Archive of ‘Literature’ category

Fan fiction on Instagram – the digital story experiment

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The project

This digital storytelling venture endeavoured to create a fan fiction response to The fault in our stars by John Green and consisted of Instagram posts from Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist of this story and a connected website containing author notes.

It was a conscious decision to make the reader aware that the Instagram posts were a fan fiction response because fandom is a theme presented in the novel and because John Green himself has commented on fan fiction, social media and the relationship that exists between an author and reader.

Two interviews I discovered with John Green prompted this idea for a project that combined social media, fanfiction and The fault in our stars. The first was an interview by Zuckerman (2014), in which John Green states:

“I am really interested in fandom because I am a fan myself”;


“I think in the age of the internet – in the age of social media – it’s just much harder to separate the artist from the art. Particularly when the artist is constantly inserting himself into the conversation on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever”.

Secondly, in this extract from a Youtube interview with John Green on the red carpet of The fault in our stars film premier, he discusses the future of media and the relationship between the author and the reader. Both of these concepts have been of particular interest to me throughout the course of Literature in digital environments (INF533).

The challenges

Among the students for whom this project was designed, Instagram is the social media tool of choice and was therefore selected for this project. As a platform for digital storytelling, Instagram presented a number of challenges:

  • Firstly, it was time consuming to produce images that were my own creations or licensed for reuse. One solution I found was the Canva platform that proved very useful for the creation of original images to use throughout the story. Creative Commons images were also a good resource for this project.
  • A second difficulty with using the Instagram platform is that, on face-value, it is quite superficial. In order to go beyond image sharing, and create the multimedia elements Lamb describes as necessary for a transmedia story (2011, p.15), I had to research how to use and incorporate other apps such as Flipagram.
  • Finally, creating the opportunity for interactivity and collaboration between author and reader is a feature of digital storytelling that allows the audience to become part of the journey (Fora, 2009, 24min,10sec). To provide an interactive facility in Instagram beyond ‘liking’ posts required some thought and the resultant comments and posts from readers were a highlight of the project.

The highlights

For me, the biggest highlights of the project occurred when readers interacted with the story. These included:

Occasions when readers spontaneously responded to a post:


Reader responses to questions that were embedded into the text of posts:


Content contributed by readers when invited to share with a hash tag:

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Comments and questions added by readers to the forum in the connected website:

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My favourite response was when two readers discussed and issue raised with one another:

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It may never end ……..

When discussing Instagram with the students in my class, they have a very strong opinion that one post per day is the accepted convention when using this social media. Adhering to this convention meant that only twenty-seven posts were achieved for this project. As a fan fiction piece, this story will persist as long as the author (the fan) wishes to continue interacting with the text this way. Because the reader has become involved in the story, the author also loses some control over the structure of the narrative, and as observed by Fitzgelrald, the digital story may not have a narrative conclusion (2013, 8min50sec). As an assessment piece for a university subject, this also poses an interesting conundrum to the notion of a due date. The story present at the time of submission may in fact be different to the story read at the time of marking.


Beyond the Trailer (Director). (2014, June 5). The Fault in Our Stars interview 2014 : John Green, Hank Green, Wyck Godfrey [Video file]. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from

Fitzgerald, L. (2015). Literature in Digital Environments [INF533 Module 6.1]. Retrieved October 13, 2015, from Charles Sturt University website:…

Fora.TV. (2009, September 23). Once Upon These Times: New Stories for New Audiences [Video file]. Retrieved from

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Zuckerman, E. (2014, May 06). ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ author John Green on fandom and his favorite YA romances. Wire. Retrieved October 12, 2015, from



Context for Digital Story Telling Project

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Teachers in the digital age are becoming increasingly aware that technology is having an effect on the traditional definitions of reading, learning and literacy and this necessitates changes in reading literacy pedagogy (Felvegi & Matthew, 2012, p.41). New technologies, however, do not reduce the value of literature studies in the new millennium and the need to spend time reading and discussing stories remains important for freedom of thought, cultural continuity, and engaging imaginations (Robinson, 2001, pp.1-8). The fact is, new realities are expanding the meaning of reading a book and have come to include electronic literature (eLiterature) as works with important literary aspects (Rettberg, 2012, para.4). The emergence of eLiterature provides an opportunity for teachers to combine digital literacy and literature studies in the classroom. This digital storytelling proposal explores one way that this may be done in a secondary school setting.

The school context

The school context for this proposal is a Catholic secondary independent girls’ school that caters for approximately eight hundred and ninety (890) students ranging from years seven to twelve (7-12). Because of the school’s inclusive enrolment policy, these students are made-up of a diverse range of learning styles and needs. In terms of technology integration, the school has a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) model and supports a philosophy of digital participation, acknowledging the need for digital learning environments in order to adequately prepare students for life and work outside of school. The role of the school library (also known as the iCentre) is to support the school in the delivery of library and information services. Supporting literacy development is one such service provided by the iCentre. In line with the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2014), the iCentre works collaboratively with teaching teams “to plan and implement information literacy and literature programs that result in positive student learning outcomes” (standard 2.2).

Proposal topic

In year seven, eight and nine at the school in which I teach, an integrated curriculum approach is taken and Core Studies is a class that incorporates the English, History, Geography and Religion curriculums.

This proposal is designed for year 8 Core Studies. In this subject, students undertake a literature unit called “Book Club”. This unit has traditionally required students to read five novels and complete a creative response task to each. After consultation with the team leader of Core Studies, it is proposed that one of the reading choices for this unit be a piece of eLiterature and one of the creative response choices be a digital story. As the Teacher-Librarian, I will provide a reading list of eLiterature options available through the iCentre that students can choose from. I will also create a digital story as an example for students. This digital story will be in the form of a fan fiction response to The fault in our stars by John Green and will consist of Instagram posts from Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist of this story and a connected website containing author notes. It is a conscious decision to make the reader aware that the Instagram posts are a fan fiction response because fandom is a theme presented in the novel and because John Green himself has commented on fanfiction, social media and the relationship that exists between an author and reader.

Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used

After surveying the Year 8 students, I have chosen to use Instagram as the platform for my digital story as this seems the most popular choice of social media in our school context. This Instagram account will be supported by an ‘Author notes’ website that includes a forum page for interactivity. The purpose of this website is to experiment with creating a story, like those described by Alexander (2011, p.228) that requires a reader to negotiate across multiple platforms such as hyperlinking, media embedding and browser tabs. I have also chosen to make my story a spin-off from The fault in our stars by John Green as most students in this year level have read the story or seen the film and will have prior knowledge or familiarity with the character of Hazel Grace Lancaster. This project would fit within the Literature strand of the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013) and provide opportunities for students to:

  • respond to literature
  • experience eLiterature
  • develop storytelling skills
  • create in a digital environment
  • experience fan fiction
  • build digital literacies


Alexander, B. (2011). Storytelling: A tale of two generations, Chapter 1. In The new digital storytelling: Creating narratives with new media. ABC-CLIO.Retrieved from

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013). Overview: Literature. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from

Australian School Library Association. (2004, December). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from

Beyond the Trailer (Director). (2014, June 5). The Fault in Our Stars interview 2014 : John Green, Hank Green, Wyck Godfrey [Video file]. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from

Felvégi, E., & Matthew, K. I. (2012). eBooks and Literacy in K–12 Schools. Computers In The Schools29(1/2), 40-52. doi:10.1080/07380569.2012.651421

Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from

Robinson, M. (2001). Standing on the faultline: The value of literature in the new millennium. In Books up front: Investigating the value of literature [ed. S. La Marca] (pp. 1-10). Carlton, Victoria: School Library Association of Victoria.


The place for digital storytelling in the classroom


Embedding digital literature into classroom pedagogy is common practice throughout the world (Nilsson 2008 in Bjørgen, 2010, p.162). In Australia, the use of digital literature in the classroom is supported by national curriculum documents that stipulate literature is one of the three essential strands within the F-10 English curriculum. Furthermore, it is expected that Literacy and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are two general capabilities that are integrated across the whole curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2015). Incorporating digital texts and story telling into classroom programs has the potential to provide students with the opportunities for comprehending narrative elements, engagement in collaborative and explorative production practices and building digital competencies.

Comprehending narrative elements

The high value of conventional literature and storytelling in the education of a child is universally recognised. Now that we live in a society rich in technology, it is also important to incorporate digital literature into this view. Malita and Martin draw on the work of Jonassen et al. (2008) to assert that through digital storytelling “students begin to comprehend how all the elements of writing a narrative work together and how to manipulate them for the best effect in readers and viewers” (2010, p.3061). It may be argued, however, that this is also achieved when students are asked to tell a story via text and images on paper. A key consideration though, is that the multimodality and interactivity of digital literature introduces new narrative structures and ways of reading that students can only learn through opportunities to engage with literature ‘outside the book’ (Walsh, 2013, p.192).

Engagement in explorative production practices

Digital story telling can come in many forms and be used in a variety of ways within classrooms. Cox tells us that some of the ways teachers can use digital story telling is to introduce a new concept, explain a difficult idea or summarize a unit (2009, 3min18sec). Furthermore, teachers might require students to create a digital story to demonstrate their understanding of a topic or idea (Cox, 2009, 3min26sec). When such activities take place, students not only connect to content, but also express themselves in artistic and creative ways and this enhances their learning of that content (Zalesak, 2010, 2min25sec). Bjørgen’s research supports this point, finding that when students are permitted to use the multimodal production practices familiar to them from their activities outside of school, they are more engaged in the topics studied (2010, p.171).

Building digital competencies

For some time now, we have been talking about the need for Information and Communication (ICT) capabilities in our schools and that we must establish ways of embedding these into our curriculums and pedagogies, as it is important to the success of our students at school and beyond (ACARA, 2014, ICT capability across the curriculum, Para 1). A number of learning institutions are investigating how digital storytelling can provide one method for this to take place. An example of this is the University of Houston who state that one of their goals for using digital storytelling is to develop students’ “ability to appropriately evaluate and use online content and electronic tools as a means of personal expression” (Educause, 2007, para.6). The process of creating a digital story requires students to assemble media and technology, such as text, music, audio, images, animations, video, code or hyperlinks in various file formats or on apps. Such learning meets the future looking educational agenda outlined by Rowan who believes that we need to move students from being passive consumers of information towards becoming participants in learning communities and producers of new knowledge (2012, p.219). By engaging in such processes, students are improving their digital literacies by becoming designers, listeners, interpreters, readers, writers, communicators, artists, and thinkers (Kajder as cited in Malita and Martin, 2010, p.3061). As such, digital storytelling production may be seen as one method of building digital competencies and the literacy of participation.


ACARA. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website on 25 September, 2015). General capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved September 25, 2015, from…

Bjørgen, A. (2010). Boundary crossing and learning identities – digital storytelling in primary schools. Seminar.Net: Media, Technology & Life-Long Learning, 6(2), 161-178.

Cox, A. (2009, June 20). Digital Storytelling in Plain English [Video file]. Retrieved from

Cox, A. (2009, June 20). Digital Storytelling in Plain English [Video file]. Retrieved from

Educause. (2007). 7 Things You Should Know about Digital Storytelling, (January 15). Retrieved September 27, 2015, from

Malita, L., & Martin, C. (2010). Digital Storytelling as web passport to success in the 21st Century. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3060-3064.

Rowan, L. (2012). Imagining futures (Ch. 13). In L. Rowan, & C. Bigum (Ed.),Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future proofing education (pp. 217-225). Dordrecht: Springer Science +Business Media B.V.

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

Zalesak, L. (Director). (2010, January 25). Digital storytelling in the classroom [Video file]. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from

Image Attribution

Pixolga, Kindle Paper White Book Device Glasses E-Book, PP0 Public Domain


Digital storytelling – distinguishing features


An important question for those interested in literature is: Has storytelling changed since the birth of electronic media? To answer this question, it is important to define what we mean by story and digital storytelling. When considering the definition of story, Alexander deduces that “for a given audience, a story is a sequence of content, anchored on a problem, which engages that audience with emotion and meaning” (2011, p.13). He also maintains that digital storytelling is simply telling stories with digital technologies (2011, p.3). Yet, after exploring a range of digital storytelling, I wonder about the simplicity of his definitions and have questions about the impact of digital technologies on the nature of story. These questions include:

Is the digital construction and delivery of the story the only thing that distinguishes digital storytelling from other forms of storytelling?

How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the production and consumption of stories?

How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the relationship between author and reader/audience?

How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the structure of a story?

When seeking answers to these questions, a number of interesting points are noteworthy:

  • “creating stories in a world of ubiquitous computing may no longer rely on the Romantic model of a single creator” (Alexander, 2011, p.227).
  • An example of multiple authors is a Twitter story featuring multiple characters, each with a separate author (Alexander, 2011, p.228).
  • It is possible to tell a digital story across multiple platforms, moving through hyperlinking, media embedding, browser tabs etc. (Alexander, 2011, p.228).
  • Interactive fiction requires repeated textual input in order for the text to progress (Ciccoricco, 2012, p.475).
  • The ability of digital fiction to combine multiple modes of text, image, sound and video into one surface create “mixed media” art and this “necessitates an enlargement of what we think of as literary and indeed, our conception of literacy itself” (Ciccoricco, 2012, p.476).
  • In digital story telling, an author can have a real time relationship with an audience and construct a character and then let the audience be part of the journey where that character goes (Fora, 2009, 24min10sec).
  • Digital storytelling can empower fan communities and allow fans to move the story from something that is passive to something an audience can interact with, shape and run with on their own (For a, 2009, 25min01sec).
  • We are starting to build new structures on the internet and these are the new formats of storytelling (Fitzgerald, 2013, 2min19sec).
  • Digital story telling offers a quick feedback system that has no mediator between the author and the audience – the author connects with the audience directly (Fitzgerald, 2013, 3min15sec).
  • In traditional stories, the reader controls how fast they move through a text but in some digital storytelling, for example Twitter stories, if the audience is experiencing the story live, they have no control over when it is broadcast and this can create suspense (Fitzgerald, 2013, 5min05sec).
  • Digital storytelling can engage with the real world (Fitzgerald, 2013, 7min45sec).
  • A digital story may not have a narrative conclusion (Fitzgerald, 2013, 8min50sec).
  • The lines between fact and fiction can become blurred in digital stories (Fitzgerald, 2013, 11min18sec0).


Alexander, B. (2011). Storytelling: A tale of two generations, Chapter 1. In The new digital storytelling: Creating narratives with new media. ABC-CLIO.Retrieved from

Ciccoricco, D. (2012). Digital fiction: networked narratives (Ch. 34). In J. Bray, A. Gibbons, & B. McHale (Ed.), The Routledge companion to experimental literature (pp. 469-482). London: Routledge.

Fitzgerald, A. (Director). (2013, July). Adventures in Twitter fiction [Video file]. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from

Fora.TV. (2009, September 23). Once Upon These Times: New Stories for New Audiences [Video file]. Retrieved from




Book Review: Whitechapel Real Time by The History Press

This review was completed for INF533- Literature in Digital Environments.

Whitechapel real time (@WChapelRealTime) is a historical retelling of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ mystery.  The story, published by The History Press, is delivered via micro-blogging in a Twitter feed and supported by additional content on the publisher’s website and Facebook page.  This project was written in 2013 between the 24th of August and the 11th of November to mark the 125 year anniversary of the first ‘Jack the Ripper’ murder.  The History Press state that all content for the story was thoroughly researched in order to accurately portray Victorian society during 1888 (2013a, para.1).  It can be identified that this story is a digitally originated literary text and due to elaborations in the form of factual information, non-fiction artefacts and links, this text can be categorised as an interactive story (Unsworth, 2006, p.3).  The success of Whitechapel real time is its ability to engage readers through literary devices, interactive opportunities and thoughtful design.

Whitechapel real time is a complex narrative that contains a number of literary elements including a fast-paced plot, character development and an evocative setting.  The content of Whitechapel real time is the result of work by historians, some calling themselves ‘Ripperologists’, who researched primary and secondary sources to produce a historically focused story (Dangerfield, 2013, para.26).  The plot follows events that unfolded over four months in 1888 and is delivered via first-person tweets.  Characters are identifiable by hashtagged names at the start of tweets.  By retelling these events from the perspectives of local people at the time, such as reporters, dock workers and policemen, the feed develops characterisation, allowing the reader to feel empathy for those touched by the crimes.  These tweets are interspersed with photographs and artefacts from Victorian London (as seen in the examples below) that create setting and build atmosphere as the plot progresses.  The use of these artefacts and visuals demonstrate synergy between the digital features and literary elements of the story (Walsh, 013, p.189), and is a strength of the publication.


Whitechapel real time is not the first instance of The History Press experimenting with Twitter to publish a story.  They had previously received praise for the Titanic real time project that was published in 2012 and amassed over 111, 000 followers (Brown, 2013, para.14).  Kasman Valenza and Stephens state that such experimentation with new forms of reading is a trend among authors who aim to appeal to young readers that have grown up surrounded by digital media (2012, p.2).  These platforms promise to engage users by offering them opportunities for interaction and feedback.  Such interaction is evident in Whitechapel real time when the reader is offered the opportunity to follow links to further historical information about the events and people identified in the story.  There is evidence that readers of Whitechapel real time retweeted, replied to tweets and quoted tweets and as such were engaged in the interactive structures offered. Thus, the Twitter steam grants the reader of Whitechapel real time choice and control over the text and provides a space for discourse between the author and reader (Skains, 2010, p.98).

WCRT interaction

Using a micro-blogging environment to tell a story has design implications for the reader.  One such design effect of using Twitter to read a story is the impact of fragmented delivery.  On this point, opinion is divided about the ability of Twitter literature to capture the reader through a narrative that is revealed gradually.  Franklin states that tweeting a story line by line doesn’t work because “attempting to follow a live narrative on Twitter makes readers hyperaware of the down time between tweets (2014, para.10).  Yet, Fitzgerald states that reading a story live on twitter builds suspense because the reader has no control over when they can read them (2013, para.6). Furthermore, Davis argues that the compulsory short, sharp nature of micro-blogging results in works that are “oddly poetic on both a visual and conceptual level” (2008, p.14).  A good design decision of The History Press was to deliver the story of Whitechapel real time via one Twitter handle.  If the story had been delivered via multiple handles or hashtags, readers would have experienced difficulty in assembling the pieces later (Franklin, 2014, para.9).  Interestingly, because of the nature of social media, the experience of reading this book live was only possible during the ten weeks of publication.  Within this reading, the reader was reliant on waiting for new tweets to move ahead in the plot.  Subsequent readings of the story do not necessitate down time between tweets but do require the reader to scroll backwards to the beginning of the Twitter feed and work their way through the tweets. Consequently, the design of a Twitter feed narrative such as Whitechapel real time has different impacts for different readers.

Conclusively, Whitechapel real time is an example of an interactive story published on a Twitter feed.  This story combines literary elements, interactive structures and design features to engage readers in history, in particular the events of 1888 during which the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders took place in Victorian London.


Brown, E. (2013, August 22). ‘Whitechapel Real Time’ Twitter project marks 125 years of multiple murders [Web log post]. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from

Dangerfield, A. (2013, August 23). Twitter real-time explores Jack the Ripper murders. BBC News. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Davis, O. (2008). Twittered texts. Meanjin, 67(4), 14. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from;dn=078749604341308;res=IELAPA

Fitzgerald, A. (Director). (2013, July). Adventures in Twitter fiction [Video file]. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Franklin, R. (2014). Character development: It’s been touted as a revolutionary platform for expression, but does Twitter literature really have a future? Foreign Policy, November-December, 104. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from

The History Press. (2013a). White Chapel Real Time. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from

The History Press. (2013b). The History Press Publisher [Facebook Page]. Retrieved from

Kasman Valenza, J., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from

Kasman Valenza, J., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from

Skains, R. L. (2010). The shifting author-reader dynamic. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 96-111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

Unsworth, L. (2006). E-literature for children: Enhancing digital literacy learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

@WChapelRealTime. (2013, August 24 – November 11). WhiteChapelRealTime [Twitter feed]. Retrieved from

Book Review: Hilda Bewildered by Lynley Stace

This review was completed for INF533- Literature in Digital Environments,

Hilda bewildered by Lynley Stace is described by iTunes as an “illustrated short story for deep thinking adolescent readers” (2015). This story is set in an imaginary, modern European country where Princess Hilda is about to deliver a speech as part of her coming-of-age responsibilities. At the same time, another socially invisible, pick-pocketing Hilda, is roaming the crowd. The author/illustrator, Lynley Stace tells us that “each of these two Hildas is basically the same – only their life circumstance is different” (2015b, p.1). Beyond the central themes of identity and social class, this story is also a commentary on the media, advertising, the construction of beauty, celebrity and crime. The Hilda bewildered app requires iOS 5.1.1 or later, is compatible with iPad and utilises multiple functions such as intuitive navigation, hand-coded interactivity, painterly style artwork, an original soundtrack and hyperlinks. This can be classified as an interactive storybook due to the audio, visual and touch features, used to enhance the reader’s experience (Lamb, 2011, p.14). Hilda bewildered is a complex narrative that requires the reader to interpret events, characters and themes through written text, images and the exploration of digital features.

Hilda bewildered is a digitally originated text of high literary value and this is achieved through a combination of a well-developed plot, authentic characters, rich language and complex themes. The plot of Hilda bewildered is full of complexity and open to multiple interpretations. According to Stace, it can be interpreted literally as a story about two separate Hildas. Alternatively, it may be read as two fantasies in which either the princess or the pick-pocket version is the other’s fantasy (2015b, p.1). Each Hilda is a complex character with whom young adult readers will readily identify. Just like the Hildas, many teens will recognise feeling ‘bewildered’ by loneliness, the magnitude of growing responsibilities, and conflicts between their inner reality and public self. The setting of the story also adds complexity to this narrative. Even though the story is suggestive of a fairy tale, the setting has been modernised by Stace in order to address contemporary issues such as “concerns about privacy, social welfare and homelessness, urban invisibility and technology induced narcism” (2015b, p.2). Symbolism and metaphor are additional devices employed by Stace to convey meaning. The colour green, for example, is mentioned in the first line of the story. This is a deliberate ploy to clue the reader into the symbolism of this colour, which is repeated with differing meaning throughout the story. Thus, through the narrative alone, the reader of Hilda Bewildered is engaged in a rich literary experience. This experience is further enhanced by the integration of digital features.

The multimodal features used throughout Hilda bewildered are an example of synergy existing between the technical and literary elements in a digital story. According to Unsworth’s categories, this book app, which can only be accessed online and is designed to be read on a touch screen, can be defined as a linear e-narrative (as cited in Walsh, 2013, p.182).  A number of the digital features employed in this book app reward exploration by taking the viewer beyond static image and text (Koss, 2013, p.26).  Examples of these features (as seen below) include rub-to-reveal pages that offer a second image below the first layer and dialogue and graphics that are unveiled via persistent tapping (Grabarek, 2015, para.3). Because they require direct interaction with the screen, these features are integral to the story and enhance the experience of the reader (Lamb, 2011, p.17). Furthermore, animations, shimmers and flashes of light, music and sound effects are used throughout Hilda bewildered to enhance the atmosphere and mood of the story.  One such example is the use of music with a panicky, vaudevillian tempo during Princess Hilda’s coming-of-age party to represent her tension and nervousness (Stace, 2015b, p.9).  James and de Kock argue that when features such as a sound experience are used in eBooks, they can take a reader to a deeper level of immersion into the story world and the “readerly imagination in such a case is enhanced rather than made less” (2013, p.114).  Overall, it can be concluded that the digital content presented in Hilda bewildered assist the author to communicate meaning and as such add value to the narrative.

HBSS1 2015-08-30 at 8.48.43 pmHBSS22015-08-30 at 8.51.35 pm
Within the secondary school setting, Hilda bewildered could be used for a number of curriculum foci in English.  In particular, this text could be investigated in the literature strand of the Australian Curriculum for years seven to ten, to compare and appraise the ways the author has used language and literary techniques and devices to influence readers (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority, 2015).  Furthermore, Keck and Phillips argue that in a visually-oriented world, the skills to be able to interpret and analyse visual information is an increasing necessity (2001, p.29).  The complexity of visual language in Hilda bewildered would provide an opportunity for teachers to introduce visual literacy in the classroom.

Listen to music composed by Chris Hurn for Hilda Bewildered

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Hilda bewildered by Lynley Stace is an example of an interactive storybook in which the multimodal content and narrative combine to produce quality literature.  The integration of visuals, audio and touch features assist the author to communicate meaning and the story presented in this book app would be incomplete without them.  It is only through touch that a number of plot elements are revealed and as such, it is not possible for this story to be experienced without interaction.  The complexities of this digitally enhanced narrative qualify it as a useful resource for teaching literature and visual literacy and it is highly recommended for the middle school years.


Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority. (2015). Australian Curriculum. Retrieved January 28, 2015, from

Grabarek, D. (2015, May 14). Hilda bewildered: Touch and go. Retrieved August 26, 2015, from

ITunes. (2015, February 17). ITunes preview: Hilda bewildered. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

James, R., & De Kock, L. (2013). The digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: The rise of the ‘Enhanced’ e-book. English Academy Review: South African Journal of English Studies, (May 13), 107-123. doi:10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Koss, M. D. (2014). Digital children’s book apps: Bringing children’s literature to life in new and exciting ways. Reading Today, (December 2013/January 2014), 26-27. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from file:///Users/stowh/Downloads/Digital_children_s_book_apps__.PDF.

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Keck, K. & Phillips, D. (2001). Visions of literacy. In Le Marca (Editor), Books up front: Investigating the value of reading (pp. 29-38). Victoria: School LIbrary Association of Victoria.

Stace, L. (2015a). Hilda bewildered (1.1) [App]. Slap Happy Larry. Retrieved from

Stace, L. (2015b). Author/illustrator notes for Hilda Bewildered. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

Book Review – Maggot Moon (multi-touch edition) by Sally Gardner

This review was completed for INF533- Literature in Digital Environments.

Maggot Moon (multi-touch edition) by Sally Gardner is a dystopian tale that tells the story of Standish Treadwell.  Standish, together with his grandfather, survive under a ruthless, totalitarian regime called the ‘Motherland’.  This brutal and corrupt government his diminished Standish’s freedom and livelihood and is responsible for the disappearance of his parents.  The multi-touch edition of this novel, published by Hot Key Books, contains interactive content including video, images, extracts from the audio book, animated page sequences, political talking points, quizzes and writing prompts.  The addition of multimodal content in the narrative moves this book into the classification of transmedia storytelling (Lamb, 2011, p.15).  This review compares the multimedia edition of Maggot Moon with its printed version and asserts that the digital features result in an altered reading experience, a modified characterisation of the protagonist, and embellishments in the theme of the story.

Since its publication in 2012, Sally Gardner’s young adult novel, Maggot Moon, has received much acclaim and won two prestigious literary awards:  the Carnegie Medal and The Costa ‘Children’s Book of the Year’ award. These awards indicate the story has been judged to contain well-written content of outstanding literary quality.   When the winner of the Carnegie Medal was announced in 2013, the chair of the judging panel, Karen Robinson labelled Maggot Moon as “gripping, moving and exquisitely written, it offers a powerful portrayal of a genuinely frightening dystopia and the unlikely hero that dares stand up to it. It is an outstanding book in every sense” (The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards, 2013, para.5).   Although both the paper book and the digital edition were published in the same year, reviews of the digital edition are not easy to find.  One critique found was by Kirkus Review who stated that the multi-touch edition was full of,  “digital distractions—many of them tangential, at best” (2013, para.1).   Known for being “reliably cantankerous” (Rich, 2009, para.15), Kirkus Review was also critical of the paper edition of Maggot Moon when it was published, saying that it was “a book with a message but no resonance” (2012, para.3). Overall, the literary qualities of Maggot Moon, in both the print and digital editions, can be seen as one of its strengths.

Essentially, the plot of the multi-touch edition of Maggot Moon is no different to that of the printed book, however the multimodal features offered alter the reading experience. As the reader engages in the story of the digital version, they are offered embellishments and interactive content that go beyond the words and images on the static page (Koss, 2014, p.26).  The interactivity of the content is limited to touch, in which the reader can expand a thumbnail of an image or document to a larger version, press play on a video or audio piece and choose from multiple answers in quizzes.  This interactive content is presented in the margins, a design feature that allows reading the text without disruption.  When held in portrait position, the page is a ‘clean version’ of the text with thumbnail images of the accompanying content, while the landscape view provides a larger snapshot of the multimodal content.

landscape portrait 2015-08-25 at 8.15.54 pm

[Access to interactive content is presented in the margins. Images: Gardner, 2012b, p.1]

The reader is told that the purpose of these embellishments is “to mess with your mind  …. [so that you do not accept] what you are told” (Gardner, 2012, p.i) [refer to image below].  This, however, might be seen as a paradox because although the reader can choose to engage or not in these multimodal additions, they are not given an option to choose between differing tenets and are only offered those provided by the author.

warning mess with your mind

[A warning that the content of this book will “mess with your mind”. Image: Gardner, 2012b, p.i]

Sally Gardner has been praised for the “startling clarity” (Moon, 2013, para.7) of her characterisation of Standish Treadwell, the protagonist of Maggot Moon.  It is clear from page three of the novel that Standish struggles with academic learning when he tells us that he, “can’t read, can’t write”, and, “isn’t bright” (Gardner, 2013a). In fact, Standish is dyslexic but this is never once explicitly labelled in the narrative of Maggot Moon and Gardner asserts that, through this character, she wanted to give the reader an insight into the way a dyslexic person thinks.  This, she says, is a gift rather than a disability and is just another way of looking at the world (Hot Key Books, 2012, para.3).  In fact, when reading the printed version of Maggot Moon, unless the reader is familiar with some of the idiosyncrasies of dyslexia, they might never know that this is what plagues Standish leaving them free to imagine his peculiar thoughts and speech, not as a deficit but instead, as a unique quality of his diversity (Hodgkins, 2013, p.33).  The multimedia edition, however, contains no such ambiguity.  This is due to multiple videos of Gardner describing how her own dyslexia is represented in the characterisation of Standish and several animations of how a dyslexic person experiences text on page.  Thus, in the digital edition of Maggot Moon, there is no option but to know Standish as a person labelled with dyslexia.  This didactic element of the digital version is incompatible with Standish’s characterisation evidenced when his friend Hector tells him that, “the best thing we have is our imagination and you have that in bucket loads” (Gardner, 2012a, p.142).  Consequently, the integration of multimodal content affects the reader’s experience of character by diminishing the complexity of Standish’s personality.

When assessing the value of the digital content presented in the mutli-touch edition of Maggot Moon, one might arrive at conflicting conclusions.  On the one hand, some of the digital affordances offered include the opportunity for the reader to express their own opinion by responding to ideas in writing, and to explore ideas in more depth by connecting to information via hyperlinks.  Conversely, some of the digital offerings compromise the themes they intend to develop.  An example of such compromise occurs when the author expands upon political allegories by offering the reader real world examples of hoaxes, interrogation techniques and twentieth century genocide.  The examples presented are prescriptive and over-simplified, and contradict the theme of challenging propaganda and the strategy of presenting facts selectively or lying by omission to further a government’s agenda.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 8.37.47 pm

[Examples of multimodal content that contradict the themes presented in the novel.

Images:  Gardner, 2010b, pp.41, 110, 145, 222]

Conclusively, Maggot Moon multi-touch edition is an example of transmedia storytelling in which multimodal elements have been added to a story written for the page rather than one created in a digital form.  Walsh insists that quality digital literature needs an, “aesthetic synergy between the technical features, the artistic creation of the text and the ideas within it” (2013, p.187).  According to this criteria, the multimodal features in the digital edition of Maggot Moon take the reader beyond words on a static page with mixed success because they alter the development of character and absorbing ideas that are presented in the printed form of the story.


Buckley-Archer, L. (2012, December 29). Maggot moon by Sally Gardner – review. The Guardian. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards. (2013, June 19). ‘Unteachable’ author enters children’s book awards hall of fame: Sally Gardner wins the CILIP Carnegie Medal with Maggot Moon. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from

Gardner, S. (2012a). Maggot moon. London: Hot Key Books.

Gardner, S. (2012b). Maggot moon (Multi-touch edition) [2.1]  Retrieved from

Hodgkins, S. (2013). Dyslexia Discourse: E-book accessibility and the resistance of literacy norms in Maggot Moon. Write4Children, IV(II), 28-36. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from

Hot Key Books. (2012). Maggot moon: Dyslexia. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from

Kirkus Reivew. (2012, December 1). Maggot moon. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from

Kirkus Review. (2013, October 2). Maggot moon. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from

Koss, M. D. (2014). Digital children’s book apps: Bringing children’s literature to life in new and exciting ways. Reading Today, (December 2013/January 2014), 26-27. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from file:///Users/stowh/Downloads/Digital_children_s_book_apps__.PDF.

Moon, B. (2013, December 22). Maggot moon, a literary David [Web log post]. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from

Ramey, S. W. (2015). Hinduism. In World Book Advanced. Retrieved from

Rich, M. (2009, December 11). End of Kirkus Reviews brings anguish and relief. The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

The changing landscape of reading and its impact on the role of the Teacher Librarian


Our world is changing

There is no doubt that the world of books and literature is undergoing tremendous change in which communication is transitioning from print to digital and paper books are being replaced by eBooks. Those of us involved in industries such as publishing, book selling and libraries are negotiating both the challenges and opportunities that these new platforms deliver. Those of us in education are also coming to terms with the new literacies students will need for working and learning in digital environments.

Reading and books are changing

“Once upon a time, reading was as simple and straightforward as decoding words on a page. No more. Digital age technologies have made such an impact on the way we interact with content that the old definitions of reading and books no longer apply” (Lamb, 2011, p.13).

Physically, books are changing from pages enclosed within a hard or paper cover to screens on eReaders, smartphones and tablets. The content and structure of books is also changing. No longer are books restricted to a linear construct containing text and images from beginning to end. A modern reader might find themselves encountering hyperlinks, sound, motion and artefacts entering and exiting stories from multiple points in a branched narrative (Lamb, 2011, p.13). Resultant from this evolution in the format of the book are changes in the skills and strategies used to read and comprehend information (Felvegi & Matthew as cited in CSU, 2015, para.4).

In Reading redefined for a transmedia universe (2011), Lamb explores five electronic reading environments: eBooks, interactive storybooks, reference databases, hypertext and interactive fiction, and transmedia storytelling. Some of the features she highlights from these new reading environments include:

  • note taking tools;
  • highlighters;
  • virtual book marks;
  • dictionaries;
  • search tools;
  • display controls to manipulate font, background, colour and orientation;
  • read aloud functionality;
  • photos, maps, audio and video elements; and
  • multimodal, nonlinear participatory elements such as web-based clues, mobile apps, social media connections, activities and games (p.14-16).

School Libraries & the job of the Teacher Librarian is changing

In 2011, Amazon reported that eBook sales outstripped print for the first time (Rapaport, 2011, para.1). The fact is, we have to come to terms with the reality that the future of books and reading will be increasingly digital. Upon examination of the Australian Library and Information Association (ASLA) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2014), a number of arguments for the provision of digital literacies in school libraries can be highlighted. Such provision necessitates a Teacher Librarian’s skill repertoire include the ability to:

  • provide access to digital resources and eBooks in school library collections as these will be crucial to the achievement of the school community (standard 1.4);
  • evaluate the quality of an eBook or digital information for the library collection which involves the ability to judge whether the media elements and technology tools are integral to the reading experience (Lamb, 2011, p.17) thus enhancing learning (standard 2.4);
  • understand how new forms of reading necessitate changes in reading literacy pedagogy (Felvegi & Matthew, 2012, p.41) so that students develop the skills needed to navigate and comprehend the variety of modes and media incorporated into these reading experience (standard 1.2 & 1.3);
  • engage in emerging reading formats in order to encourage learners to read for enjoyment and empower understanding (standards 2.1 & 3.2)


Australian School Library Association. (2004, December). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from

Charles Sturt University (CSU). (2015). Emerging literary experiences, INF533:  Literature in digital environments. Retrieved July, 2015.

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Rapaport, L. (2011, May 20). Says Kindle E-Book Sales Surpass Printed Books for First Time. Bloomberg. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from

Image Attribution

Rocket eBook. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Getting started in INF533


Semester 2 begins and it is exciting to be back into things at CSU and starting INF533:  Literature in Digital Environments.

This subject will explore the possibilities that new technologies are offering the book industry and readers.  It is claimed that, in terms of literature, we live in times as revolutionary as the invention of the printing press (CSU, 2015, para.9).  If this is true, we have such a wonderful opportunity to be studying the change in progress.  In particular, I am looking forward to:

  • investigating the trends and developments influencing publishing and literature;
  • considering the future of reading and literature;
  • exploring the debate between those who are resistant to new forms of reading and those who are excited about the possibilities; and
  • examining the context, value and opportunities in using digital literature in the school setting.

The first module of this course (CSU, 2015, para.5), presents the following quote:

“Whether printed on paper,, or stored in servers, [books] embody knowledge, and their authority derives from a great deal more than the technology that went into them” (Darnton, 2009, p.xvi)

I would like to expand on this by quoting Philip Pullman who says that “after nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world”.  I believe this has been true from when we told stories around a campfire, drew them on the walls of caves and hand scripted them on precious parchment.  Surely, this will continue to be true even though stories may now be constructed of bytes?


Charles Sturt University (CSU). (2015). Gutenberg to Kindle, INF533:  Literature in digital environments. Retrieved July, 2015.

Reflection: Literature across the curriculum

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As a Teacher-Librarian, literature and the impact of reading on learners and learning, has been a key focus of my practice. In the first forum post for Literature Across the Curriculum, students were asked why read? In response to this, some of the reasons I listed included:

“comprehension skills; meaning making; language mastery; motivation to learn; memory; engagement with language; understanding and making sense of the world; pleasure; and deep engagement.”

As a result of the learning throughout this subject, some of the other reasons I would add include: to live vicariously; to explore diverse topics and subsequent perspective; enjoy the pleasure of finding a mirror to oneself; to explore ones own nature, thoughts and feeling; to build social skills; and to seek information.

The course work for Literature Across the Curriculum has broadened my understanding of the value of literature in education beyond the English classroom. The requirement to produce a unit of work that used literature to teach one of the cross curriculum priority areas was one of the challenges that contributed to this learning. The ideas generated for this unit of work have already been shared with teachers in my school and there is much enthusiasm for a fiction unit such as this to be incorporated into our curriculum mapping. The course has also led to professional growth by expanding my knowledge of the special role teacher-librarians play to ensure stories are a part of the lives and learning of the young people and to develop readers who choose to read. The readings about the necessity of enabling adults to match the right book to the right child highlighted the need for teacher-librarians to have knowledge of both books and children’s biopsychosocial development. This was a pertinent reminder for those of us in Queensland secondary schools that have Year 7 joining our communities this year.

Exploring the connections between the digital environment and the world of books was a learning outcome of Module 4 entitled Literature and the digital experience. The trends in this area mean that the professional practice of a teacher-librarian in the twenty-first century requires understanding eBooks, hypertext fiction, book apps and stories in multi-media formats. It also necessitates considering if/how these can be incorporated into library collections and pedagogy. Furthermore, it impacts our understanding of literacy, which is changing to incorporate new ways of reading. My own explorations during this module led me to discover the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and publish an article about these on my libraries website ( One key statement that I take away from the course is that in the digital age, the ability to read remains the key to successful participation in society.

As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. In particular, I believe these understandings need to be translated to my professional practices as a teacher-librarian to build literacy and inspire a love of reading.

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