An Educational Path to Media Convergence
Imagine this: a language arts teacher asks her middle school students to translate a poem into computer code. The students use icons or letters to produce a new language and way of seeing poetry. They can also translate the poem’s code into an actual programming language, such as Scratch, and so animate the poem. They could put the poem into LEGO Mindstorms EV3's robot-programming language to create - well, that is yet to be seen.
This is transmedia - the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using digital technologies. It is not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media sequels or adaptations, such as a novel made into a film.
The poetry activity lets students see connections between languages, grammar and code.
Transmedia, literally “across media” may have its origin in entertainment franchises, but it is being pulled into education purposes.
It is a constructivist educational pedagogy that supports student-centered learning. It requires students to use personalized meaning-making. is both valuable and becoming more and more common. While teachers like Sansing are using coding and programming in their language arts instruction, others are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated apps and interactive media for classroom use.
Some of this occurred ten years ago in classes using virtual worlds like Second Life, and now is happening to a degree with young students building environments in Minecraft. But the retelling of a poem in a programming language is a big leap from visualizing a novel on paper or on a screen.
Transmedia storytelling emerged from outside education in the world of commercial media. The term “transmedia” seems to have been coined in 1991 by Marsha Kinder in her book Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games. The media examples she uses may be a decade old but her descriptions of how cross-platform entertainment franchises (such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” who have returned to the big screen this summer) successfully cross mediums.
In the classroom, transmedia does not seem as odd today with the multiple platforms students already use to connect and communicate. They probably do that more frequently and with more enthusiasm and facility outside of classrooms. It is unfortunate that it is not being utilized more by educators.
Transmedia as a pedagogical tool with students interacting with platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr opens up new viewpoints, and resources in a shared way that can be immersive.
It is a natural path to thinking critically, ownership of learning and the natural acquisition of knowledge.
In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Henry Jenkins, founder and director of MIT's comparative media studies program, posits that it's not as simple as new media will replace old media. He says that it is more likely that new media will interact with older media in a complex relationship which he calls "convergence culture."
Transmedia might be one educational path to convergence.