#INF533 Critical Reflection

In my first blog post (Bailie, 2016, July 25) and my reflection on Digital Literature experiences (Bailie, 2016, August 28) I was struggling with whether or not you are really reading literature if the literature is presented as a video. Back then I decided that reading literature had to incorporate the decoding of at least some text. I have come to see that the broader term “experiencing literature” is more useful and this doesn’t have to mean decoding only words. Digital storytelling to me has a more fluid, less rigid meaning. Stories can be told verbally, through pictures and sounds, by reading words or even through maps as I discovered in creating my Digital Storytelling Project. Are these stories literature? Well, not necessarily (Walsh, 2013), but their value for learners to both experience (Matthews, 2014) and create (Sukovic, 2014; Tolisano, 2015) cannot be denied.

Even though I am a social media enthusiast and can no longer imagine my life without Twitter, I have not previously combined it with my fiction reading. However, I have readily engaged with writers who I read in a professional or academic capacity, including for other subjects in this course. As a connected learner it is second nature for me to share my learning so the reviews for Experiencing digital literature were no exception. I shared my review of Upgrade Soul with its creators via Twitter and their Facebook page and had quick and positive responses.

Facebook post

I thoroughly enjoyed the digital storytelling project, I think mostly because, for the first time in this course, I was able to immerse myself in something which I have a deeply personal connection with, not just a professional one. Much of the research for A stranger in the town (ASITT) was completed when I did a local history project for my HSC in 1981. I believe I have transformed the content into something that could not have been imagined back then. In particular:

  • Technology now allows images to be scanned, enlarged and enhanced making them not only look better than the original but able to be shared. Previously only one original copy was held somewhere (hopefully) safe and poor quality photocopies had to suffice.
  • The use of interactive maps as a storytelling tool. This is explained further in the Context for digital storytelling project.
  • The ability for the story to shared widely. I remember showing my grandparents my original project but that was as far as it went. My father has already emailed the ASITT link to many Yandell and Bailie relatives. I used the facility in Atavist to set up Facebook and Twitter sharing, editing the text for post to both platforms.

Here is the original handwritten project:

I consider myself fairly savvy with digital tools and find most things easy to use and navigate. The simplicity and elegance of the design of Atavist digital magazines appealed to me and I believed using the finished product to be self-explanatory. However, I shared the story with my family to proofread and from their feedback discovered that some of the features of the platform are not necessarily intuitive for the new user. The simple symbol where audio is embedded wasn’t obviously clickable, likewise the slideshow navigation arrows don’t stand out so only the first image was viewed. I’ve since added in specific direction about viewing the slideshows and listening to the audio. This was a lesson in not assuming anything about users’ facility with technology.

Like a previous student of INF533 I hope my story might inspire others to digitise their family photographs and record their memories so they can be shared more widely (Clark, 2015). For my original HSC project I spoke with my grandparents and Aunty Margaret but I didn’t record anything (even if I had it’s unlikely the media would have survived, cassette player, anyone?) and they have all since passed away. How wonderful it would be to hear their voices in this project too. My dad is nearly 80, I’m so happy to have had this opportunity to record some of his memories and I hope these will survive.

Completing the project, which was very broad, made me see value in smaller stories. If I was starting again I might instead turn the story of my grandfather setting out to be a travelling salesperson at the age of 4 into an interactive book like The Artifacts or use the story of Robert and Lilly’s first meeting and wedding as the basis for creating a story told through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

INF533 has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of digital storytelling and I hope to be an active creator both personally and professionally. Likewise, there is enormous potential for students to use narrative technology (Hall, T. 2012) to be active creators of content, instead of passive consumers (Morra, S., 2013) and I will help my school move forward by become a digital storytelling evangelist among my colleagues.


Bailie, H. (2016, July 25). #INF533 Blog task [Web log post]. Retrieved http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2016/07/25/blog-task/ 

Bailie, H. (2016, August 28). Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2016/08/28/digital-literature-experiences/

Clark, G. (2015). The Backstory To My Backstory On The Late Antonio Giordano (1907-1984). Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/cloudingaround/2015/10/12/my-social-history-backstory-on-the-late-antonio-giordano-1907-1984/

Hall, T. (2012). Digital Renaissance: The Creative Potential of Narrative Technology in Education. Creative Education, 3, 96-100. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.31016.

Matthews, J. (2014). Voices from the heart: The use of digital storytelling in education. Community Practitioner, 87(1), 28-30. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1474889132?accountid=10344

Morra, S. (2013) Eight steps to great storytelling. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/8-steps-to-great-digital-storytelling/

Sukovic, S. (2014). iTell: Transliteracy and digital storytelling. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 45(3), 205–229. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2014.951114

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA). Retrieved from https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/walsh-m3.pdf

Context for Digital Storytelling Project


The non-fiction digital storytelling project A stranger in the town (ASITT) is designed as both a resource for teachers to use with students and as a “hook” for professional learning workshops for teachers. It also has a personal context as a means of sharing memories and precious family photographs with extended family.

ASITT has been produced in a digital magazine format using Atavist, exploiting the affordances of technology (Rettberg, 2012) with elements unimaginable in printed text (Jabr, 2013). The platform was selected for the ease of using a range of multimodal elements, simple formatting and elegant design.

My institution, The King David School, is an independent, Jewish K-12 school in Melbourne. In year 6, students undertake a Dorot (generations) project which is an exploration of their family history and Jewish heritage. The unit extends over a whole term, covering aspects of the history and Jewish studies curriculum, and culminates in presentations to family at a celebration breakfast. Although it is a technologically literate school with students bringing their own devices, the presentation of Dorot projects is largely analog.

ASITT is an example of some of the elements of the Dorot project presented as a digital story, taking advantage of technology to use multimodal elements to present information in a different way (Reid, 2013). Reid cites strong evidence that students who create ebooks are more engaged in learning (p. 38), particularly for the potential for their work to be viewed by more than just their teacher.

In the Dorot project students research the migration story of a family member and present it in the form of diary entries, in ASITT the story of A.C. Yandell’s journey from Adelaide to Castlemaine and early days at the diggings is presented as a diary. Students also prepare a world map showing this relative’s home town, eventual destination in Australia, and places stopped along the way – in ASITT the Google application Google My Maps has been used. Google My Maps provide an interactive way to view and engage with information in a geographical context. Being able to zoom into the village where Yandell was born and then zoom out to see the length of his journey to Australia puts the magnitude of the journey into context in a far more relatable way than a static map.

Google My Maps could in itself be used as a digital storytelling platform such is its capacity for adding multimodal layers of information including lines to connect locations, images, video, datasets and more. In the Dorot project the class could collaborate on one My Map document, each adding their own layer, possibly identifying connections between their families, adding to the potential for meaning-making.

Included is explanation about how some of the information was discovered, and links to historical sources to support the students in their research. Explanations have been provided for some unfamiliar terms but not others, leaving open the opportunity for discovery through guidance from the teacher.

In using ASITT with students, teachers could refer to the iPed model (Mills & Levido, 2011): link, challenge, cocreate, share. Using selected aspects and sections as appropriate to the stage of the unit the teacher would support students to find links with their own family stories, challenge them to think about how their story could be portrayed, support them in the co-creation process to use the chosen tools, and then share completed projects with family. Stories provoke us to make connections with our own lives (Lambert, 2010, p.10).

In conjunction with the Dorot project the year 6 teacher could use ASITT as a catalyst for cross-curricular activities also fulfilling Australian Curriculum ICT Capabilities for creating and communicating with ICT. For example, in Literacy it could be used as a springboard for writing for different purposes:

Informative text

  • Rewrite the information from the newspaper report about the wedding in contemporary language and post to a blog.

Creative text

  • Reimagine the story of Dave setting off to be a travelling salesman at the age of four, or use some of David’s memories to create a fictional narrative for younger children. Create illustrations and turn this into a digital picture book.
  • Imagine what it would be like growing up in a household of eleven sisters and one brother, either in the 1880’s, the present day or another time period. Present the information as a diary/series of social media posts.

Persuasive text

  • Use digital tools to create an advertisement for A.C.Yandell’s business.

In Numeracy students could use the linked resource Measuring Worth to explore relative values and the mathematics behind their calculation, while Google My Maps has many applications for the teaching of measurement.

These activities may also be applicable at other year levels.

As a hook for teacher professional learning, the digital story would be shared with teachers prior to them signing up for workshops where the mechanics and potential of tools like Atavist and Google My Maps would be explored.


Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

Lambert, J. (2010). Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkley, CA: Center for Digital Storytelling

Mills, K. & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80-91, DOI: 10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Reid, K. (2013). Creating e-books in the classroom. In J. Bales (Ed.), E-books in learning – a beginner’s guide (pp. 37-43). Australia: Australian School Library Association.

Rettberg, J. W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2012/41/walker-rettberg.htm


Digital Storytelling Topic Proposal

Diggings in the Mount Alexander district of Victoria in 1852, watercolour on paper, 24.5 x 35 cm by ST Gill (http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3112373) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Proposed topic:

An early Castlemaine family

My great, great grandfather, A.C. Yandell, arrived at the Mount Alexander goldfields (later named Castlemaine) in 1852 and his descendants have lived in Castlemaine ever since.

This digital story will highlight selected aspects of A.C. Yandell’s life, as well stories about some of his children and grandchildren. Interwoven in the story will be information about how I researched the information to inspire and enable the reader to research their own family.

Proposed digital tools and spaces to be used

The main digital tool/space to be used is Atavist. If required, additional media will be uploaded to Youtube or Soundcloud for embedding in Atavist.

Rationale for topic focus for the digital storytelling project

I work at an independent Jewish K-12 school. In year 6, students undertake a Dorot project (dorot is Hebrew for generations) which is an exploration of their family history and Jewish heritage. Some of the elements of this project are:

  • Constructing a family tree
  • Researching the biography of a family member
  • Researching the migration story of a family member
  • Selecting and reflecting on an artefact that connects to their Jewish heritage

While I am not Jewish, my story about my family heritage could be used as an example of how this information can be presented. The inclusion of explanations about how information was discovered and links to historical sources would also support the students in their research. The opportunity to compare their stories to one from a different heritage and time period would be an interesting extension activity.

The story has scope for inclusion in teaching about “using historical sources as evidence” and “exploring historical perspectives, concepts and skills” as required in the Victorian Curriculum – History (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, n.d.). The content of this story directly links with Victorian Curriculum Historical Knowledge Level 5 and 6 topics The Australian Colonies and Australia as a Nation, in particular “The causes and the reasons why people migrated to Australia from Europe and Asia, and the perspectives, experiences and contributions of a particular migrant group within a colony”, and “The nature of … colonial presence … and aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants”.


Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (n.d.). History. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from http://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/the-humanities/history/curriculum/f-10#level=5-6