In transmedia storytelling, elements of a story are dispersed strategically across multiple entertainment platforms (television, books, comics, games, etc.) in order to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience where each story element makes a unique contribution and brings to bear the strengths of its medium.
Even when a transmedia story is not overtly educational, it offers real opportunities to support learning. These are my top 3 examples:
1) Additive comprehension. A transmedia story is like a puzzle; with each new piece, the audience updates its understanding of the whole. For example, a child reads a chapter book, then plays a game that allows her to create her own trajectory through the story, and then watches an appisode that deepens her understanding of a secondary character. With each step, she updates her mental model of the story, and when she reads the chapter book a second time, she brings those additional layers into the second reading.
2) Language as a tool. There are countless examples of kids picking up foreign vocabulary in order to play a video game or watch a television program in that language. Language can be a tool that unlocks non-textual components of a story (for example, a forum discussion on how to beat a difficult game level), and even struggling readers will reach outside their comfort zones in order to continue with the larger story.
3) Transmedia navigation. In a transmedia story, the audience learns how to scan across media to collect the story pieces as well as how to focus and drill down. This is called “transmedia navigation,” and it is an important new media literacy skill that sets the stage for becoming active in today’s participatory culture.