After an excellent lunch with some debriefing about the round table sessions with some new friends, it was time return to the ClassTech conference stream for session three of the day, with Cathie Howe and Dr. Nerida McCredie presenting under the title Transmedia storytelling for education. It was a title that left me perplexed, as the concept of transmedia was not one I’d heard often, and never in conjunction with literacy or storytelling. They defined transmedia as being “the systematic unfolding of elements across a story world, with multiple elements in multiple platforms.” and gave Star Wars Uncut as one example of where transmedia has occurred, and listed some research papers that had informed their own project (two of these are included at the end of this article).
Cathie and Dr. McCredie elaborated on this by speaking about a project they ran called Weaving a Storyworld Web (WSWW), which was based around three principles of transmedia storytelling:
- Extends the world of the story, making it richer and deeper than the story alone,
- Includes and makes use of media components to enrich the storyworld, and
- Opportunity for readers to become players in and contributors to the story.
This can occur through students mining a story point to uncover a hidden gem, such as creating a list of Cinderella’s chores; through partnering with the author to expand and explore the storyworld, wherein students become ‘co-authors’ to explore and add to the storyscape by adding to the storyworld, either before, during or after the story setting, such as adding what happened in the world of Harry Potter after the final book, or telling us about the lives of Harry Potter’s families; or by dreaming which involves students re-imagining, re-examining or recreating the story in a new way, such as re-imagining Little Red Riding Hood as a science-fiction story, or if Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook, was a woman.
This process involves significant analysis of the story, prior to the mining, partnering or dreaming stage to determine story points across themes of either character, plot or location, to ensure a thorough understanding of the storyworld, and those story points are then the triggers for learning. Story points act as anchors on discussions, and the creation of the story web, where possible should be a physical act.
Transmedia, it seems, aims to put the reader into multiple sets of shoes as they play the part of reader, viewer and co-creators through the production of transmedia artefact as part of the process.
I’m ambivalent on the practicality or effectiveness of the concept of transmedia in as far as the process of weaving a story world is something that many teachers do as part of any literature study, but not necessarily with the physical web creation, or in quite the same format as has been described here.
The second presenter for this session was Susan Bowler, under the title of Robotics in the Classroom, a topic I had heard much praise for, but with which I had no experience, and only limited curiosity. For some reason when I think of robotics in any context, I get one of two images in my head, that of Short Circuit, from the 1986 movie of the same name, or ‘Arnie’ as the Terminator.
I’m not sure why that is, but there you have it. It seems that Robotics in the classroom can be as expensive as you want to make it, but it can also be done on a shoestring budget, with prices starting, at this point in time, for around USD$30 for Arduino and Raspberry Pi all the way up to the top end, which is apparently the Lego MindStorms.
Robotics can serve a wide range of cross-curricular purposes, encompassing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, design, and software design and development. Robotics appeals to students as they represent an open-ended challenge, and can be as simple or as complex as the users skill level, starting with such simple programming needs as back and forth movement, all the way up to multiple sensors and other complexities.
Two online resources were mentioned as being particularly useful: the Lego Education website and Damien Kee’s website. Other sites of interest include the RoboCup Junior website which also contains a document with a draft unit of work in scope and sequence format, StemCentric, and the Dr Graeme site. Additionally, Robogals is an organisation that focuses on increasing the rate at which females become involved with science and technology, and are able to do school visits to drive robotics interest among the girls of a school.
I didn’t find this session as interesting as I had some other sessions, but the foci were on two areas that I’ve not had any dealings with, nor feel any particular interest towards.
My next article will focus on the final session of the ClassTech conference stream, a presentation by world-renowned Makerspace proponent, Gary Stager.
As always, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I’m especially interested to hear from those who have utilised robotics or WSWW in their school, and how it played out for you.
Journal article references from the Transmedia storytelling for education presentation.
- Jenkins, Harry (2010), Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: An annotated syllabus, Continuum, 24, 6. (paywall access)
- Miller, C. H. (2004). Digital storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Taylor & Francis.