Digital Literature Review 3

The Lorax by Dr Seuss is an e-book app that is a multimedia interactive digital version of “The Lorax” that was originally published in 1971 in printed form. The app was released by Oceanhouse Media Inc in 2010, and as further evidence of the story’s popularity and classic appeal the movie version of “The Lorax” produced by Universal Studios was released in 2012 (Nasaw & Dailey, 2012). Compared to the original printed version of “The Lorax”, the app possesses many digital technology features including sound, moving visuals, interactive games and icons to interact with. This may be more enticing for young people than the original printed form. Those used to interacting with screens, electronic literature may seem more familiar and appealing than traditional print literature (Electronic Literature Organisation, n.d.). Additionally, the app provides users with the ability to choose how they navigate through the story. Providing choice and options gives the user greater control and ownership over their interaction with the narrative and is more user directed. By interacting with apps, children’s relationship with the story is different than with print where the interactivity is often guided by someone else (Saljo, 2016).

The plot of the story centres around the character known as the Once-ler (a greedy businessperson) who chops down all of the trees to produce a product for his financial gain. The Lorax tries desperately to stop this destruction, as he realises the wide-ranging ramifications that this will have on their environment, and for all living things. Embedded within the story of the Lorax are a number of themes including environmental destruction, individualism, greed and consumerism. As this is a children’s story, the themes are very delicately interwoven throughout, ensuring these serious issues challenging the modern world are considered in an age appropriate and non-confrontational manner.

Synonymous with the printed book version of “The Lorax”, the app is also designed for users aged 4+. Evidence of this is its range of enhancements to aid the development of literacy. This includes opportunities for the user to tap on visual images to hear and read the associated word. Furthermore, using an app can have many benefits in the development of a range of digital technology skills. The use of apps can potentially assist teachers in the process of developing students’ range of digital skills and new media literacies (Stevenson & John, 2017).

One of the most significant differences between the printed book of “The Lorax” and using the app is the availability of other beneficial features associated with the story including a jigsaw puzzle, memory game and tapping activity. Digital apps of picture books offer additional content, features, and navigational options generally not present with print-based texts including animations, sound effects and hyperlinked resources (Serafini et al, 2015). An example of a sound effect in the digital app used to enhance “The Lorax” is the sound of the chainsaw cutting down the Truffula trees. The use of sound effects can make the reader feel more attached to the story. The appropriate sound design and music, can create an atmosphere and emotionally connect to people in a way visuals alone cannot (Mattka, 2018). A significant benefit of an e-book app is the way that users can determine their own journey through the narrative and engage with it in the manner of their own choosing, making it a very personalised experience. Compared to a printed book, an app enables users to customize their experience (Serafini et al, 2015).

There is a significant role for the use of digital storytelling apps like “The Lorax” in the classroom as teaching and learning tools. The interactive nature of apps and the ability for children to be hands on with their learning can make it a more student-centred pedagogy. Children love doing things on digital devices, and greatly appreciate the interactive apps (Miller, 2019). The themes and literary qualities of the story make it a highly appropriate resource for both the English and HSIE (Geography) curriculums. In particular, the NSW English K-10 syllabus specifies viewing and reading a range of texts in different media and technologies (NESA, 2012 ).

Some possible precluding aspects of this app is that it costs money to buy and also requires an appropriate digital device to access. Another consideration associated with the app is the marketing that is embedded within it. There is an icon that when touched can take the user to other available apps of Dr Seuss books. This can be beneficial to users in promoting further literacy in directing them to other titles that may be of interest. However, it can also potentially be a more coercive form of marketing than is seen in printed books.

References

Electronic Literature Organisation. (n.d.). Why teach electronic literature? https://teach.eliterature.org/home/why-teach-electronic-literature/

Mattka, R. (2018). How sound design is transforming UX. Creative Bloq. https://www.creativebloq.com/features/how-sound-design-is-transforming-ux

Miller, C. H. (2019). Digital storytelling 4e: a creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Taylor & Francis Group.

Nasaw, D., & Dailey, K. (2012). Five interpretations of The Lorax. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17224775

New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA). (2012). English K-10 syllabus. https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/k-10/learning-areas/english-year-10/english-k-10

Oceanhouse Media. (2010). The Lorax by Dr Seuss (Version 4.1.1)[Mobile app]. Mac App Store. https://apps.apple.com/au/app/the-lorax-by-dr-seuss/id1067146012

Saljo, R. (2016). Apps and learning: a sociocultural perspective. In N, Kucirkova & G, Falloon (eds.), Apps, technology and younger learners : International evidence for teaching (pp. 3-13). Taylor and Francis Group.

Serafini, F., Kachorsky, D., & Aguilera, E. (2015). Picture books 2.0: Transmedial features across narrative platforms. Journal of Children’s Literature, 41(2), 16-24. https://www.academia.edu/19116850/Picturebooks_2.0_Transmedial_Features_Across_Narrative_Platforms

Stevenson, M. E., & John, G. H. (2017). Mobilizing learning: a thematic review of apps in K-12 and higher education. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 14(2), 126-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITSE-02-2017-0017