Discovering Paleontology from The Dragon in the Cliff eBook

By: Carla Seal-Wanner, Director of Education, FlickerLab

As the lines between formal and informal learning opportunities are now blurred by student’s access to myriad powerful educational content online, are young readers seeking books that capture their imagination with interactive features and images as well as text? FlickerLab created the eBook version of The Dragon and The Cliff to begin to dig deeper into this question as interactive media designers and 21st Century educators.

When Dragon in the Cliff was first published in 1991 I was creating high-end CD-ROMs to enrich conventional curriculum; and thought this book of historic fiction would be a perfect candidate for an interactive multi-media treatment. I envisioned the design providing adolescent readers with opportunities to dig deeper into the scientific terminology, the language of the Victorian Era, the context of Mary Anning’s life, and even possibly create interactive features that allowed readers to virtually dig for fossils themselves.  Most of all I wanted to use the power of interactive technology to immerse readers in the world of paleontology of the early 1800s in England and the extraordinary challenges Mary Anning faced trying to convince scientists of the significance of her fossil finds.  Unfortunately, I did not manage to fund the CD-ROM production, but the idea stayed with me.

Fast-forward to two years ago when FlickerLab began to imagine how media rich eBooks could accomplish the goal of enriching learners’ lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

It is intrinsically interesting to discover that a thirteen-year-old girl discovered the 17 foot long Ichthyosaurus in 1812.

So, the job of the eBook version of The Dragon in the Cliff was to go beyond the story of Mary Anning, an extraordinary thirteen-year-old girl in Victorian England, who discovered the first complete 17-foot long dinosaur-like fossil in 1812 in the Cliffs of Lyme Regis (on what is now called The Jurassic Coast). Without disrupting the strong narrative about the brave, intelligent and dedicated Mary Anning who hunted and sold fossils to save her family from poverty after her father died when she was eleven years old, the rich media contained in the eBook extends the learning with an interactive timeline of the significant dinosaur finds during Mary Anning’s life, additional material that highlights the importance of her scientific contributions, an interactive pop-up glossary embedded in the narrative with definitions and images that enhance the readers experience and knowledge, as well as video interviews with the author, the foremost British historian of paleontology of the period when Mary Anning discovered the first fossil of an Ichthyosaur, natural history museum dinosaur exhibit curators, and inspiring young woman paleontologists. This new medium for telling the story of Mary Anning allows the reader to dig more deeply into topics that they find interesting, whether it is the history of fossil finds, the life of those who lived in a seaside English village at the time of Napoleon, or the debates about extinction and the contributions of woman scientists.

It is wonderful to hold a book in your hand and turn the pages, but it is equally wonderful to be able to tap your finger and find out what unfamiliar words mean or see what a Belemnite, an Ichthyosaur or Lias actually looks like. It is our great hope that The Dragon in the Cliff eBook will introduce young readers to Mary Anning’s fascinating life, as well as to the power of this new interactive learning experience that can inspire inquiring minds to want to know more about her profound achievements and the historic, cultural and scientific context in which she made them.

You can preview this engaging new form of interactive learning at the following website:

Please direct inquiries to: Dr. Carla Seal-Wanner, Director of Education & Harold Moss, Creative Director, FlickerLab, 540 Broadway, Suite 203, New York, New York, 10012 (,