Digital storytelling

As well as other subject areas, I use digital storytelling as a teaching tool in the foreign language classroom. It assists both the visual and auditory learners, and allows them to share their finding and understanding of the topic.

Using digital storytelling as a show and tell method allows students to learn letters and vocabulary. The following “Kanji” digital story was created by grade 5 and grade 6 students who enrolled in a Kanji class. It introduces Kanji by showing the picture, which students made, and presenting the meaning of the Kanji in written and oral form.

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While the above example demonstrates how digital storytelling is used to teach letters and characters, the same ideas can be applied to teach any vocabulary in a foreign language. It is important that students have a model outside of the classroom. This will allow students to practice and engage in active learning even when the teacher is not present.

In addition to helping with letters and vocabulary, digital stories can be the “expressions” of understanding: the evidence, the works, and the products. Students communicate their thinking to each other via digital stories. In the Japanese language course, students deeply explore Japan and analyze issues and trends regarding Japanese culture and select a specific theme related to their lives in Japan. They then create and collect media (such as images, interviews, music, video clips), write scripts and design and develop digital stories based on their theme. By creating and narrating the projects, students developed their expression skills and learned how to organize and communicate effectively with others. Below are student example stories.

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I believe digital storytelling can offer powerful learning experiences for both students and teachers.


Reference:The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling


Presentation Design

When I look back over my life as a student, my presentation hero is Ado Mizumori. She is an illustrator, singer, actress, painter, and writer.

Ado Mizumori


She gained fame by her performance, which she drew an illustration simultaneously with both hands on a transparent acrylic board while she sung. I was fascinated with her colorful illustrations, storytelling with songs, and her movement, the way she use her both hands simultaneously.

The article “From design to meaning” recalled her presentation to my mind. The six key abilities that relate to the art of presentation are introduced in this article. Those are Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. I can see all this six key aptitudes in her performance.

Now, when I reflect on my presentation I can say I am not up to her as a presenter. My presentation lacks little of Design, Symphony, Empathy, and lots of Story, Play, Meaning.

How can I improve my visual presentations techniques? I think I can start with discussion. Discuss “good presentation” with students and analyze the presentations that are described as good.

Here is a part of the PowerPoint made by my students. They’ve been reworking on this PowerPoint since they watched the video by Don McMillan. I would share the final PowerPoint one of these days to see how they implement visual presentations techniques to improve their presentation.

The Power of Visual Imagery

Human memory is ambiguous, not so rich and apt to forget. A German Psychologist called Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the “forgetting curve” in 1885.

Herman Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

However, memory is an essential element for our learning. So how can we as educators help students’ learning? I say visual imagery is a good and feasible way to solve the problem. Past research has contributed to our understanding of the process of imagery. Imagery generation plays an important role in information processing and recall.

In a study of Paivio and Csapo (1973), a free recall test found that learning was best in the condition that encouraged dual (verbal and pictorial) coding.

Visual Imagery always supports my teaching. In every single class I teach, I make the time for brainstorming and discussion on “Understanding”, and make students to post their answer to the questions; “What do you understand really well?” “How did you get or develop the understanding?” “How do you know you understand?”

After students post their answers, I explain the “Dimensions of Understanding” with a horse image that depicts the dimensions framework, which includes four dimensions and four levels of understanding. With this horse image, students easily see that to understand something well and deeply we need to have four dimensions as like a horse has four legs to run well.

The blog post of the Dimensions of Understanding is below:

image by dgarfen

The Dimensions Framework includes four dimensions and four levels of understanding. The “dimensions” were created to help educators think systematically about understanding disciplinary topics. They can help to guide planning, instruction, and assessment/evaluation.

The Understanding framework highlights four dimensions of understanding: knowledge, methods, purposes, and forms. Within each dimension the framework describes four levels of understanding: naive, novice, apprentice, and master.

Knowledge is the “what” of the topic. It includes both facts/information/concepts and relations among them. If someone understands a topic better, they conceive of it more systematically and with a richer array of facts/information and connections among them.

Methods is the “how” of understanding. Not the “how” of TEACHING ABOUT the topic – it’s NOT pedagogical methods. It is how disciplinarians act upon knowledge in their discipline. It’s disciplinary processes.It’s what the experts do to build understanding and check on the quality of information.

Purposes is the “why” of understanding, the reasons why the topics matter. It’s the dimension students most long for – evidenced in their plaintive pleas of “Why do we have to do this ?” If we take purposes seriously, students will come to understand why studying the topic matters – to them, to experts, to others – and how information and processes of this sort have or might be used.

Forms are the “expressions” of understanding: the evidence, the works, the products. They are how experts in the discipline communicate their thinking to each other – what genres they use, what symbol systems, and how those change depending on audience. (From Ⓒ2009 adaptation by Mary McFarland of work in 2000 by Lois Hetland and the President and Fellows of Harvard College)

This is just an example how can imagery support my curricular content and help to improve students’ memory in their learning.

Reference: Paivio, Allan and Kalman Csapo (1973), “Picture Superiority in Free Recall: Imagery or Dual Coding,” Cognitive Psychology, 5 (2), 176-206.