Lights, Camera . . . Learning!


Video Camera By Popperipopp (Own work) [Public domain]
on Wikimedia Commons

I recently completed my first digital storytelling project plan for my Intensive Reading classes.  It was a joy to work on the project because I constantly thought about how my students might respond to the different activities involved and what it would mean for them to actually create a digital story about one of the books they had read during the semester.

I also thought a lot about my own reasons for putting together the project. I know my students will enjoy working with the technology – They get to learn how to use Garage Band and iMovie, and they will also get to watch other students and adults perform Spoken Word pieces as part of the research for their project. Further, they will get to exercise individual interpretation of a story and personal expression in writing their poems, selecting images and music in designing and “telling their story.”

Aside from the motivational value, though, I want to be sure that the project I am asking my students to undertake is pedagogically sound and beneficial to them, not only as students living in a digital world, but also as developing readers.

As an experienced reading teacher, I rely on my pedagogical knowledge base and previous experience to inform my decisions when considering new activities to use with my students. I am familiar with best practices when it comes to teaching reading skills and strategies. My sense about integrating technology into my lessons has always stemmed from the idea that technology provides a means for delivering a more interactive and engaging learning experience for my students.

I am beginning to understand, however, that the value of technology integration goes beyond the role of providing motivation or engagement for learners. Technology is also changing the way we think, learn, and communicate with each other. It is helping more students learn while at the same time expanding our potential as humans to learn and make sense of the world around us.

Digital storytelling is just one way that teachers can integrate technology into their instruction in Intensive Reading classes, and, according to research, it provides opportunities for significant development in students’ ability to comprehend what they are reading.

I read several research studies this week that mentioned the benefits that digital storytelling provides with regard to helping struggling readers develop skills in visualizing what they are reading – skills that some deem a prerequisite to any significant comprehension of text (Enciso, 1992; Hynds, 1997; Wilhelm, 1995, cited in Malin, 2010, p. 122).

According to Eisner (1992) “We cannot know through language what we cannot imagine. The image—visual, tactile, auditory—plays a crucial role in the construction of meaning through text. Those who cannot imagine cannot read” (quoted in Malin, p. 122).

Other studies discussed how students benefited from the sharing aspect of digital storytelling. Rooks (1998, cited in Thesen & Kara-Soteriou, 2011) found that students who shared story projects with other students took more risks in their learning. They experimented more with their writing conventions. To me, this suggests that when students share their digital stories with others they experience greater confidence in their abilities as learners and also as producers of knowledge.

One of the problems that struggling readers often face, as mentioned in Gunter and Kenny (2008), is a negative sense of their ability to be effective or “good” readers. The authors suggest that research supports the idea that this negative “assessment of self-efficacy” (p.87) when it comes to reading, is a motivation killer and the cause for many students to feel reluctance when it comes to reading (Keller, 1983; Mott, McQuiggan, Lee, S., Lee, S.Y., & Lester, 2006; Taylor& Gunter, 2006, cited in Gunter & Kenny, 2008). The authors also suggest that use of digital stories, to introduce struggling readers to new books, and also having students produce digital stories is motivating.

Students who may not be strong readers can get extra support by viewing already- produced digital stories before they select and read a book, and students who produce digital stories have an opportunity to demonstrate strengths they may have in other areas beside reading.

All of the studies I read helped me to understand the specific ways in which a digital storytelling project could benefit my students, as readers. Having this awareness will ultimately help me to provide the best learning experience possible for them.  I love all of the possibilities that technology integration provides for my teaching and for the students’ learning. I just always want to be sure that I am employing the use of technology in my classes for the right reasons.


Gunter, G., & Kenny, R. (2008). Digital booktalk: Digital media for reluctant readers. Contemporary Issues In Technology & Teacher Education8(1), 84-99.

Malin, G. (2010). Is It Still Considered Reading? Using Digital Video Storytelling to Engage Adolescent Readers. Clearing House83(4), 121-125. doi:10.1080/00098651003774802

Thesen, A., & Kara-Soteriou, J. (2011). Using digital storytelling to unlock student potential. New England Reading Association Journal46(2), 93-100.


About amysullvn

I have taught 9th and 10th grade Intensive Reading and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) for the past 8 years in Brevard County, FL. I am currently working toward the completion of my masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology/Educational Technology at the University of Central Florida.
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