Today’s post is inspired by the transmedia series my friend and colleague, Megan Grandmont, just finished on her blog, A Classroom With A View. You can read the series here (and I highly recommend you do as it will likely put this post and its content in context with a larger conversation and topic in academia). In her second post,
she links to a transmedia project I created (which also happens to be a kind of fanfic of sorts) for a young adult lit course I took at SSU. The project can be found here: Luna’s Diary Vlogs. For today’s post I wanted to talk about this project in depth (ignoring my cringe-worthy acting) as well as the potential of using something like this for a summer reading assessment.
As I said above, this project was created as my final assignment for my SSU young adult lit course. For this assignment, I created a proposed assignment for a high school ELA class that asked students to create a transmedia (and multimodal) text in which they rewrite at least one scene from the perspective of another character. As part of this project I also created my own ‘fanfic’ version of Julie Anne Peters’ novel, Luna, as a model to show students.
So what makes my Tumblr page transmedia? The important part that makes this transmedia is actually that it is not all hosted on Tumblr– some of this story is created through vlogs hosted on Youtube. Were every video, image, and alphabetic text posted directly on Tumblr, this project would be multimodal but NOT transmedial. Now, for the sake of privacy (and potential copyright issues– even though technically this is all for educational purposes and therefore falls under fair use), originally everything associated with this project was private and password protected. However, for the sake of Megan and I blogging about it, I made the tumblr page public but kept everything else private. I mention these privacy concerns in terms of posting to multiple platforms (a necessity in order to be transmedia) because it is important to the assignment I am about to propose.
This leads me to the second part of the title of this post– summer reading. I have often heard from many teachers that assessing summer reading is difficult or becomes boring. For some, it is difficult because students are given 10-20 options for books (and sometimes, you just can’t read all of them as a teacher), but for others, they don’t want the assessment to be something boring like a quiz or essay to start of the year because it attaches grades very clearly to something we want students to find fun (you know, reading during the summer, seriously, it can be fun!). So my proposed assignment, although outside the box, is a transmedial ‘fanfic’ of students’ summer reading book. Let me just clarify before I get into the assignment, that this would require teaching transmedia as well as the tools to create a transmedia text to students beforehand (either freshman year to have them do it every year following or the first week of school). So here’s the assignment (a PDF version can be found here):
I want to note that due to privacy and safety concerns students may technically post everything on one platform, but using the fake social media generators, they are privately and safely pretending to post a transmedial text (and the concept is what’s important to me rather than technical execution since these students are largely minors). For some, not being literal to the term by having students actually use the platforms might make this assignment seem less worthwhile and meaningful for their students, and I can understand that. However, for me, the distinction between actually doing transmedia versus demonstrating understanding of the concept via fake social media generators is still meaningful and worthwhile. This is, for me, just something that would need to be explained to students so that they leave this assignment knowing what transmedia is in a literal sense versus what they safely did as a ‘psedo-example’ of transmedia.
Obviously an assignment like this needs a great deal of scaffolding (like I said earlier, either at the beginning of high school to continue throughout their 4 years or at the beginning of the year), but I do believe this would incredibly fun for students. It also gets them engaging in an important discussion about about online privacy and safety. Furthermore, I believe the more we can utilize multimodality and digital resources in our classroom, the better off our students will be in their future high school career but also their careers outside of the classroom. However, I am aware that an assignment like this simply couldn’t be done in all districts. In districts where access to technology isn’t an issue, this could be really fun, and I would not recommend an assignment like this in a district where at-home access isn’t certain (transmedia and multimodality can be taught in other ways, in school, so you don’t ‘punish’ students without access).
Have you ever had students create a transmedia text before? Have you ever read transmedia texts (or used them to accompany canonical texts)? Let me know!