‘Max the Apple: a Multi-modal research Project’
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The research project Max the Apple poses the question: How can we best exploit interactive animation for children's engagement and learning? A web-based interactive narrative for children aged 5 to 10 years, Max the Apple presents themes of friendship, loss, grief, the cycles of nature, and the representation of a range of cultural practices in response to these themes. The story engages on three tiers: 剴he first tier is the first-person narrative communicated via text and simple visuals, and narrated by a 5 year old child; 剴he second tier provides learning content associated with the story's themes and accessed via interactive buttons; and 剴he third tier presents games also related to the themes and further developing the participant's investment in the narrative. The project aims to present an entertaining and challenging learning environment by retaining the affordances of traditional media, such as conventional narrative arcs and imaginative readership, while exploiting the possibilities of active participation offered by new media. This paper discusses the ways in which the project responds to ongoing concerns for children's diminishing cognition as they engage with increasingly immersive photo-realistic media (Greenfield, 2008). By enhancing a storybook format with interactivity and games options, Max the Apple utilizes the capacity of new media to facilitate children's active participation in the narrative, to develop associated knowledge and an enthusiasm for learning, and to contemplate significant and complex themes within a playful environment, all the while maintaining a space between participant and text for critical reflection, interpretation and contextualization. Reference is made to pedagogical models of literacy. In appreciating Max the Apple as a multimodal text; the project is seen to facilitate access and critical engagement in a contemporary context of cultural diversity and proliferation of media (The New London Group, 1996). Freebody and Luke's 'Four Resource Framework' (1990; 1998) is employed to identify the ways in which Max the Apple can be seen to activate four key practices of literacy (decoding, constructing meaning, re-contextualizing and critiquing). Similarly, the New London Group's four pedagogical approaches to multiliteracy will be cited (situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice) in considering the scope and possibilities the project offers in its engagement with current generations of digital natives.
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Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies