Reading Review Blog Post #3: Research Synopsis

When I first started on this inquiry project, I was not sure where I wanted to go and what I wanted to learn.  I had an abundance of options stemming from my interests and foreseeable opportunities and issues.  I wanted to make sure that whatever I focused on I would be able to apply not only to my current teaching situation (as a teacher librarian and Grade One teacher) but also to potential positions in the future (since I am on the never-ending layoff/recall loop).  Not only that, but I wanted to be able to apply it right away and be able to share ideas/strategies with colleagues (don’t we get most of our most fabulous ideas from each other?).  Bearing that in mind, I narrowed my brainstorm down into a number of possible keyword options which eventually led me down the path to my current research: using technology to motivate students in order to improve their (traditional) literacy skills (reading and writing).

As I mentioned in my previous post, my initial research venture was a bit overwhelming. I had started with the course reading suggestions, moved on to the UBC library website, and forayed into Google, but in the process, got myself confused as to what I was even trying to learn!  Once I refocused on my original goal (ways of using technology to improve and motivate students’ literacy skills) and decided upon what I wanted to learn (a variety of techniques/tools as opposed to focusing on one specific method, such as digital storytelling), I was better able to hone in on more appropriate articles, posts, and videos.

Image by nicubunu acquired from OCAL.

It really emphasized how overpowering the Internet can be (since it is inundated with information, it is easy to get lost in your research, which is something to remember when working with students).

In the end, I narrowed down my research to five articles and one video (which is directly connected to one of the articles).  Each of the five articles provides unique ways of using technology to motivate students and improve their literacy skills. There were definitely many other articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. that I could have used, but I chose the ones that I felt were easy to understand, quick to get to the point, and immediately useful.  I cannot tell you how many dry, longwinded studies I came across (particularly on e-books!), so it took a bit of time to find appropriate entries that met my needs. Although I narrowed my specific research to five articles, I did bookmark a few additional ones for future reference (some of which were related directly to an article I had focused on, such as using Inanimate Alice, or were additional ideas to use, such as other ways of using technology by Hani Morgan).

The article that played a primary role in focusing my research was Beth Holland’s Projects to Engage Middle School Readers.  I came across her article while I was browsing through Edutopia’s website (which had been recently recommended to me by a colleague). I liked that her article gave me simple, concrete ways to use technology in order to motivate students and improve their literacy skills. It was like a light bulb went off – this is exactly what I was looking for. In her article, Holland (2013) describes how she “ruined at least two amazing literary works by assigning horrifically dull reading projects.”  I could not help but chuckle at her Charlie Brown clip where Lucy counts every single word of her writing project – we all know students who begrudgingly write their assignments to the exact word counts.  Rather, Holland suggests how to meet literacy objectives through more creative, engaging, and motivating means (as opposed to essays or book reports), by having students make book trailers, podcasts, choose your own adventure books, illustrated character analyses, and augmented reality author studies using technology.  For each project, she suggests what program to use, provides samples, and links it directly to literacy learning.  Book trailers, for example, built with iMovie or Animoto “ensure that students have a firm grasp on the story’s plot, setting, theme, and main characters, but they also provide an opportunity to address persuasive writing as well as digital literacy concepts like copyright and publishing” (Holland, 2013). See one of the samples below:

I really enjoyed seeing specific samples and having specific technology suggested for implementation so that I would not have to spend hours finding just the right program.  This helped focus my topic, because I knew right away that I wanted to find out more ways to use technology to motivate and improve students’ literacy learning.

With that in mind, I continued to browse Edutopia’s website and came across Laura Fleming’s (2011) article, “A New Model of Storytelling: Transmedia” where she wrote, “Over the years, I have seen many children who struggle with reading because of lack of engagement with traditional books and stories…After some experimenting within my classes, I found a way to successfully engage and capture the attention of all of my students. As a result of this, a new model of storytelling emerged for me: Transmedia.”  I had never (perhaps embarrassingly) heard of the term, transmedia storytelling, before, but since it, according to Fleming, had such a powerful effect on her students, I was curious to discover more. This, in turn, led me to her journal article called “Expanding Learning Opportunities with Transmedia Practices: Inanimate Alice as an Exemplar.”  Although her article is probably a bit drier in reading than my other entries, I found it very fascinating. She describes how transmedia storytelling uses multiple platforms (both virtual and physical), various entry points of learning, integrated technology, real-life experiences, collaboration, and constructivist and connectivist teachings to engage and motivate students (even reluctant learners), focusing on Inanimate Alice as an example.  I had never heard of Inanimate Alice, but it sounded really unique in that it involved games, puzzles, sounds, and visuals to enhance the storyline and required direct participation from the reader. Reading about Fleming’s experience with Inanimate Alice got me excited and I found a few more articles on it, including Amanda Hovious’s 2014 article entitled “Inanimate Alice: ‘Born Digital’” and Kate Story’s 2011 article “Who the heck is Alice?”  Their articles helped paint a better picture of the digital novel and how to use it as a teacher or teacher-librarian. Hovious states, “In order for students to comprehend the story, they must go beyond reading words on screen – they must also make meaning out of images, sounds, and actions” (Hovious, 2014, p. 43). She compares reading Inanimate Alice to a role-playing game, as readers need to do more than just read – they have to explore Alice’s world. Inanimate Alice is separated into different episodes which focus on Alice at different times in her life and which end at very teachable times. As Story points
out, “This fascinating tale is unfinished and undecided and that is where our students stumble upon the treasure…[where we] teach students to apply critical and creative literacy skills to deconstruct and recreate digital fiction” (Story, 2011, p. 6). It got me so curious and excited that I went to Inanimate Alice’s website and viewed the first episode.  It is truly compelling and quite the experience (a bit scary even!), such that I highly recommend everyone visits the site to at least get a better understanding of the digital novel and its potential for learning. I can definitely see how transmedia storytelling can captivate and engage even reluctant readers.

After exploring Inanimate Alice, I further researched transmedia storytelling (there
are a wealth of links and ideas on it), which brought me to Patrick Carman’s TEDx talk and article, where he depicted his own use of transmedia to hook readers. I have heard of his books (and our library has many), but I had never really taken the time to explore what exactly they are (or how they were different).  This is such a guffaw on my part once I realized what they were! It further emphasizes the importance of truly knowing your collection (not just the titles, but what they are actually about!). His books are definitely quite different from Inanimate Alice, but the article and his video again highlighted the importance of using technology (in his case movies) to motivate students (in his case, to read). After exploring Inanimate Alice, however, I see potential in taking his books further for additional literacy learning (aside from just hooking kids to read) and can see really having fun using his books (and videos) in different ways.

With reading in mind, I came across Hani Morgan’s article entitled “Multimodal Children’s E-Books Help Young Learners in Reading.” I had already seen reading highlighted through transmedia storytelling (Inanimate Alice) and interactive texts (Patrick Carman), but I also wanted to find something that would apply to my younger students as well as my older students. Morgan’s article focused on multimodal e-books (also known as CD ROM storybooks, online storybooks, talking books, or e-book apps), which can be used for all ages, including young readers, as they provide guidance through additional text tools (i.e. visual displays of words, repeated text, animation, and sound). These tools help struggling readers understand the meaning of the story. However, Morgan explains that these tools can also be distracting to students if they aren’t designed properly, and students can become too dependent on them. Thus, he emphasizes how important it is that teachers use e-books carefully and make appropriate e-book selections. I found this article particularly useful as my current library is lacking in e-books, so having a basis for choosing them would be beneficial.

Lastly, I focused on digital storytelling as my final research article. Yuan and Bakian-Aaker’s article highlighted how to use digital storytelling with a 2nd grade classroom in order to help motivate students and improve their literacy skills.  I liked that the authors provided a step-by-step guide, an example, and links to free tutorials and resources, so that I could easily apply it to my classroom or library almost immediately.

I have thus ended my research and inquiry experience.  In the end, I had several different technology tools, lessons, and ideas that I could use almost immediately with my library classes in order to help motivate students and improve their literacy skills.  I have a repertoire of ways to motivate students to read (transmedia storytelling, interactive texts, multimodal e-books) and to write or think critically about their reading (digital storytelling, book trailers, podcasts, choose your own adventure books, illustrated character analyses, augmented reality author studies, and transmedia storytelling). Ultimately, I have learned that there are numerous ways to use technology to motivate and improve students’ literacy skills. However, when using technology, it is still extremely important to ensure that we are using it properly while scaffolding students’ learning and in a way that is motivating and purposeful. We should not just use technology to use it – we need to use ensure we are using it effectively in order to serve a purpose (i.e. to motivate readers, to get students to think critically, etc.).


Carman, Patrick. (2011). Read Behind the Lines: Transmedia has changed the very notion of books and reading. School Library Journal. Retrieved from:

Carman, Patrick. (2011).  TEDxNYED. Retrieved from:

Fleming, Laura. (2011).  A New Model of Storytelling: Transmedia. Retrieved from:

Fleming, Laura. (2013). Expanding Learning Opportunities with Transmedia Practices: Inanimate Alice as an Exemplar. The National Association for Media Literacy Education’s Journal of Media Literacy Education. 5(2), 370-377.  Retrieved from:

Holland, Beth. (2013). Projects to Engage Middle School Readers. Retrieved from:

Hovious, Amanda. (2014). Inanimate Alice: “Born Digital.” Teacher Librarian. 42(2), 42-46. Retrieved from:

Morgan, Hani. (2013). Multimodal Children’s E-Books Help Young Learners in Reading. Early Childhood Education Journal. 41, 477-483Retrieved from

Story, Kate. (2011). Who the heck is Alice? Practically Primary.  16(2), 6-7.  Retrieved from:

Yuan, Ting, and Lauren Bakian-Aaker. (2015). Classroom Digital Storytelling in Grade K-2: Writers Make a Movie for the Reader. Childhood Education, 91(5), 402-404. Retrieved from:

This entry was posted in Libe 477B, Reading Review. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reading Review Blog Post #3: Research Synopsis

  1. Fantastic work. Your explorations, evaluations, reflections and sharing is incredibly well done. You’ve found some very useful and insightful resources to help develop your students skills, wisdom and confidence. A very beautiful blog post as well that was full of exceptional media, embedded with engaging pictures. Your reference list was flawless and very valuable as a collection. Well done.


  2. Pingback: Future Vision Blog #1: Future Vision Project Scope | aaielloblog

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