Digital Storytelling

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1 Digital Storytelling

Tyler Reid, Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Definitions and background

Digital storytelling is a broad term described as “a modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling” (Sadik, 2008, p. 490). Stories can be produced using programs such as Microsoft Photo Story or Movie Maker and digitally enhanced by importing and editing images from a camera or online, inserting headings, adding narration, and background music (Yang & Wu, 2012). Similarly, digital storytelling can be accomplished using Slowmation, a slow animation defined as “a narrated stop-motion animation” that uses photos, models, and cut outs to tell a story (McKnight, Hoban, & Nielsen, 2011, p. 43). Multimodal comics are another method of digital storytelling which contain a mix of images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips, and music (Vassilikopoulou, Retalis, Nezi, & Boloudakis, 2011). In some cases, web-based virtual communities have been developed to create and share digital stories using avatars in an interactive learning environment (Xu, Park, & Baek, 2011). Digital stories may simply be about a person, place, or event, but are often based on controversial issues (Figg & McCartney, 2010). Stories frequently “focus on a specific topic, contain a point of view, and reflect the interests of the creator” (Gyabak & Godina, 2011, p. 2240).

3 Affordances

Foreign language learners can use interactive digital stories to increase their oral comprehension and exposure to the target language (Verdugo & Belmonte, 2007). More specifically, the ability to play the story several times provides a high level of individual control. Furthermore, users can click on objects and interact with the narrator’s instructions giving them a more active role in the listening process (Verdugo & Belmonte, 2007).

The multimodal nature of digital storytelling allows students with various learning styles to excel (Heo, 2011). For example, students who lack artistic abilities can simply locate images online, while talented artists can produce original pieces and scan their work into their projects (Vassilikopoulou, Retalis, Nezi, & Boloudakis, 2011). Additionally, during the narration phase, Microsoft Photo Story allows users to quickly edit or repeat their commentary; this practice is particularly beneficial for the oral fluency of foreign language students (Yang & Wu, 2012). Overall, the features of Photo Story can be learned very quickly and then used to showcase “multiple skills holistically” (p. 406) in various content areas (Heo, 2009).

The website Second Life, “a three dimensional imaginary world” (p. 186), is a more elaborate form of digital storytelling (Xu, Hyungsung, & Baek, 2011). Visitors enjoy the experience of not only listening to the stories but travelling through the virtual environment in the process (Xu, Hyungsung, & Baek, 2011). Similarly, Script Ease allows users to create a unique landscape by inserting physical objects and designing interactive conversations for their game stories (Carbonaro et al., 2008).

Digital stories can help learners develop their voice and ability to address community issues (Gyabak & Godina, 2011). In this context, parents can also learn about social justice through their children’s stories (Condy, Chigona, Gachago, & Ivala, 2012). At-risk students described how the positive experience of sharing their digital stories allowed them to build self-esteem because they felt a sense of ownership (Figg & McCartney, 2010). Similarly, this technology gives give shy students the confidence to speak and share their opinions (Hur & Suh, 2012). Compared to movie projects, not having a camera directly on the author increases their willingness to take risks (Maier & Fisher, 2007). Overall, the reflective nature of digital storytelling moves students beyond the memorization of facts while developing new media literacy and technology skills (Sadik, 2008).

From a teacher’s perspective, using a common website for digital stories allows them to model high quality work and conveniently evaluate student productions (Tsou, Wang, & Tzeng, 2006). In another study, pre-service teachers argued that creating personal digital stories helped shape their identities as educators when they described their professional journeys in “compelling ways” (Kearney, 2011, p.176).

4 Constraints

Constructivist-style activities, such as digital storytelling, may not seem educationally relevant in certain communities (Gyabak & Godina, 2011). For example, some cultures hold the traditional view that the teacher is “the purveyor of knowledge” (Gyabak & Godina, 2011, p. 2242). Similarly, many educators are not comfortable giving up classroom control and adopting the role of facilitator that is required when students produce digital stories (Figg & McCartney, 2010). Additionally, teachers in some cases feel they lack the expertise and necessary training to successfully implement this technology in their classrooms (Heo, 2011). In other contexts, teachers feel overwhelmed by the number of digital story options available online and in software format (Verdugo & Belmonte, 2007). Finally, teachers are often skeptical about using this technology because such complex tasks are challenging to assess (Kearney, 2011).

When individuals narrate a digital story they are unable to interact face-to-face with their peers because they use a headset and a microphone (Sadik, 2008). As Nelson (2006) argues, “gaze and gesture are indispensible features of interactions” (p. 68). His research also demonstrated how multimedia authors frequently over accommodate the audience, therefore reducing the authenticity of their piece. The genuineness of a story can also be negatively affected when teachers provide rigid expectations that limit creativity (Nelson, 2006). Furthermore, multimedia authors often make choices based on convenience and settle on visual elements that may be inappropriate because of time constraints (Nelson, 2006). Overall, many students are uncomfortable with the open-ended or unstructured nature of producing digital stories (Kearney, 2011).

From a technical perspective, sound quality is often a problem which leads to frustration when viewing peer work (Sadik, 2008). In a foreign language-context, finding model digital stories that match the age and interests of learners is also challenging (Tsou, Wang, & Tzeng, 2006). Finally, using more complex software, such as Script Ease, may not be sustainable in a common classroom (Carbonaro et al., 2008). In this study, participants received ongoing support from skilled researchers which would typically not be possible (Carbonaro et al., 2008). Additionally, students received six hours of training prior to the process of producing their game stories and still found the software difficult to navigate.

5 Links

Options for digital storytelling

Digital storytelling with the ipad

Create videos with free Photo story software

Educational uses of digital storytelling

Digital storytelling activity types

6 Works Cited

Carbonaro, M., Cutumisu, M., Duff, H., Gillis, S., Onuczko, C., Siegel, J., Schaeffer, J.,Schumacher, A., Szafron, D. & Waugh, K. (2008). Interactive story authoring: A viable form of creative expression for the classroom. Computers & Education, 51(2), 687-707. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2007.07.007

Condy, J., Chigona, A., Gachago, D. & Ivala, E. (2012). Pre-service students’perceptions and experiences of digital storytelling in diverse classroom. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 11(3), 278-285

Figg, C. & McCartney, R. (2010). Impacting academic achievement with student learners teaching digital storytelling to others: The ATTTCSE digital video project. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), 10(1), 38-79.

Gyabak, K. & Godina, H. (2011). Digital storytelling in Bhutan: A qualitative examination of new media tools used to bridge the digital divide in a rural community school. Computers & Education, 57(4), 2236-2243. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.06.009

Heo, M. (2009). Digital storytelling: An empirical study of the impact of digital storytelling on pre-service teachers' self-efficacy and dispositions towards educational technology. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 18(4), 405-428.

Heo, M. (2011). Improving technology competency and disposition of beginning pre-service teachers with digital storytelling. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 20(1), 61-81.

Hur, J. & Suh, S. (2012). Making learning active with interactive whiteboards, podcasts,and digital storytelling in ELL classrooms. Computers in the Schools, 29(4), 320-338.

Kearney, M. (2011). A learning design for student-generated digital storytelling. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(2), 169-188. doi:

Maier, R. & Fisher, M. (2007). Strategies for digital storytelling via tabletop video: Building decision making skills in middle school students in marginalized communities. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 35(2), 175-192

McKnight, A., Hoban, G. Nielsen, W. (2011). Using "Slowmation" for animated storytelling to represent non-Aboriginal preservice teachers' awareness of "relatedness to country”. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 41-54.

Nelson, M. (2006). Mode, meaning, and synaesthesia in multimedia L2 writing. Language Learning & Technology, 10(2), 56-76.

Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: A meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56(4), 487-506. doi : 10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

Tsou, W., Wang, W. & Tzeng, Y. (2006). Applying a multimedia storytelling website in foreign language learning. Computers and Education, 47(1), 17-28. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2004.08.013

Vassilikopoulou, M. Retalis, S., Nezi, M. & Boloudakis, M. (2011). Pilot use of digital educational comics in language teaching. Educational Media International, 48(2), 115-126. doi:10.1080/09523987.2011.576522

Verdugo, D., Ramirez, B. & Isabel, A. (2007). Using digital stories to improve listening comprehension with Spanish learners of English. Language Learning & Technology, 11(1), 87-101.

Xu, Y., Park, H. & Baek, Y. (2011). A new approach toward digital storytelling: An activity focused on writing self-efficacy in a virtual learning environment. Educational Technology & Society, 14(4), 181-191.

Yang, Y. & Wu, W. (2012). Digital storytelling for enhancing student academic achievement, critical thinking, and learning motivation: A year-long experimental study. Computers & Education, 59(2), 339-352. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.012