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Comprehensive Exam - November 2013

Committee Members -


  • Dr. Richard Ruiz (Chair) - Professor, Teaching/Learning and Sociocultural Studies

  • Dr. J. David Betts - Profesor of Practice, Teaching/Learning and Sociocultural Studies

  • Dr. Sheilah Nicholas - Assistant Professor, Teaching/Learning and Sociocultural Studies

  • Dr. Chris Johnson (Minor Chair)  - Assistant Professor, Educational Technology


Digital Storytelling as an Assessment Practice

Review of the Literature

Recording my journey up to the "top of the world" in Switerland.  Check out my one of my digital stories at:

We are living in a world of chaotic change where we are literally drowning in a sea of data. The world is constantly changing and evolving exponentially. There now exist a global economy where citizens are being challenged to think creatively, become cooperative problem solvers and effective communicators.  People need to know how to interact, engage and collaborate with others from multiple cultures using various types of technology. They need to match left-brain analytical skills with right-brain creative, innovative skills to be competitive and successful in today’s global market (Pink, 2006).

In the United States, we measure educational success based upon test where student are asked to recall facts taught to them in class based upon an industrial age model, instead of an information age one.  Today’s students are mainly being assessed in ways that tap into the left-brain analytical skills, while devaluing the right-brain creative skills.   Why is there a need for this type of assessment?  The main answer to this question is accountability.  Students are being given something, in this case a grade or a degree, so there is a need to make sure they have met certain standards before the award can be granted.  It is usually easy to administer a high stakes objective assessment to the masses on left-brain analytic skills.  However, it is more difficult to assess students on right-brain creative skills, as these are more subjective to evaluate. Could narratives through the practice of digital storytelling be a mechanism used to effectively assess not only right-brain creative skills, but also the left-brain analytical ones?  For as we focus on narratives we expose learning processes often ignored when we are encouraged to research a narrow range of cognitive skills (McEwan, 1995). 

There is a need to go back to our ancestral roots and explore ways we first began to learn, retain and pass on wisdom.  Collaborative narratives have been an entertaining and engaging way for people from cultures all over the world to express their experiences and give meaning to those experiences.  From the beginning of time narratives were designed to teach, inspire, bring people together or to pass along wisdom from one generation to another.  Storytelling is a human trait that is universal, present and recognizable across cultures and epochs (Alexander & Levine, 2008).  There is power in using narratives or personal storytelling to convey or demonstrate knowledge. Through the process of storytelling, meaning is constructed, knowledge is retained and the ability to pass along wisdom is enabled.  

Daniel Pink (2005) points out that there is a major shift happening in the world today as we move from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.  Essentially in this new age it will be vital for students to tell the story, enable meaning making, be a big picture thinker, and recognize patterns.  All of these traits align well with digital storytelling principles and practices and will be framed within this literature review.

In this review of the literature the attention is focused upon several areas of interest.  The broad-brush stroke will explore the literature in regards to the use of digital storytelling as an assessment practice.  However, there will be finer lines addressing themes around: 1) narratives or traditional storytelling techniques for assessment or wisdom retention, 2) digital storytelling for both academic and personal growth and 3) the use of technology for both digital storytelling and assessment practices.


Definition of Terms

For the purpose of this review there are some terms that need to be defined to express the viewpoint of the author and to orientate the reader to this perspective.

  1. Traditional storytelling techniques refer to the means of effectively sharing knowledge, interpreting experiences or passing on wisdom to others.  This is typically done through oral narration, written word or illustrations with the incorporation a beginning, middle and end.

  2. Digital storytelling is a means for expanding upon traditional storytelling techniques through the inclusion of a variety of digital modalities. This can be viewed in either a passive or interactive way.

  3. Assessment practices is the systematic gathering of information about student learning and the factors that affect learning, undertaken with the resources, time, and expertise available, for the purpose of improving the learning. There are three basic steps of assessment: 1) Articulate learning goals, 2) Gather information about how well students are achieving the goals and why, 3) Use the information for improvement (Walvoord, 2004). 

  4. Digital Literacy is the ability to use, filter and validate technology tools and the Internet strategically to find and evaluate information, collaborate with others, produce and share original content and to achieve academic, professional or personal goals (O'Brien & Scharber, 2008).

This last term is important as it encompasses the entire learning process around digital storytelling and the assessment practices considered for this review.

To begin this review we will start with narratives and traditional storytelling then progress on to digital storytelling for academic and personal growth.  We will continue reviewing the literature with a look at the technology surrounding digital storytelling and finally end with a theoretical framework for studying digital storytelling as an assessment practice.


Bonus Information - 

 21st Century Skill


Designing Media Based assignments:


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