Storytelling in LIS and Beyond


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Storytelling in LIS and Beyond

  1. 1. Emily WardLIS 409: StorytellingStorytelling in LIS and Beyond14 February 2012 Digital Storytelling with Students with Disabilities For educators working with students with disabilities, accommodations and adaptationsare very familiar concepts. In order to make general curricula activities accessible to studentswith diverse needs, accommodations (changes made to the input or output method used by theteacher or student) and adaptations (changes made to the conceptual level of the particularlearning standard) are used frequently. Computer technologies have opened up significantpossibilities in terms of adaptations and accommodations for students. Recently, some specialeducators have been exploring the use of digital storytelling in the classroom to increase theirstudents’ success. Both by accessing digital stories and creating their own digital stories,students with disabilities have been able to overcome previous barriers in the curriculum andexceed even their teachers’ expectations. One challenging area faced by many students with disabilities such as autism, cognitivedelays, and emotional disturbance is social skill development. For many years, special educatorshave been employing social stories – very short, simple stories that impart social instruction –with their students to assist in areas such as engaging with peers, working independently, anddecreasing disruptive behaviors (More 170). These stories are tailored to the student’s needsand abilities and written from the student’s point of view, with the idea that by reading orlistening to these stories, the student will be able to understand how to behave in a certain Ward 1
  2. 2. situation. In recent years, teachers have taken this one step further by creating social storiesdigitally and having students access them on the computer. This allows for teachers tocompose, edit, and update the stories more efficiently, while also increasing studentinvolvement in the creation of the stories. Students can participate in gathering and takingphotos to be included, as well as record their own voice reading the story. For students unableto read, digital stories allow the story to be read to them without taking the teacher away fromthe larger classroom. Additionally, once they learn how to access the stories on their own,students can control the speed of their learning. With this involvement, students takeownership over their own learning, which is critical for students with disabilities to fosterindependence (More 175). Digital storytelling can also be used to access and develop the language arts skills thatare often trapped by frustrations with writing. With digital storytelling, students can expresstheir thoughts orally and visually, while still cultivating the necessary skills of editing andrevision. Paige Michalski worked with 7th and 8th grade students labeled as having cognitivedelays to create digital stories. Before the project many of her students were unable to create acomplete sentence. For the project, each student compiled photos of their friends, families,homes, and activities to accompany oral narrations of their daily life. They worked with theirpeers to practice their narrations, edit, and revise their work. By the end, each student hadaccomplished a polished digital story. By incorporating digital storytelling into her classroom,Michalski was able to adapt a traditional language arts activity to fit the needs and abilities ofher students in a way that was challenging and motivating for them (Michalski, Hodges, andBanister). Ward 2
  3. 3. Similarly, digital storytelling can be used to expose student abilities that may otherwisebe hidden. Many studies have shown that using digital media can be highly motivational forstudents (More 171), especially students on the autism spectrum (Dillon and Underwood 169).A study conducted by Dillon and Underwood, using the digital storytelling application BubbleDialogue, revealed that high functioning children with autism displayed no significantdifferences in imaginative narration skills from their peers without autism, contradicting theirinitial hypothesis. Where previous research indicated that children with autism have difficultywith creative and imaginative thought, Dillon and Underwood’s study suggests that it is perhapsnot the function of imaginative thought, but the method used to express it that often hinderschildren with autism spectrum disorder (177). Perhaps when using digital media, the childrenwith autism felt more capable of expressing their creativity. As the varied uses of digital storytelling in the cases cited above indicate, there is no oneway that digital storytelling can be used effectively with students with disabilities. As in More’sexample, digital stories can be used to facilitate social situations and invoke a sense ofownership in one’s learning. Michalski, Hodges, and Banister show that digital storytelling canfoster traditional language arts skills of creation and revision by offering a different approach.Dillon and Underwood found that digital storytelling can encourage creativity and be used as anevaluation to see how students understand narrative concepts. Digital storytelling, in all its varieties, seems to play on the strengths of these studentswhile simultaneously eliminating or bridging some of the hurdles they confront. All threearticles note that digital media and computer technologies appeal to the students, motivating Ward 3
  4. 4. them to engage in their projects in ways that traditional paper and pencil language artsactivities have not (Dillon and Underwood 169; Michalski, Hodges and Banister; More 171).Similarly, digital storytelling increases the confidence of the students. By working in anenvironment that is familiar and comforting to them, they have the power and control toexpress themselves and make connections in ways that they may feel unable to do otherwise.Digital storytelling also appears to lend itself to easy adaptation in order to meet the studentsat their capability level. As Michalski noted in her work with the 7th and 8th graders, orallydescribing the images associated with the stories allowed the students to build sentences inmore creative ways than they were able to initially write about them. Using the images as aprompt and each other as a soundboard, both of which are natural parts of digital storytelling,encouraged more highly developed thinking and editing. Looking to the future, one can imagine the possibilities afforded to special educatorsand their students with the explosion of digital storytelling apps being developed for tabletssuch as the iPad. With a single application, students can take photos or create drawings, recordthemselves or other audio tracks, and compile digital stories. Although this would be anexpensive investment initially, the flexibility and ease of use of some of these apps and devicesare well worth it. More and more educators and parents are finding the numerous benefitstablets offer for students with disabilities (in areas other than digital storytelling), and makingthe argument for their purchase in the school budget or through grant money is well-supportedin the literature (Shah; Price). Ward 4
  5. 5. By incorporating digital storytelling into the special education classroom or inclusiveclassroom environment, teachers will be able to support the independence of their studentswhile concurrently challenging them to delve into higher-level and creative thinking.Particularly in special education, it is critical to use all the tools available to increase studentsuccess and encourage self-determination, and digital storytelling can be an ideal way to do justthat. Ward 5
  6. 6. Works CitedDillon, Gayle, and Jean Underwood. “Computer Mediated Imaginative Storytelling in Children with Autism.” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 70 (2012): 169-178. Print.Michalski, Paige, Dodi Hodges, and Savilla Banister. “Digital Storytelling in the Middle Childhood Special Education Classroom: A Teacher’s Story of Adaptations.” Teaching Exceptional Children Plus 1.4 (2005): n. pag. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.More, Cori. “Digital Stories Targeting Social Skills for Children with Disabilities.” Intervention in School and Clinic 43.3 (2008): 168-177. Print.Price, Amy. “Making a Difference with Smart Tablets.” Teacher Librarian 39.1 (2011): 31-34. Print.Shah, Nirvi. “Special Ed. Pupils Find Learning Tools in iPad Applications.” Education Week 30.22 (2011): 1-17. Print. Ward 6