Using Digital Storytelling in Science: Meaning Making with Students aged 10-12 years old

Anastasiou, Popi (2022). Using Digital Storytelling in Science: Meaning Making with Students aged 10-12 years old. PhD thesis The Open University.



Meaning making is an essential aspect of learning as a process of interpreting and negotiating information while sharing it with others. One way of meaning making is through (digital) storytelling. The process of creating and telling a story depends on how one can see their understanding of something come together and make sense and it is considered a (socio) constructivist strategy of learning. The purpose and contribution of this research are to explore how digital storytelling may support engagement in meaning-making as students externalise their understanding of the science topic of matter. To this aim, two digital storytelling activities were constructed – SEeDS (Sequencing of Events enabling Digital Storytelling) and Narration. The two activities included the same content but differed in structure. SEeDS presented the story scenes in an order that was not predefined and Narration in a predefined order. Both activities derived elements from the theoretical concept of Tricky Topics and Stumbling Blocks (SBs). This research was informed by the theory of Problem-based learning.

Participants were sixty-one Greek primary students aged 10-12 years old and twenty-two English secondary students aged 11-12 years old. Half students worked through the SEeDS activity and the rest through the Narration activity. Students worked cooperatively in small teams to implement the two activities. A systematic analysis of the collected data was conducted using qualitative methods. Findings revealed that the two activities had supported the Greek and English students in externalising their understanding of many scientific concepts included in the topic of matter, while it identified gaps in their prior knowledge. The two activities have also facilitated the instinctive use of exploratory talk over the other two types (cumulative and disputational talk) that can often be found in peer talk in science learning. Finally, the two activities appeared to have engaged students in the two contexts, as they allowed them to own the story creation whilst working independently. Finally, the Greek and English students viewed the SEeDS activity as challenging, making it hard to complete and at times tiring and confusing, and the Narration activity as easy to implement, giving students the opportunity to mainly focus on inventing the story plot.

This research makes a valuable contribution to the literature on making meaning in science, offering new insights about the use of problem-based stories supported by mobile technology. The findings provide opportunities to further explore the practical application of problem-based digital storytelling activities, which are hard thinking and challenging, across different age groups and cultural contexts. There is a need for teaching practices to be based on socio-constructivist learning approaches that focus on students’ thinking, not performance. Therefore, the implications of this research are relevant to a number of educational contexts and levels.

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