2.4 Definition and basic premises of Digital Storytelling
As stated in the introduction of the present chapter, process writing can be materialized through DS. As Papadopoulou and Vlachos (2014) maintain, individual writers engage in brainstorming, drafting, peer-editing and re-drafting in order to create their DS artefacts. DS originated from the work of Joe Lambert and Dana Atchley at the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) at U.C. Berkeley in 1993 (ibid). It can be described as storytelling in an electronic form (Reinders, 2011), comprising of a series of still images in combination with a narrated soundtrack (Bull & Kajder, 2005).
DS enables writers “to become creative storytellers through the traditional processes of selecting a topic, conducting some research, writing a script, and developing an interesting story” (Robin, 2008, p. 222). Their stories are then supplemented with various types of multimedia, including computer-based graphics, recorded audio, computer-generated text, video clips, and music (ibid). There are many different types of digital stories, though the three major ones are personal narratives (stories centered around significant incidents in one’s life), historical documentaries (stories that present dramatic events of the past), and stories aiming at informing or instructing the viewer on a particular concept or practice (Robin, 2006; Robin, 2008, in Papadopoulou ; Vlachos, 2014).
Lambert (2002) identified seven elements which are present in successful digital stories: 1. A point of view, 2. A dramatic question, 3. Emotional content, 4. Economy, 5. Pacing, 6. The gift of your voice, and 7. An accompanying soundtrack. Point of view refers to the student’s experience and understanding, thus using the first-person “I” is essential. A dramatic question holds the attention of the audience until the moment it is resolved, usually towards the end of the story. As Bull and Kajder (2005, p. 48) maintain, “narratives that lead the reader to become invested typically pursue a compelling question that evokes interest and commitment”. Apart from interest or commitment, an effective digital story should include some emotional content, meaning that it prompts the audience to manifest an emotion, such as laughter, tears, or expressions of pleasure. Economy can be described as focusing and it is the most challenging element for both novice and experienced writers to attain. By limiting the scope of the digital story, the construction process becomes more manageable in a school setting and the stories of an entire class can be viewed in a single session. Pacing means adapting to the needs of the story by either pulling back or racing forward. The gift of your voice refers to the pitch, inflection, and timbre of the storyteller’s voice. An individual’s voice conveys meaning and intent in a very personal way, and thus it is irreplaceable. Lastly, soundtrack refers to the music employed which “can enhance and underscore the accompanying story, adding complexity and depth to the narrative” (ibid).
2.5 Educational benefits of Digital Storytelling
In reference to the development of 21st-century skills (see section 1.1.2), DS encompasses a number of skills that students need to perform successfully in an information age (Jakes & Brennan, 2005; Reinders, 2011; Robin, 2008; Sadik, 2008). Jakes (2006, p. 1) argues that “the need to be literate in many ways (e.g. information literate, visually literate), being able to be creative and take risks, and in the process use cutting-edge tools to communicate in a highly engaging manner, makes DS a process that is truly reflective of 21st-century learning”. Students are benefited even further from learning to critique their own work, as well as the work of others, thus fostering their social learning and emotional intelligence (Robin, 2008). As illustrated in Figure 4, DS facilitates the interaction between affordable technologies and the instructional agenda of a 21st-century classroom (ibid).
Figure 4: The convergence of digital storytelling in education (Robin, 2008, p. 223)
A considerable amount of literature has been published concerning the educational benefits that DS has to offer. Bull and Kajder (2005, p. 47) posit that DS “can be used to engage struggling readers and writers who have not yet experienced the power of personal expression”. Burmark (2004) supports that the integration of visual images with written text can enhance and accelerate student comprehension. According to Barrett (2006), DS combines different aspects of learning pedagogy, namely: student engagement, reflection for deep thinking, technology integration, and project-based learning . In the same vein, Frazel (2010) and Hung, Hwang & Huang (2012) postulate that DS and project-based learning can be successfully combined in order to promote effective learning. Additionally, DS amplifies learners’ motivation as it provides authentic material and promotes their creativity (Papadopoulou ; Vlachos, 2014). Robin (2008, p. 225) also argues that “some of the most significant gains of DS pertain to higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, including synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating, and presenting information” (see section 1.1.2). Cradler, McNabb, Freeman ; Burchett (2002, in Robin, 2008) support that when students engage in DS they learn to transform data into information which will be further transformed into knowledge. DS also facilitates differentiated learning (Kieler, 2010) and exploits all cognitive processes involved in learning, from verbal-linguistic, to spatial, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal, bodily-kinaesthetic and naturalist (Lynch ; Fleming, 2007, in Sadik, 2008). Thus, DS accords with Gardner’s (1993) theory of multiple intelligences due to the provision of personalized learning and its multimodal nature. The development of foundational literacies (see section 1.1.2) is also enabled by DS, mainly during the narration process (Czarnecki, 2009). Learners practice their speaking skills (Hickman, Pollard-Durodola & Vaughn, 2004; Rance-Roney, 2010) and improve their pronunciation. Lastly, research has shown that students can overcome difficulties in writing and become skilled authors (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009).
Process writing and DS have both immense influence on the development of learners’ skills, particularly with regard to writing performance. Drafting enables writers to experience the writing process as recursive while self-assessment and peer-feedback foster their critical-thinking skills. DS invites learners to interact with multimedia, thus encouraging them to become literate on many levels. Both chapters so far aimed at establishing the theoretical framework on which the research methodology and application of the VoiceThread application (see Chapter 3) will be ground.