Negotiations and Challenges in Creating a Digital Story: The Experience of Graduate Students



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Digital Storytelling has been popular in various educational contexts as a powerful tool for cognitive and literacy development in the digital age. The creation of a digital story is a complex process in which the creator mobilizes different skills and literacies in order to produce a meaningful multimedia text. Learning occurs at different levels and dimensions when the digital story creator draws upon social cultural knowledge, life experience, and interacts with peers and instructors to work through this multi-staged project. Thus, this is also a process of negotiation. While deciding on the theme, the images, the language and other elements of the digital story, the creator needs to negotiate internal conflicts, relations with the social world and the different modes used to tell the story.

Although the large majority of the scholarship on Digital Storytelling features Digital Storytelling as a deep reflective learning device, an effective means of self-representation and an original media genre, few studies have been dedicated to investigating the challenging aspect in creating a digital story (see Kulla-Abbott & Polman, 2008; Nelson & Hull, 2008). This dissertation is a narrative inquiry into the experience of creating a digital story with the concepts of negotiation and challenge at the center. As the digital story creator negotiates to make the choices which are going to be presented in the digital story, they may have to encounter challenges associated with these choices.

This dissertation attempts to reconstruct the experience of creating a digital story at various levels. The first level is the analysis of the internal structure of the digital story as a multimodal text in order to learn how each narrative line (voice-over, imagery, music) works, and how the lines work together to create the effects of the story. The second level is the examination of the experience of negotiating for the choices presented in the story and coping with related challenges during the creative process. The third level is the researcher’s study of the themes and patterns of negotiations and challenges emerging from the experience of creating a digital story. This is also the reflection upon personal experience in an endeavor to search for the meaning of that experience in more general and profound dimensions. Finally, conclusions from the examination of the experience raise useful implications and propositions for teaching and evaluation when Digital Storytelling is incorporated into the classroom.

Methodologically, the inquiry for this dissertation closely followed three graduate students in their digital story projects in the setting of two linked courses. One focuses on hands-on multimedia technology and the other on the methodology of using popular culture in the classroom. The data collected consist of field notes of class observation, teaching materials on Moodle–the learning managing system used for the linked courses, participants’ postings on the forum of Moodle, personal interviews, and the digital stories created by the participants. Among the primary concepts in the theoretical framework of this dissertation are the functions of narrative from socio cultural, constructivist, and narrative theory perspectives, Digital Storytelling as a means for self-representation and identity formation, narrative inquiry, the narrative version of knowledge, and knowledge community.



Digital storytelling, Negotiations, Challenges, The creation of a digital story, Evaluation of digital stories