Engage Your Students with Transmedia Stories

Instructional Strategies: 
Writing Process

Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.”

According Henry Jenkins, a media scholar, each platform offers a unique and original contribution to the overall story experience. The use of different media has the ability to “flesh out the world, to extend the time line, to deepen our familiarity with the characters, and to increase our engagement.”

For a comprehensive overview of transmedia, check out T is for Transmedia: Learning Through Transmedia Play.

Also see the many annotated resources listed in 34 Great Transmedia Storytelling Resources.

However, the most effective way to appreciate transmedia storytelling is by seeing an example.  Check out Inanimate Alice, written by Kate Pullinger and produced by Ian Harper.  An award-winning story, the setting for this “digital novel,” is a technology-augmented near-future.  The story begins in China when Alice is eight years old.  Each episode recounts the world-wide journey of Alice and Brad as they travel towards their final destiny. Alice ultimately grows up to become a videogame designer at the biggest games company in the world. 

In the September/October issue of Reading Today published by the International Reading Association (Volume 32, Number 2, page 28), Laura Fleming, a librarian media specialist at New Milford High School in New Milford High School in New Jersey, describes how she uses Inanimate Alice with her students. They generated content by creating their own next episodes. They wrote their own narratives, using various tools and resources, print and digital, and even remixing the Inanimate Alice assets to tell an original story.

Transmedia storytelling offers many benefits to struggling readers, especially because the mix of text, images, video, music, sound effects, puzzles, and games brings the story fully to life.  It is interactive, allowing students to enter the story at multiple points and engage with the story in multiple ways. Transmedia stories translate the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into practice.

In PowerUp WHAT WORKS, the 12 ELA Instructional Strategy Guides can help you support your use of transmedia stories. The evidence-based instructional strategies will help you promote reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and the writing process, core skills students need to be college and career ready.

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