Assessment Item 8: Digital Storytelling Project and Reflection

Part A: Context for Digital Story Telling Project 

 “Knowledge, then, is experiences and stories, and intelligence is the apt use of experience, and the creation and telling of stories. Memory is memory for stories, and the major processes of memory are the creation, storage, and retrieval of stories.” (Schank & Abelson, 1995, p. 8)

In Asia, particularly Hong Kong, where parenting is a competitive sport, giving your children the opportunity to learn Chinese has become the holy grail of expatriate parenting.  Children are enrolled in language programs and immersion schools without much understanding or consideration of the possible consequences. Research is scant, seldom longitudinal and evidence is mainly anecdotal, A focus on positive success stories and oral ability prevails, while a climate of shame and fear prevents openness, analysis and understanding when children do not succeed.

Our family’s story of “chasing the dragon” is one of success, failure and ultimate triumph. Storytelling is a way of making sense of events and experiences and communicating this (Botturi, Bramani, & Corbino, 2012) to others in a similar situation.

The subject area covers language, bilingualism and mother tongue from both a pedagogical and socio-emotional point of view. The purpose is to illuminate the complexities underlying language choices in families in the international school context through storytelling.  The intended audience are parents, educators  and administrators in International Schools. This story will be basis of a presentation at a conference on language next year.  It will be used to add context to academic theory on mother-tongue, language learning and identity so that educators and parents alike not only have an intellectual understanding of the theories but an emotional response through this story to the platitude that “every child is unique”.

Academics and educators may lose sight of the fact that the audience that may best profit from their research and knowledge on bilingualism may only be vaguely aware of the information they need, often filtered through their own or other’s experience (King & Fogle, 2006). The intended audience of this project may have not have the time, inclination or access to scholarship in a form and format that is easily understood and resonates with them. Stories influence “attitudes, fears, hopes, and values” and are more effective at changing belief than persuasive writing as a result of changing how information is processed by the audience (Gottschall, 2012) due to escape into an alternative reality, connection with characters, emotional involvement and self-transformation (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004).  The affordances of digital story-telling including audience participation enhance this engagement (Alexander, 2011). Although students are required to have a high level of English proficiency, often parents do not and their learning needs may therefore not be met. The affordance of digital storytelling is to incorporate multi semiotic systems that ‘allow for the linking and integration of cognitive, tacit, affective, cultural, personal, graphic and photographic ways of exploring, articulating, expressing and representing sense-making about learning and identity’ (Williams, 2009, cited in Walker, Jameson, & Ryan, 2010, p. 219).

Within the international school context, language is an area fraught with assumptions, misapprehension and emotion . This interactive digital experience has value for program implementation as it highlights many of the issues surrounding language acquisition and maintenance in an accessible format allowing for both breadth and depth in understanding of the topic.  Parents, with the best intentions in the world make pedagogically unsound decisions while educators, often coming from a mono-lingual background, may be unable to assist families in their linguistic paths and school administrators may be hampered to do right by the individual due to the logistical and cost complexity of catering to multiple linguistic backgrounds and nuances.

This project aims to increase awareness in all intended audiences so that choices can be made based on current understanding of best practice, educational and logistical issues and potential hurdles along the way. Perhaps we can let go of the “holy grail” of Chinese at the cost of our mother tongues and embrace, pursue and celebrate our own languages, culture and identity, reassured by what we know about language skill transferability.

Part B: Digital Story Telling Project


Please note:

In the creation of my digital story, I have made extensive use of old video footage and photos of my children and others in a classroom setting. I have received the permission from my children to do so, and they partook in a series of interviews with me. However, in order to preserve their and others privacy and confidentiality I have decided to make the product and the blog in which the content occurs private until they are old enough to give permission that is legally binding. As they are now aged 11 and 12, I do not think their consent is as informed as it should be.

I would therefore request people to email me their email addresses so that I can include them on the list of people with permission to access the blog. I’m sorry for the inconvenience around this.

I have discussed this with a number of educators at our school and they feel this is the best way to proceed.

I will use some of the video clips and research for the presentation at the language conference in May, but that will be a dynamic rather than static presentation which will limit the exposure to a wide audience without the necessary context.

Part C: Critical Reflection

There are a number of dimensions related to working as an educational professional in the increasingly pervasive digital environment.  We no longer merely have a duty to teach content and information but need to equip ourselves, and our students with digital literacy and critical evaluative skills to deal with the multi-modal formats encountered in the education journey.

Value of digital story telling

In the “context” section, it was highlighted how effective stories are in changing belief and how information is processed and understood including the emotional engagement and interactive potential of digital media (Bailey, 2014c; Coleborne & Bliss, 2011; Gottschall, 2012; Green et al., 2004; Matthews, 2014).  A case can also be made for the role storytelling has in assimilating knowledge and memory (Schank & Abelson, 1995).

Tools and strategies for teaching / learning

In a recent essay, The Economist proposes a hierarchy of knowledge and learning and distinguishes between digital formats that have a function of “presenting people with procedural information they need in order to take on a simple task or fulfil a well-stated goal” versus teaching through “books” that can have its “pedagogy enriched by embedded media and software that adapts them to the user’s pace and needs” (The Economist, 2014, Chapter 5). Certainly the digital realm offers the possibility of engaging learners in a multi-modal environment which is more likely to resonate with their preferred way of receiving information provided the educator has a good understanding of how to select and use the tools (Anstey & Bull, 2012; Bowler, Morris, Cheng, Al-Issa, & Leiberling, 2012; Phillips, 2012; Unsworth, 2008; Walsh, 2010).

As educators our role needs to evolve and combine aspects of discovery, critical evaluation and enabling access to the most appropriate material (Dockter, Haug, & Lewis, 2010; Leacock & Nesbit, 2007; Nokelainen, 2006; Parrott, 2011), while at the same time educating our students to be mindful consumers and producers of content aware of the “weapons” in their and other’s storytelling “arsenal” and how these can be deployed for good and ill (Gottschall, 2012; Walker et al., 2010; Walsh, 2010).

Then there is the psycho/socio-neurological dimension of the impact digital literature has on how our students access, absorb, process and reflect on information and learning (Edwards, 2013; Goodwin, 2013; Jabr, 2013; Margolin, Driscoll, Toland, & Kegler, 2013; Wolf & Stoodley, 2008). Finally, for our students there are questions around the evolution of their skill sets as they move from consumption of digital products to creation, expression, engagement and interactivity (Hall, 2012).

Current and future developments

An exciting function of digital creations is the way materials can meet learning needs of all types of learners (Kingsley, 2007; Rhodes & Milby, 2007). However, one has to wonder about ephemeral nature of material, formats and platforms in the digital environment with the related issues of curation, preservation and archiving. Just as it appears that blogging as a tool for learning and storytelling has had its rise and demise, so too other platforms may not have longevity.

The whole field appears to be in its infancy with emerging and evolving norms, standards and platforms, (Maas, 2010; Valenza, 2014) where one can only wonder who the winners and losers will be.

Factors around design and publication

There are economic issues of efficiency, resource and time wastage as many individual teachers with varying levels of capability; capacity; understanding and access to tools attempt to participate in the creation of materials (Bailey, 2014b). One issue is the absence of a clearing house or “store” such as “Teachers pay Teachers” (Teachers Pay Teachers, 2014) or “Teacher created Resources” (Teacher Created Resources, 2014) so the discovery of relevant material remains serendipitous and local.  For example, YouTube abounds with “educational” material, but lacks a rating system appropriate for educational quality control including checking for producer bias.

For digital curriculum based material, critical mass, economies of scale, and the integration of pedagogy, design and technical tools and marketing are needed which puts educational publishers or organisation such as TED Education (Ted-ed, n.d.) rather than individual educators in a strong position to take control of this arena.

Copyright, Digital rights, licensing

There are issues around digital rights, rights management, copyright and the like, both for the creator and the consumer of digital products for the classroom. Cost and ownership is a tricky area as many products are leased rather than purchased, are platform captive and access to full text for students with disabilities may be precluded (Michaud, 2013; O’Brein, Gasser, & Palfrey, 2012; Puckett, 2010).


At the end of following this course, it could be suggested that the course name “Literature in Digital Environments” is a misnomer (Bailey, 2014a), and “Literacy in Digital Environments” could be an alternative title to encompass all the aspects of this rich arena.



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