As a shift from print based texts and stories moves to a more digital model we need to be aware of how we present stories and information.
Tools such as iBooks authors and Google Play books offered digital versions of books, but that are still presented in a serial format, adhering to a traditional sense of text. They may have embedded media or multiple choice questions (don’t get me started…) or links, but they are not taking advantage of what is possible with technology today. Adding links, video, and sound is good, but we shouldn’t limit the digital potential to limited creation tools.
We can do better.
Carr (2010), points out, “We need to take advantage of the medium and create something dynamic to enhance the experience. I want links and behind the scenes extras and narration and videos and conversation…you change what it is and you change, as well, the experience of reading it……the book’s migration to the digital realm would not be a simple matter of trading ink for pixels” (p. 103).
The digitization of text opens up new potential for interactive and multimodal experiences. A text simply transferred to a e-reader or tablet with page like flipping and colours to make it look exactly like a page in a book isn’t engaging the potential and promise of what could be provided as a digital experience.
Luce-Kapler and Dobson (2005) found that when readers contrasted experiences of reading traditional prose versus hyperfiction (their term for mulitmodal text) they had to let go of familiar notions about the structure of text. The story was not necessarily sequential or linear in nature and “it was only when they could give up those expectations and find meaning in each individual node that they could begin to develop an overall sense of what the hyperfiction might mean. It seemed they had to be prepared to be lost in the text, something these readers were not used to being” (p. 13) Being ‘lost’ in text could be exactly what our learners need. A sense of exploration and finding their own path of learning through a text allows them to take ownership of the story.
Hegarty (2004) reminds us that it is not just about the style of the text, but also about the content which is trying to be delivered, and the skills needed to interpret and construct meaning from the content being presented.
“…we need more attention to what is to be learned in a given situation and the abilities (especially internal visualization abilities) that learners bring to the situation in order to improve our understanding of how dynamic media can be best used in the educational process and how the educational process itself must adapt to the availability of new media” (Hegarty, 2004, p. 349).
An enhanced pdf or epub format is not enough for people to truly embrace the power technology has to transform learning. If we just digitize ink technology is just a tool and not the transformational tool it could be.
Here are some examples of truly immersive digital text:
Land of Me
The Land of Me is an immersive storytelling world for young children. Students learn from characters who speak and react to them. The various chapters of the books are directed to different topics. My favourite is the story time chapter where students get work with Olive the Turtle to help create their own story using the characters and ideas they been working with throughout the other chapters.
When students make a choice, the story instantly reacts to their ideas. The idea that students are in charge of a creative learning storytelling space means that they can take ownership of their learning. When using it with young learners, they used the characters and ideas in their own writing and art. Land of Me recognizes that students can write in and create in a variety of ways and that a story can be a very interactive, creative, multimodal experience instead of a static, passive, one way experience. There is text to read and questions to answer. The animals also speak and react to your choices. Land of Me is a downloadable program, for a small cost, which needs to be installed on your computer, available here. The iOS app is free
“Wake up you lazy lot, let’s go adventuring!”
Bear 71 is a story which takes advantage of geolocation to tell the journey of Bear 71, a Grizzly Bear living near Banff. It uses the tracking collar of the animal to place it on a map. It interacts with the webcam and microphone on the computer to bring the user into the story and as you move your mouse it geolocates you to move through the area. You come across other animals with tracking collars, and locations with motion activated cameras, trail cams and webcams showing the tracked animals as they move. Bear 71’s story is told with the aid of camera footage and a map.
Electronic Literature Collections
Electronic Literature Collection Volume One:
From the NFB (National Film Board) Pine Point tells the story of a mining community in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The community was preplanned, brought in, then hauled away and wiped off the map when the mine closed.
This is the story of the community and the people who lived there, but it is told in a way I’ve never seen before.
It’s told with video, sound, image, text, narration, and interactivity. You guide yourself through the story, clicking on pictures and videos to learn more. You are not just a passive viewer or reader, you lead the story.
The visual elements and features are amazing and the story, found on the Canadian National Film Board Site, interestingly, is one of the best I’ve seen. It was created by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons. They describe their work as story based media.
“The Town of Pine Point remains an unfinished sentence” is a line of text, but I think with this work it brings the town back to life.
Enjoy the story of Pine Point here: http://www.pinepoint.nfb.ca A true example of the power of writing and the web.
The Test Tube is a 60 second story, narrated by David Suzuki, about environmentalism and exponential growth which pulls in a live twitter feed based on user input.
2009: A True Story
2009 is an online drama, written by Tony Valenzuela and Jeffery Hunt based on three major US cities having been destroyed through the eyes of a webcam blogger, Sara, about the changes in government and life. There is also a side storyline told by her brother, Adam, a part of the military. His story is told through ‘helmet cams’ which the military uses to capture and record events.
2009 harnesses the power of video and audio mediums to tell an engaging multimodal story. There is text in the form of Sara’s journal which you can click on laying on the ground and read, it’s another piece to form the tale which is 2009.
The webcam ‘blogs’ that form the story can be found on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/2009atruestory Podcasts from Sarah, the main character can be found on itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/2009-a-true-story/id278532067
The soundtrack from the story can be downloaded here: http://www.2009atruestory.com/assets/music/2009ATS_320.mp3
This is a tale of despair, violence, fear, and uncertainty. It’s not for young children, and as it is an online story, it doesn’t have an age rating. When do we get to the point that this new medium of storytelling and sharing will need parental ratings?
Carr, N. (2010). The shallows. London: Atlantic Books.
Hegarty, M. (2004). Dynamic visualizations and learning: Getting to difficult questions. Learning and Instruction, 14, 343–351.
Luce-Kapler, R., & Dobson, T. (2005). In search of a story: Reading and writing in e-literature. Reading Online, 8(6), 1-16.