Using Digital Storytelling to Handle Second Language Writing Anxiety and Attitudes: A Longitudinal Experiment

Using Digital Storytelling to Handle Second Language Writing Anxiety and Attitudes: A Longitudinal Experiment

Seyit Ahmet Çapan (Harran University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2591-3.ch008


Digital storytelling (DST) is an innovative outgrowth of traditional learning/teaching through stories and has gained vast popularity in language classrooms thanks to findings indicating positive impacts on the four major skills. This chapter investigates the influence of DST (i.e., the independent variable) on English as a foreign language (L2) learners' writing anxiety and attitudes (i.e., the dependent variables). Moreover, it examines if engagement in DST affected L2 writing errors. This chapter reports on the findings of a quasi-experimental study that elicited quantitative and qualitative data collected from pre- and post-study questionnaires and learner-created stories. The discussion documents that DST compared to traditional print-based stories reduced L2 writing anxiety while it fostered positive attitudes towards L2 writing. Analysis revealed fewer errors in stories written by a DST group compared to a comparison group over the course of the study period. Accordingly, this chapter proposes practical applications for the integration of DST into L2 writing classes.
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Digital storytelling (DST) is the act of creating a multimodal personal story including images, audio and video, which is further shared digitally with others. DST refines the age-old tradition of storytelling via integration of various technological tools and applications. Going beyond a mere translation of written texts (Fulwiller & Middleton, 2012), DST facilitates the communication of spoken and written messages through its enriched format, presentation and distribution modes. In so doing, it serves as a viable platform to operationally converge four student-centred learning strategies including student engagement, reflection for deep learning, project-based learning, and technology integration into the classroom (Barrett, 2006). Furthermore, DST empowers underachieving learners who struggle to find a voice in the classroom with a means for expressing their ideas. Considering that numerous learners leave the classroom without actively participating in any learning activity such as discussions or group work (Bull & Kajder, 2004), DST essentially engages all learners in learning activities by asking them to digitally create, visualise and vocalise their own stories. As an integrated task, DST requires learners to perform various roles such as a researcher, playwright, director and editor in order to create their stories. Similarly, it offers ample opportunities to develop and improve a wide range of skills. Robin (2006) provides a comprehensive list of these skills such as research, writing, organisation, technology, presentation, interview, interpersonal, problem-solving and assessment skills.

Though by no means prescriptive, seven elements have been identified as being involved in the creation of effective digital stories. Lambert (2006, 2010) summarises these elements as point of view, a dramatic question, emotional content, the gift of voice, soundtrack, economy and pacing. Point of view implies that digital stories should rely on the learners’ own experience, imagination and understanding. A dramatic question is the element that evokes the attention of the audience. It ensures commitment of the audience to the story until its resolution at the end (Lambert, 2006). Emotional content refers to covering salient issues in the story, which have personally salient connotations for the author and audience. Bull and Kajder (2004) maintain that reactions of the audience to the emotional content of a digital story are a key component validating the efforts made by the author. The gift of voice stands for the use of vocal features such as pitch and intonation. The gift of voice is a remarkable way to help the audience understand the story as the author uses it to convey personal meanings and intentions embedded in the story. Soundtrack is the music and other sounds accompanying the story as a means of supplementing its complexity and depth. Economy requires including only sufficient number of texts and audio-visuals into the story without overloading it or narrowing it down. On the one hand, economy makes the construction of digital stories manageable for the author as it helps the author focus only on the essential elements and eliminate the irrelevant ones. On the other hand, economy allows the audience to easily and practically view the story in a short time (Bull & Kajder, 2004). As the last element of DST, pacing refers to rhythm (i.e., fast or slow progression) of the story as an unvaried pace leads to monotony and bores the audience.

In a typical case, a digital story is three to five minutes long with up to 15-20 images (Lambert, 2010; Matthews-DeNatale, 2008). It deals with various topics such as personal accomplishments, memoirs and historical events. Ideally, the process of DST (as followed in the present study) comprises four main phases including planning, production, assembling and sharing (Lambert, 2010; Robin, 2016). In the planning phase, learners determine the purpose and topic of their stories, which further requires them to do extensive research. Then, they write edit and digitise their stories as well as sketching some images that complement them onto a storyboard. Next, they digitally select and assemble the images and audios together with the text through specific software. Finally, they share the stories with audience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Storytelling: The act of creating and digitally sharing a multimodal personal story including images, audio and video.

Writing Attitude: Feelings and perceptions one has about writing.

L2: Second or foreign language learned by users of another mother tongue. In the case of this chapter, L2 stood for English.

Writing Anxiety: Feelings of tension, apprehension or fear about writing.

Traditional Storytelling: The act of writing and orally sharing a personal story without any audio-visual components.

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