Tag Archives: learning

Developing Voice in Digital Storytelling Through Creativity, Narrative and Multimodality

Reviewed By: Grace Song, Avery Campbell, Anna Johnson, Carla Axume, Millie Jones

Link to article: http://seminar.net/index.php/volume-6-issue-2-2010/154-developing-voice-in-digital-storytelling-through-creativity-narrative-and-multimodality

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

“In Our Own Words”: Creating Videos as Teaching and Learning Tools


Technology has enabled filmmakers to create ‘in-house’ videos, and post them online for the critical mass of viewers who regularly consume videos online – mostly for entertainment, but increasingly for education and learning. In academic settings, few libraries have created their own teaching/learning tools, beyond screen casting videos.
However, in Summer-2010, two York University librarians, Norda Majekodunmi and Kent Murnaghan, created an instructional video series called, “Learning: In Our Own Words.” The goals of these videos are to: (i) trace “real” experience of new students and their literacies skills (research, writing and learning) during their first year of college; and, (ii) create instructional videos for librarians/instructors to engage students in critical thinking/discussion.
This article outlines the authors’ experiences in creating those videos and accompanying teaching guides, and screening them in a classroom setting. They discuss lessons learned, so that more libraries will develop their own teaching/learning videos.
The approach of Majekodunmi and Murnaghan is student-centered. The main project principles focus on the “student voice,” and that the students “should be considered experts in their own right” (p. 3). Students are asked to share about their previous experiences influencing their understanding of how to engage in research.

The authors researched literature on planning and production of teaching videos and methodologies, but found little material relevant to their project. What they did find was Paivi Karppinen’s review of theoretical literature, and as a key part of their methodology, they worked to create videos that embodied his six characteristics of meaningful learning. That is, the videos were: active; constructive and individual; collaborative and conversational; contextual; guided; and, emotionally involving/motivating. They chose these criteria as benchmarks for their end product, and for assurance that they would succeed in creating a successful teaching/learning video.
The authors here discuss technicalities required to produce videos, such as interview timeframes, scheduling and location, as well as post-production team staffing, and budgeting.
The paper’s core research questions are:
1. Can information presented in a stimulating, interesting digital video format lead to in-depth learning?
— According to the authors, citing Karppinen, information presented in a stimulating, interesting digital video format will not automatically lead to in-depth learning. However, Karppinen goes on to state that, based on his review of the theoretical literature, a toolkit of meaningful learning embodies 6 characteristics. (Majekodunmi and Murnaghan, p. 3, citing Karppinen, p. 235).

2. Do videos support active learning on their own?
— No. The authors make clear that preparation is key to successfully teaching with videos, which can be used effectively if paired with such relevant learning activities as student self-reflection, one-minute response papers, hands-on searching, and group activities (Majekodunmi and Murnaghan, p. 8). It also is essential to contextualize the video: (a) Why are the students are watching the video?, and, (b) What are the expectations that follow — what activities would occur after viewing the video? (Majekodunmi and Murnaghan, p. 10).

3. Can student-centered videos, with integrated teaching guides enhance academic learning by speaking to students in their own voices, with students as “experts”?
— Yes. Because the videos are student-centered, viewers are likely to feel a personal connection to their peers in the video — more so than if a librarian or instructor were talking to them. Also, online videos as a medium appeal to most first-year students (Majekodunmi and Murnaghan, p. 9).

The authors conclude with a brief summary of findings that closely align with new literacies initiatives in academic settings.
Due to the lengthy filming and video production process, they propose that similar projects in the future include sufficient preparation for each production stage, with flexible timelines occurring during a less busy time of year.
The researchers also conclude that “videos do not support active learning on their own, but they can be used effectively if paired with relevant learning activities” (p. 10).
When surveyed, 78% of participating students reported that they appreciated the exposure to other students’ experiences, and another 78% agreed that the videos were engaging. Student levels of engagement were reported to have increased when the videos were appropriately introduced and contextualized, when expectations and subsequent activities were discussed, and when students were encouraged to decide whether or not they personally agreed with the messages in the videos.
The authors also explain the value of instructors as facilitators instead of traditional lecturers. They conclude that librarians must continue to consider the “academic world” from the unique perspectives of students in order to improve instruction and develop meaningful learning tools. A project such as this one “speaks to students in their own voices, positions the students themselves as “experts,” and works toward transforming the student experience” (p. 11), and they would like to see the videos used in a wider variety of courses and classroom contexts (p. 10).

The central premise of this video project involves “students as experts, instructors as facilitators” (p. 10-11). The article describing Majekodunmi and Murnaghan’s project shows that by creating student-centric videos, instructors are able to design a better learning tool.
In the future, it would be great if incoming students were regularly interviewed with questions similar to those asked in this project, even when filming is not available. Then, instructors would be able to use the interview results as baseline data to update the curriculum from the students’ standpoint.
Using these videos interviews in the classroom allows instructors to engage with students more actively (p. 10). Within teaching guides, the constructive and individual process is a key methodology (p. 8).

In the future, what other kinds of ways can instructors help students construct their academic progress? Instructors should keep an open mind as to emerging literacies because there are always new ways to communicate through technology.


Karppinen, Paivi. “Meaningful Learning with Digital and Online Videos: Theoretical Perspectives.” AACE Journal, 13.3 (2005): 233-250. Web. 20 Aug. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.editlib.org/d/6021
Majekodunmi, Norda and Kent Murnaghan. “Learning: In Our Own Words.” Web. 20 August 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.library.yorku.ca/cms/learning-commons/2011/11/08/learning-video-series/