A Structured Inquiry into a Digital Story: Students Report the Making of a Superball

A Structured Inquiry into a Digital Story: Students Report the Making of a Superball

Johanna Penttilä (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland), Veera Kallunki (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland), Hannele M. Niemi (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland) and Jari Multisilta (Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2016070102
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Schools have been islands isolated from mobile technologies for a long time. In Finland, schools are investing in mobile technologies with the aim of providing a tablet for each student. This trend enables classes to adopt practices where students not only use ready-made learning materials but generate content as well. This paper aims to investigate student-generated digital stories as learning artefacts through a case example from two chemistry classes in a primary school. After introducing a method of creating digital stories from a structured inquiry, the paper presents an in-depth analysis of a specific type of story, its construction and conceptual learning outcomes related to the story's topic (i.e., chemical reaction). The results indicate that storytelling based on a structured inquiry is suited for novice science learners. In the future, teaching visual communication skills and story scripting to students should be emphasised to make the stories more sophisticated.
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Video is one of the most pervasive and commonplace technologies today. With their mobile phones or other portable devices, the majority of today’s children start watching and recording videos at quite an early age. From watching and tinkering with videos, some children will gradually start creating their own movies, documentaries and other professional-looking media products (Lange & Ito, 2010). The future outlook is that short videos and information and communication technology in general will replace many of the present functions of textbooks. Towards this end, Prensky (2012) suggests that videos should not just be introduced in schools but also used ubiquitously to ensure that students are knowledgeable on both sides of the camera. According to Multisilta (2014), videos should be regarded as an active medium for content creation instead of a replication of the broadcast model of television, where the same content is delivered from one to many. Despite the growing interest in pedagogical visual media, neither watching nor generating videos is currently that common in school. According to a Finnish survey, approximately three out of five teens say that they never watch videos relating to academic tasks in school, and an even higher number, two teens out of three, never create schoolwork-related videos in school (Aarnio & Multisilta, 2011). However, this situation is rapidly changing.

Information in a visual format has significant power to communicate (Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2010). It can be engaging, enhance learning experiences and inspire students when incorporated into student-centred learning activities. Film production has been observed to add to the challenge and enjoyment of student assignments, increasing motivation and leading to high-quality work. Especially in science learning (e.g., chemistry), film production can allow students to present their learning in more creative and imaginative ways. Video production also has development potential for deeper learning within a wide variety of subjects (Willmot, Bramhall, & Radley, 2012).

One approach to add visuals in learning is to utilise a method of digital storytelling as an active way of engaging with the curriculum through students’ own video narratives (Frazel, 2010; Lambert, 2013; McGee, 2015; Ohler, 2013). Moreover, inquiry in its various forms can be viewed as a means to tell stories about science (Gomes, Ramos, & Formoso, 2014; Hilton & Hilton, 2013). Here, the idea rests on a structured inquiry, a method in which students conduct small premeditated experiments in their classrooms or laboratories. The combination of inquiry and storytelling, that is, an active and student-centred approach, might be especially useful in science learning, which faces a series of challenges related to student engagement. Concerns centre on students’ decreasing motivation to study science, their lack of personal engagement with science, and lower learning outcomes. According to various international surveys, these trends are perceived to be rather universal; students might value science in general, but it is not necessarily relevant to their own lives and behaviour (Martin, Mullis, Foy, & Stanco, 2011; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007; Osborne & Dillon, 2008; Sjøberg & Schreiner, 2010).

This paper focuses on the following research questions: 1) What are the characteristics of the digital stories produced by using a structured inquiry? 2) What kinds of conceptual learning outcomes about the topic do the students present, and how do these outcomes relate to the digital stories—if at all?

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