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Interactive Digital Storytelling with Refugee Children


Abstract and Figures

This article describes a literacy intervention—an interactive digital storytelling project—designed to invite limited English proficiency (LEP) learners from refugee families to build new language competencies. The storytelling project served as the central assignment for a five-week summer camp-style experience and required the children to draft narratives and then translate them to visual form, using advanced features of PowerPoint. The children who participated were members of a community-based soccer program for refugees, that, in addition to teaching sportsmanship, offers academic support to the young players. The multi-phased process of composing and revising narratives, translating them to a visual medium, and ultimately presenting the projects to an audience of native English speakers allowed the students to increase their language competency, technology proficiency, interpersonal skills, and academic confidence.
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Almaz, you’d like to show us?” A smiling
nine- year- old girl from Eritrea leaps from her chair.
“OK, Almaz, walk us through the steps to draw
an arrow and then to hyperlink it to the two possible
branches of the story.Almaz guides the computer
mouse to the Shapes icon. She clicks and selects the
image of an arrow.
“Tell us what you are doing,” I prompt.
Almaz uses the vocabulary she has been work-
ing to develop. She nods at the computer screen
as she forms the instructions and drags the mouse
across the desk: “This go click, then move mouse,
make a arrow.” Mimicking the demonstration, the
other students in the lab return to their own stories
and begin clicking as well.
Creating Multimedia Projects
Jane Hill and Kathleen Flynn point out in Class-
room Instruction That Works with En glish Language
Learners (2006) that “nonlinguistic methods of
learning are particularly important” for En glish lan-
guage learners (ELLs; p. 36). Digital storytelling,
“the art of telling stories with multimedia objects
including images, audio, and video” (Rossiter &
Garcia, 2010, p. 37), is a versatile instructional
strategy, easily adapted for a variety of language
arts objectives. It holds unique potential, however,
as a literacy- building tool for children with refugee
status, whose lives have been disrupted by politi-
cal conicts, ethnic strife, and war. The disruption
typically includes extended stays in refugee camps,
limited access to quality formal education, and
minimal opportunity to develop the types of school-
related skills required to thrive in US classrooms,
all factors that compound the difculties implicit in
studying in an additional language. To produce an
“Stories are more than just good for us— they are
essential to survival.
— Jason Ohler, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom, p. 9
It is mid- morning in July, 2011, and I am work-
ing with 30 young learners in a computer lab
on the college campus where I teach. The stu-
dents, members of families resettled as refugees,
are learning En glish as an additional language, and
they have spent the last few weeks on our cam-
pus, participating in an academic summer camp
designed specically to offer them opportunities to
strengthen their skills in reading, writing, listening,
speaking, and presenting.
In today’s lesson, I am demonstrating the ele-
ments of an interactive digital story— a multimedia
text that includes hyperlinks to allow readers to
make decisions about plot divergences in the nar-
rative. Before coming to the lab, the students had
worked in small groups alongside language arts
teachers as they maneuvered through the initial
phases of this project: generating story ideas, plot-
ting, structuring the divergences in the stories, and
outlining. The interactive digital stories serve as a
culminating assignment in the intensive ve- week
curriculum for the camp (for which I served as the
lead curricular designer). Week Three has brought
the students to the lab to translate their stories from
their writing journals and note cards to PowerPoint,
a presentation software product often available on
the computers in elementary and middle schools in
the United States.
When I invite a volunteer (all student names
are pseudonyms) to come to the demonstration sta-
tion to remind the class how to hyperlink an arrow
to a scene in the story, at least a dozen hands lurch
into the air.
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
Interactive Digital Storytelling
withRefugee Children
Toby Emert
July_2014_LA.indd 401 6/11/14 12:17 PM
Copyright © 2014 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.
Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
composing a quality multimedia product, however,
also provide a range of challenges betting the goal
of bolstering the children’s academic skills and
their condence as learners. “Creating texts digi-
tally . . . provide[s] multiple pathways for students
to build on the skills and knowledge they possess
already and deepen the connections they are form-
ing with new information” (Walker- Dalhouse &
Risko, 2008, p. 423).
It is important that refugee students, whose in-
school histories are often characterized by intercul-
tural misunderstanding and insensitivity, envision
their potential to excel academically (Emert, 2013).
Realizing this goal requires teachers and allies who
act as cultural brokers, identify what the students
do well and collaborate with them to develop their
gifts (Herrera, 2010; Perry, 2009). It also requires
complex, high- interest instructional strategies that
incorporate a range of academic competencies
embedded within authentic language- learning envi-
ronments. These types of intentionally designed
learning activities have the potential to accelerate
language acquisition (Calderon, 2007; Freeman
& Freeman, 2009; Gibbons, 2009; Hill & Flynn,
The summer camp initiative aimed to offer
the children “high- challenge” (tasks students can-
not complete without assistance) or “high- support”
(scaffolding that enables students to successfully
complete a task) language- learning activities (Mari-
ani, 1997), supported by technology tools the stu-
dents would likely encounter in school settings,
tools they generally have less access to than their
US- born peers. The assignment to create an inter-
active digital story placed the students in learn-
ing situations that inspired them “to reach out and
grasp the meaning of what [was] just a bit beyond
their comprehension level” (McIntyre, Kyle, Chen,
Kraemer, & Parr, 2009, p. 4). In this article, I offer
glimpses of the students’ progress through the
series of dovetailed steps that allowed them, despite
the fact that the assigned task was not in their home
language, to successfully negotiate the digital sto-
rytelling project. I also provide what I have termed
“close- ups” of selected students— focused descrip-
tions of the children’s responses to the demands of
original digital story, students must practice a rich
array of literacy skills and technology prociencies.
Furthermore, the emphasis on visual language— in
the form of structured sequential images— offers
speakers learning En glish a mode for sharing per-
sonal narratives that feels engaging and “taps skills
and talents . . . that might otherwise lie dormant
within students [and] that will serve them well in
school, at work, and in expressing themselves per-
sonally” (Ohler, 2005/2006, p. 47).
Refugee students are “capable of success when
given the right kind of support” (McIntyre, Kyle,
Chen, Kraemer, & Parr, 2009, p. ix), but they often
“start school with less academic background than
native En glish- speaking classmates and fall fur-
ther behind them in the process of learning [a new
language]” (Freeman & Freeman, 2009, p. 158).
ELLs, in general, are at risk of being perceived as
disadvantaged, a label
accompanied by low
expectations for achieve-
ment (Gibbons, 2009). As
newcomers in classroom
settings, refugee learners
are routinely viewed by
schools in terms of their
decits— what they do not
know (Loerke, 2009)—
and often relegated to
classwork that offers too
little stimulation. By con-
trast, asking students to
create visual narratives, like digital stories, pro-
vides them an invitation to demonstrate academic
strengths: the ability to sequence narrative events,
manage an intricate multi- step process, and impro-
vise with the aid of technology tools.
It is partially this focus on the capabilities that
refugee students already possess when they enter the
learning environment that makes digital storytelling
an especially apt strategy for their literacy enhance-
ment. Visual narratives allow students to express
their thoughts and promote deep engagement with
an academic project, a key component of effective
literacy environments (Teale & Gambrell, 2007).
The intellectual and artistic processes involved in
It is important that
refugee students, whose
in- school histories are often
characterized by intercultural
misunderstanding and
insensitivity, envision
their potential to excel
July_2014_LA.indd 402 6/11/14 12:17 PM
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
the assignment— that allow for an analysis of their
growth as readers, writers, and thinkers.
Project Background
Description of the Program Participants
The elementary and middle school children who
participated in the literacy initiative in 2011 rep-
resented more than 20 home countries, includ-
ing Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq,
Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, and
Sierra Leone— and as many languages and dialects.
Some of the young learners had been in the United
States for only a few months and still struggled with
conversational En glish, others were more procient
as speakers, and a handful could write more com-
plexly in En glish. None of the students, however,
were performing at grade level. This is not surpris-
ing given that the educational experiences provided
to children in refugee camps are uneven, at best, as
schooling is “often done on an ad hoc basis [and]
focused on immediate needs like relief of psychoso-
cial stress . . . without consistent reference to basic
standards for achieving the goals normally pursued
by schools” (Waters & LeBlanc, 2005, p.138). As
a result, many refugee students resettling in the
United States begin their new school lives with tre-
mendous academic and social disadvantages (Rich-
man, 1998). This situation warrants extracurricular
support for refugee children, programming that
offers opportunities to tackle intellectually demand-
ing tasks that also showcase their strengths and help
them develop new prociencies (Pilgreen, 2010;
Portes, 2004).
Toby Emert | I D S R C
Digital Storytelling in the Classroom has several lesson plans that show digital storytelling in the classroom:
Digitally Telling the Story of Greek Figures
Learn about Greek gods, heroes, and creatures through digital storytelling produced by students who have learned
research techniques. resources/lesson- plans/digitally- telling- story- greek- 30805.html
Book Report Alternative: Creating Reading Excitement with Book Trailers
In this alternative to the traditional book report, students create book trailers using Microsoft Photo Story 3, a free
downloadable software program for digital storytelling. resources/lesson- plans/book- report- alternative- creating- c- 30914.html
Animate That Haiku!
Following the traditional form of the haiku, students publish their own haikus using Animoto, an online Web tool
that creates slideshows with a blend text and music. resources/lesson- plans/animate- that- haiku- a- 30872.html
Vote for Me! Making Presidential Commercials Using Avatars
After researching political platforms of past presidents through primary sources and other resources, students create
commercials for these presidents using Voki, an online Web tool that produces speaking avatars. resources/lesson- plans/vote- making- presidential- commercials- 30875.html
— Lisa Fink
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Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
communication and technology hold “transfor-
mative potential for the disenfranchised . . . when
[the] technology is coupled with critical pedagogy”
(p.70). Translating ideas into “media-based expres-
sion” (Ohler, 2008, p. 11) allows for the possibility
of profound growth, both personally and practically.
Personal stories can serve as the “cornerstones of
constructivist learning, in which students become
heroes of their own learning adventures” (Ohler,
2008, p. 9).
Overview of the Initiative’s
For the reading and writing workshop sessions the
students attended each morning of the summer
program, they worked on a common curriculum in
small groups of no more than ten, alongside a cer-
tied language arts teacher and a classroom assis-
tant. Each week’s lessons focused on a particular
phase of the storytelling project with the goal of
translating a personal narrative through a series of
scaffolded steps in order to render an illustrated
text. The classroom environment was intention-
ally demanding in terms of the social and academic
expectations, but it was also supportive. The stu-
dents were encouraged to collaborate with each
other and create signicant relationships with the
teaching team.
The rst week’s lessons began with a short
in- common reading, “New Kid” (Hermes, 2004),
about a fth grader who transferred, mid- term, to
a new school. As the students read the story with
their teachers, they discussed scenarios in which
someone struggles to adjust to a new environment.
This was a rich topic for these children, who, each
day, experience cultural barriers to acceptance.
The goal of offering a story like “New Kid” was to
use literature as an invitation for analysis and self-
reection. After the readings, the children divided
into two smaller groups of four or ve and brain-
stormed ideas for a story they might write about
being a “new kid.” Later, they transferred the ideas
they had generated in their conversation groups to
journals, which they wrote in throughout the camp
experience (see Fig. 1). These notes became the
Rationale for the Interactive Digital
Storytelling Project for Refugee Learners
The wide range of En glish language and literacy
prociencies among the refugee students in the
summer program demanded an in- common central
project that was accessible to all of the learners. The
potential benets of incorporating technologies into
the classroom are well- documented (Alexander,
2011; Bull & Bell, 2010; Burniske, 2008; Hathorn,
2005; Kajder & Swenson, 2004; Ohler, 2008; Rem-
ler, 2011; Robin, 2008; Sadik, 2008); these advan-
tages include student engagement with academic
projects, thoughtful self- expression, increased
creativity, awareness of audience, meaning mak-
ing, and technological competence. Assignments
that include multimodal components also naturally
encompass 21st- century higher- order skill sets such
as independent thinking, problem solving, and deci-
sion making, “widely cited . . . as an imperative for
today’s students,” (Silva, 2009, p. 630). And digital
storytelling, in particular, asks students to engage
with a wealth of critical school- based prociencies,
including analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and cri-
tique (Hammond & Lee, 2010; Murray, 2003).
In essence, there are two narratives in a digital
story— the overt narrative (the words in the story)
and the covert narrative perceived by the viewer
from the images. In order
to successfully negotiate
the demands of a digital
assignment, students must
demonstrate mastery of
an impressive range of
artistic and technical com-
munication skills (Miller,
2010). Moreover, digi-
tal storytelling projects,
which frequently draw
on personal narratives for
content, challenge students to build fundamental
competencies (vocabulary acquisition, sentence
construction, knowledge of grammar), while simul-
taneously inviting them to view moments from their
own lives through aesthetic lenses. Barbara Monroe
(2004) believes that learning activities that combine
Assignments that include
multimodal components also
naturally encompass 21st-
century higher- order skill
sets such as independent
thinking, problem solving,
and decision making.
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Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
how to use the features of PowerPoint. The students
worked in the lab for one hour each day and, by
week’s end, had learned a variety of technology-
based skills: using the computer mouse; naming,
saving, and locating les; opening and closing
software; downloading copyright- free images and
music from the Internet; importing les; and using
the advanced features of PowerPoint.
In the fourth week, the students also added
illustrative images to their stories. They had already
built the skeleton of the narrative in PowerPoint,
typing text, making font choices, and linking slides
to allow the story to move in divergent direc-
tions (depending on how the reader answered the
embedded questions). They were ready to add visu-
als to the text. To create the images, the students
worked in groups to brainstorm illustrations that
would make their stories “come to life.” Using their
peers as “intelligent clay” (Boal, 2002, p. 136),
they sculpted tableaux vivants— posed “living
pictures”— of the scenes they had envisioned. The
teachers assisted with staging the tableaux and then
helped the students shoot digital photographs of
rst drafts of the stories the students composed for
the interactive digital narratives they eventually
produced in the fourth week of the camp.
In the second week, the students began revising
their stories, creating four to six plot points at which
the characters faced a decision and had to make a
choice. Whereas the rst draft of the stories focused
on the development of ideas, the subsequent draft
focused on structure. The teaching staff provided
scaffolding tools to those students who struggled,
offering sentence stems to assist in getting the sto-
ries on the page; transcribing parts of the stories,
when the students expressed frustration; or asking
questions to help clarify confusions.
In the third week, larger groups of up to 30
brought their outlines and notes with them to the
computer lab to learn how to render their text as
illustrated interactive stories. They worked on
individual laptops, but they were clustered with
their classroom peers, so even though they were in
a large lab group, they sat near the children they
had been collaborating with for earlier lessons
(see Fig. 2). The rst lab sessions taught the students
Figure 1. In early drafts of their stories, the students used
their journals to translate the personal anecdotes they
shared with their classmates into ctional “stories.”
Figure 2. The students were clustered in the lab so that
they worked near their peers from the morning’s small-
group activities; their teachers and classroom assistants
provided continuous feedback and support.
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Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
included physical and emotional details that were
much more specic than the kinds of details his
peers included: his creature, Penm, lived with his
family in the Indian Ocean, was grey with no hair
and a short tail, and loved to eat sh eyes. In the
description, Daw offers these surprisingly gurative
lines: “His dad, Datt, teach him vocabularies. Then
he threw those vocabs in the ocean.
Daw’s early journaling about the digital story
assignment, however, reects the challenges he
encountered in trying to generate the divergences in
his story. When asked to comment on his week in
class, he writes, “I also hated when we wrote too
much stories. I hated the project we’re doing too.
It makes me think too much. I always hate when I
have to think too much.” (See Fig. 3, a page from
Daw’s journal.) Daw’s characterization of his feel-
ings about the experience of generating the outline
for his story— that he “hates” it— is not unexpected.
By his own admission, the project forced him to
work hard, but having to “think too much” was an
expectation for the students’ early encounters with
the assignment. It was intentionally designed to
place them in unfamiliar territory in terms of the
literacy skill sets required for success.
each scene. These pictures became the illustrations
in the students’ digital stories.
After computer lab time, the students gathered
in feedback groups to review their projects. Each stu-
dent’s interactive story was shown on a large class-
room screen, allowing students to practice their cri-
tique skills by following a
specic feedback protocol
focused on the elements of
the assignment. The proto-
col asked the reviewers to
comment on the success
each student showed in
creating hyperlinks, in developing a logical storyline
for each divergence, and in imagining, staging, and
inserting the tableaux vivants as illustrations. The
teachers set the tone for the critiques by modeling
responses to the protocol questions. After the cri-
tiques, the groups nominated interactive digital sto-
ries from those they reviewed to be featured at the
camp showcase, held later in the week.
Presenting their projects at an exhibit- style
learning fair for an audience of approximately 200
adults posed a signicant language challenge for the
students and served as a form of authentic assess-
ment, “enabling [them] to demonstrate their knowl-
edge and skills in a variety of ways” (O’Malley &
Pierce, 1996, p. 31). Interacting with the guests in
En glish required the students to practice their lan-
guage skills; describing the storytelling assignment
offered them opportunities to explain the artifacts of
their learning and to reect on the learning process.
Classroom Close- ups
Classroom Close- up #1: Practicing
Divergent Thinking
The kind of divergent thinking required for this
type of writing assignment was difcult for the
students. It was something they had not previ-
ously been asked to do. Daw, an 11- year- old boy
from Southeast Asia, was self- directed, unexpect-
edly creative in his responses to the learning activi-
ties, and clearly talented in writing with a air for
character development. One writing exercise asked
students to describe an imaginary creature; Daw
Figure 3. In Daw’s journaling, we see his frustration with
the difculty of the assignment, but we also see his note
about being asked to “think too much,” a phrase that indi-
cates his cognitive engagement with the process.
The kind of divergent
thinking required for this
type of writing assignment
was difcult for the students.
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Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
each student had created a graphic depiction of the
structure of her or his narrative and a note card for
each sentence in the story. The cards were ordered
and numbered, helping the students prepare for the
translation of the story to digital form.
If we look again at Daw’s work, we can see
how, despite his early frustration with the project, he
negotiated the idea of framing the story divergences
with an outline and supporting notes. He wrote the
questions that readers would encounter in the story
on one side of his note cards and the corresponding
story event on the other side (see Fig. 4). This orga-
nizing technique helped him visualize the “ow” of
the narrative and demonstrated his understanding of
the process. Most of the students needed assistance to
Many of the students began by writing sprawl-
ing stories with elements that did not easily follow
logical trajectories. This was due in part to their
struggle to accomplish the somewhat difcult task
of imagining more than one direction for a story, but
also because they were still new to expressing their
ideas in En glish. Though the students labored to
articulate possible points of divergence in their nar-
ratives, the higher- order thinking embedded in the
assignment encouraged them to extend their under-
standing of story frameworks. It also pushed them
to visualize possibilities, outline ideas, and generate
story maps— skills that help crystalize understand-
ing (Fetterman, 2010). The process was demand-
ing, but by the conclusion of the second week,
Figure 4. The notecards Daw prepared to take to the computer lab demonstrate his method of organization, with
questions on one side of the card and answers on the other.
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Toby Emert | I D S R C
Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
Classroom Close- up #2: Practicing
Revising for Clarity and Correctness
Each computer lab session’s lesson focused on a
specied element of the assignment, and the chil-
dren worked through the steps as a group, watching
a demonstration by a lead instructor, assisted by a
student volunteer. Afterward, they practiced inde-
pendently to implement the skills they were learn-
ing. Coaches (the teachers they had been working
with throughout the camp) were readily available to
re- teach segments of the lesson and to guide the stu-
dents’ progress. As might be expected, the students
had a bit of initial difculty in the lab. The com-
puter mouse and PowerPoint were new for some,
especially for those who had only just begun to
learn keyboard skills. In general, however, the stu-
dents picked up the necessary technical know- how
very quickly. Even those with less experience were
able to manipulate text— changing color, font, and
size— and to create shapes and hyperlinks within
a few minutes of the demonstration lesson that
Basic Statistics about Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), less than one percent of the world’s
10.5 million refugees are granted asylum in a resettlement country. (
The UNHCR assists a variety of displaced people, including asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons, and those who
are returning to their home countries after a conict. Of the 33.9 million people of concern to UNHCR, almost half
are children. (
Historically, only 10 countries in the world have accepted refugees for resettlement: the United States, Canada,
Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. Recently,
a few other countries have begun accepting refugees, including Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. (
The United States accepts nearly three times more asylum seekers from conict- ravaged regions than do all other
developed nations combined. More than 60,000 refugees entered the US in 2011, for example, and
approximately one- third of these newcomers were children and teenagers. (
The US Department of State works with nine domestic agencies to resettle refugees. The agencies are tasked with
assisting refugees in applying for Social Security cards, registering children for school, learning how to locate shops
and stores, arranging medical appointments, and connecting with social or language services. (http://www.state
Figure 5. Each student worked with the instructors to
translate the ideas from their template to note cards in
preparation for their work in the computer lab.
outline their stories and translate the outlined text to
note cards they could use in the lab to generate their
PowerPoint projects; with guidance from instructors,
the students successfully developed the materials they
needed to move to the computer lab (see Fig. 5.)
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
high- stakes escape from a burning building: “He
jumps out the window leaving his child and puppy
behind. He cuts his leg and is gushing blood, but he
doesn’t care. Does he turn around and try to stop
the re OR HE RUN AWAY?” Gushing was a term
Thet had encountered in his small- group’s common
readings. His correct incorporation of the word in a
sentence points to his understanding of its meaning
and its usage.
The effort Thet makes to write a compelling
narrative and to demonstrate his learning is clear.
The tableau that he staged, in which his protagonist
has his face and hand plastered against a window, is
an apt illustration for his sentence and further indi-
cates that Thet comprehends how to use an image to
convey both the action and the tone of the story he
has written. As students revised their digital stories,
many of them rened the images repeatedly, chang-
ing camera angles, adjusting the characters’ posi-
tions, and adding backgrounds and props. Some
students added projections to their images to create
a more realistic portrayal of a moment in the nar-
rative. Thet, for example, whose story included an
explosion, searched the Internet for a photograph
of a burning building and then created a tableau in
which the protagonist of the story reacts to the ery
blast in the background (see Fig. 7). In creating
their digital stories, the students came to understand
taught these techniques. The students were remark-
ably adept with the computers and fearless in their
efforts to make a visually workable project. They
expressed a condence in the lab that they did not
exhibit in other classroom exercises or activities.
As they worked in the lab, the students contin-
ued to revise the drafts of their stories, rethinking the
language, the structure, and the technical elements.
Early drafts of some students’ stories revealed the
rudimentary nature of their grasp of written En glish.
Abid, a sixth grader from the Middle East, wrote a
story about a grandmother who recounts her memo-
ries of being the new inmate in jail when she was a
teenager. His narrative, which includes theft and an
accidental death, demonstrates that he understands
the importance of including drama— an advanced
writing skill— but his rst- draft PowerPoint slides
contained unconventional spellings and grammar
usage. With coaching, however, he was able to edit
for organization, style, spelling, and grammar.
Classroom Close- up #3: Practicing New
Vocabulary Usage
Some of the students included new words they had
encountered during the summer in the text of their
stories, illustrating their growing vocabulary. Thet,
for example, used the word gushing in one of his
slides (see Fig. 6). He writes in his story about a
Figure 6. The tableau Thet created for the moment in his
story when his protagonist is caught in a burning room
demonstrates his understanding of how the text and the
image are related.
Figure 7. Throughout the project, some students con-
tinued to rene the illustrations for their stories, adding
backgrounds they found on the Internet to produce a more
realistic portrayal of the moment depicted.
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
the process of creating the tableaux vivants. Stu-
dents at one station showed the attendees how to
use several advanced features of PowerPoint, and
at another, they taught vocabulary terms they had
encountered. The students were tasked with point-
ing out to the attendees the importance of each step
in the production process and explaining how the
various elements t together to generate the nal
product. This style of presentation allowed the stu-
dents to talk with native En glish speakers in a set-
ting that was less formal than the staged program,
yet it required them to demonstrate the social and
academic skills they had been practicing through-
out the summer. All of the students had a role to
play, one that demanded they show their facility
with language and their condence as learners.
In its formal position statement on “new” literacies,
the International Reading Association (IRA) high-
lights the importance of preparing all students for
the 21st century by offering them opportunities to
develop those literacies “central to full civic, eco-
nomic, and personal participation in a global com-
munity” (2009). Jason Ohler (2009) reminds us that
being literate in a real- world sense means being able
to read and write using the media forms of the day,
whatever they may be. For centuries, consuming and
producing words through reading and writing and, to
a lesser extent, listening and speaking were sufcient.
But because of inexpensive, easy- to- use, and widely
available new tools, literacy now requires being con-
versant with new forms of media as well as text, includ-
ing sound, graphics, and moving images. In addition, it
demands the ability to integrate these new media forms
into a single narrative, or “media collage,” such as a
Web page, blog, or digital story. (p. 30)
Naturally, multimodal digital storytelling requires
learners to improve their abilities to read and write
traditional texts and to create media projects that
communicate their ideas. “The result is an original
and authentic product of the child’s knowledge and
imagination” (Farmer, 2004, p. 157). The oppor-
tunity to transform personal stories through visual
media is particularly powerful for a population of
learners whose life histories are marred by tragedy.
the impact of the illustrations; they were invested
in developing strong images to accompany the lan-
guage of their texts, signs of understanding, owner-
ship, and engagement.
Classroom Close- up #4: Practicing Oral
Presentation Skills
To prepare for the program’s showcase, the stu-
dents whose stories were nominated for inclusion
wrote introductions to their projects, explaining
the steps in the process and summarizing the plot-
lines. They rehearsed their introductions and then
participated in a technical run- through designed
to simulate the showcase experience. They prac-
ticed reading the story aloud as it appeared on the
screen, and they practiced
elding questions from
the audience. All of these
steps were specically
intended to assist the stu-
dents in increasing their
condence and to provide
them high- stakes, authen-
tic opportunities to prac-
tice their written and spoken En glish. The students
took their assignments seriously. The night of the
showcase, they were poised and professional, dem-
onstrating not only the work they had done on pro-
nunciation, enunciation, syntax, and stage presence,
but also their deep understanding of the project they
had undertaken. They became experts on the pro-
cess, explaining in animated detail the steps that led
to the illustrated stories the audience was enjoying.
All of the students, even those who did not
present their stories, played speaking roles at the
event. Before the premiere of the interactive digital
stories, the program attendees interacted with small
groups of students in a learning fair environment,
where they were introduced to the various stages
of the project. Teams of students staffed demon-
stration stations that highlighted elements of the
camp’s curriculum. One station, for example, high-
lighted the stories the students had read together
in preparation for writing their own drafts; another
station featured examples of early drafts in the com-
posing process; yet another offered a glimpse into
All of the students had a role
to play, one that demanded
they show their facility
with language and their
condence as learners.
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
In her book, The Middle of Everywhere: Help-
ing Refugees Enter the American Community
(2002), noted clinical psychologist and author Mary
Pipher suggests that the best way for refugees to
succeed in America “is to somehow hold on to the
good from the old culture while taking advantage
of the new, which is much more difcult in practice
than in theory” (p. 71). The curriculum of the sum-
mer camp for refugee children sought to operation-
alize this idea of combining elements of the “old”
and “new” cultures. The multiliteracy project the
students undertook— the interactive digital story
project— invited them to create a ctional represen-
tation of their experience of the world. In imagining
the story of characters in an unfamiliar situation and
envisioning choices that will allow the characters to
successfully negotiate potential dilemmas, the chil-
dren drew on their understanding of being a new-
comer, but they were not required to focus on the
personal traumas they may have experienced. They
had the opportunity to cast themselves as experts,
fashioning the story and developing plotlines that
illustrated their ability to examine critically the
consequences of certain choices.
The children negotiated a range of school-
based language prociencies and, with sustained
support from mentors and peers, produced sophis-
ticated multimedia projects. They demonstrated a
desire to succeed academically, and they also dem-
onstrated their capacity to excel when offered an
assignment that both draws on skills they already
possess and challenges them to develop new lan-
guage competencies. Revisiting Daw’s experience
of the project, we witness the progression of one
student’s thinking about the assignment: in his rst
week’s journal entry, Daw wrote that he hated gen-
erating the premise for a divergent story because it
made him “think too much.” In his nal entry, how-
ever, he has a different response. He writes: “The
most interesting thing I learned is in computer lap
[sic]. Dr. Emert taught us how to edit our diverson
story. First I hate computer lap, but now I like it
because of the pictures and editing.” A bit later in
the entry, he writes, “My friend teached me about
Ipod touch. I’m really interesting in electronic stuff”
(see Fig. 8).
The incorporation of technologies altered
Daw’s perception of the work he was accomplish-
ing; providing the opportunity to illustrate his
story with digital images
invited a shift in attitude,
a chance to envision aca-
demic work as something
he could like and at which
he could excel. Daw’s
reections are not neces-
sarily representative of
the experience of each
refugee student who par-
ticipated in the project.
Other students were also
vexed by the complexity
of the undertaking, espe-
cially its focus on iteration and continuous revision,
but they did not reect as specically on their tran-
sition from frustration to enjoyment. Daw’s success
in generating the nal product, however, is repre-
sentative of the group. The artifacts of the students’
Figure 8. In his nal journal entry about the project, we
see the change in Daw’s attitude toward the interactive
digital storytelling assignment.
They had the opportunity to
cast themselves as experts,
fashioning the story and
developing plotlines that
illustrated their ability
to examine critically the
consequences of certain
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
of complex, language- rich assignments— such as
digital storytelling— that promote engagement and
foster high- level academic skills. Research sug-
gests that students, “regardless of social or ethnic
background, achieve at higher levels when they
participate in intellectually challenging curriculum”
(Gibbons, 2009, p. 1). All children deserve interest-
ing and compelling academic tasks that encourage
them to view themselves as capable, sharp, creative,
and accomplished.
William Ayers reminds us in To Teach: The
Journey, in Comics (Ayers & Alexander- Tanner,
2010) that teachers sometimes think of “saving
children” as part of the role they play in the class-
room (p. 4). This mindset may engender a tendency
to want to “rescue” refugee children and a desire
to minimize the effects of the traumas they have
endured. In other words, teachers may feel the need
to make life easier for their refugee students. This is
an empathetic reaction, perhaps, but it can be dis-
advantageous for the students (Dwivedi, 2002, p.
25). Children can be unexpectedly adept at disguis-
ing their struggles with speaking and writing, and
refugee children, in particular, have often mastered
movement through the process— their drafts, their
PowerPoint presentations, their journaling, and
their performance at the showcase— offer evidence
of the challenging nature of the assignment and of
their willingness to engage with it over a sustained
period of time. The motivation to wrestle with a
thorny task is, in itself, a mature response to an
academic chore. Multimodal projects offer rewards
that promote a level of tenacity that other kinds of
assignments do not.
Refugee students are at risk of being under-
challenged academically, which amplies the edu-
cational gaps that often exist for them. These chil-
dren “have no single neat set of educational needs”
(Rutter, 2003, p. 82), of course, but there are similar-
ities in the backgrounds of most refugees: they have
experienced interruptions in schooling, complica-
tions in adjusting to new environments, language
barriers, and social stigmatization. These kinds of
issues compound the difculty of adjusting socially
and academically in school. They also invite a spe-
cic response from educators: the development
Assistance Available for Refugees and Immigrants
Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services (BRYCS)
BRYCS (pronounced “bricks”) provides locally driven technical assistance that promotes collaboration at the
local, state, regional, and national levels to organizations serving refugees and immigrants. Their services include
consultation, training, and webinars. The website offers a helpful directory of state- by- state “Promising Programs”
highlighted on an interactive map of the United States and links to the BRYCS Clearinghouse, an online collection of
resources related to refugee and immigrant children and families.
United Nations Refugee Agency bin/texis/vtx/home
The United Nations Refugee Agency was established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 14, 1950,
in the wake of World War II, with a three- year mandate to assist displaced Europeans. Its mission and reach has
expanded over its more than 60- year history, and the organization currently works in 126 countries, serving more than
33 million people.
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
2009, p. 15). Refugee students benet from high-
interest, rigorous multimodal assignments that
invite them to draw on the reserve of skills and
interests they possess— for example, perseverance,
a need to connect socially, and the motivation to
thrive in new settings. They also benet from curri-
cula specically modied to support their language
learning needs (Szente, Hoot, & Taylor, 2006).
Storytelling— a skill that crosses cultures— is an
apt strategy for working with language learners
who are negotiating new social and educational ter-
rain. Structuring and clarifying a narrative can help
us “understand the context of our lives” (Lambert,
2012, p. 30).
Dreon, Kerper, and Landis (2011) call the pro-
duction of digitally animated narratives “one of the
most powerful instructional tools” (p. 11) in the
educator’s repository. The interactive digital story-
telling project outlined here represents an effort to
provide refugee children with culturally appropri-
ate, literacy- rich activities that leverage the gifts
they bring to the classroom and nurture additional
academic skills characteristic of successful 21st-
century learners.
coping strategies that allow them to deect unwanted
attention (Freeman & Freeman, 2009, p. 19; Hill
& Flynn, 2006, p. 17). Their reasons for doing so
are valid: they may feel self- conscious or discour-
aged about the pace of their own progress or want
to be socially successful with peers and teachers.
Focusing too heavily on the trauma refugees have
experienced may lead teachers to pay “insufcient
attention to other aspects of their lives such as . . .
lack of progress in learning En glish” (Richman,
1998, p. 79). “The development of intellectually
challenging programs requires us, as educators, to
monitor our own assumptions of students and per-
haps to challenge and rethink our expectations of
what learners are able to achieve” (Gibbons, 2009,
p. 2). Literacy lessons that both honor the skills refu-
gee learners possess when they enter the classroom
and that push them to grow quickly require inten-
tional efforts on the part of language arts teachers.
Many public school second language programs
underestimate the capacity of language minority
students and rely disproportionately on remedial
assignments that “focus heavily on low- level liter-
acy . . . and offer no intellectual richness” (Gibbons,
US Department of State Ofce of Refugee Resettlement
The Ofce of Refugee Resettlement’s programs provide newcomers to the United States with resources to assist them
in integrating into American culture. Their benets extend to a variety of groups, including refugees, those granted
asylum, victims of human trafcking, unaccompanied alien children, and survivors of torture. Part of the ofce’s
focus is on addressing the health challenges of refugees; they offer initial medical screenings and mental health
consultations, among other services.
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Initially afliated with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the US Committee for Refugees and
Immigrants (USCRI) was founded in 1911. Its mission is to mobilize communities to support, volunteer, and donate
on behalf of the refugees and immigrants in their neighborhoods and elsewhere in the world.The organization
published the rst book about US citizenship, How to Become a Citizen of the United States, in 1948. The website
includes reports, resources, and a section titled “Refugee Voices,” which features many stories from displaced persons
who are building new lives.
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Language Arts, Volume 91 Number 6, July 2014
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Toby Emert is an associate professor in the Department of Education
at Agnes Scott College and can be reached at
July_2014_LA.indd 415 6/11/14 12:17 PM
... Scholars have conducted research to offer space for refugee students to gain more experiences related to digital literacies in community settings (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Omerbašić, 2015;Vecchio et al., 2017). For example, Emert (2013) described a community-based summer literacy program for refugee students to employ digital tools, such as Windows MovieMaker®, to compose their digital stories. ...
... Researchers have established university-community partnerships and offered various programs to help children and youth with literacy learning. A group of previous studies has explored refugee students' literacy learning and identity construction through summer literacy programs and digital storytelling projects (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Vecchio et al., 2017). Collaborations between universities and communities bring more possibilities to support refugee students. ...
... Previous studies have shown that community-based literacy programs, digital storytelling projects, and afterschool clubs through university-community and university-school partnerships have positive impacts on refugee students' digital and multimodal literacy development (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Omerbašić, 2015;Vecchio et al., 2017). We suggest that these programs described can be offered in online spaces to help refugee students continue digital literacies and online learning in home and community settings, but the socio-ecological model suggests that various systems will have to connect, collaborate, and communicate with families for this to be successful. ...
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... Scholars have conducted research to offer space for refugee students to gain more experiences related to digital literacies in community settings (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Omerbašić, 2015;Vecchio et al., 2017). For example, Emert (2013) described a community-based summer literacy program for refugee students to employ digital tools, such as Windows MovieMaker®, to compose their digital stories. ...
... Researchers have established university-community partnerships and offered various programs to help children and youth with literacy learning. A group of previous studies has explored refugee students' literacy learning and identity construction through summer literacy programs and digital storytelling projects (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Vecchio et al., 2017). Collaborations between universities and communities bring more possibilities to support refugee students. ...
... Previous studies have shown that community-based literacy programs, digital storytelling projects, and afterschool clubs through university-community and university-school partnerships have positive impacts on refugee students' digital and multimodal literacy development (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014Johnson & Kendrick, 2017;Omerbašić, 2015;Vecchio et al., 2017). We suggest that these programs described can be offered in online spaces to help refugee students continue digital literacies and online learning in home and community settings, but the socio-ecological model suggests that various systems will have to connect, collaborate, and communicate with families for this to be successful. ...
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Previous research about refugee students' experiences with online learning has focused on the challenges faced by refugee youth, their families, and schools without addressing what strengths families might bring to this type of learning. Further, while previous research has touched upon refugee youth and their families' substantial digital literacies, these strengths have not been widely applied in support of online learning. In this paper, we advocate for a holistic, asset-based approach to support and develop refugee families' digital literacy practices for use in online learning experiences. In doing so, we hope to countermand the suggestion that online learning is something refugee families can never benefit from or will only benefit from under an extremely narrow set of conditions. We begin by reviewing previous research about refugee populations and their digital literacies. Then we share Bronfenbrenner's socio-ecological framework for thinking about shared responsibility in digital and online learning that does not rely on individual students, families, schools, or communities as independent actors. Next, we apply the socio-ecological thinking that we propose to online learning for refugee families across various systems and share theoretical, design, and pedagogical implications. We conclude by offering some implications for research and reiterating the importance of asset framing and shared work in serving refugee and other vulnerable populations well.
... Arts-based approaches to instruction offer vibrant and creative means of drawing on refugee background learner knowledge, insights, and cognitive and linguistic adaptability. As Emert [17] argues, "All children deserve interesting and compelling academic tasks that encourage them to view themselves as capable, sharp, creative, and accomplished" (p. 412). ...
... Only two studies that met our initial inclusion criteria were based in the early childhood sector see [17,29], so we expanded our parameters to extend to lower secondary school (approximately 13 years of age). From 1348 titles, 330 were retained as relevant to our study. ...
... This sense of place is also evident in Emert's [17,29,32,34] descriptions of various learning programs for refugee background elementary and middle school students in the United States. Each program focused on a different element of digital storytelling to "create an inviting, yet demanding, authentic language learning environment" [29], p. 34. ...
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Young learners with refugee experiences face a constellation of challenges particular to forced migration and resettlement. Experiences of trauma, violence, poverty, and disrupted or limited access to formal education and healthcare can have complex and long-term impacts on learning. Further, the sociocultural and linguistic challenges of undertaking education in unfamiliar schooling systems in transit and resettlement countries can also impede learner engagement and obscure individual strengths. However, like all student cohorts, children with refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds are also unique, with individual personal, sociocultural, and linguistic attributes on which to draw. While these assets may be overlooked or obscured in traditional educational contexts, arts-based approaches to instruction can offer generative and affirming learning spaces that illuminate individual strengths and provide powerful rejoinders to deficit constructions. This article provides an overview of recent research that explores vibrant and innovative arts-based approaches to languages instruction for refugee and asylum-seeker background learners in the early years. The article takes the form of a scoping study of literature using Arksey and O’Malley’s framework to map the field of research, document novel instructional approaches, and identify key themes. Our discussion is oriented toward educators who seek to innovate their own instructional practice. In addition to exploring the creative avenues for language instruction described in the literature, we consider key themes that emerged inductively from our analysis including the agentic value of arts-based instructional practices, the role of narrative in articulating experiences of place and identities, and the significance of arts-based connections between home and school linguistic repertoires.
... Media may include photographs, video clips, voice-overs, and music (Lambert, 2018). In a series of studies employing DST with refugee-background children and youth in community-based and summer literacy programs in the U.S, Emert (2013Emert ( , 2014aEmert ( , 2014b showed how the narrative form of DST drew learners to demonstrate their real-world knowledge, express their identities, build connections with each other (e.g., through collaboration), and engage in developing and showcasing their English language learning for authentic purposes, be it through composing key sentences and practicing new vocabulary for their digital stories, translating their poems to a visual medium, revising for clarity, or presenting orally to real audiences, all of which increased learners' academic confidence. ...
... In turn, this can support self-expression for learners whose schooling might have been interrupted and whose academic skills and proficiency in the new language are emerging (Johnson & Kendrick, 2017). While developing language and academic skills (e.g., sentence construction and sequencing events in a narrative), DST also fosters an awareness of audience, especially the power of digital texts to shape others' perception of youth (Emert, 2014b). Such projects can thus strongly support youth's resettlement and sense of belonging. ...
... Through DST, the students in our study were also able to make intentional investments in their learning through a strong dialogical foundation, targeted and spontaneous language development, new digital literacies and skills creating counter-narratives of empowerment and pride by going public with their digital stories, reiterating how flexible classroom structures and routines can be guided toward nuanced learning and agency. Our findings support previous research (see review in Michalovich, 2021b) that shows how digital multimodal composing can afford youth from refugee backgrounds opportunities to agentively frame their representations of themselves (e.g., Leurs et al., 2018), reveal their competency in digital literacy practices (e.g., Gilhooly & Lee, 2014), share, and take pride in their knowledge about real-world issues as they communicate it to audiences (e.g., Luchs & Miller, 2016), express and process their emotions (e.g., Jang & Kang, 2019), enhance their language learning (Emert, 2013(Emert, , 2014a(Emert, , 2014b, represent and reposition their identities (e.g., Michalovich, 2021a), and narrate their lived experiences (e.g., Johnson & Kendrick, 2017). ...
This study addresses the urgent need to develop innovative pedagogies that build upon and enhance the digital literacies and representational practices of culturally and linguistically diverse youth from refugee backgrounds. In Canadian high schools, this population of students enter school with varying levels of literacy in their first language(s), as well as potentially difficult experiences due to their forced migration. For many, learning English, may become a formidable challenge. A growing corpus of case studies is beginning to show how pedagogies that draw on youths’ everyday meaning making, including their digital literacies, can effectively engage English learners in academic learning. In this qualitative, ethnographic case study involving nine youth in an English language learning classroom, we addressed the question: What is the potential for digital storytelling to draw from the fuller context of the lives and literacies of youth from refugee backgrounds to enable more autonomous language learning and identity affirmation? Our study is informed by interrelated conceptual frameworks: learner autonomy; investment in language and literacy learning; and digital literacies. Using thematic and multimodal/visual analysis, data were collaboratively coded to identify four interweaving themes: 1) use of multimodal meaning making to communicate complex, critical understandings; 2) emergence of digital literacies; 3) challenges of communicating in digital spaces; and 4) investment in identity affirmation in language learning. Implications focus on how digital storytelling as an innovative pedagogy has the potential to create space within the curriculum for stories that have deep meaning for learners.
... Teknolojik uygulamalardan biri olan ve farklı içeriklere uygulanabilirken birçok 21. yüzyıl becerisini kapsayan etkili (Emert, 2014), modern ve ilgi çekici (Psomos ve Kordaki, 2012) güçlü bir öğrenme deneyimi sağlayan (Jakes ve Brennan, 2005) dijital öyküler, tamamlayıcı ve güçlendirici bir araç olarak (Dakich, 2008) sosyal bilgiler dersi konularının öğretiminde alternatif pedagojik bir yöntem olarak kullanılabilir (Britt, 2008;Kurtdede-Fidan ve Özaydın, 2021). ...
... Technological applications that can be quickly integrated into learning and teaching processes can offer a practical solution to this quest of social studies educators. As one of the technological applications to provide an efficacious (Emert, 2014), modern and interesting (Psomos & Kordaki, 2012) method that offers powerful learning experience (Jakes & Brennan, 2005) and that can be applied to different content while covering many 21 st century skills, digital storytelling can function as a complementary and empowering tool (Dakich, 2008) to be employed as an alternative pedagogical method in teaching the subject matter of a social studies course (Britt, 2008;Kurtdede-Fidan & Özaydın, 2021). ...
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Bu araştırmanın amacı, dijital öykülerle yürütülen sosyal bilgiler dersinin öğrencilerin akademik başarıları, teknolojiye yönelik tutumları üzerine etkisini incelemek ve sürece ilişkin öğrencilerin görüşlerini tespit etmektir. Belirtilen amaç doğrultusunda çalışmada karma araştırma yaklaşımı içerisinde yer alan gömülü desen kullanılmıştır. Araştırmanın çalışma grubunu, toplam 41 ilkokul dördüncü sınıf öğrencisi oluşturmaktadır. Araştırmacılar tarafından geliştirilen akademik başarı testi, teknolojiye yönelik tutum ölçeği ve yarı yapılandırılmış görüşme formu veri toplama aracı olarak kullanılmıştır. Akademik başarı testi ve teknolojiye yönelik tutum ölçeğinden elde edilen verilerin analizinde betimsel ve kestirimsel istatistikler kullanılırken yarı yapılandırılmış görüşmelerden elde edilen veriler içerik analizi ile çözümlenmiştir. Araştırmadan elde edilen nicel bulgular, akademik başarı ve teknolojiye yönelik tutum açısından deney grubu öğrencileri lehine istatistiksel olarak anlamlı bir fark gösterirken; nitel veriler ortaya çıkan farkın nedenlerini açıklayıp nicel verileri destekler niteliktedir. Araştırma sonucunda eğlenceli, izleme ve dinlemeye teşvik edici, sürece aktif katılım imkanı sağlayan dijital öykülerin kolay ve kalıcı öğrenmelere fırsat sağlayarak akademik başarıyı artırdığı, teknolojiye yönelik tutumun gelişminde etkili olduğu tespit edilmiştir. Bu sonuca göre anlamlı öğrenmelerin gerçekleştirilmesine zengin bir içerik sunan dijital öykülerin sosyal bilgiler derslerinde kullanılabilecek alternatif pedagojik bir yol olduğu ifade edilebilir.
... Further, studies by Ranker (2007Ranker ( , 2008Ranker ( , 2012Ranker ( , 2017 and Potter (2010) have extended the limited literature on upper elementary and secondary students' digital storytelling practices, as both new possibilities for multimodal literacy learning compared to traditional texts and as autobiographical tools for students to preserve and perform their own identities. Overall, we find that there is a missing voice in the current literature regarding the practices of BIPOC students in digital storytelling practices, including those who are labeled as having disciplinary issues and as emergent bilinguals (see exceptions, e.g., Emert, 2014). Current research on students' digital storytelling in and out of school has been "neutral" in explicitly addressing the connection between literacy and race. ...
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Disparities in school discipline data indicate that Children of Color, particularly boys, receive frequent and harsher disciplinary actions than their white peers, and this begins in early schooling. Within today’s print-centered, bodily-restricted school curricula, literacy instruction is often reduced to highly controlled leveled readers and narrowly tailored writing tasks. Drawing on data from a qualitative study, we present the literary counter-stories of two Boys of Color in an urban second grade classroom, both from low-income, single-parent families, each being initially reported as “low performing” and having “misbehavior issues” prior to second grade. Framed by critical theoretical perspectives: critical race theory, intersectionality, and raciolinguistics, the study investigates digital literacies, multimodality, and identity performances embedded in two juxtaposed cases. The findings address the significance of cultivating Boys of Color as artistic individuals and providing meaningful, multimodal “writing” opportunities to promote creativity, inclusivity, and educational equity.
... Existing literature shows that DST is beneficial to L2 learners' linguistic and nonlinguistic development. As to linguistic growth, DST is useful for developing learners' vocabulary, grammar awareness, and sentence construction skills (Emert, 2014) and promoting L2 proficiency (Kim, 2014) and multilingual development (Anderson et al., 2018). Non-linguistic benefits include fostering learners' autonomy (Hafner and Miller, 2011), identity development (Kim and Li, 2021), critical thinking skills (Yang and Wu, 2012), and WTC and group cohesion (Huang, 2022). ...
Digital storytelling has made its way into second language classrooms due to its great potential in promoting linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes increasingly recognized by second language educators. However, the links between digital storytelling and second language learners’ willingness to communicate still remain largely unknown. The present thematic review first presents an introduction to digital storytelling and then elucidates its critical roles in promoting second language willingness to communicate traced to four aspects: creating ample opportunities to practice the second language, negotiating aspired identities, engaging learners with cultural and multimodal resources, and constructing communities of shared interests. Finally, directions for future research are discussed.
... In addition, Drew proposes, based on the popularity and variety of forms, that podcast designs in 'independent rather than institutional learning, would transfer over to more structured learning environments' (Drew 2017). Research suggests that digital storytelling is a student-centred method that allows learners to combine their own experiences with learning content (Emert 2014;Hew 2008;Torres, Ponce and Pastor 2012). As a result, the research not only focused on the benefits of popular podcasting but also explored structural design elements in podcasts to ascertain how to maximize the perceived educational benefits (Kidd 2011) whilst tapping into a familiar medium for most students. ...
Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. Neuroscientists contend our brains may comprehend best through story. Digital storytelling is the practice of using computer‐based tools to create and tell stories. Using digital storytelling in education, including with second‐language learners, is supported by theories of constructivism and culturally responsive literacy. Language acquisition can be supported by practices of digital storytelling that occurs in natural, meaningful contexts. The process of teaching students to design digital stories can affirm students' cultures and identities. A major appeal of using digital storytelling is that it promotes 21st‐century skills needed to be successful in today's global economy. Research informed language teaching strategies focused on differentiated digital literacies for beginning, intermediate, and advanced level language learners are addressed.
Using Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed (1985) playmaking structures, students in an undergraduate education course, Educating for Social Justice, developed forum plays—brief improvisational scenes designed to provoke discussions of power imbalances. The plays focused on “gay rights,” a topic the participants self‐selected through guided discussions about injustice. The plays were performed for an English class of tenth‐grade high school students. As a mode of investigating the efficacy of this instructional strategy to spur self‐reflexivity, data about the college students' experiences were collected during each class session and in subsequent semi‐structured group interviews. This article describes the project and the participants' reactions to the invitation to step into the role of ensemble member and play‐maker, as well as the development of their critical consciousness about the effects of cultural bias.
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This article describes a five-week summer literacy program designed for a group of 70 multilingual refugee boys resettled from their home countries in Africa and Asia to a city in the Southeastern USA. The students attended local public schools but struggled to experience academic success in the traditional classroom. The summer program addressed this issue by offering the students a curriculum in which they worked, alongside American teachers, in small learning groups, completing activities premised on specific twenty-first century literacies, such as critical thinking and the creative manipulation of texts and technologies. The students interacted with high-interest literature written in English and with selected productivity tools, including the filmmaking software MovieMaker. The program culminated with each student producing a digital story – a ‘transpoemation’ – adapted from an autobiographical response to George Ella Lyon’s poem, ‘Where I’m From.’ The students translated their own poems through a series of scaffolded steps in order to create short films for preview and critique. Working with the computer, with texts they had generated, and with images and music, the students showcased their facility with storytelling, with the English vocabulary they were acquiring, and with visual media, demonstrating a growing sense of academic confidence.
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Promoting autonomy means helping students find their own personal balance between dependence (on such factors as the teacher and the textbook) and self-regulation. If we become more aware of the degree to which we support and challenge learners in our management of tasks and interaction, we can then better evaluate our teaching style, the activities we use, and our students' motivational profiles.
Foreword Index of Figures and Reproducibles Preface 1 Moving Toward Authentic Assessment * Assessment of English Language Learning Students * Definition of Authentic Assessment * Purposes of this Book and Target Audience * Overview of the Book 2 Designing Authentic Assessment * Approaches to Teaching and Learning * Types of Authentic Assessment * Awareness of Authentic Assessments * Designing Authentic Assessments * Technical Quality of Authentic Assessments * Issues in Designing Authentic Assessment * Conclusion * Application Activities 3 Portfolio Assessment * Instructional Context * What a Portfolio Is and Isn't * Self-Assessment: The Key to Portfolios * Managing Portfolios * Using Portfolio Assessment in Instruction * Conclusion * Application Activities 4 Oral Language Assessment * Nature of Oral Language * Authentic Assessment of Oral Language * Using Oral Language Assessment in Instruction * Conclusion * Application Activities 5 Reading Assessment * Nature of Reading in School * Authentic Assessment of Reading * Using Reading Assessment in Instruction * Conclusion * Application Activities 6 Writing Assessment * Nature of Writing in School * Authentic Assessment of Writing * Using Writing Assessment in Instruction * Conclusion * Application Activities 7 Content Area Assessment * Content Area Instruction in Schools * Authentic Assessment in Content Areas * Using Content Area Assessment in Instruction * Conclusion * Application Activities 8 Examples from the Classroom * Talk Show * Geoboard * Magnet Experiment * Interpreting Portfolio Entries * Reading Response Time * Anecdotal Records * Book Talks: Integrated Reading Appendix Sample Entries from Roxana's Portfolio Glossary References Index of Classroom-based Assessment Techniques
Pt. I. Storytelling : a tale of two generations -- 1. Storytelling for the twenty-first century -- 2. The first wave of digital storytelling -- 3. The next wave of digital storytelling platforms -- Pt. II. New platforms for tales and telling -- 4. Web 2.0 storytelling -- 5. Social media storytelling -- 6. Gaming : storytelling on a small scale -- 7. Gaming : storytelling on a large scale -- Pt. III. Combinatorial storytelling ; or, The dawn of new narrative forms -- 8. No story is a single thing ; or, The networked book -- 9. Mobile devices : the birth of new designs for small screens -- 10. Chaotic fictions ; or, Alternate reality games -- 11. Augmented reality : telling stories on the worldboard -- Pt. IV. Building your story -- 12. Story flow : practical lessons on brainstorming, planning, and development -- 13. Communities, resources, and challenges -- 14. Digital storytelling in education -- 15. Coda : toward the next wave of digital storytelling., People have been creating digital stories since before the Web began, but only recently have so many powerful media for sharing these stories become available to the general population. Today's digital storytelling is not just for tech-savy individuals; anyone with a desire to express their creativity can learn to use modern technology to share their stories. Digital storytelling uses new digital tools and platforms to tell stories. A wave of digital storytelling started in the 1990s with the rise of popular video production, then progressed in the 21st century to encompass newer, social media technologies. The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media is the first book that gathers these new, old, and emergent practices in one place, and provides a historical context for these methods. Author Bryan Alexander explains the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling, weaving images, text, audio, video, and music together. Alexander draws upon the latest technologies, insights from the latest scholarship, and his own extensive experience to describe the narrative creation process with personal video, blogs, podcasts, digital imagery, multimedia games, social media, and augmented reality - all platforms that offer new pathways for creativity, interactivity, and self-expression.
A new generation of assessments is making it easier and more reliable to test students' higher-order thinking skills.