Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Creating, Viewing, and Assessing: Fluid Roles of the Student Self in Digital Storytelling

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Creating, Viewing, and Assessing: Fluid Roles of the Student Self in Digital Storytelling

Article excerpt

This paper presents findings of a mixed-methods study of students as creators and viewers of digital storytelling projects in the intermediate technology classroom (students ages 9-11) and two middle school libraries (students ages 11-13). The study was designed to investigate how the interactive, participatory roles of listeners in traditional library storytelling might be extended to the digital storytelling space. During the construction of digital storytelling projects, students fluidly and independently shifted roles from creator to "listener-viewer" and back again. These dual roles students assumed as creators and viewers in the formative, or work-in-progress, stage of digital storytelling afford opportunities for self-assessment, a key skill for school librarians to support and teach.


One "Storytelling" in the library context may call to mind children gathered to hear a librarian tell stories, where the librarian enchants the listeners with stories from the oral tradition, perhaps enhancing the story with "media" like felt board or puppets, accompanied by the sounds of singing, clapping, or maybe a beating a drum. The story experience captures the children's imaginations, and they envision the characters and scenes of the tale as it is told aloud. The children shape the story that unfolds that day by inherent qualities they bring (like their ages) and through the actions they demonstrate (like leaning forward to show interest or chanting along to rhymes and special exclamations) (Lipman, 1999). They step away from this unique storytelling event having participated in the story through the role of the listener, enlightened by a story and perhaps, inspired to tell or read new stories.

The many iterations of multimedia-based narratives known as "digital storytelling" bear some similarities to the traditional form of library storytelling for children. In this paper, digital storytelling is a short, multimedia presentation of a story, created by students, under the guidance of school librarians or teachers. Like traditional storytelling scenarios, school- or library-situated digital storytelling lessons or programs have tellers who present narratives, oftentimes concluding with a showcase where a live audience views the story. However, in digital storytelling, the tellers are usually the students - who take turns as the audience, too - and the narratives are constructed by selecting and adding media content to a technology-based application to shape a digital production viewed on a big screen or computer.

The National Storytelling Network defines storytelling as, "the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener's imagination" (National Storytelling Network, n.d.). It is this dynamic nature of live storytelling that becomes a little murky when attempting a comparison between traditional and digital storytelling. What happens to the familiar roles of storyteller and listener? Is digital storytelling interactive? That is, are audience-members able to participate in a digital storytelling event and can storytellers adjust in the moment as they are able to do with traditional storytelling?

This study sought to investigate these questions about digital storytelling in the school library and intermediate technology classroom setting, with an emphasis on learning about the experience of the audience, or "listener-viewers" as they respond to and engage in digital storytelling. The study was conducted in three school settings using a mixed-methods approach, primarily based on participant-observation of the librarians' and teachers' instruction and students' work time and presentation of digital stories. This paper examines one particularly notable finding of the school library- and classroom-situated digital storytelling in this research, wherein a new "audience" became apparent: the self. The findings of this study suggest that students as viewers of their own work is a central characteristic of digital storytelling, from which an opportunity emerges for school librarians to build students' skills in self-assessment, an important skill in 21-st century learning. …

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