Does Digital Storytelling Really Make a Difference?

In the 21st century classroom, digital storytelling has been promoted as way to increase students' connections to reading and writing (Benson, 2008; Siegle, 2009; Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). Digital storytelling is a learning method where students create a short video to evaluate a topic. The video can be images accompanied by narration (like a slide show) (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009) or a short movie with actors, scenes, and dialogue (Ohler, 2013). Digital storytelling activities have been used to support struggling writers in elementary and high school (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). Ohler (2013) has stated that digital storytelling can help adolescents with engagement and motivation to participate in writing.

With the push for integrating more technology into the elementary, middle, and high school classrooms due to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), it is understandable that educators want to integrate digital storytelling into their lessons. For example, the CCSS recommend that ninth and tenth grade students use technology, including the Internet, to produce and edit individual or shared written products (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6). Ninth and tenth grade students are also expected to take advantage of the affordances of technology (e.g., displaying dynamic information) when creating presentations (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2010).

It would seem that digital storytelling is a good fit for supporting CCSS with writing lessons. Digital stories can be used to help students plan their written artifacts by using technology. Additionally, a digital story can be a method of presenting information dynamically, such as using Apple iMovie to narrate over images or to produce a movie with actors. Kajder (2004), McLellan (2006), Robin (2008), Robin and McNeil (2012), Sylvester and Greenidge (2009), and Tobin (2012) have discussed the benefits of using digital storytelling to support literacy in the classroom. These articles are more qualitative in nature with their analyses. While some authors tout the benefits of digital storytelling, there is a lack of statistical support and disagreement with how to investigate its impact (Robin & McNeil, 2012).

The effects of digital storytelling on literacy need to be researched further using statistical methods of analysis. In my next post, I will discuss a few factors that can be examined to gauge any benefits of digital storytelling with writing. Later, I will also discuss a study with ninth grade students, digital storytelling, and writing.


Benson, S. (2008). A restart of what language arts is: Bringing multimodal assignments into secondary language arts. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19(4), 634-674.

Kajder, S. (2008). The book trailer: Engaging teens through technologies. Educational Leadership, 64(6). Retrieved from leadership/archived-issues.aspx.

McLellan, H. (2006). Digital storytelling in higher education. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(1), 65-79.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (2010). Common core state standards. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. B. (2013). Digital storytelling and the classroom: New media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, 47, 220-228.

Robin, B. R., & McNeil, S. G. (2012). What educators should know about teaching digital storytelling. Digital Education Review, 22, 37-51.

Siegle, D. (2009). Literacy in the 21st Century: The fourth R – video recording. Gifted Child Today, 32(2), 14-19.

Sylvester, R., & Greenidge, W. (2009). Digital storytelling: Extending the potential for struggling writers. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 284-295.

Tobin, M. T. (2012). Digital storytelling: Reinventing literature circles. Voices from the Middle, 20(2), 40-48.