the best of qualities is dispassion

My Response to “The Use of Digital Storytelling for English Learning”

star-wars-return-jedi-vi-poster_a10501d2“We must teach communication comprehensively in all its forms. Today we work with the written or spoken word as the primary form of communication. But we all need to understand the importance of graphics, music, and cinema, which are just as powerful and in some ways more deeply intertwined with young people’s culture. We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word.”
~ George Lucas

In “The Use of Digital Storytelling for English Learning: Advantages, Problems, and Solutions” Yun (2013) states that ample studies are not available on digital storytelling (DST) and teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) and yet proceeds to summarize what research is available in order to better understand what has been learned (p. 111). At the time of writing Yun (2013) found only five relevant studies in the Korean domestic database, three of which were conducted with elementary students and two with college students (p. 112). In my research for this course, I have learned that in the three years since the publication of Yun’s paper that there appears to be more valuable research available on this topic, as there is an increasing interest in using DST in teaching EFL. I have already encountered several detailed research papers on teaching EFL through DST in Asia, which is the focus of my research.

In this well-written paper, Yun (2013) organizes her section IV findings and recommendations as, advantages, problems, and solutions. Since Yun’s primary focus is using DST to teach EFL in Korea she subdivides section IV into studies in Korean settings and overseas studies. I appreciate Yun’s logical organization and will focus on the Korean research results since my interest is centered on teaching EFL in Korea. Yun (2013) clearly describes her endeavor with existing research when she writes,  “Based on the reviews of existing studies on the use of digital storytelling for English learning, the issues of practicality, effectiveness, and applicability of digital storytelling will be discussed” (p. 112).

Yun argued that the three primary advantages of integrating DST into language education (as cited in Ohler, 2008) are:

1. Successful DST depends upon traditional writing and the literacies associated with it in the development of scripts, narrative, and other planning instruments.
2. DST integrates traditional and emerging literacies while pursuing content-area learning.
3. DST is, above all, storytelling. As such it has many of the educational benefits of traditional storytelling, as well as some new ones. (p. 45)

Yun (2013) goes on to describe how DST can have the same positive educational results as traditional face-to-face storytelling in the classroom. Yun also explains that DST is a good medium for foreign language literacy as contextualized stories aid in teaching writing, discussion, and presentation skills, a skill which are all too often overlooked in the EFL classroom (110-112).

Yun’s (2013) review of research also found other interesting advantages to DST, (as cited in Kim, 2010) “ …  plasticality and flexibility of story creation, interaction between teller and audience, and community formation through sharing stories.” Further, “  the results show that students gained enhanced confidence and interest in English …” as well as improving their grammar and overall engagement. The immersive environment provided by DST benefited both elementary and college students who participated in the studies.

A lack of interaction between the students and teacher in DST settings was found to be a negative aspect in one experimental study. Yen cites another study conducted by Chang (2006) where digital stories were provided in a business English class, the students’ interest in English learning was enhanced and yet they later complained of animation quality, simple and bland images and typical scripts, which reduced the students’ overall opinion of DST in the EFL classroom. Yen (2013) also cited studies which showed students’ reluctance to participate in DST centered language learning activities, as they were unfamiliar with it, and it differed from the traditional language learning methods that they were accustomed to. Another issue discussed was the fact that DST production is quite time consuming (p. 116).

As Yen (2013) explains instructors must work to familiarize students with digital stories. Prior to deploying DST production in the EFL classroom students should be exposed to digital stories so that they can become familiar with the medium and may not  be so resistant to it (p. 116). Familiarity is key here, as most students are already familiar with the technology required to produce simple digital stories, but may not have encountered them in the formal learning environment. Bridging the gap between traditional language learning and newer digital methods will take time and patience. For learners to get the full benefit of DST they must be encouraged to create “their” digital stories, versus only viewing teacher-made, or commercially produced stories. Teachers must also work DST into existing curriculum and permit time for teacher-student interaction.

In summary Yen (2013) argued that, “ Digital storytelling has many advantages in English learning such as high motivation and interest of the learner, affective immersion and engagement, grammar and lexical learning in the context, enhancement of language skills, especially writing and speaking, learner autonomy, language identity formation, and critical thinking (p. 117).  I’m convinced that DST does indeed belong in the EFL classroom here in Korea, and will, therefore, continue learning how to successfully include it in my curriculum.




Chang, J. T. (2006). The development of on-line ELT content based on digital storytelling.
Multimedia-Assisted Language Learning , 7 (3), 217-239.

Kim, S. J. (2010). The Digital-Storytelling technique and effectiveness reflected on elementary school students’ English comprehensibility. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics, 10 (2), 299-319.

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom: New pathways to literacy, learning,
and creativity . Thousand Oaks: CA, Corwin Press.

Yun, Eunja (2013). The Use of Digital Storytelling for English Learning: Advantages, Problems, and Solutions. English Language Teaching, 25( 1), 103- 119.


2 thoughts on “My Response to “The Use of Digital Storytelling for English Learning””

  • Hey Robert—The quote you chose by George Lucas couldn’t be more true. Our students will never know a world without technology, television or cellphones. As we engage with our current and future students, it is necessary to incorporate multimedia information into our lesson plans. The third advantage that Yup argues is quite true. It is really fun to have students create digital videos of themselves or their family. I once watched a video of an international EFL high school in witch students volunteered to share their experiences of what it was like to migrate to the United States. The digital stories that the students shared were really moving and shared so much about who they are as a person and who they want to become. This “interaction between teller and audience, and community formation through sharing stories” was evident in the school community. Have you ever created digital stories with any of your students before? Thanks for sharing!

  • Digital Storytelling has been with us for a long time. It has mostly been used in short productions for entertainment or advertising. I believe that it is now becoming more popular as a learning tool for the classroom. When we think about teaching a language, like English, using DST creates a unique opportunity. How can DST create a feeling of immersion in a language? I think it is possible and would be of value creating perspective and understanding. Instructor involvement with participants could be enhanced by more accurately assessing each students needs, and by working toward unique individual solutions aimed at the same outcome. There will always be challenges, such as technology and environment and as the classroom continues to embrace DST as a solution, the evidence to support it will only grow stronger.

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