, social, multimedia, and gaming. Lamb then goes on to explain each of these elements.

Storytelling

She points out that current publishers are enhancing their books with interactive technologies. For example, students can immerse themselves in the characters of the book by becoming one of the characters with an avatar creator. Using maps, they can explore various locations of a book by actually seeing the location in Google Maps or Google Earth. They can also draw pictures and share essays with others fans of the book.

Lamb shows countless examples of how interactivity tools have been woven into storytelling and then specifically addresses the different tools. Here are examples of interactive books that she mentioned.

March of the dinosaurs is an example of a book where readers can explore additional content associated with the story.  Readers can watch animations, and drill down for more information. Basically, readers, or experiencers as Lamb calls them, can participate in the stories they are reading. They are active in their learning rather than passive. Because learning  is how we apply what we know, and because each person is different in how they learn, we need to create different opportunities for how they interact with content. Some learners enjoy the social piece, others like the visual piece.

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land. This interactive book provides additional content such as videos, audio recordings by different readers, explanations of passages, etc. This additional content can help motivate learners to read more. Different elements can be used as different entry points to learning.

At this point, Lamb provides a myriad of examples demonstrating storytelling differently in the classroom. For example, she describes a storytelling activity where Microsoft Word is not to be used. Or another exercise where the story is developed using Twitter.

Lamb advocates telling stories through maps, news, comics, artifacts, and other tools.

Maps

Lamb shows a number of great examples of telling stories using maps. She begins by describing her day while showing a map of her morning travels using Google Map. She describes how this can be an exercise for students such as taking a hike and telling short stories on Google Maps or Google Earth. She highlights a couple of books and authors who use maps within their books. The destinations included in the books are real destinations that can be viewed using Google maps. Here are some examples: NERDS and Holly Lisle books. She also introduced Google Map Maker to the group. Finally, Lamb included an article that sparked my interest at least, What would Proust do with Google Maps?

News

Next Lamb talked about using news for storytelling. The news could be what was happening in the moment, or what happened in history. She included a set of wonderful resources to be explored. She noted the importance of generations, explaining that people of different ages read different books, watched different movies.  When writing a story, you can note these differences and find artifacts to show realism. We can access and display these items thanks to online resources. We can incorporate these items into stories.

  • The Times Machine from the New York Times will show you the front page of the New York Times paper for any date in its history.
  • Newseum will allow you to examine the top stories for different newspapers across the nation on any given day.

Comics

Comics are another great way to teach storytelling. With comics, you can tell a short story very quickly. Comics can also be used to discuss a topic in the classroom. Simply do a search for your topic and include the word comics. Searching through Google Books is another place to look for ideas that you can later purchase if you find appropriate. Lamb also spoke about other books that were novels with many images and only sparse amounts of text. She concluded with one of her favorite comic design tools… Pixton.

Artifacts

Some books now include physical documents. These tangible items can be weaved into a class, or just appreciated by the reader. In the Personal Effects: Dark Art by J.C. Hutchins, readers can explore the physical documents that come with the book to solve the mystery as well as interact with the Web site and phone number associated with the book. As a reader, you can participate on the Web site and immerse yourself into the story. (Readers are reporting the Website is no longer functional).

With an iPad application called Skulls, users can interact with different types of skulls by rotating them on different axes. Another application called X is for X-rays, shows x-ray images of different items in an effort examine their inner workings.

Indiana is building Transmedia Indiana, an interactive look at Indiana’s history. Viewers will be able to examine artifacts, view videos, listen to audio recordings, and read about this rich history.

Generators

Generators are tools that allow learners to build newspapers, posters, word clouds, and other items as a way to tell a story. Big huge labs has the greatest variety of generators from creating movie posters to fortune cookies. Red kids is another generator worth checking out. Lamb recommends having students use generators to incorporate elements into their stories, or using word clouds to generate a new activity such as writing about the word that jump out at you when you see a word cloud.

Here are other tools Lamb mentioned:

With different curation tools students can pull together resources and write a story. Lamb mentioned these two resources: Only2clicks.com and Kerpoof.com.

One takeaway from this section was the importance of giving students choices for an assignment. Do not make all assignments written essays. One noteworthy example Lamb left with us was having physics students use Google Maps to tell a story where they had to identify and explain different items they saw on their journey which incorporated a physics principle they were using in class.

Social technologies

Lamb began by explain that social technologies are about posting, participating, profile building, and mash up building. She introduced a useful site for readers and writers called Figment.com. By using a site like this in the classroom, learners gain a positive view of technology. Figment is a place to find others for peer review for original content. A wiki can also be used to develop characters, and to flesh out a story with other students. Here are other examples:

Gaming

Finally, Lamb discusses the inclusion of games into learning and storytelling. She believes there has to be a goal to the game in relation to learning not simply to be something to do. While discussing this topic she quickly talks about choose your own adventures, the MIT mystery hunt, games with QR codes, and Jewel of the Valleys, a serious game about a Civil War Alternate Reality Game. More and more publishers are creating games to support their books. Lamb also introduced a game she created called Google Cards: Creatures. Again, she introduced a number of other resources to include:

All I can say is that this was a great presentation on how to teach different. I am glad I had the opportunity to watch her speak. These ideas are in line with how I think about education and learning. I hope the resources provided give you a glimpse into the inspirational presentation given.

Lamb also has a new book out called Graphic Inquiry. It looks like one that I will be picking up soon.