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Digital stories, material transformations: reflections of education students in a pre-teacher program

Christina Louise Romero-Ivanova (Department of Education, Indiana University Kokomo, Kokomo, Indiana, USA)
Paul Cook (Indiana University Kokomo, Kokomo, Indiana, USA)
Greta Faurote (Kokomo High School, Kokomo, Indiana, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 14 June 2021

Issue publication date: 20 July 2021




This study centers on high school pre-teacher education students’ reviews of their peers’ digital stories. The purpose of this study is twofold: to bring digital storytelling to the forefront as a literacy practice within classrooms that seeks to privilege students’ voices and experiences and also to encapsulate the authors’ different experiences and perspectives as teachers. The authors sought to understand how pre-teacher education candidates analyzed, understood and made meaning from their classmates’ digital stories using the seven elements of digital storytelling (Dreon et al., 2011).


Using grounded theory (Charmaz, 2008) as a framework, the question of how do high school pre-teacher education program candidates reflectively peer review their classmates’ digital stories is addressed and discussed through university and high school instructors’ narrative reflections. Through peer reviews of their fellow classmates’ digital stories, students were able to use the digital storytelling guide that included the seven elements of digital storytelling planning to critique and offer suggestions. The authors used the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 cohorts’ digital stories, digital storytelling guides and peer reviews to discover emerging categories and themes and then made sense of these through narrative analysis. This study looks at students’ narratives through the contexts of peer reviews.


The seven elements of digital storytelling, as noted by Dreon et al. (2011, p. 5), which are point of view, dramatic question, emotional content, the gift of your voice, the power of the soundtrack, economy and pacing, were used as starting points for coding students’ responses in their evaluations of their peers’ digital stories. Situated on the premise of 21st century technologies as important promoters of differentiated ways of teaching and learning that are highly interactive (Greenhow et al., 2009), digital stories and students’ reflective practices of peer reviewing were the foundational aspects of this paper.

Research limitations/implications

The research the authors have done has been in regards to reviewing and analyzing students’ peer reviews of their classmates’ digital stories, so the authors did not conduct a research study empirical in nature. What the authors have done is to use students’ artifacts (digital story, digital storytelling guides and reflections/peer reviews) to allow students’ authentic voices and perspectives to emerge without their own perspectives marring these. The authors, as teachers, are simply the tools of analysis.

Practical implications

In reading this paper, teachers of different grade levels will be able to obtain ideas on using digital storytelling in their classrooms first. Second, teachers will be able to obtain hands-on tools for implementing digital storytelling. For example, the digital storytelling guide to which the authors refer (Figure 1) can be used in different subject areas to help students plan their stories. Teachers will also be able to glean knowledge on using students’ peer reviews as a kind of authentic assessment.

Social implications

The authors hope in writing and presenting this paper is that teachers and instructors at different levels, K-12 through higher education, will consider digital storytelling as a pedagogical and learning practice to spark deeper conversations within the classroom that flow beyond margins and borders of instructional settings out into the community and beyond. The authors hope that others will use opportunities for storytelling, digital, verbal, traditional writing and other ways to spark conversations and privilege students’ voices and lives.


As the authors speak of the original notion of using students’ crucial events as story starters, this is different than prior research for digital storytelling that has focused on lesson units or subject area content. Also, because the authors have used crucial events, this is an entry point to students’ lives and the creation of rapport within the classroom.



Romero-Ivanova, C.L., Cook, P. and Faurote, G. (2021), "Digital stories, material transformations: reflections of education students in a pre-teacher program", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 245-260.



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