Divergent Convergence

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Immerse young people in an exciting world of information and inquiry where divergent resources converge to form webcomics, interactives, digital projects, and technology-enhanced learning.

Graphic novels are merging with digital comics and students are building their own animated stories and subject area reports to share on the web. In this session, you’ll learn to immerse young readers and writers in a transmedia world of information where divergent resources like websites, books, audio, and video converge. Explore multi-platform content from graphic histories to science interactives. Examine new ways to think about accessing information, creating student projects, and preparing young people for a technology-enhanced life. Build transmedia, multi-platform learning experiences that promote active learning and 21st century skills.

The purpose of this session is to explore the potential of emerging transmedia, multi-platform resources as tools for motivation, differentiation, collaboration, and connections. This new generation of technology has the potential to change the role of learners from passive receivers of information to active creators and innovators. Emerging tools allow young people to easily access information in many forms. The key to convergence is providing young people with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to understand how information and technology can be used to construct knowledge. This session will explore ways to design learning environments that address standards for 21st century learners.

Divergent Convergence

This is the time to think beyond convention. To explore the possibilities. To consider ways to synthesize and create new ways of thinking about teaching. To provide opportunities for young people to learning and express understandings.

As long as teachers have used books, we've used resources to support reading. When reading the book Stellaluna, you might use a bat model, bat puppet, listen to the audio version or do a play based on the book.

We need both divergence and convergence. In a multi-platform world, we can do both effectively.

divergeconvergedivergent convergence

Convergence CultureIn Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins discusses the relationship among three ideas: media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence.

In the past, new technology displaced old media. Today the media are combining to create something new and more complex systems of information access and interaction. For instance, Google Earth began as a collection of satellite images, but now it's a system that includes images, audio, video, website links and more. It's changing both the way media is consumed and created. Young people are at the core of this change.

Divergent Resources:
The Multi-Platform, Transmedia World

Multi-platform storytelling, interactive storytelling, transmedia storytelling, cross-platform, deep media, cross-media, multi-platform, genre-mash, new media storytelling, reading mashups, chaotic reading, format independent, easter eggs, immersive games, collaborative fiction, hybrid, media enhancements, participatory media... are all worlds associated with the multi-platform world.

Multi-platform involves using multiple modes of communication to convey a complex, interactive story. Information flows smoothly from one media to the next. The strengths of each media create synergy. The result is something more dynamic than could be done in a single medium.

The book Nubs is a true story about a dog and a Marine in Iraq. The website includes facts about the story, a book trailer, photo gallery, and a review of the locations in the story. Use this book to start an exploration of animal and journey stories. Think about ways you could create your own multi-platform story. Turtlepond Publications is another publisher that provided extensive web-based connections for books such as Owen & Mzee, Knut, Miza and Winter's Tail.

In Transmedia Storytelling, integral elements of the story are told by different media and each media provides distinct contributions to the participant's understanding of the story. Participants have many different entry points into the story and are able to extend the story through their contributions.

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman is a great example of a transmedia storytelling experience. Designed for preteens and teens, the story is written in journal form by a teenaged boy recovering from an accident. While writing in his journal, Ryan receives email communications from his friend Sarah who posts video clips at her website. The video clips are woven throughout the reading experience and are accessed by entering the passwords found throughout the book. It feels a little like the Blair Witch Project from a few years ago. This combination of text and video would be a whole-classroom reading experience. Check out the author website and a fan site. Scholastic provides classroom activities.

Beyond the Book

Expand your think thinking about books. A wide spectrum of technologies are part of this new world of publishing including ipods, iphones, playaways, and Nooks or Kindles.

Multi-format Options. At the most basic level, works are adapted for different formats. For instance, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is available as a graphic novel that can also be downloaded to an i-phone. Watch a video about the translation into a graphic novel. Get students involved in writing for different formats. Consider a 140 Character Story project.

Document-Book Connections. David McCullough's 1776, The Illustrated Edition provides 130 illustrations with an abridged version of the text. In addition, 37 facsimile documents are scattered throughout the book in pouches.

Written for a young adult audience, Cathy's Book, Cathy's Key and Cathy's Ring by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman includes an evidence packet along with a website for each book. A website is also available for fans who want to discuss the book. The fictional character has Facebook and Flickr accounts you can visit.

Written for an adult audience, Personal Effect: Dark Arts by J.C. Hutchins and Jordon Weisman introduces an interesting multi-format approach to mystery reading. In addition to the text, the book provides a packet of materials along with supplemental website materials. These elements bring an additional dimension to the story and characters. For instance, you can explore the Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital website to learn more about the staff of the hospital and see samples of the fictional patient artwork. The main character, Zach Taylor, has a Myspace page. You can also check out the work of Zach's girlfriend. You can even read news clips from a fictional newspaper. Finally, you can "get committed" by participating in specific online activities.

Illustration-Book Connections. Told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson is a wonderful example of imaginative writing combined with an innovative presentation style. While not designed specifically for young people, the book would be of interest to high ability middle school and high school readers. What makes the novel unique is the author's use of illustrations and side notes in the margins to extend the reading experience. An website also extends the experience.

Audio-Book Connections. Books and music are often connected. The John Denver series of books is one example. Recently, Peter Yarrow has begin to visualize his songs such as Puff the Magic Dragon.

Kaleb Nation created music to go with his book Brian Hambric. Listen to the music that goes with the book.

J.C. Hutchins is known for his podcast thriller 7th Son. This book jumpstarted a group called the Ministry of Online Propaganda.

Rather than a traditional book review project, try a focus. Join a book award project. Focus on a particular genre of book or type of character. Check out the podcasts focusing on characters and freedom from Mrs. Newton.

Video-Book Connections. YouTube has become a place where books and video converge. Explore Great Depression Cooking with Clara. Also check the blog, book, and other related resources. Then, create your own. Create your own alternative to traditional oral history projects. Provide an effective foundation before jumping into the project through nonfiction reading opportunities. For instance Greatest Achievements provide an overview, timeline, and an essay on twenty topics. Then, focus on how a particular invention impacted the lives of local people.

Author, Publisher, & Website

One of the easiest ways to integrate new technologies is through the use of author and publisher websites.

Author Websites. No longer are author websites simply biographical information. Patrick Carman has been at the forefront of extending reader's experiences through online resources including card collecting, clues, and online gaming.

James Patterson - (ReadKiddoRead) is another author that provides resources to go with books.

The World of Brian P. Cleary provides online and printed activities to accompany math and science books. Idea: Build books, printed materials, and website activities into a learning center.

Book Websites. In many cases, websites are developed for individual books such as The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow by Tim Keho. Ideas: Begin with the toy timeline. Add existing items, add new ideas, create future items. Use online timelines tools:

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin contains a tools for building your own dog story.

Series Websites. Because of the interest in series, websites often provide a jumping off spot for information about the world or setting of a series such as Septimus Heap, Mysterious Benedict Society, or Magic Tree House.

Character Websites. Websites often focus on a particular character featured in a series.

Social Websites. Some authors are focusing on a club-like atmosphere. The Fairy Godmother Academy by Jan Bozarth combines cards, clues, and online activities. The online presence also includes a music element. Online participants can participate in games, view galleries, and explore an encyclopedia of Aventurine. Costumes and dressing avatars is a popular aspect.

Web-based Learning Resources

When we think about reading as part of the learning process, tradebooks and textbooks come to mind. What if we no longer had paper books? Consider the wide range of electronic reading materials available to teachers and students.

There are many ways to infuse website materials into teaching and learning:

Electronic Books. From web comics to e-novels, online reading has come a long way. Fun Brain was an early leader with titles such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This series began as a web book. Fablevision was another early innovator with book such as North Star. Check out free books at Wowio. Web comics such as Copper are growing in popularity. Also, explore webcomics at TopWebComics and KidJutSu. Website such as Storybird, Big Universe and Tikatok provide areas where students can read books or create their own. Wit Comiqs for Graphic Projects, with Pixton you can create cartoons and with GoAnimate they can animate their own stories too.

Engaging Websites. The I Was Wondering website from the National Academy of Sciences shares information about scientists through scrpbooks, comics, games, and interactives.

Journals and Online Tools. Go to American Museum of Natural History's Science Bulletins. Download the Google Earth KMZ and see the events around the world.

Interactive Readings. Many museums are using interactives as a way to promote exhibits, but also as a way to promote content area skills through reading, writing, and interactive learning experiences. For instance, Anthropology from Ology is a great introduction to the Silk Road that includes art, music, math and science along with social studies topics.

Website such as Annenberg Interactives provide environments that combine words, images, animation, tools, and activities. In Geometry 3D Shapes, young people read, manipulate hands-on materials, and use online tools.

Social Tools. Increasingly websites are incorporating social tools such as Flickr and YouTube. Check out My Moon.

Pathfinders. The key to infusing online materials is the development of pathfinders to guide young people to the resources needed for particular assignments. Check out the Australia pathfinder.

Gaming & Virtual Worlds

Immerse students in virtual environments to play, explore, and learn.

Immersive Games. In Generation Cures, young people play, watch, and create as their learn about medical issues, cures, and philanthropy. Out of the game, came a great new graphic novel called Zebrafish.

Alternative Reality Gaming (ARG). The cross-media genre of interactive fiction uses web-based resources and social technologies to engage participants in a gaming environment. Rather than immersing gamers in an artificial world, the narrative elements are accessed through a variety of real-world media such as Twitter postings and YouTube videos. Participants act as detectives following a storyline, collecting evidence, and solving puzzles to further the story. Many television shows (FlashForward) and movies (Watchmen, District 9) have used this approach. Examples can be found at Fourth Wall Studios, Wikibruce, and Unfiction Forum.

Real-World Problem-solving

Applications are often different than we envisioned. We often get something different than we expect. When growing up I expected moving highways, instead we got voice activated GPS. I expected to beam to other words, instead we have Virtual Reality. For adults, we have Second Life and for young people immersive worlds such as Quest Atlantis.

Henry Jenkins refers to world-making as "the process of designing a fictional universe that will sustain franchise development, one that is sufficiently detailed to enable many different stories to emerge but coherent enough so that each story feels like it fits with the others"

Jenkins has identified "Seven Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment". Think about ways that these could be incorporated into the environments we design for children and the worlds they create for themselves.

  1. Drillability. Placing time and effort in vertical descent into a story's complexities. Rather than spreading the content thin, add depth to the learning experience.
  2. Multiplicity. Traditionally when we think of content, we think of different ways to express the same idea. For instance, the book, the comic, and the movie have continuity. They tell the same story simply using different media. However another approach is to use the unique nature of each media to tell a slightly different story, to expand the characters or look at a different aspect of the story. This enhances the experience rather than simply duplicating the experience. Pride and Prejudice becomes Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.
  3. Immersion & Extractability. At the heart of remix and mashups is lifting exciting aspects from one story and infusing them into new works.
  4. World Building. The story is just the beginning in a world building environment where participants experience and create new worlds for the characters. The setting of the story takes a life of its own others are invited to create characters, places, and artifacts for the world. This can be created by a single author and illustrator or by participants.
  5. Seriality. Increasingly the world is filled with ongoing stories dispensed in chunks over time and across media. Web comics are a linear example.
  6. Subjectivity. Many genre are telling a story through multiple points of view. This allows many media to be used. In the book Skelton Creek, the book is presented as a journal from one character's view and the videos are told from the view of another character.
  7. Performance. With the tools of technology, anyone can be a storyteller. When many people get together, they can create outstanding productions. The Hunt for Gollum is an independently produced film inspired by Lord of the Rings and created by fans. Young people don't just need to watch film, they can build their own and become active content creators.

Convergent Approaches:
Building Meaningful Learning Experiences

To build effective learning environments, we need to develop learning environments that incorporate a variety of tools and resources to meet the diverse needs of young people.

For instance, Into the Book project helps children learn reading strategies through text and audio information, video examples, and interactive tools.


In Lure of the Labyrinth, middle school students work through a pre-algebra game at their own pace. With a username/password to track their progress, teachers can guide students through the series of activities two ways: using the story game approach that incorporates web comics, mazes, and quests for information OR through the use of stand-alone math puzzles. The game story approach can also be connected to language arts and mythology. Math by Design is another example from Thinkport.

In the Design a Satellite Activity, young people select the technologies needed to create a working satellite. In the end, they see how their satellite compares to a real satellite.

Other examples can be found at places like Planet Science and Edheads.


Look for materials that provide choice, allow young people to work at their own pace, and provide feedback.

Combine materials created specifically for educational purposes with primary source document collections and resources designed for the general public. Start at by completing the activities at Annenberg's Historical and Cultural Contexts website. Then, provide students with digital collections to explore such as the John Muir Papers.


On the PBS Interactive Whiteboard Games page, a series of pre-K through grade 5 games are listed. These work well as shared experiences using an interactive whiteboard. Students can work together to solve problems and create their own.

Use web applications to promote collaborative activities.


Connect Content to Investigation Across the Curriculum

Connect online materials to off-line experiences such as creating their own problem-solving games using digital cameras to record the action.


Making it Happen:
Thinking - Teaching - Technology


As you design learning experiences, look for opportunities to incorporate multi-platform resources and transmedia approaches. Keep multi-platform resources in your thinking. A quick trip to Amazon shows the variety of resources available. The new National Book Award winner for young people titled Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose features the little-known story of a 15 year old black girl from Alabama who refused to give up her seat on a public bus a year before the Rosa Parks story. A group of students created artwork for the inside of a city bus in honor of the book's story. Students can listen to the NPR report.

Hoose's earlier book We Were There, Too focuses on the lives of young people who made a mark on history.


Rethink your assignment. Provide young people with tools and resources, then let them develop innovative projects that incorporate text, visuals, audio, and video.


Think about new ways of teaching and learning through the use of media and interactive elements.

Colonial Project

Divergent Convergence

We can't treat students like robots on the assembly line because they're more like cats... independent thinkers.

They need tools such as Glogster that allow them to show their understandings through creative works.

Looking back, we had few resources and limited options for building learning environments. However looking forward, we have many tools to help students become independent thinkers.

Learn more in my article Convergence Divergence in the June 2010 issue of Teacher Librarian.


Amphibious: Notes on the Emergence of a New Kind of Art by Sean Stewart. Available: http://www.seanstewart.org/interactive/

Exocog: A case study of a new genre in storytelling by Jim Miller. Miramontes Computing (November, 2004)

Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins (2006. New York University Press.

Convergence Culture Web Blog

Developed by Annette Lamb, 12/2009. Updated 2/2010.