I was intrigued when I first read about Inanimate Alice here and here but took it no further until I watched a video entitled The Future of the Book’. This incensed me so much that I wrote http://hileryjane.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/the-future-of-the-book/a defence of reading ‘actual’ books.

I had misunderstood that the Alice in the video was another Alice and I had assumed somewhat wildly perhaps that the suggestion was that printed text was now regarded as obsolete by the 21st century thinkers.

Deciding that I must overcome my prejudices I watched the 4 episodes of Inanimate Alice presently available. And I loathed it. My reaction was instant, powerful and very negative.

I hated the sounds emanating from my computer. Even when I turned these off, I felt assaulted by the frequent changes of images, the confusing screen divides and the ineffable sadness of the protagonist.

You must understand that when I see a film (2 or 3 times a month) I could tell you the name of the person who made the tea before being able to describe the opening or closing scenes. I try to train myself to ignore words but find it hard to wrest my eyes from even the most insignificant information if presented in written form. Reader, I am not a visual thinker.

I’m not with the original Alice who declares she has no use of a book without pictures but do feel some empathy when she remarks on the dullness of long passages of description. I like plot and pace and character.

But Inanimate Alice is not produced with me in mind. And as someone passionate about enabling youngsters to develop literacy I know I need to examine ‘transmedia’ resources to see if it might open up new worlds for them. So I tried again, rapidly turning the volume down once more. (I know the electronic white noise is meant to instil tension – and by golly it works. Too much on my case).

Referring to the education pack initially threw me. It is designed for students (i.e. probably in teacher training, not primary school) and the references deployed words I had never encountered. Not a good start. However, I persevered and found the guidance helped me to identify content, concepts and depth I would never have picked up otherwise. And – at last – I began to get the point. I managed to navigate through the 4 episodes with nerves not too jangled. By the final one, with a fair wind behind me and a more open mind, I was able to envisage using this resource with learners with dyslexia.

Understanding the world of fast moving graphics, multiple screens, startling images that so many – but not all – of our children inhabit is important for those of us working in schools. Although the adoption of notions about ‘learning styles’ have been very simplistic, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a variety of preferred cognitive styles. So although images predominate, this is not to say that all learners find this the most effective method of learning. (It largely depends what the learning is about obviously.)

New media and new opportunities for learning through digital technologies requires new literacies. The learners with whom I come into contact have often failed spectacularly at traditional reading and flourish with the broader range of texts now available. So what’s not to like?

A group of 11 year olds will be helping me to make more sense of all this transmedia stuff in the new year when we examine Inanimate Alice together. I’m looking forward to the adventure!

The true work of discovery is not so much in seeking new landscapes as in having new eyes. Proust

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