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An Exploratory Case Study on the Use of Pedagogy of Multiliteracies in Digital
Storytelling Project to Foster Students’ Multimodal literacies
The proposed study is an attempt to respond to the demands of todays’ EFL teaching which
should start to move away from focusing on the teaching of language skills only to preparing
learners for different literacy practices they might encounter in their future involving visual,
gestural, audio, spatial, digital dimension of communication. Although several study have been
conducted in exploring the use of digital storytelling project to foster students’ multimodal
literacies, in Indonesian context, almost none of the researches focused on the development of
students’ multimodal literacies in orchestrating different use of all semiotic modes in making
meaning and communicating ideas. This study will explore how the use of pedagogy of
multiliteracies in the Digital Storytelling (DST) project can contribute to the students’
multiliteracies. Utilizing a case study design, this study will involve 30 elementary school
students from the fifth grade and 1 elementary school English teachers. The school site and the
teacher is purposively chosen as they have previously joined a digital story project. Multiple
method of data collection will be used to triangulate findings, among others are the result of
observation, interviews with students and teachers, and the document analysis including students’
story scripts and final product of DST. The analysis of the findings will be based on the
description of the course and the project, procedure and instructional steps using the pedagogy
of multiliteracies, students’ use of multimodality in their digital story and students’ knowledge
and discovery on multimodality
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The notion of literacy from the perspective in EFL learning is often viewed as the ability
to read and write a written text only. This is a narrow view that does not adequately account for
the variety of literacy practices that exist in different sociocultural contexts, and which are not
limited to reading and writing. From the sociocultural perspective, literacy is considered as a
social practice which is related to historical, sociocultural and political contexts (New London
Group, 2000). The sociocultural perspective posits that people engage in different types of
literacy depending on the purpose, the medium and the audience for the particular
communicative event.
The advancement of new digital technology has made it possible for people to change
their mode of communication. The day-to-day activities involve the use of new digital
communication tools, such as email, texting, and/or chat, in addition to utilizing and participating
in social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter, Path, Instagram, and many other platform.
These digital tools not only have impacted the literacy practices in which people are engaged in
but also have made changes to the way people communicate with each other at a personal level
as well as the way people share information in public. Such digitally mediated communication
demands the awareness of multimodal literacies from the users.
Language is not the only means of meaning making and communication. In addition to
language, people utilize other modes of communication such as visual, aural, spatial, and
gestural (Kress, 2003). In EFL teaching, there is a demand to move away from focusing only on
the mastery of language skills to develop learners “multimodal communicative competence”
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(Royce, 2007). The role of multimodal literacies is not only as a non-linguistic mode which
supplement the language instruction or communication. Instead, Multimodal literacies pay
attention to the new meanings created by the co-influences of multiple modes when language is
just one of the resources available (Kumagai, Konoeda, Nishimata, & Sato, 2015).
In foreign language learning, digital storytelling (Hereafter DST) can possibly be used to
enhance students’ multimodal literacies. Some researchers have conducted their study to explore
how DST project can contribute to students multimodal literacies. Yang (2012), explored the
English language learners’ crafting process of a digital storytelling project. She investigated the
learners approach to multimodal digital story composing, in which students constructed hybrid
text to deliver their message and assigned meaning to semiotic resources. Kumagai et al. (2015)
applied the Pedagogy of Multiliteracies to foster students’ critical multimodal literacies. Their
studies explored the pedagogical model of the digital storytelling project for critical multimodal
literacies, and examine the students’ meta-awareness of multimodality in classroom discussions,
post-project survey and interviews, and two focal students’ digital story products. Meanwhile,
Miller (2007), explored how students make meaning through multimodal resources in ELA class.
Although several studies have been conducted in exploring the use of digital storytelling
project to foster students’ multimodal literacies, in the EFL context of Indonesian, this research
area is still understudied. Some studies conducted to explore the use of digital storytelling are
only limited to its use in relation to the development of learners’ language skills (Rosmalina,
2012), assessment of young learners writing skill (Sitorus, 2014), and improvement of students’
speaking skill (Afrilyasanti & Basthomi, 2011). Almost none of the researches focused on the
development of students’ multimodal literacies orchestrating different use of all semiotic modes
in making meaning and communicating ideas. To fill the gap, this study is aimed at preparing
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EFL learners for different literacy practices they might encounter in their future involving visual,
gestural, audio, spatial, and digital dimension of communication. Using the pedagogy of
multiliteracies this study will attempt to foster the students’ multimodal literacies through digital
storytelling project.
This study is also motivated by my personal experience in doing a DST project in 2015. I
was awarded a grant to conduct a digital storytelling project involving five teachers from five
elementary schools in Bandung. Each of the schools involved twenty 5
grade students who
joined this program as an after school activity within a two month period. Together with the
school teachers, I found myself learning how to facilitate the students in creating their digital
story. In the process of creating the digital story, students should follow a series of stages
adapted from Frazel (2011) among others are brainstorming, story mapping, sharing and
discussing story map, collecting pictures, script writing, digitizing the story, recoding voice,
adding animation and publishing. Within two months, students were expected to create 4 digital
stories with the following topics; 1) myself, 2) my family, 3) my hero and 4) my dream. In
digitizing the story, students were introduced to two simple mobile phone applications
Clarisketch and Viva Video.
The digital story result was beyond expectation. The students were able to orchestrate the
pictures, sounds, music, texts, and animations while trying to make meaning and deliver the
content of the story using different semiotic resources. However, the success rate of this program
was somewhat low. In schools A, B, C and D, among 20 students involved in this program, only
3-5 students managed to finish all the digital story assignments. Surprisingly, in school E all
students successfully completed all the digital story projects assigned to them. I conducted an
informal interview to all teachers and found out that teachers from the first four schools did not
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dedicate their time to assist the students. They let the students worked independently without any
guidance. Meanwhile the teacher from school E always assisted her students in getting the topics
of ideas for their digital story. She always started the brainstorming process by asking what the
students had in their minds regarding the topics. The teachers also read and gave necessary
corrections and inputs for students’ story script. After the students had clearer ideas of what they
were going to do with the story project, the teacher usually backed off and let the students work
independently. However, she always monitored the students’ progress and was always available
to provide students with necessary assistance.
The case of the teachers from school E has drawn my attention to conduct further
investigation on the pedagogical practice of DST. Having read some literature, I found out that
the pedagogy of multiliteracies proposed by the New London Group can be the underlying
framework to investigate the implementation of DST project. Through this research, I intend to
obtain more in-depth understanding on the extent to which the pedagogy of multiliteracies play a
role in developing students’ Multimodal literacies through DST project.
Purpose of the Study and Research Questions
Building on the research interest in the implementation of pedagogy of multiliteracies to
foster students’ multimodal literacies as well as the personal interest in relation to the use of
Digital Storytelling in language class, this study is intended to identify and describe the extent to
which the use of pedagogy of multiliteracies in digital storytelling project can contribute to foster
students’ multimodal literacies. The research questions are as follow:
How does the use of pedagogy of multiliteracies in the DST project construct the
students’ Multimodal literacies?
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How do the students orchestrate different semiotic modes in making meaning
through the DST project?
What are the students’ perception towards the DST Project?
Significance of the study
The proposed study can be significant in twofold contributing to the literature of research
on multimodality in Indonesia and providing information to some personnel related to EFL and
multimodal literacy teaching. The findings of this study will contribute to the literature of
research in multimodality by viewing and examining the implementation of pedagogy of
multiliteracies in Indonesia context and provide more information in the “how” and “why” of
using pedagogy of multiliteracies to foster students’ multimodal literacy. In addition, this
findings can help teachers and teachers’ educators in considering some strategies to be
implemented in utilizing pedagogy of multiliteracies in a DST project which are potential to
foster students’ multimodal literacy.
Review of literature
The literature review will briefly discuss the condition of today’s EFL teaching, the
overview of digital storytelling, its relation with the language learning and multimodal literacy,
elaborate some important aspects of multiliteracies pedagogy and multimodal literacy.
EFL Teaching
The 20
century has lent itself an abundant of methods and approaches in language
teaching. One of the most prominent methods is the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
which gives emphasis on the communicative competence, learner-centeredness and interaction
(Savignon, 1997). CLT has greatly influenced syllabus design and methodology and also become
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the root of new methodologies such as content based instruction (CBI), task-based instruction
(TBI) and content language integrated learning (CLIL) (Richard 2006, in (Fandino, 2013). In
response to the emergence of different methods in EFL, Kumaravadivelu (1994) proposed a post
method condition in which teachers are expected to be able to adapt their own approach to
teaching by adjusting to the local and contextual factors. In post method condition, he proposed a
number of macrostrategies which can be used by teachers as broad guidelines in generating their
own classroom techniques suitable for their context.
Furthermore, English language teaching has been shifting in accordance with the shift
happening in the world. English is not only treated as a linguistic code or a set of competences.
Other than that, English should be regarded as a global language for expressing ones’ local
identities and communicating with the world (Crystal, 2006 in Fandino, 2013). Eaton (2010)
argues that there is a need to reconceptualized the EFL classroom which is more learner-centered,
collaborative and technologically driven. This kind of reconceptualization of the EFL classroom
can be done by harmonizing the framework of 21
century education with the approaches to
English language teaching. Royce (2007) has suggested that educators move beyond seeing
language as a division between four subskills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), and see
communicative interactions as much broader, intertwined and multimodal.
Digital Storytelling
Introduction to Digital Storytelling
The advancement of technology has provided new repertoire of resources for creating
stories using computer, tablet or even smartphone. The term digital storytelling is the art of
combining stories with digital media, such as images, sound, and video to create a short story
(Robin, 2006). Digital stories are more than just a simple slideshow of photos set to music. They
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interweave different media (i.e. images, graphics, music, sound and the author voice) to support
the art of telling tale (Dreon, Kerper, & Landis, 2011; Meadows & Kidd, 2009; Porter, 2004).
Davis (2004) described a digital story as a form of short narrative, usually a personal narrative,
told in the first person, and presented as a short movie displayed on a computer monitor,
television, or projected onto a screen.
Digital stories have been created to share personal stories, autobiographies, personal
histories, or to create original stories giving the author a sense of the power of personal voice. In
contrast with traditional modes, digital story is more malleable, nonlinear and non-chronological.
Students get the opportunity to be actively engage in authentic tasks, create stories and self-
construct meaning (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999; C. H. Miller, 2008). Most digital stories
focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. Digital stories can vary in length,
but most last between two to ten minutes.
Creating digital story is not as simple as it may sound. There are some elements that need
to be considered in crafting DST. Lambert (2002) constructed a model for creating effective
digitals stories by combining seven elements. These elements included point of view, dramatic
question, emotional content, economy, pacing, the gift of voice, and soundtrack. In a digital story,
the author is able to communicate with the audience through different points of view. The
dramatic question relates to the plot and sets the tension of the story by identifying issues to be
resolved. The plots continues throughout the stories and holds the viewers’ attention. The plot or
dramatic question distinguishes a digital story from a picture slideshow. Effective digital stories
contain emotional content that engage the audience through common emotions and themes such
as love, pain, or humor. Economy refers to the balance between the auditory and visual tracks of
meaning. The author needs to be conscious about economizing the language in relation to the
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narration. Pacing involves the audience making meaning of images by varying the inflection,
pitch, and timbre of the author’s voice. Finally, the soundtrack sets the mood for the story by
using music to enhance the experience for the audience.
Digital Storytelling and Language Learning
With the myriad resources of technology for education and learning, many learners still
remain as passive consumer of technology. The fact is that technology can make it possible for
learners to actively engage with the world and spread their voice (Ohler, 2008). Digital
storytelling lends itself to narration of meaningful stories as a medium that allow learners to
better express their opinions and create an emotional context for an audience (Hayes, 2011). By
creating DST, learners are situated to use the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading,
and writing) in an integrated way. The interplay of these four skills may leverage language
development (Ohler, 2008). Meanwhile, struggling readers and writers can “experience the
power of personal expression” (Bull & Kajder, 2004). This is made possible by allowing them to
tell a story using alternative sources such as image, music, and their own voices (Kajder &
Swenson, 2004)
Some researches have been conducted to investigate the use of DST in improving students’
language performance in foreign language (world language) contexts. Hayes (2011) conducted a
study on the use of digital story to enhance student-centered Japanese language learning. This
study involved university students studying Japanese in the US. Motivated by the students’
inability to express opinions and emotions using Japanese, this study is intended to improve
students’ speaking skills. DST was used as an alternative assessment tool for evaluating students’
individual oral presentation skill. The result of this study shows that DST has provided students
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with new tools for expressing their own thought and feelings and deepening their learning
Similarly, Castaneda (2013) did a study on the use of DST in Spanish classroom involving
12 high school students. This study was aimed at determining whether or not DST can be an
effective tool for language learners to communicate emotion and present information to audience.
The belief that DST is a viable means for teacher to create a platform for meaningful, real-world
communication and for learners to engage purposefully with technology and language has
become the springboard of this study. The result shows that in working on DST project, learners’
focus changes from the elements of language and technology to a meaningful project as a whole.
DST also contributes to presentational communication, follows the writing process, and engages
students in a meaningful, real world task in foreign language classroom.
Some other studies of DST project investigated many different aspects of language
learning such as the development of learners vocabulary, expressions and translation method
(Nihioka, 2012), oral proficiency (Abdolmanafi-Rokni, 2014; Razmi, Pourali, & Nozad, 2014;
Tahriri, Tous, & MovahedFar, 2015), writing and speaking skills (Pardo, 2014), integrated skills
(Torres, Ponce, & Pastor, 2012) and ESP (Gimeno-Sanz, 2014).
All in all, these studies have provided insights into the benefits of digital storytelling in
foreign language classrooms. Students’ engagement with digital story project has provided more
possibilities for the students to improve various aspects of language learning skills. However,
these studies have not examined the potential of DST project to foster students’ multimodal
literacies in EFL context, especially in Indonesia. In light of this, it seems to be essential to
conduct further study on how students orchestrate different semiotic resources in making
meaning through digital storytelling.
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Multiliteracies and the Pedagogy of Multiliteracies
Today’s English language teachers are demanded to design classroom activities which
required their students to get engaged in various kinds of authentic task and problem solving
activities that students will actually need in the future. The term multiliteracies was coined to
address ‘the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of
cultural and linguistic diversity” (New London Group, 1996, P.63). NLG claims that meanings
are constructed through multiple representational and communicational modes and resources and
further calls for the inclusion of multiple literacies and modes for making meaning.
Multiliteracies also refers to the ability to read all of the media and the modes and also to
produce through them too. Cope & Kalantzis (2000) provided a good examples including
‘reading’ websites of interactive multimedia. It is clear that the traditional literacy practices alone
are insufficient for this age of multimedia. Multiliteracies go beyond dealing with the technical
aspect of electronic medium and include engaging with others through the new technologies and
using this creatively as well as critically (Angay-Crowder, Choi, & Yi, 2013). Furthermore, it is
also mentioned that teachers have a dual responsibility to select the most appropriate tool for the
job and to make the most creative use of the affordances of the tool they have chosen. The
concept of multiliteracies has also a critical dimension - literacy also needs to include the
awareness that representational resources are social practices constructed by a particular society
and are therefore limited (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003)
NLG developed a theory of pedagogy that integrates four components: (a) situated practice,
(b) overt instruction, (c) Critical framing, (d) transformed practice. Situated practice is an
“immersion in meaningful practices within a community of learners who are capable of playing
multiple and different roles based on their background and experiences”. Through situated
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practice, community of learners are guided as “master of practice”. Overt instruction does not
imply direct drills or rote memorization but includes “active interventions on the part of the
teacher and other expert that scaffold learning activities… that allow the learner to gain explicit
information” (p. 86) and use an explicit metalanguage that describes various processes and
elements that contribute to meaning. Critical framing involves both cognitive and social
dimension of literacy pedagogy, student step back from what they have learned, critique their
learning and extend and apply their learning in new context. Transformed practice involves
students’ transfer, reformulation, and redesign of existing texts and meaning-making practice
from one context to another (New London Group, 1996)
In 2001, using the framework of pedagogy of multiliteracies proposed by New London
Group (1996) Warschauer suggested to incorporate the four basic elements into the students’
collaborative project (see table 1)
Immersion in
Situated Practice
Overt Instruction
Critical Framing
Practice in authentic
situation similar to
those learners will
encounter out of
Opportunities to
explicitly analyze
the content,
organization and
pragmatics of
Effective use of
information found in
online networks
through critical
interpretation of
Working of a higher-
quality outcome, or
applying what has
been learned in new
social and cultural
Tabel 1. Suggested elements for learner-centered collaborative projects (Warschauer, 2001)
Warschauer (2001) suggested some engaging activities through project work incorporating
negotiation, collaboration, goal-setting, meaningful communication, and the development of
challenging products (p. 55). By doing so, learners will be expected to learn to develop a whole
new range of English language literacies involving them in a myriad of communication, reading,
and writing skills using technologies. The practical implementation of this idea will demand
teachers to use learner-centered collaborative project, allowing students to work collaboratively
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with their peers or even, when possible, with people around the globe using various
technological tools.
When using project based learning, the instructor or teacher plays a role as facilitator
guiding the learners in their learning process and offer feedbacks when necessary. Meanwhile,
learners work collaboratively to analyze problems, investigate possible solutions, make decisions,
create designs, and solve problems. Learners work independently over a period of designated
time, utilizing their technology skills and literacy in completing their project and coming up with
real product (Fandino, 2013). In this manner, learning process can go beyond memorization,
uncontextual sentence making, assignments which focus on translation, or over-reliance to
activities in the textbooks.
Angay-Crowder et al. (2013) did a study on putting multiliteracies into practice by
implementing the multiliteracies pedagogy in DST class. They examine how a theoretical
framework could be translated into teaching multilingual adolescent. This study created a context
in which students could explore their multiple literacies and identities using multiple semiotic
modes and resources. This study shows that both conventional print-based and computer-based
multimodal composing practice seem to help students expand their literacy repertoires and means
of expressions. From this study, it can be seen that multiliteracies practices can be a powerful
venue for second language learners and teachers.
Meanwhile, Schwarzer, Haywood, & Lorenzen (2003) conducted a study on fostering
multiliteracy in a linguistically diverse classroom. This study examined the extent to which a
monolingual teacher support linguistic diversity in a classroom of children who speak many
different languages. This study shows that the cross-cultural literacy awareness benefits both