Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Digital Narrative and the Humanities: An Evaluation of the Use of Digital Storytelling in an Australian Undergraduate Literary Studies Program

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Digital Narrative and the Humanities: An Evaluation of the Use of Digital Storytelling in an Australian Undergraduate Literary Studies Program

Article excerpt

Abstract

A growing number of university teachers advocate the benefits of multimedia and digital technologies in their classrooms. Such technologies are promoted: as a means to ensure the relevance of subject disciplines; and, as tools of engagement to assist students to meet their learning outcomes. Digital storytelling or narration is one example of how educators can utilise technology to introduce innovative teaching methods. In its broadest sense, digital narration involves using digital resources in learning environments for the production by students of multimedia narratives. This paper reports on the results, over a two-year period, of an evaluation of the use of digital narratives in an advanced undergraduate unit on contemporary Australian literature in one Australian university. The evaluation explored students' and the teacher's experiences of digital storytelling. In particular, it examined participants' satisfaction with and anxieties about the use of digital narratives. It also considered the issues that the use of digital narratives raises vis-à-vis the constructive alignment with the themes, aims, and objectives of the unit, as well as the kinds and levels of technical training and assistance required to support students and staff. The results of this evaluation will be of interest to academics considering the use of multimedia technologies in their undergraduate classes.

Keywords: digital narrative, digital storytelling, multimedia technologies, literary studies

1. Introduction

This paper presents the results of an evaluation of the use of digital narratives/storytelling, over a two-year period, in an advanced undergraduate unit on contemporary Australian literature in an Australian university. The evaluation examines the experiences of the students and the teacher. In particular we were interested in the perceived usefulness-broadly defined-of digital narratives in the undergraduate classroom: how did the new pedagogy influence student learning and the management/coordination of the unit? Drawing upon student responses to questionnaires, critical reflection essays and focus group discussions, as well as the reflections of the lecturer (the first-named author), the evaluation considered a number of issues including the constructive alignment of digital narrative pedagogy with the themes, aims, and objectives of the unit, and the level of technical training/support required for the meaningful employment of such methods.

1.1 What are Digital Narratives?

Digital narratives-or, as they are more commonly known, digital stories-are student-produced multimedia narratives (Barrett, 2006; Benmayor, 2008; Bull & Kajder, 2005; Burgess, 2006; Coventry, 2008b; Kajder, Bull, & Albaugh, 2005; Leon, 2008; Mellon, 1999; Oppermann, 2008; Robin, 2008; Tucker, 2006). Digital narratives can: range in duration from one to ten minutes; incorporate photomontage accompanied by voiceover; or be short video movies. They are generally created using inexpensive photography, video, and audio capture and editing software-such as Windows Media Maker, Photoshop, iMovie, Acrobat, etc-that are readily commercially available and/or commonly packaged with new Windows-based and Apple personal computers.

In this study we use the term digital narrative rather than digital storytelling because in many non-educational contexts the latter has become associated with discourses of personal and therapeutic transformation that may not be appropriate within an educational context. Moreover, many advocates of digital storytelling promote this technique as a goal and outcome. As the purpose of this study was to evaluate the utility of digital narratives as a part of an pedagogical process, it was felt that a more value-neutral terminology should be adopted, one that envisions digital narrative as one method available to contemporary-transliterate-scholars.

1.2 Applications: What are the Academic Uses and Benefits of Digital Narratives? …

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