Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

To me digital literature is similar to multi-modal art, a unique perspective perhaps from my own studies of art throughout my schooling and continuing to pursue it as a hobby. When I look at many examples of interactive digital literature I see the authors as curators of a story or purveyor of information, similar to how an artist seeks to convey meaning through feeling and immersing the viewer in their own imagination, digital texts are becoming a more immersive environment where we no longer need to rely solely on our own imagination. This should not be such a surprise as writing is in its own way an art form using words instead of images. The digital environment lends itself to using a wide variety of modes to convey meaning and why shouldn’t the literature environment take advantage of that.

Firstly, we must decide what a digital text is. To me it is clear that what a text is has changed significantly in the last 50 years from purely written information such as poetry, information reports and novels to something a bit more post modern. That is “a mixing of different artistic styles and media” (Oxford dictionaries, 2016). The Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2016) defines a text as “a means of communication”, by this definition nearly anything can be a text and the same can be said for a digital text, assuming that it is in the digital landscape. When choosing my texts for this assignment to analyse I was of two minds about my second text, SciShow Kids (2015), as to many this would not seem a suitable e-literature example. However, it is by this definition. It is communicating information in the digital space and includes some interactive elements while exhibiting literary features of non-fiction texts. In fact by this definition, games, e-books, apps, artworks, plays, videos, multimodal websites, normal websites, blog posts… and really anything can be an example of digital literature.

So, what makes a good digital text?

In many ways digital texts can be evaluated the same as physical ones. They must still be engaging, durable, have a purpose, have strong content and literary features. However, we must also borrow critique from other fields such as games and art to judge these texts, are they widely available for use, are they simple enough to convey their meaning to the average user, are they interactive and reusable. The best way we can do this is to make comparisons with other texts.

What purpose do these texts have?

Personally I find e-literature uncomfortable and clunky at times but technology continues to develop and change and it is my hope that many of the things I find uncomfortable about e-literature will be refined. Nevertheless these texts have a place and scholars agree (Hahnel, 2016; Davidson, 2009; McDonald, 2013) that we need to be teaching our students how to navigate the digital environment and therefore we need to be teaching them about digital literature. Digital literature requires a slightly different set of decoding skills to print literature (Lamb, 2011) and this is something that needs to be taught explicitly. There are many benefits to using digital texts and many arguments to do so, such as, environmental conservation (Hickman, 2010), ease of access; though debatable, increased engagement and greater interactivity between people reading the texts.

Reading digital texts and print texts can be two very different things. Beginning with standard e-books that are simply scanned versions of the print text it can seem very similar but already we loose a certain amount of nostalgia, tactile enjoyment and often the pleasure of keeping the book on our own shelves to keep forever. There are some benefits to e-books however, they are often cheaper and enhanced e-books allow more interactivity e.g. dictionary functions, hyperlinks. Interactive e-books again offer even more interaction with built in games, animations and videos. Although these things can often be engaging they can sometimes come across as gimmicky and over hyped. (Sadokierski, 2015) E-book creators need to keep in mind their purpose for using these tools and evaluate whether they are in fact useful to the reader. More complex e-literature such as multimodal texts and some interactive e-books can often become confusing and difficult to navigate if not well constructed.

Although much of this may sound negative towards e-books, I think there is great potential for digital literature. To me the biggest concern with digital literature is the lack of unity between publishers and platforms. During this assessment I found it difficult to find free examples, a passion of mine being equity, I like to use free resources where available so that all students can access them. Very few good free examples were available for primary aged students. There are many fabulous examples of free literature for adolescents and adults, for example, Pine Point (2011) and The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (2013). I would like to see publishers and authors exploring many of the same interactive themes and digital spaces explored in children’s literacy and in the free market so that all children can enjoy their wonderful creations. Finally I think we are just beginning to develop these technologies and the freedom the digital space gives us to explore how we as humans communicate and create meaning.

Out of my three resources my favourite was ABC Splash (2012). The accompanying website and solar system guidebook was an amazing piece of interactive gaming, it was easy to use and well put together. It would easily integrate into any classroom in Australia aiming to do a science unit on space. In a library setting this could be used as an example for an online guidebook or for finding non-fiction information and research.



ABC Splash. (2012). Solar system and space exploration. Retrieved from!/digibook/618096/solar-system-and-space-exploration

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). English Curriculum. Retrieved from

Davidson, C. (2009). Young childrens engagement with literacies in the home: pressing matters for the teaching of english in the early years of schooling. English teaching: Practice and critique. 8, p. 36-54. Retrieved from

Green, H & Su, B. (2013). The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. Retrieved from

Hahnel, C; Goldhammer, F; Naumann, J; Krohne, U. (2015). Effects of linear reading, basic computer skills, evaluating online information and navigation on reading digital text. Computers in human behaviour. 55, p486-500. Retrieved from

Hickman, L. (2010). Are ebooks greater than paper books?. Retrieved from

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning & leading with technology, p.12-17. Retrieved from

McDonald, P. (2013). Teaching digital texts: a multi-modal approach. International proceedings of economics development and research. 62, p22-26. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (2016). Postmodernism. Retrieved from

Sadokierski, Z. (2013, Nov 12). What is a book in the digital age? [web log post]. Retrieved from

SciShow Kids. (2015). Worms are wonderful. Retrieved from

Shoebridge, P & Simons, M. (2011). Pine Point. Retrieved from – On the trail of the snail from veil (2016a) is a free website designed to help young children develop their reading skills. It focuses on word families, phonics and engagement to reach this goal. For the purpose of this assignment I will be focusing on ‘On the trail of the snail from veil’ (2012) that can be classified as an enhanced e-book (Fitzgerald, 2016, pp8) due to its basic interactivity. The website is also available though Puffin Web Browser (, 2016a) on both android and apple products.

One of the benefits to the series of enhanced e-books is their simplicity. They have simple animation, clear buttons and writing. The digital affordances are used positively without becoming overpowering and distracting, especially for young users. Although you could argue that the animation is too simple compared to cost and availability they are excellent value. The e-book ‘On the trail of the snail from veil’ (2012) exhibits excellent word choice in its story that highlights and teaches the word family ‘ail’ to an appropriate age level. Each word taught can be read again and is underlined at the end of each page; all the students need to do is tap the word to hear it again. Again one could argue that the story is too simple, but we must remember that these resources aren’t designed for adults to read to children but for the children to interact with mostly on their own. Although students may need help navigating to the website this could easily be avoiding by teaching students to use QR codes on there handheld devices or linking to the individual books from a school website. Another plus of this particular resource is that it has no distracting ads or things for students to click on and be navigated away from the page.

The websites resources easily fit into the Australian English curriculum (ACARA, 2016) and therefore would be a good support in any infants’ classroom for guided reading or independent reading. One of the negatives of this resource however is its lack of motivation for students. Although there are fun noises at the end of pages there is no particular encouragement to finishing the book, no points earned or exciting characters to collect like there are in other paid for programs. For the younger years this can be a large negative for students that find it a bit harder to find the motivation to read.

Users of the website can offer feedback through email, snail mail or phone (, 2016b) but would not be suggested for children. On the Contact us page (, 2016b) it asks for input and suggestions to the creator, which is a fantastic tool for teachers in networking, offering support and gratitude for such an amazing resource. It is important to note that similar resources exist on paid sites and applications that are perhaps of higher quality or offer more teacher support but we must remember that this is a free website that enables students and teachers to use it all around the world.

To conclude, this resource is a fair example of enhanced e-books and one that could easily be integrated into infants classrooms around the world. The website offers a range of books designed specifically to teach word families and provides extra activities such as games and colouring in pages for students to continue there learning and practice. Overall this is a good resource though not the most detailed example or highly designed. It is simple but practical.

4/5 Stars


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). English Curriculum. Retrieved from

Fitzgerald, L. (2016). INF533, Online Meeting 1 [PowerPoint slides]. NSW Australia: Charles Sturt University, School of Information Studies. (2012). On the trail of the snail from veil. Retrieved from (2016a). Index. Retrieved from (2016b). Contact us. Retrieved from

SciShow Kids – Worms are Wonderful

SciShow Kids is a spin off of an adult science video series SciShow created by Hank Green; one half of the popular Youtube group VlogBrothers (Wikipedia, 2016). It is hard to define what kind of digital literature this is and could be considered a controversial choice, depending on your definition of digital literature. However, it still hosts an example of text features such as diagrams, a clear information report (if auditory rather than written) structure and connected websites. I could classify this as transmedia/hyperlink text. For this assessment I will be focusing on the ‘Worms are Wonderful’ (2015) video and its connected hyperlinks (BioKIDS, 2016; Journey North, 2016; Animal Corner, 2016).

There are many positive aspects to this text. To begin with the content is superbly produced in a clear and engaging manner, using excited tone, clear diagrams and animations, continuity with other videos and well supported referenced material. The video hits its target audience, infants and primary students, with the right amount of enthusiasm and humor while still maintaining clearly delivered information. Although this is an American produced resource it has strong links with the Australian curriculum (ACARA, 2016). Positively, the series is free and accessible worldwide, though asks for support through their Patreon account.

The attached websites to the video, both used as references and avenues for further information. Provide some interactive features such as definitions of difficult words when clicked and hyperlinks to further information. They are an excellent resource for students to continue to explore information about the topic. (BioKIDS, 2016; Journey North, 2016; Animal Corner, 2016)

Negatively the singular video is a one hit wonder, watching it more than once would become tedious to most students, excepting revision. Although the hyperlinks provided are an avenue for further investigation and reading younger students would struggle to find their way to them, as they are not easily accessible on all platforms (particularly Ipods). Another negative is the lack of interaction, although with Youtube comments a discussion can occur below the video it is not a particularly school friendly resource in that regard. However, the video does encourage students to interact with the web series by emailing in their own suggestions for future videos, which would be a good discussion starter in the classroom.

This is not a resource that pushes the boundaries of digital literature but rather a good example of where digital literature developed from and a resource that could easily be incorporated into a larger transmedia website, something I personally would love SciShow to do. It still exhibits clear text features and is built in the digital environment. It is designed for use with an adult and as a result would be a little difficult for younger students to navigate on his or her own. It is a resource that students themselves could explore making on a similar topic and integrate into a larger assessment or unit of work.

To conclude, though this resource is controversial (see critical reflection), it is a good example of simple but effective digital literature. It is engaging, simple and aligned with the curriculum.

3/5 Stars


Animal Corner. (2016). Worms. Retrieved from

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). Science Curriculum. Retrieved from

BioKIDS. (2016). Oligochaeta. Retrieved from

Journey North. (2016). Earth worms FAQ. Retrieved from

SciShow Kids. (2015). Worms are wonderful. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2016, July 4). SciShow. Retrieved from

ABC Splash – Solar System and Space Exploration

ABC splash is a remarkable website that provides high quality educational resources for Australian schools and the public. One of its resources is a range of ‘digibooks’. For this assignment I will be focusing on the ‘digibook’ ‘Solar system and space exploration’ (Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] Splash, 2012) and its associated website ‘Voyage to the planets’ (ABC, 2010). The resource is non-fiction and provides information on the Milky Way through a series of video and interactive media. Despite the ABC giving this resource the title of ‘digibook’ it really fits into two categories. The initial webpage is designed as an enhanced e-book, however the integrated website is a transmedia resource due to its use of a wide range of media (Lamb & Johnson, 2010) including, video, podcasts and interactive animation.

The quality of the content is exceptional, it is engaging through videos and the wording is simple enough for most upper primary students to understand. For school users the information is up to date and detailed enough to peak the interest of the students. It is designed by an Australian website for Australian schools and therefore has strong links to the Australian science curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2016).

In my opinion most of the digital content is a positive feature. It only adds to engagement and information as opposed to printed media. The inclusion of text means that what the student does not pick up in videos can be read over again. However, in the ‘digibook’ itself the text is quite small and the layout, with the text to the side, does make it difficult to read at times. The fact that this is an interactive book on a website means that it can be used across any platform with a web browser. Finally, the links within the text and the attached website are easy to use with a simple touch or click, meaning that students can freely explore on their own without too much guidance. A real highlight is the digital guidebook provided on the website. It offers a variety of ways for students to explore planets with information ranging from weather to your standard how big it is and how far away it is while all in a humorous manner.

One of the highlights of this text is that there is so much information presented in an engaging manner. It is a text that could be explored over a number of lessons and in students own time. Students could even create their own ‘digibook’ by copying the simple format of this resource, therefore exploring the online text features. Splash (ABC Splash, 2016) itself has recreated the formats on a range of other topics.

There are some negatives to this resource. The first being that there is no real opportunity to give feedback easily, though you can contact the creators if so required. Secondly there is no built in intrinsic motivation for students beyond their own interest and passion for learning. This could be because the resource is aimed at upper primary where intrinsic motivation is not as important. Finally the videos attached to this website are only available in Australia this is a huge negative for a teacher like myself who works overseas, however it does not make the other interactive elements any less useful in the classroom.

To conclude, this text is one that could easily be used in Australian classrooms. Although this resource is not on the cutting edge of digital literature it is a solid example that is clear to understand and simple to use in an every day context. It is interactive, engaging and a format that can easily be reproduced.

4/5 Stars


ABC Splash. (2012). Solar system and space exploration. Retrieved from!/digibook/618096/solar-system-and-space-exploration

ABC Splash. (2016). Resources – all Digibooks. Retrieved from!/resources/-/all/all/digibook

ABC. (2010). Voyage of the planets. Retrieved from

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). Science Curriculum. Retrieved from

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent Convergence Part 1: Cross-Genre, Multi-platform, Transmedia Experiences in School Libraries. Teacher Librarian37(5), 76-81.  Retrieved from