Digital Storytelling in Second and Foreign Language Teaching

by Fatemeh Nami (Volume editor)
©2020 Monographs XXIV, 306 Pages


Digital Storytelling in Second and Foreign Language Teaching offers a concise overview of the theoretical underpinnings, rationales, and related pedagogical implications of second and foreign language learning (S/FLL) through digital storytelling for those readers who want to begin experiencing this mode of teaching and learning. It provides educators and language teachers with a research-oriented, evidence-driven knowledge base of the current digital storytelling tools that are apt for learning/teaching different language skills at K-12, college, and university contexts, empirically assessing their effectiveness.
In addition to depicting a consolidated picture of digital storytelling (DST) for second and foreign language learning in theory and practice, the book helps readers gain a better understanding of the possible challenges and constraints against the effective integration of these tools for language learning purposes. In addition, case studies conducted in different contexts add to the existing body of research, providing researchers in the fields of language teaching and educational technology with an opportunity to benefit from research designs, findings, and methods. Further, the book expands readers’ knowledge base on students and teachers’ perception toward language learning by means of digital storytelling tools.
The implications discussed in different chapters of this book offer insights for the readers who are interested in conducting further research on this subject in other disciplines. As digital storytelling tools and presentation software which are specifically designed for educational purposes are becoming more accessible and widely applied, a nuanced understanding of how these tools should be best applied for educational purposes including language practice is becoming an imperative. The present publication aims at offering such an understanding, acting as a reference guide, and making DST a tangible instructional design for teachers, educators, learners, curriculum designers, and policy makers in the field of S/FLL and educational technology.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Figures
  • Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part I Digital Storytelling for S/F Language Learning: The Theoretical Underpinnings
  • 1 Digital Storytelling in Education and Second Language Acquisition: Towards a Theoretical Framework (Annalisa Raffone)
  • 2 An Analysis of the Concept of Interaction in Foreign/Second Language Digital Storytelling Based on Theories of Interaction (Farzaneh Dehghan)
  • Part II Digital Storytelling Tools and Implementation Strategies for Language Classrooms
  • 3 Teaching English Language Skills through Digital Storytelling (Kelly Torres and Aubrey Statti)
  • 4 Selecting 21st-Century Digital Storytelling Tools for Language Learning/Teaching: A Practical Checklist (Fatemeh Nami)
  • Part III Digital Storytelling in S/F Language Classrooms
  • 5 Trimming the Digital Storytelling Instructions by Flipping the Classroom: A Response to Pedagogical Challenges in Implementing Digital Storytelling for Language Learning (Rida Afrilyasanti and Yazid Basthomi)
  • 6 Digitizing the Hakawati: Digital Storytelling in Arabic Classrooms in the United States (Gaby Semaan and Dany Doueiri)
  • 7 United by Generations through Digital Storytelling: Elder’s Life Stories in Intergenerational EFL Teaching (María Alcantud-Díaz and Alba Pérez-García)
  • 8 Developing 21st-Century Competences in Telecollaborative Projects through Digital Storytelling (Ana Sevilla-Pavón and Constanza Rojas-Primus)
  • 9 Empowering Beginning Language Learners’ Voices through Digital Storytelling: An Exploratory Study (Lina Lee)
  • 10 Promoting Cultural Awareness through Digital Storytelling in Higher Education (Serpil Meri Yilan)
  • Part IV Digital Storytelling: State of the Art
  • 11 Digital Storytelling as a Method to Enhance Foreign Language Knowledge and Skills in Language Learning Environments (Chammika Mallawaarachchi)
  • 12 A Critical Review of Assessment Methods Used in Digital Storytelling in Foreign Language Classes (Mohammad Javadi and Farzaneh Dehghan)
  • 13 The Stories behind the Second Language Teachers’ Use of Digital Storytelling (Fatemeh Asadnia)
  • Contributors
  • Index


Storytelling has been there with us since the onset of humanity. From antiquity to the 21st-century digital era, people have been engaged in telling and retelling stories for a wide variety of purposes. Over the past decade and parallel with the emergence of a wide range of digital technologies that make multimodal narrating and sharing possible, interest in digital storytelling and its potential for learning different subjects have grown. Digital storytelling (DST) has qualities that make it particularly relevant to language learning. Offering features for audio-, video-, text-, and image-enhanced narration, DST tools and technologies provide opportunities for students to address and develop language skills and competences by directly engaging them in writing and/or speaking processes. Digitally narrated stories of peers and even language teachers can be drawn on as useful listening and/or reading resources for language learners. It is widely suggested that getting engaged in DST tasks can lower the affective filter by situating learners in stress-free learning contexts, promoting creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and communicative competence.

Despite the overarching positive tone regarding the educational value of DST tools for second and foreign language learning purposes, empirical information about effective integration of DST into the curriculum, relevant assessment strategies to apply, and the theoretical underpinnings to pertain - remains largely scant. This might be attributed to the lack of a consolidated picture regarding the theory and practice of DST in language classrooms.

Digital Storytelling in Second and Foreign Language Teaching is, therefore, a timely invitation for a more detailed and balanced look into a less traversed path. But given that Web 2.0 and DST technologies, particularly those that are specifically designed for educational purposes, are fast-changing fields of development, there will soon be more heard of DST and its application in language classrooms. I believe that this collection will contribute to millions of language teachers and learners across the globe enhancing their understanding of DST from different perspectives and effectively applying this technology for teaching and learning purposes.

Fatemeh Nami

Department of Foreign Languages

Amirkabir University of Technology, Iran


I am indebted to many people including the reviewers who provided insightful comments on the earlier versions of the chapters. I am also deeply grateful to the authors of this collection who supported me and stood by my side to accomplish one common goal, i.e., free dissemination of knowledge and education for everyone everywhere regardless of their ethnic, racial, religious, and national backgrounds.

Thank you!


Rapid advancements in information and communication technologies (ICTs), namely social software, smart phone applications, online platforms, and podcasting and movie-making tools, over the past decade have provided almost everyone with an opportunity to easily narrate, record, and digitally share life stories and events with the world. Although not originally designed and developed for educational purposes, such storytelling technologies are attracting more and more interests in educational contexts and disciplines including second and foreign language (S/FL) learning due to their potentials for stimulating an atmosphere of engaging and collective learning in ways that might be difficult to achieve by other learning approaches. Parallel with this growing popularity, new digital technologies are being introduced which are specifically designed for storytelling in educational settings.

Commonly referred to as digital storytelling (DST) tools, the educational value of such technologies has been the focus of different studies in the past few years. Curriculum designers, educators, and teachers alike are recognizing the need for drawing on potentials of these tools for promoting more effective learning across all grade levels, from K–12 to higher education. There are already a few books published on this topic, the most renowned of which include Teehan’s (2006) Digital Storytelling: In and Out of the Classroom, Frazel’s (2010) Digital Storytelling Guide for Educators, and Ohler’s (2013) Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning, and Creativity. The number of empirical studies investigating the application of DST tools in and out of classroom for teaching different subject areas is also increasing.

Parallel with the emergence of highly sophisticated DST technologies, has grown the consensus regarding the particular application of such tools for S/FL learning. Although recently the number of research articles that report empirical data in this regard has significantly grown, the present edited volume is the first collection of chapters to bring theory, practice, and literature on DST in S/FL teaching together. In addition to the wide range of DST technologies and environments introduced and explored, the chapters included in this volume move beyond simply reporting author’s research experiences by establishing direct links between the pedagogical implications of the findings and future research directions. I hope that the breadth of topics covered in this volume will help teachers, material developers, and policy makers in the field of S/FL learning make effective use of DST technologies that fit the needs of their students in different research contexts and learning environments.

The volume encompasses 12 chapters under four parts: Digital Storytelling for S/F Language Learning: The Theoretical Underpinnings, Digital Storytelling Tools and Implementation Strategies for Language Classrooms, Digital Storytelling in S/F Language Classrooms, and Digital Storytelling: State of the Art. The authors of this volume, notwithstanding the differences of their research contexts, grade levels and languages focused on, and overall contributions, agree that storytelling by means of technology can be specifically productive in language classrooms if it is operationalized following relevant theories and pedagogically sound course design and integration plans.

Part I consists of two chapters on the theoretical underpinnings of DST for language learning and teaching. In Chapter 1, Annalisa Raffone begins with identifying and reviewing the main theories that support the use of DST in education and second language acquisition (SLA). The chapter ends with a framework, drawing on the selected theories and suggestions to explore its effectiveness in practice. The second chapter focuses on the concept of interaction as an essential component of any technology-enhanced educational medium and/or approach including DST and explores it based on two theories of interaction. Farzaneh Dehghan analyzes the components of interaction according to these SLA approaches to evaluate whether DST possesses the components of interaction.

Part II comprises two chapters on strategies for implementing digital stories in language instruction. In Chapter 3, after reviewing previous research on the integration of DST in SL learning contexts, Kelly Torres and Aubery Statti describe students, specifically English language learners (ELLs), in modern American classrooms as digital natives. The chapter follows with an introduction of DST platforms and the strategies and activities for utilizing DST tools to enhance the four language skills (i.e., speaking, listening, reading, and writing) in English language classrooms. In addition, the authors suggest that these activities—which are specifically designed for digital natives in a digital era—also offer the potential of developing learners’ advanced technology skills along with being engaging and thought provoking.

In Chapter 4, Fatemeh Nami has proposed a practical checklist to guide language teachers’ choice of DST technologies in S/FL classrooms. The technology type, language skills covered, target audience, preferred story generator, narrative mode, and multimedia enhancement are introduced as the main factors that should be considered when applying any digital tool for language learning/teaching purposes. In the second half of the chapter, the available DST tools and platforms are explored using these factors and their subcategories are presented in the form of a checklist.

Part III focuses on actual classroom practices and consists of five chapters reporting studies that have empirically explored the application of DST technologies in second and foreign language classrooms. In Chapter 5, Rida Afrilyasanti and Yazid Basthomi propose a model for teaching with DST to address the pedagogical challenges that teachers might face when trying to integrate such technologies into language classrooms for learning purposes. The authors suggest flipped classroom model as they believe it not only reduces the amount of time spent during the implementation of DSTs but also results in higher-level learning. The instructional procedures discussed in this chapter for implementing DST include: introduction to the digitized class along with drafting and storyboarding, narrating and digitalizing, and presenting processes.

In Chapter 6, Gaby Semaan and Dany Doueiri discuss the application of DST for teaching and learning Arabic as a world language in the USA. After a detailed discussion of the authentic relationship between traditional storytelling and the Arabic culture and presenting the status of Arabic language instruction and learning in the United States, the authors present the findings of their study carried out in a summer immersion Arabic language and cultures program. Semaan and Doueiri specifically focus on students and teachers’ perception of Arabic language knowledge development through DST along with their software preferences for creating digital stories. The main difficulty their participants encountered in DST project related to using certain fonts in Arabic on the iPads. The authors observed that DST helped learners improve their knowledge of Arabic vocabulary and language skills by providing them with an opportunity to communicate in Arabic producing the language.

In Chapter 7, Alba Pérez-García and María Alcantud-Díaz explore the application of DST for teaching English as a second language (ESL) in Secondary Education in Spain. Drawing on 21st-century skills including problem-solving, critical thinking, reasoning, and synthesizing as the methodological foundation of the study, the authors aim at developing students’ communication skills in a second language by engaging them in DST projects with their elders. Creatively establishing bidirectional ties between two generations (i.e., teenage level learners and their elders) by utilizing the educational value of DST in what is referred to as intergenerational education, Pérez-García and Alcantud-Díaz note that narrating life stories not only develops students’ communicative competence, listening, and reading skills in English but also enhances their ability to explore, compose, innovate, introduce, evaluate, and think critically.

The development of 21st-century competences through telecollaboration along with DST is also addressed in Chapter 8. Ana Sevilla-Pavón and Constanza Rojas-Primus offer a special look at the differences and similarities between native and foreign language and culture in DST telecollaborative projects. Drawing on multiple quantitative and qualitative data sources, the authors compared the development of language, intercultural, and digital competences along with teamwork skills, language anxiety, and social awareness between two groups of participants in two universities in Spain. Sevilla-Pavón and Rojas-Primus report that engagement in telecollaborative DST projects lowers both native and nonnative speakers’ language anxiety while at the same time enhancing their 21st-century competences. Furthermore, the authors inspected a significant improvement in students’ linguistic and intercultural competences, digital literacy, and teamwork abilities. It is also suggested that engagement in DST projects provided opportunities for students to increase their social awareness.

In Chapter 9, Lina Lee reports a DST project involving beginning level language students. Drawing on post-treatment surveys, interviews, and reflective essay data, Lee explores learners’ perception towards DST use and the degree of their language skill development. Lee concludes that DST is a pedagogically effective strategy in language classrooms as it contributes to learners’ active learning with peers. She also observed that, in addition to language knowledge (particularly speaking and writing skills), DST was productive for multimodel digital literacy development. In Chapter 10, Serpil Meri Yilan identifies and explores the use of theoretical frameworks that support DST integration into language classrooms. More specifically, she concentrates on Turkish students’ and their teacher’s perception toward language learning and cultural awareness development through DST. Serpil concludes that DST enables language learners to gain a better understanding of the target language pronunciation, appropriateness, argumentation, and source and target language cultures.

The final part on this volume offers an in-depth review of literature on DST and features three chapters. In Chapter 11, Chammika Mallawaarachchi explores how previous research relates DST, as a new method of teaching/learning, to the development of language skills. The chapter continues with a review of the available DST platforms. Drawing on previous research, Mallawaarachchi divides methods of DST into: DST with images and photos, DST with texts, DST with videos, and DST with Emojis and Doodles. The final part of the chapter is dedicated to the current gaps in DST research, suggesting future research directions and strands. In Chapter 12, Javadi and Dehghan concentrate on a less traversed area, i.e., assessment strategies and methods in DST research. As authors rightly acknowledge, the success of any teaching strategy including DST requires a special attention being dedicated to the assessment techniques. After a detailed account of DST application across various disciplines, the authors introduce different assessment rubrics and approaches widely utilized in DST research to evaluate different language traits.


XXIV, 306
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXIV, 306 pp., 8 b/w ill., 18 tables

Biographical notes

Fatemeh Nami (Volume editor)

Fatemeh Nami holds a PhD in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) with a specialization in computer assisted language learning (CALL) from Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at Amirkabir University of Technology.


Title: Digital Storytelling in Second and Foreign Language Teaching