Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning and Creativity

Jason Ohler. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press,2008. Pp.vii+228.

Reviewed by Wu Wenmei
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Ohler s Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning and Creativityis a timely and practical resource for teacherswho intend to blend multimodal meaning-making with language teaching in the classroom andfor students who want to express their ideas through media-based means.

This book consists of three parts. Part one foregrounds an overview of the necessity and discussion of digital storytelling in education. The first chapter begins with building teachers confidence and competence in deploying new media narrative by the demonstration of twenty revelations about digital storytelling in education. The following chapter involves teachers in discussion topics whichfall into three categories: (i) story type, purpose, and impact, (ii) story element, and (iii) story production. Chapter three explains how digital storytelling can be used in the classroom as an academic tool to engage digital age students in constructive learning. A framework of digital story assessment traits is listed in chapter four.
Part two consists of six chapters whichexplicate the principles and art of developing memorable and effective stories through concrete examples and vivid figures. Chapters five and six display the components of the story core anddeconstruct story maps by means of an annotated visual portrait of a story (VPS),and chapter seven explicates the story planning process in depth and provides tips for working with younger kids and team members. Chapter eight is dedicated to character transformation in which Bloom s cognitive and affective taxonomy is introduced to elicit levels of character transformation. In addition, in case of the inapplicabilityof VPS, chapter nine adds more approaches to story mapping from Aristotle to the present (e.g. Aristotle s dramatic diagram, Joseph Campbell s simplified map, treasure maps, Kieran Egan s story form in education, and Ken Adam s story spine), and chapter ten contains stories in other forms (e.g. stream-of-consciousness storytelling and music videos), and stories from other perspectives (e.g. indigenous storytellers).

The final part focuses on guidelines and procedures for integrating traditional stories into digital storytelling.Chapters eleven and twelve focus on the overall concern of the media production process which include five specific phases: (i) story planning, (ii) identifying and gathering materials, expertise, (iii) development and implementation, (iv) honoring, editing, and finalizing, and (v) sharing with others. Chapter thirteen specifies the digital storytelling toolbox including hardware and software and chapter fourteen lists the guidelines for assessing students media expression. The last chapter illustrates the issue of copyright and fair use in education.

Overall, this book provides detailed and practical guidelines for integrating simple, traditional stories into modern digital storytelling. However, some readers may find it challenging to operate the digital tools recommended by the writer in chapter thirteen, such as iMovie or Movie Maker.Had a brief step-by-step manual of DST project or a CD-ROM been enclosed in this book, it would more easily reach its goal to help any teacher who wants help using technology effectively, creatively, and wisely in the classroom (p. ix).
Despite this criticism, readers will find the book to have many positive attributes. Although it is written within an American cultural and educational context, it also applies to other teachers whose countries have been equipped with digital facilities for education. What s more, the strength of this book lies in an up-to-date interpretation of traditional elements of storytelling, so much so that it enriches notions of literacy and pedagogy in the twenty-first century. As the title suggests, it focuses on new media narrative set within educational context where traditional and emerging literacies, learning and creativity, are synthesized, the purpose of which is to underscore the ever-increasing application of multimodality in educational settings because of the advent and popularity of the new media.

On the whole, readers will find that the book is onethat contains a rich resource of information to promote the development of students new literacy (e.g. media literacy) as well as traditional literacies (e.g. reading, writing, speaking and the arts) and that engages the readers–teachers–to apply appropriate theories as well as relevant research in their own ways and in their own working contexts; a text which indeed illustrates Ohler s opinion that there is no better vehicle for blending traditional and emerging literacy development than DST (p. 11).