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.