Digital Storytelling for Students with Learning Disabilities

Digital storytelling for Students with Learning Disabilities
Creating digital stories can serve students with learning disabilities who may experience difficulty with telling a story through writing. Getty Images

Digital storytelling combines the tradition of storytelling with digital technology. Creating digital stories invites students to utilize multiple forms of media to tell their story. It provides students with the ability to do research, explore innovative technology, and collaborate with peers to tell a story.

What are Digital Stories?

Digital stories are typically a few minutes long (e.g. 2-5 minutes long) and have many purposes: narrative, informative, instructional, or telling personal events or stories.

Creating digital stories can serve students with learning disabilities who may experience difficulty with telling a story through writing. These individuals typically struggle with the various stages of writing, which include selecting a topic and planning out their writing piece, revising their work, and completing the piece of writing to meet requirements. Many students with learning disabilities have difficulty putting their thoughts to writing and/or lose focus while writing down their thoughts, due to the physical act of writing.

How Can They Help?

Digital storytelling opens up opportunities to scaffold traditional literacy for students with learning disabilities in order to help them learn and master new skills by applying them in a creative way. A digital story uses narration and often combines still images, motion picture, and text to create a movie. In this way, students with LD are better able to concentrate on the delivery of content, formulate sequence, and provide other elements to storytelling without being hindered by an overemphasis on writing.

With the presence of sophisticated computer software, various applications, and smart phone technology, children who struggle writing traditional pieces of work are able to employ a multimedia approach both at home and in the classroom. 

Consequently, students are able to gain confidence in their ability to create and express ideas through this multimodal medium.

This way of storytelling allows teachers to customize instruction and adapt it for individual students. This opens up possibilities far beyond the reach of expression through writing. Digital storytelling emphasizes a child’s strengths and allows them to achieve more realistic and attainable goals through the use of different multimedia.

Digital storytelling allows students to have their choice of developing and telling their stories in many different ways. They can choose how to develop their story so it can convey the right meaning. First, they can create an audio track to narrate the story.  Then, students are able to build their story through visual literacy by adding text, pictures, and/or video. Lastly, they can edit their work to display their finished product.

Many educators have indicated a heightened engagement in their students’ desires to express their creativity when creating digital stories. Students have experienced a stronger engagement in writing where they write more and provide greater details in their writing.

Bottom Line

Some experts may argue that using technology to motivate students to complete various school-related tasks and requirements may be taking away from their deeper comprehension of the material. Most educators, however, feel that writers who struggle become highly motivated by digital technologies and can help expand their literacy skills to new levels.

Author Byline: Dr. Douglas Haddad is an author, nutritionist, and middle school teacher in Connecticut who is a regular contributing writer to Parenting Special Needs magazine. www.douglashaddad.com

References:

Kaylor, M. (2007). Digital Storytelling for Students with Learning Disabilities. In R. Carlsen et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2007 (pgs. 621-623). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. 

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