Digital Storytelling in Elementary Ed

For my interest-driven scholarship this week I wanted to read something that would give me a glimpse of what digital story telling might look like within my fourth grade classroom.  Already, just in week one of this course, I feel like I have learned a lot and have become engaged in new literacies in ways I didn’t know I was capable of.  This has me excited and hopeful that I can translate this into my own teaching.  I found a write up of a study that was conducted in Canada through the University of Nipissing that looked at the ways in which digital storytelling can “enhance engagement and create higher quality writing” in fifth and sixth graders.

Interestingly enough, this study that I found cited Lankshear and Knobel in their rational.  They spoke of how engaging digital storytelling has been found in children and adults alike and spoke of using “new literacies” or “multiliteracies” in order to make struggling writers feel involved and stimulated.  I was interested to read their views on how these struggling writers can often be motivated by new literacies because they are more literate in them and can use their technological skills to scaffold what we think of as traditional literacy.  When I read this part of the study several individual students immediately came to mind. Students who are all but unable to get coherent down on paper, but who, when given the opportunity to use google classroom and schoology to respond to myself or their peers, or even produce their own writing samples, become successful writers. While I wasn’t surprised by these findings as I have seen it in my own classroom, the reasoning that using technologies with which the students feel comfortable and engaged in will help scaffold the underlying agenda of my writing lessons was sort of an “ah-ha” moment for me.

The reading then goes on to explain just how the study was conducted, and what was used to measure success.  They used “specific indicators, including writer self-perception, time spent on task, and task completion” to measure success in 5th and 6th grade students over the course of two years.  Not surprisingly, there was more success in the second year, which was attributed in large part to the fact that the novelty of the technology had worn off, and the students’ focus became more on the writing itself.  I know that in my current school, there are more and more opportunities to use new technologies in an authentic way as the students get older.  When I first sought out this study, I was thinking of it in terms of my specific fourth grade classroom, but after reading it I am wondering how this would look in even younger grades, so that by the time I get my students each year they are literate in the use of the technologies and the novelty of it can wear off leaving just the engagement and collaboration pieces behind.

Perhaps the most profound and meaningful finding from this study was that the students that participated viewed themselves as better writers by the end of the second year.  They also felt as though their peers and educators viewed them as better writers.  If digital story telling can build this kind of confidence in students as writing, there is no question as to whether or not it is beneficial.  This confidence came, in  part, because of the collaborative efforts these students were a part of in their digital story telling.  Their writing became visible to people outside of themselves and their teacher, and their peers along with other networks were able to see and build upon their writing  in a cooperative way.  This gave the writing far more meaning than pencil and paper tasks and allowed for more feedback and reinforcement on each piece of writing.

I found this study to be very informative and encouraging for me as an elementary teacher.  If you’d like to take a look yourself, you can find it  here.


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