My Place (Wheatley & Rawlins, 1987) is an enduring work of Australian historical fiction. The book relates the personal stories of children living in one local area in Sydney for every decade from 1788 through 1988. Each child relates a short account of their family and community, giving insights into the historical period and the development of the geographical area as well as showing evidence of their connection to country. Character ages range between seven and twelve, which makes the text relatable to primary school students. The first-person narratives have the cadence of recounts told by children where details such as a new colour for the house, an older brother bringing home a girlfriend and also heading to war are related with similar weight given to them using somewhat naive, straightforward language. Historical developments presented from the perspective of the children are enhanced by Donna Rawlins’ warm illustrations created with materials common to most contemporary primary school classrooms. This is a quality piece of literature that can be used across the curriculum in a variety of key learning areas including English, History, and Geography (McMeekin, 2010; Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) & Education Services Australia (ESA), n.d.).
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) produced a television series based on the book (Chapman Pictures Pty Ltd & Matchbox Pictures, 2009-2011). Episodes have been added that widen the timeline to include “before time” and continue through to 2008 (ACTF & ESA, n.d.). The twenty to twenty-five minute episodes also present more detail than the brief illustrated recounts in the book. The high production values, historical detail, and quality cast of this production make it an excellent resource for extending engagement with this story. Full episodes are available on kanopy and sometimes on ABC iView, but selected clips are always available on the My Place for teachers website.
The website hosted by the ABC (ABC, 2018a) that provides interactive resources corresponding to the video episodes forms the third and final component of this hybrid literary text (Walsh, 2013). The site is best viewed using the Macromedia Flash player (Adobe Systems Incorporated, 2018). With Flash, the site provides an interactive multimedia experience. After an animated introduction sequence, users select resources related to various main characters via a timeline at the side of the page. Each character has a journal that presents background information related to key characters, locations, and artefacts from their episode. Interactive games and activities that present learning opportunities are also accessible here. Some examples of these include identifying “mystery objects” from photographs or picking the correct decade for still frames from the series. There are also some games that are more entertainment-oriented, such as clicking to clear up bugs from the dunny, though these typically reinforce aspects of the historical contexts of the series.
According to Yokota and Teale (2014), this work would fall under the umbrella of a traditional text recontextualised into digital format. Because the traditional text and the video series can each stand alone, but are extended by each other and by the website material, this falls into the category of hybrid text, rather than transmedia where different platforms advance the story in interconnected yet separate ways (Walsh, 2013). As demonstrated above, the digital affordances work in synergy with the literary elements to create a literature experience more expanded and enhanced (Parrot, 2011) than any portion of it does when engaged with in isolation.
For lower primary, most of the related material would most appropriately be used in shared whole-class or small group activities. Middle and upper primary students should be able to interact effectively with the site individually or in pairs. The suggestion that multimedia affordances tend to enhance comprehension and interactivity tends to inhibit comprehension (Takacs, Swart, & Bus, 2015) might make teachers cautious about using this resource freely. However, a study done by Kao, Tsai, Liu, and Tang (2016) indicates that digital resources that incorporated greater amounts of multimedia and interactivity affordances promote increased comprehension of the story as well as higher levels of content knowledge when the affordances are closely tied to the content and to quality learning processes. Most interactive elements on the My Place website provide Kao et al’s suggested learning processes, especially guidance and feedback, leading to effective engagement via multiple literacies (Parrot, 2011). One criticism of the otherwise intelligent design (Parrot, 2011) is that, even though you can experience the content through either linear or non-linear reading experiences (Parrot, 2011), there is no efficient way to search for any particular desired information. Many primary schools use iPads in their classrooms, on which the Flash website does not work. There is a non-Flash site (ABC, 2009-2011) that provides much of the textual content (though with a less aesthetically appealing and interactive interface), but none of the games and activities. This work will continue to demonstrate its longevity (Parrot, 2011) of relevance as long as the technology that supports it remains current.
Evaluations indicated by bold text are based on criteria suggested by Kiera Parrot (2011).
Note: For informational purposes – this assessment received an HD (just). The main criticisms were that the tone was not quite right for a scholarly review and that there were too many references and not enough space for my own opinions. The length was also an issue – while I was within the +10% leeway using the word count on the blogging platform, Word counts differently and assessed my posts as over that cutoff.
Adobe Systems Incorporated. (2018). Adobe flash player [Software application]. Retrieved from https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (2009-2011). My place [Narrowband website]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/myplace/narrowband/default.htm.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (2018a). My place. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/myplace/.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (2018b). My place. In iView. Retrieved from https://iview.abc.net.au/show/my-place.
Australian Children’s Television Foundation, & Education Services Australia. (n.d.). Welcome to my place for teachers. In My Place for Teachers. Retrieved from http://myplace.edu.au/.
Australian Children’s Television Foundation. (2011, January 14). My place – series one trailer [Streaming video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v0uNwapXNA.
Chapman Pictures Pty Ltd, & Matchbox Pictures. (2009-2011). My place [Television broadcast]. Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Kanopy. (2018). My place series one. Retrieved from https://www.kanopy.com/product/my-place-series-1.
Kao, G. Y., Tsai, C., Liu, C., & Yang, C. (2016). The effects of high/low interactive electronic storybooks on elementary school students’ reading motivation, story comprehension and chromatics concepts. Computers & Education, 100, 56-70. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2016.04.03.
McMeekin, T. (2010). How has ‘My Place’ changed over time?. Agora, 45(3), 52-54. Retrieved from https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=569815875661035;res=IELHSS.
Parrot, K. (2011). Five questions to ask when evaluating apps and ebooks [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2011/07/5-questions-to-ask-when-evaluating-apps-and-ebooks/
Takacs, Z. K., Swart, E. K., & Bus. A G. (2015). Benefits and pitfalls of multimedia and interactive features in technology-enhanced storybooks: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 85(4), 698–739. doi: 10.3102/0034654314566989
Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).
Wheatley, N., & Rawlins, D. (1987). My place. Melbourne, Collins Dove.
Yokota, J. & Teale, W. H. (2014). Picture books and the digital world: educators making informed choices. The Reading Teacher, 34(6). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3886534/Picture_Books_and_the_Digital_World_Educators_Making_Informed_Choices.