Reviewed By: Grace Song, Avery Campbell, Anna Johnson, Carla Axume, Millie Jones
Synopsis / Summary (article’s core research question)
In this study, Monica Nilsson explores how digital storytelling has the potential to significantly alter the way children develop literacy and creativity, communicate experiences, explore new meaning and knowledge, and express themselves. Digital storytelling, in this context, is defined as “a multimodal narrative text comprising pictures, music, speech, sound and script.” Nilsson’s research revolves around a nine-year old boy, Simon, who struggles with reading and writing. When given the opportunity to express himself through digital stories, Simon becomes deeply engaged, which Nilsson argues is because digital storytelling became the trigger for his interest in literacy.
In her research, Nilsson explores this core research question: What impact does digital storytelling have on children’s ability not only to master structural writing techniques, but also “communicate experiences, explore new meaning and knowledge, and perform self-representation and self-expression,” and by so doing develop, “real voice” in their writing?
Research Methods Used
In her research, Nilsson analyzes Simon’s digital stories using multimodality and visual analysis. Machin (2007) defines multimodality as a way to express that “the way we communicate is [not done] by by a single mode…” but rather by a combination of visual, sound, and language (p. x). “Multimedial approaches systematically described the range of choices available and how they are used in context… [and] therefore describes the grammar of visual communication” (ibid. p. ix).
For structure in her analysis, Nilsson uses the three basic requirements of semiotic modes of communication: ideational (“states the affairs of the world” – e.g. yellow stands from sunlight or warmth), interpersonal (“represents and communicates the social and affective relationships towards what is being represented” – e.g. yellow stands for happiness), and textual (“about the coherent whole, genres, and how parts are linked together” – e.g. a color for headings to “show they are of the same order”) (Nilsson, 2010, p. 5).
Findings and Conclusion (of the article)
Digital storytelling provides many opportunities to engage students in different multimodal forms of learning, as in the case of Simon, who was effectively able to learn to read and write through digital storytelling. Although literacy is traditionally understood as learning to read and write, Nilsson describes literacy as “drawing conclusions, making associations, and connecting text to reality.”
From this study, Nilsson found that Simon was learning “interpersonal meta-function,” referring to the interaction between producer and receiver, as well as “textual meta-function,” or the linking of parts and their composition. All of this was possible through digital storytelling. Additionally, Nilsson found that Simon’s digital stories were not “randomly assembled images, music, speech, captions and sound,” but rather “consciously, creatively, well reasoned and well crafted composition(s).” Digital storytelling also furthered Simon’s understanding of literacy as a social and cultural activity.
Nilsson concludes that though digital storytelling is a different process for learning to read and write than traditional methods, expressing, creating meaning, and communication still hold the common value of both and provide a significant way of learning that helps overcome learning challenges.
As our group considers digital storytelling and the ways it supplements education-related research, we have several questions relating to both the article and digital storytelling in general.
One question regards teaching theory. How can digital storytelling be assimilated into school environments, but not forced upon students? Or should it be assimilated in such a way that students need to complete a graded digital storytelling assignment? In today’s education world, there are many thoughts on the different types of learners and standardization. Should digital storytelling be encouraged for those who are interested and naturally more creative, or should it be used to bring out the creativity of those who may not at first be interested?
Another question for consideration is how can digital storytelling be used in libraries? As libraries are constantly changing and adapting to newer technologies and ideas, librarians will need to provide programs and opportunities for patrons that optimize learning and engagement with library resources. How can digital storytelling be a part of this? As many educational researchers are now putting a great emphasis on early literacy, it is pertinent to consider how technology can be a part of digital storytelling in libraries, too?
Final Thoughts / Conclusion
When considering using digital storytelling in schools, but not forcing it on every student, optional or extra credit assignments may be considered. This option may replace traditional assignments for students who have kinesthetic learning styles, or who are simply interested in exploring a new learning method. Conversely, mandatory digital storytelling assignments are intriguing because they could help students unlock untapped creative potential, unrealized through traditional learning methods. Adding a digital storytelling element to school curriculums would help students think and express themselves in new and creative ways.
Digital storytelling can also help children and youth, like Simon, who attend their local library. The library provides another place, as well as additional resources and materials, for children and youth to effectively learn and become literate. As Nilsson’s argues, libraries promote literacy in children and youth by providing them a place to find their voices and connect to the texts they’re creating.
Machin, D. (2016). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London: Hodder Arnold. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=mwZfDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=%22Introduction+to+Multimodal+Analysis%22+Machin&ots=84X_VkGPpt&sig=WedPbytmGnWOQJfqxOiZPs8CQZE#v=onepage&q=%22Introduction%20to%20Multimodal%20Analysis%22%20Machin&f=false
Nilsson, M. (2010). Developing voice in digital storytelling through creativity, narrative and multimodality. International Journal of Media, technology & Lifelong Learning 6(2). Retrieved from: https://doaj.org/article/17d2a778143742a78fe9f9d517b92e4d