The feasibility of autonomous learning programs for reading proficiency using digital storytelling.

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The feasibility of autonomous learning programs for reading proficiency using digital storytelling.

The value and power of storytelling is recognized across cultures and disciplines. There is evidence that preliterate cultures relied on storytelling to educate (McDonald, 1998).

Foelske (2014:1) made a strong and true introduction statement-paragraph in her thesis that says:

Storytelling has always been a central part of learning for children in all cultures and a key to educating people through generations. From the early cultures of Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek methodology, Aborigine rock art, and Native American elders oral traditions have been used to pass down history from one generation to the next (Roby, 2010). This storytelling history is a key tool in the teaching of literacy skills and other concepts, which are vital to being successful as an adult in society. Storytelling is a natural method of human communication and is prevalent in all aspects of human social interaction. People tend to make better sense of complex ideas, concepts, or information when it occurs via storytelling Foelske (2014:1).In this context, Sadik (2008) states storytelling can be used to enhance a student’s higher-order thinking and literacy skills. Using technology to enhance the storytelling in our classrooms is a key to learning today.

Porter (2005) stated that digital storytelling takes oral storytelling and engages a variety of technical tools to weave personal tales using images and graphics, along with music and sounds, together with the author’s own story voice to create a new engaging story. Through digital storytelling, oral proficiency and language development can be improved by using online self-study resources complementary to conventional classes (Kim, 2014:19).

This kind of Computer-Assisted Language Learning method is based on the constructivist theory of learning whereby learners are actively involved from birth in constructing their own personal meaning and understanding from their experiences (Kember, 1997; Williams & Burden (1997: 21). Each individual is motivated differently according to Williams & Burden (1997: 120):

People will make their own sense of the various external influences that surround them in ways that are personal to them, and they will act on their internal disposition and use their personal attributes in unique ways.

Therefore, what motivates one person by using online self-study resources will differ from individual to individual and it will differ from the level of achievement and proficiency each individual needs to reach in order to attain a previously set goal.

 Research evidence (Foelske, 2014:iii) showed that:

digital storytelling increases student motivation and engagement in student-centered projects. It has a positive effect on the improvement of literacy skills as well as students who normally struggle with writing a story. Students are more engaged when they are in control of reflecting, visualizing, and creating more meaningful digital stories to share with a large audience.

By using online technology, it allows the learner independence in learning and practicing opportunities of the new skills learnt (Kim, 2014:21). Research (Kim, 2014:21) revealed significant improvement in overall proficiency in terms of vocabulary, sentence complexity, and pronunciation.

Students already know and enjoy using technology and it is essential to provide in their need by incorporating technology to motivate them (Wawro, 2012). Motivated students take ownership of their learning, Robin (2008) states further that motivation is a critical ingredient for learning, therefore digital storytelling and similar technologies should be designed and conducted Foelske (2014:3).

In conclusion:

Students across the grade levels are engaged and motivated when they have the control of their learning which is extended beyond the four walls of a classroom (Sadik, 2008; Yang &Wu 2012). As teachers in a technological world, teaching digital natives, digital storytelling gives us the means to use technology to motivate and help those students who struggle with literacy while building 21st century literacy, thinking and technology skills Foelske (2014:27).


Foelske, M. 2014. Digital Storytelling: The impact on student engagement, motivation and academic learning. MA Thesis. University of Northern Iowa. 

Kember, D. 1997. A reconceptualisation of the research into university academics conceptions of teaching. Learning and Instruction, 7(3):255–275. 

Kim, S. H. 2014. Developing autonomous learning for oral proficiency using digital storytelling. Language Learning & Technology, 18(2):20-35. 

McDonald, M. R. 1998. Traditional Storytelling Today: An International Sourcebook. 

Porter, B. 2005. Digitales: The art of telling digital stories. Denver: Colorado, USA: Bernajean Porter Consulting. Retrieved from 

Robin, B. 2008. Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice, 47:220-228. 

Roby, T. 2010. Opus in the classroom: Striking CoRDS with content-related digital storytelling. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(1):133-144. 

Sadik, A. 2008. Digital Storytelling: A meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development56(4):487-506.

Wawro, L. 2012. Digital storytelling. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 10(1):50. 

Williams, M., Burden, R. L. 1997. An introduction to educational psychology: behaviourism and cognitive psychology. In: M. Williams & R. L. Burden (Eds). Psychology for Language Teachers. New York: Cambridge University Press. 21. 

Williams, M., Burden, R. L. 1997. What makes a person want to learn? Motivation in language learning. In: M. Williams & R. L. Burden (Eds). Psychology for Language Teachers. New York: Cambridge University Press. 120. 

Yang, Y. C. & Wu, W. I. 2012. Digital storytelling for enhancing student academic achievement, critical thinking and learning motivation: A yearlong experimental study. Computers in Education. Retrieved from


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