Digital Stories: Different Taste in Language Classrooms

Sagun Shrestha (sagunshrestha4@gmail.com)*

Technology, the term, adhered to most of the fields these days is uttered often by instructors thinking of blending it to their classrooms one way or the other. Simply put, it is English instructors who plan to bring it, maybe, to arouse interest of their students and to effectively engage them in their teaching learning activities. Something new attracts all and sundry, and for the students who are always inquisitive, technology has proven to be the best vehicle do motivate them and ease in their learning. Shyamlee (2012) states, ‘The new era assigns new challenges and duties on the modern teacher. The tradition of English teaching has been drastically changed with the remarkable entry of technology. Technology provides so many options as making teaching interesting and also making teaching more productive in terms of improvements. Technology is one of the most significant drivers of both social and linguistic change.’

Reflecting my own experience, in GEMS, one of the private schools of Nepal where I worked as an English faculty, I used some online resources like www.nicenet.org for virtual classes, www.wordpress.com for class blog, www.zunal.com for project work, www.rubistar4teachers.com for making rubrics. While working on these tools, needless to say, my students were overwhelmingly curious to handle those online tools and to develop content in and/or through them. So did I as I was learning its specific details and in the meantime researching their effective use in the English classroom. I didn’t take the students in the computer lab nor did I bother doing it in the classes. I simply asked them to do operate them at home and yes, I would instruct them each Friday what they could do next.
For instance, I had 4 student editors for class blog who would post their friends’ write-up each Saturday and their friends would comment on them. The best comment would be awarded each Sunday. More often their posting would be on a reflection of a particular unit they would learn. Similarly, in nicenet, they would talk each other virtually yet with academic/formal language again on their topics and there used to be more than 70 discussion threads on one topic.

Let me talk about the distinct online resources which are important for creating digital stories. These are primarily for primary and lower-secondary graders, however, it can be adapted to any other classes. Hillary Smith, Honaray Teaching and Research Fellow, Massey University from New Zealand provided these ideas in her training session entitled ‘Digital Stories: Teaching and Assessment’ that took place at NELTA in December. She quotes Vingradov , Linville & Bickel (2011) and defines digital stories are short and economical personal narrative pieces that use image, voice sound effects, and music to convey meaning. They appeal to the different learning styles of the students accompanying with developing communication and multimedia skills and no doubt they are motivating and interesting for digital natives and digital immigrants.

This is the age, creativity and critical thinking have exploited much in every sphere.  Creating something on our own with noble insight is highly demanded in creating digital stories. In other words, it demands our creativity and critical thinking. Some online resources for digital stories are www.zimmertwins.com, www.storiesforchange.net, www.voicethread.com, www.clpgh.org. These are indeed useful websites where you can develop some stories using some cartoons and pictures. Smith in her session shared that, these are for the students to be involved in for developing stories. To me, in Nepal, since majority of the schools are not technology-equipped and no schools use computer lab for teaching other subjects than computer science, teachers can use them to develop stories or adapt any content they are going to teach in the form of story and show them. This will interestingly motivate the students. From zimmertwins, you can develop a good story creating characters and sound and from clpgh, you can create a story using cartoon characters and print them. Similarly, in voicetread, you can use the pictures and add your voice to create a story. It is also possible to get some comments in it. These all can be used for students’ project in vacation.

What about showing them how to create different stories through multimedia projector in a class for a day using these online resources and asking them to do in their vacation? They will be highly motivated in these online tools. It may be like a techno-competition for them, and indeed the best opportunity for the instructors to replace a trend of assigning them a lot of textbook-based homework with some interesting project during a vacation.

Smith says, utilizing these tools as a project for the students, we can use the following rubric for assessment:

Sample Evaluation Rubric

From: Vinogradova, P., Linville, H.A., & Bickell, B. (2011). p. 201.

Points Category Description Components Comments
 -/ 15 Collaboration Story circle and peer review ·         Story presented in story circle; constructive comments on peers’ stories.·         Draft presented during peer review; constructive comments on peers’ stories.
-/20 Script Written version of story. ·         Story is 150-250 words·         Story line (engaging purposeful)·         Accuracy of structure and semantics.
-/20 Voice over Recording of story ·         Clarity of voiceover recording (technical)·         Clear and  correct pronunciation·         Flow of words
-/15 Images Visual displays of story ·         Clarity of images (technical )·         Choice of images·         Economy of images
-/10 Background audio Music/sound effects ·         Clarity and level of audio (technical volume)·         Choice of audio·         Support of story through background audio
-/20 Editing Putting it together ·         Interplay of images, voiceover and background audio

Be it for the students or teachers, digital stories are absolute tools for bringing newness in a classroom. Just put your little effort to yield the productive outcomes. You and your students will certainly have a different taste and look for a new language teaching and learning recipe.

*(Sagun Shrestha is the Assistant Coordinator of English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal. A teacher and teacher trainer, Mr. Shrestha has co-authered ‘English Teaching Methods’ and has worked in the capacity of Editor-in-chief of  ‘ The GEM’, an annual magazine of GEMS . He is particularly interested in cyberculture, researches in new trends in ELT and oriental and western Literature. )

Shyamlee, S. D. (2012). Use of Technology  in English Language Teaching and Learning: An Analysis. IPEDR , 33. Retrieved on 25th Dec., 2014 from http://www.ipedr.com/vol33/030-ICLMC2012-L10042.pdf

Smith, H. Digital Stories: Teaching and Assessment. Retrieved on 2oth Dec, 2014, from http://www.systemetrics.co.nz/322619/


One response

  1. padamthapa2001padam | Reply

    Nice sharing Sagun sir.


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