Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom

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  • 7/27/2019 Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom



    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom

    Lauren MacDonald

    ETEC 532 Section 65A

    Dr. Alex de Cosson

    University of British Columbia

    Sunday April 7th

    , 2013

  • 7/27/2019 Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom


    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 1Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom


    Storytelling has entertained and informed people over the centuries and across cultures

    (Tsou, Wang & Tzeng, 2006). As a primary second language teacher, storytelling features

    prominently in my practice. I use stories to introduce a topic or subject of study, to engage

    students in discussion or just for the pleasure of having my students listen to a story. My

    students love to share stories about their lives and to tell their own imaginative and creative

    stories. Yet, writing a story in a second language can be an especially daunting task for my


    I use technology daily in my classroom. I have a Smartboard, which I use for guided

    reading and writing, for brainstorming and modeling activities, and for assessing student

    learning with the Smart Response system. During small group centres, my students use the

    classroom computers to listen to stories and watch short videos in French, and to work on math

    and language based activities or games. However, as technology inundates my students lives

    outside of school, I find I am continually searching for ways to incorporate it into my classroom.

    I believe that digital storytelling is a way to engage my students with writing in a second

    language and to provide them with technological skills at the same time.

    In this paper, I will show that digital storytelling can be used in the second language

    classroom to enhance student motivation and to develop literacy, 21


    century learning, and

    technology skills. I will begin by providing a brief overview of digital storytelling. Then, through

    a discussion of relevant literature, I will outline its benefits in developing meaningful learning

    opportunities for students in a second language classroom. To conclude, I will discuss the

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 2challenges of using digital storytelling and how I can address these challenges in my teaching


    Digital Storytelling

    What is Digital Storytelling?

    Digital storytelling combines narratives with images, sound and video to create a

    multimedia product that is educational, reflective, persuasive or historical in nature on any

    subject area or topic (EDUCAUSE as cited in MacDonald, 2013, p.4). There are a variety of tools

    and applications that can be used to create digital stories such as Windows MovieMaker and

    Photostory, Apples iMovie, as well as online tools such as Animoto, Little Bird Tales, Zooburst,

    Prezi and SlideRocket, to name a few.According to Meadows (2003), anyone can create adigital story because everyone has a story to tell (p.190). While there may be a few

    prerequisite technological skills that students need to learn before authoring a digital story,

    many of the available programs are easy to use. Some programs could require additional skills

    as students may need a microphone for audio recordings, a scanner to scan pictures, or

    knowledge of sound recording or editing software.

    Robin (2008) states digital storytelling allows students to combine traditional writing

    practises with technology. Storytellers choose a topic, research information, and write a script.

    Stories are then combined with various forms of multimedia including audio, video, images and

    music. When complete, the story can be viewed on a computer, burned to a DVD, or uploaded

    onto the Internet. Digital stories can be used in various ways, such as introducing a topic,

    grabbing students attention, assisting students comprehension of a topic, generating

    discussion, and increasing students interest.

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 3Why use Digital Storytelling in a Second Language Classroom?

    A review of literature indicates digital storytelling enhances student learning when

    incorporated into second language classrooms. It assists students in developing literacy, 21st

    century learning and technology skills while improving student motivation. Digital storytelling

    also supports interdisciplinarity and can be used for assessment through eportfolios.

    Research shows that digital storytelling supports student development of literacy skills.

    Yang and Wu (2012) report that students who engaged in digital storytelling demonstrated

    stronger listening, reading, and writing skills in English through the process of creating a story

    map, writing a script, and reading and engaging in peer feedback on a class blog. Tsou, et al.

    (2006) discovered that there was an increase in language proficiency, specifically

    comprehension and sentence complexity of students who viewed digital stories and created

    story recalls. Students who were exposed to digital storytelling improved their listening

    comprehension skills in English based on research performed by Ramirez-Verdugo and

    Belmonte (2007). These researchers explain that the ability of the students to replay the story

    as needed provided them with an increased exposure to English that assisted in the

    development of their literacy skills.

    When creating a digital story, students engage in a variety of skills that are part of the

    writing process. These include researching information and finding multimedia elements,

    writing a script, organizing and planning their story through a storyboard or map, and

    presenting their story to an audience. This process supports Goldfarbs (2002) notion of

    students as producers. Sylvester and Greenridge (2009) state that digital storytelling also

    helps struggling writers with the writing process in several ways. Storyboarding assists students

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 4with organization and coherence as this format allows them to more easily notice and correct

    mistakes when editing. Media elements such as images and video encourage students to

    provide more details in their writing, and audio affords students the ability to more easily

    convey mood and atmosphere. For students struggling with mechanics and illegible

    handwriting, digital storytelling removes these obstacles in the writing process, as students can

    type or record without worry.

    Digital storytelling also supports student development of critical thinking, collaboration

    and technology skills, which are essential skills for students future success in the 21st


    (Partnership for 21st

    Century Skills, 2011). Sadik (2008) noted that students engaged in

    reflective and critical thinking through the process of creating and presenting their digital

    stories. This also afforded students the opportunity to develop technology and digital literacy

    skills through the use of different tools to create and present stories, a conclusion echoed by

    Yang & Wu (2012). Sylvester & Greenridge (2009) observed that digital storytelling encouraged

    collaboration as neighbouring students often glanced at each others computer screens,

    prompting them to ask each other, How did you do that?. This resulted in peer modelling and

    explanation of the skills and strategies students used.

    Digital storytelling also has the potential to engage and motivate students. Sylvester &

    Greenridge (2009) state that digital storytelling can involve students in the writing process

    because they are not faced with a blank page to write on, but instead can interact with

    multimedia. As well, they are more aware of their audience when their stories are to be viewed

    by others. This is supported by Yang and Wu (2012) and Standley (2003) who asserts when

    they know the whole world is listening, students are motivated to create their best work

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 5(p.17). Sadik (2008) reported an increase in motivation and engagement in students whose

    digital stories were subject-specific. He also observed that students narration demonstrated a

    personal connection with the story. Tsou et. al (2006) noted that participants reported an

    increase in confidence in their English learning and enjoyed using their storytelling website.

    As digital storytelling can be used in any subject area (EDUCAUSE, 2007), it supports

    interdisciplinarity. Collaborative, critical thinking and technology skills required for students to

    engage in digital storytelling are easily transferred to other disciplines (Yang & Wu, 2012).

    Students can create stories to show their understanding of history, science and math. This

    enhances students acquisition of subject matter content (Yang & Wu, 2012). In a curriculum

    that is content heavy, digital storytelling allows for teachers to meet multiple outcomes at the

    same time.

    Finally, digital storytelling can be used as eportfolios to allow students to showcase their

    learning. Students select what artifacts they want to include that demonstrate their academic

    growth. Sadik (2008) suggests that in contrast with traditional forms of assessment, using

    digital storytelling in this way enables students to collect, organize, reflect and communicate

    their learning. As a result teachers are allowed to see a deeper level of student understanding.

    This can raise standards of achievement more effectively than any other strategy (Sadik,

    2008, p.503).

    Challenges of Digital Storytelling in a Second Language Classroom

    While there are many reasons why teachers should incorporate digital storytelling into

    their classrooms, there are also a number of challenges that they face. Yet with proper support,

    teachers can overcome these challenges to successfully integrate digital storytelling into their

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 6classrooms. One major challenge expressed in the literature had to do with time: the time and

    effort required to plan and prepare for using technology and digital storytelling (Ramirez-

    Verdugo & Belmonte, 2007; Sadik, 2008), the time required to integrate digital storytelling into

    an already heavy curriculum (Sylvester & Greenridge, 2009), and the time required by students

    to learn how to use technology (Sadik, 2008).

    Another challenge that was present in the literature concerned technology. This

    included the lack of teacher experience and confidence with technology and digital storytelling

    (Sylvester & Greenridge, 2009), the overwhelming number of sites (Ramirez-Verdugo &

    Belmonte, 2007), the lack of equipment and access to the Internet (Sadik, 2008), and the

    technology being above the technological and linguistic abilities of students (Ramirez-Verdugo

    & Belmonte, 2007).

    The challenges of time and technology can deter many teachers from using digital

    storytelling in their classrooms. However, I believe there are a number of ways that teachers

    can overcome these obstacles to achieve successful implementation of digital storytelling. One

    way is to provide teachers with professional development surrounding digital storytelling. This

    should include time for teachers to explore the tools themselves, as suggested by Zhao & Frank

    (2003). Ideally, this would be in an environment where they were supported by colleagues who

    had successfully used digital storytelling and who could answer questions, including those of a

    more technical nature. In a recent professional development session I attended, we explored

    iOS programs including iMovie. Being able to explore this program, while being supported by

    the presenter who has used the program in her classroom for digital storytelling was a

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 7meaningful learning opportunity. I am excited about the possibilities of using this program with

    my students for the same purpose.

    There are many sites and programs available for digital storytelling and it is easy to see

    why teachers can become overwhelmed. Seeking out colleagues who have used digital

    storytelling in their classroom and who can provide suggestions of sites or programs that would

    be appropriate for my students would assist those of us with little experience. One of my

    administrators in a recent professional development session on technology, advised us to take

    one thing and try to implement it into our teaching. So I am not overwhelmed, I see myself

    starting digital storytelling with my students by focusing on one tool or one topic from my


    Planning with grade or subject level colleagues may also help to decrease planning time

    and allow for teachers with more technology knowledge to assist their colleagues in a

    mentorship role. Planning with colleagues can also support interdisciplinarity as we can plan to

    incorporate digital storytelling to meet multiple curriculum outcomes in different subject areas

    through one project. For example, having students create a digital story to demonstrate their

    understanding of an animal group and its life cycle, or taking a familiar fairy tale and retelling it

    by changing the characters, setting, and even the ending are a few possibilities.

    Issues of access to equipment and the Internet are common problems in many schools.

    With the high cost of keeping technology current combined with tight school budgets, the

    economic situation that many schools face makes spending money on the latest technology

    difficult to justify. While some schools can work around this with Bring Your Own Device

    (BYOD) policies, others cannot. Many schools have the current technology available; however,

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    Digital Storytelling for a Second Language Classroom 8it is often in high demand and not always accessible to teachers. This is a problem that I

    frequently face at my school. In an effort to access the technology, I try to plan ahead and

    reserve the computer lab or iPads when I think I will need them.

    As the technology may be above the technological and linguistic abilities of students,

    especially at the primary level, I would use digital storytelling as part of my classroom centres

    where students work in small groups. This way I can provide technical and linguistic support to

    small numbers of students at one time. Another way I could overcome this barrier is to have

    students create digital stories in small groups or with a partner. This would allow students to

    support each other.

    While not discussed in literature, I also see student privacy and safety being a concern

    for many teache...