- School/institution: University of Education Karlsruhe.
- Country: Germany.
- Source: Observation and Documentation of Best Practice (Not Published). In IO_Manual of best practices of digital storytelling in early childhood (2017). European Project STORIES (pp. 114-119).
- Age of children: 6 years.
Main characteristics of the practice
Student teachers of the PH Karlsruhe developed three-months Digital Storytelling units for an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) setting. They worked along with groups of children to create digital stories based on picture books in order to help develop literacy skills of the children.
General goal of the practice and specific objectives
The general goal was to foster literacy development in children, that is, foreign language literacy with a special focus on vocabulary, grammar, and narrative abilities as well as media literacy.
Starting in December 2014, student teachers and children spent six sessions on Digital Storytelling, which were held once a week for 1.5 hours, i.e. the project comprised a total of nine hours.
Two student teachers worked along with small groups of children (no larger than five) in different spaces, to develop their stories and to create the material required for their stories (see section 1, 2 and 3 below). The i-theatre was kept in a separate space, where the groups entered for the production of their stories (see section 4 below).
Description of procedures and methodology
The Digital Storytelling units were divided into six sections each.
1) Storytelling. During the first section, the student teachers told stories from picture books they had chosen before. To make sure that children understand the story and to help them become involved in the stories, a story-based methodology structured around the three stages of pre-, while- and post-telling activities were used. Especially, post-telling activities should provide opportunities to make the children’s work more meaningful, purposeful and motivating. When working with picture books, this can be done with Digital Storytelling as it is a valuable opportunity for children to engage in authentic tasks.
2) Story-Planning. As Digital Storytelling requires thorough planning, the second section of each unit involved a story-planning session in which the children together with the student teachers brain-stormed ideas for their digital stories. Some decided to retell the stories, while others decided to retell the stories and make up an alternative ending. The children used their ideas to create story maps sketching out their stories. Once the story maps had been completed, children aligned media with the stories by using storyboards, which helped the children to keep track of their ideas while creating their digital stories.
3) Pre-Production. In the third section, children used their storyboards to create a media list. After the lists had been created, children started to collect all media needed for the production of their digital stories: images and sound. The images used were mostly drawings out of the picture books but some children also created their own drawings. These were digitally cut out with the i-theatre and stored on children’s personal containers. The sounds used were rather versatile – everything from vocal narration to (body) percussion was included.
4) Production. Once all the media were collected, children started to produce their digital stories. The children selected the images they needed from the personal containers and started to create the different scenes of their stories, one after another using the scene recording boxes: children moved their images on the touchscreen while, at the same time, they recorded their narration. Here, visual effects were used, e.g. to zoom in part of a picture successively to center a certain character, figure, object, etc.
5) Post-Production. By then, all scenes of the digital stories were done but still in rough form. So, in the fifth section, the children watched all scenes once more and most of them decided to make minor edits and repeated the process of creating the scenes until they were satisfied with the outcome. They also added credits. Subsequently, the children finalized their digital stories, which were then exported in a readable format by the student teachers. This way, all digital stories can be seen independently of the i-theatre.
6) Performance. The culminating step of the process was the final session – the movie premiere in the library. The children’s work was presented to an audience. The children together with the student teachers sent out invitations to peers, parents and school staff. The decision to include a large audience helped in expanding the traditional composition created for an audience of ‘the teacher’. Once everybody had gathered in the library and had been given some popcorn, the children were introduced in groups before their digital stories were finally screened.
The i-theatre (in combination with a projector) was the only technology used.
Picture books were used as a basis for the digital stories created by the children. Some children also used the picture books’ illustrations for their digital stories, others produced their own illustrations using crayons on blank paper. Some children also used musical instruments. Furthermore, the children received templates for drafting the story maps and storyboards.
Description of the final product
Results have taken various forms. The digital stories included:
- a re-narration of ‘Paddy and the Rainbow’;
- a re-narration of ‘Kicking a Ball’;
- a re-narration of ‘Pip the Penguin’;
- a made-up adventure tale based on ‘The Polar Express’.
Overall, the observations revealed that the children were able, willing and proud to create and share digital stories in the foreign language. All children in the project successfully completed a digital story they presented to an audience during the premiere. In creating the digital story, the children were provided with a platform to engage with technology and the language itself so that their literacy development was fostered in a way that will assist them in real-world communication.
How children took part in the practice
The creation of the digital stories was used as a post-telling activity within a story-based methodology, which provides a valuable opportunity for children to engage in authentic tasks: they use the foreign language to convey a story to an audience. Such production of a meaningful outcome is considered task-based language learning. It provides enjoyment and satisfaction as it allows children to complete a piece of work in the foreign language and thus, contributes to the children’s self-confidence which, in turn, creates a positive mindset important for the children’s motivation.
When carried out using technology, task-based language learning increases the children’s motivation even further. Also, the fact that the children could share their skills and competencies in order to create a product worth to be shown to an external audience, helped them developing an increased sense of ownership. These characteristics made Digital Storytelling a highly motivating task enhancing the children’s (linguistic) self-confidence.
The parents were interested and involved in the project, e.g. in the final movie premiere in the library to which all of them came.
Strengths and critical points of the practice
The main strength is the usage of Digital Storytelling as a motivational technology-mediated task within a story-based methodology, i.e. children enter the world of traditional books and, at the same time, experience modern ways of telling stories with new technologies.
How the practice fostered children’s narrative competence
Children developed the stories themselves with the help of the student teachers. The story maps and storyboards were of great help for this process (development of narratives). Furthermore, the children generated and also reflected on language, which supported them in enhancing their lexical, grammatical and narrative skills. Here, the possibility of using images as visual aids was beneficial.
INCLUDED – Digital Storytelling for Inclusion