Role of Transmedia in Education

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. We have all seen Disney’s characters like Mickey Mouse. We have seen Mickey in animation films. Many of us have seen it in form of toys. A few of us have been to the Disneyland where we have seen it in physical form or as rides. Mickey Mouse is a character that lives in a transmedia world. Basically we can access Mickey Mouse through various media. Their is no one media where we can access it completely. To get a complete grasp of Mickey Mouse you need to experience it in different ways.

We can find multiple examples of famous transmedia worlds. Doraemon, Pokemon, Super Mario, Star Wars are all based in transmedia worlds. They are some of the highest grossing media properties in the world. Kids all over the world love them. The characters of a transmedia world live in a world whose story can be told using different media. Each media provides a new way of entering into the preexisting world which was introduced by some other media. Henry Jenkins is world renowned researcher on transmedia storytelling.

Since kids love transmedia storytelling we can use transmedia worlds for education. If we combine school curriculum with transmedia storytelling we can get a very scalable form of education which kids will love the world over. Transmedia storytelling is scalable because in today’s digital age we can create images, videos, mobile games around transmedia world. Once we create something we can reach nearly all the kids who have access to the smartphone.

Unfortunately most big corporates have not used the power of their characters for education. We do sometimes find a few educational posters or images but generally that’s it. Also if some teacher wants to use the famous transmedia characters for education legally he or she will be indulging in copyright infringement. Big corporates have not only been slow or blind to the educational use of transmedia worlds they have created barriers for others to create assets in a transmedia world.

We need a few open transmedia worlds which can be used for educational uses without payment of any royalties and complex negotiations of royalty agreements. I have personally started a transmedia world called ‘Fun Galaxy’ as a way for kids to learn in a fun way.

Fun Galaxy Character : Trio
Fun Galaxy Character : Ciri
Fun Galaxy Character : Squaro
Fun Galaxy Character : Dr Science

Fun Galaxy has 3 main characters — Trio, Squaro and Ciri. They are smiley shaped robots. They want to create a strong house for themselves. They want to learn the techniques for construction of a strong house and thus start learning from 4 teachers named — Dr. Science, Dr. Maths, Dr. World and Dr. Word. The teachers are also smiley shaped robots. The teachers take them through various challenges in the Fun Galaxy to teach them. We also have 3 negative characters so that conditions for games can be created. Electronic games specially need negative characters sometimes.

We need more such open transmedia worlds for education. I have experimented with a few kids and they have all loved our characters and concept. We focus on creating 4 types of content around Fun Galaxy namely :

  1. Stories
  2. Images promoting Visual Thinking
  3. Games
  4. Music and Dance

Transmedia content can take any form and need not be limited to these 4 forms. We focus on these 4 forms since it is impossible for a small startup organisation to focus on everything all at once. Also these 4 can be shared via social media, YouTube and app marketplaces. That allows virality and easy sharing. Thus these 4 types of media are very scalable.

We have also researched in depth about each of the medium. Human beings are natural storytellers. Whenever 2 old friends or close relatives meet they instantaneously start sharing stories. Presentation experts talk about making presentations like stories to enable people to understand and remember them.

A large part of human brain is devoted to visual thinking. Vision trumps all senses when it comes to taking brain area for processing. Success of social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat confirms this. Most social media experts tell that social media content should focus on images.

Words are generally not enough for making concepts clear. Good images can make things clear instantaneously. Images combined with words are the most powerful. Experts like Dan Roam and Sunny Brown have written good books on visual thinking.

I have been making electronic games since childhood. I loved playing Super Mario so much that I started learning serious programming at the age of 11. I wanted to build a Super Mario kind of game or a car racing game. It took me 24 years to perfect the art of building games like Super Mario. I learnt many computer languages, co-ordinate geometry, artificial intelligence, physics engines, storytelling and psychology in the process. Games are played the world over.

Games can be in form of board games or they can be in form of activities. For last few decades we can also play games electronically. The smartphone has made electronic games accessible to a large population of the world. Many companies are using games to teach concepts. We need more innovation in this area. I have been the co-founder of an EdTech startup which wanted to create educational games. It is generally difficult to create the right combination of games and education.

Many educational games are either boring or do not have much of education. Some just merge testing with games and feel like chocolate dipped broccoli. It does not taste like broccoli nor does it taste like chocolate. In the end nobody is happy with them. Our initial educational game was also like that.

Through my experience I can tell that games need to enable maker activities to enable learning. I learned more from making games than playing games. So thats one direction where more entrepreneurs should invest time and money. Also the gaming and learning should be better merged. A customisable version of Angry Birds which allows changing values of its internal physics engine can be a good way of teaching physics to kids.

Indians love music and dance. Our films are incomplete without music and dance. Even our weddings are incomplete without them. Indians do not have monopoly over music and dance. We also find Hollywood films having music and dance. Ballet and pop music is famous worldwide. Howard Gardner tells in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences that humans have a separate intelligence for music and bodily-kinesthetic activities. It would be tragic if we do not use 2 forms of intelligence which all humans have in some amount or the other.

Musical intelligence can be used to get people remember facts. Most people who learn english remember the alphabets because they rhyme. Most Indians find difficult to learn Hindi alphabets since they are not taught in form of a rhyme. I personally was able to learn counting in Japanese by viewing a counting song on YouTube. Even my 7 years old son and 3 years old daughter learnt japanese numbers till 20 using that song.

Dance has its own benefits. After I learnt Japanese counting through YouTube I enrolled into a formal Japanese course. When the teacher started teaching Hiragana script in the class I found it relatively difficult to remember all the alphabets and their shapes. 2 things helped me. I found it easy to remember alphabet names in Hiragana because they matched some combination of Hindi alphabets. The major problem that still remained was learning the alphabet shapes.

I created a dance around alphabet shapes to remember them. The dance did help me. I used to move hands in the shape of characters. Although I did forget characters after some time due to lack of use and practice but I still remember characters better due to that dance.

Thus we see that multiple media can help us remember and learn things in different ways. If we combine them with curriculum we can get a very good way of teaching. My team thinks we will be able to help kids using our transmedia world.

I have founded an open education project called Fun2Do Labs. To know more about it visit : . Subscribe to me on Medium to read my posts on education and technology.

Founder: Fun2Do Labs, Ex-Vice President: Paytm, Author : Mobile Phone Programming Book