Little Green Librarian

Blogging my way through a Masters in Teacher Librarianship at CSU!

Literature in digital environments: Critical reflection


Image of a tablet computer and a paper notebook side by side.

Digital literature. The two words seem incongruous – as though something sacred has been defiled. I reflected in a previous blog post that the word “literature” has an implication of value attached to it (Riley, 2015), value that many believe is unachievable in the digital sphere. Sadokierski (2013) suggests that dwelling on a sense of nostalgia for print books is a risk – the digital is here to stay, and we cannot afford to get left behind. This is particularly true of digital literature in education contexts.

The skills required to navigate a digital text are different from the skills we use to navigate a print text (Leu et al., 2011, pp6-8). As educators, it is imperative that we explicitly teach our students the literacy skills they need to engage in a world that is increasingly digital and connected (Leu et al., 2011, p5). We can only do this if we engage with literature in digital environments.

Fortunately, the terms “digital” and “literature” are congruous, and literature in digital environments can be readily incorporated into our school libraries and classrooms to help our students learn the new literacy skills they require (Larson, 2009, p256). Many digital texts of dubious quality exist, however, so it is important for educators to consider what makes a quality digital text. Yokota and Teale (2014, p580) provide a simple yet effective checklist for educators to assess the quality of digital texts. They apply the same criteria they would use for a print text then add the following: appropriate format for the content, use of digital features to assist the story, narrative integrity, valuable supplementary features, and use of digital features to enhance understanding. Digital texts don’t necessarily need to have an excessive number of digital features. In fact, these can be a distraction, unless they are integral to the text (Lamb, 2011, p17). The best digital texts utilise digital features in an intelligent way to enhance the storytelling. Texts of this quality make excellent additions to school libraries and classrooms, both as literature in their own right, and as models for the kinds of digital texts our students can create themselves.

Digital storytelling is an example of a type of digital project that students can easily undertake that meets a broad spectrum of curriculum goals while providing an engaging format for students to work in. Digital stories integrate text, visuals and sounds (Kearney, 2011, p171), and can be either simple or complex (Malita & Martin, 2010, p3061). It has been suggested that digital storytelling can be used across all disciplines (Educause Learning Initiative, 2007, p1), due to its flexibility in form, content and project size. Additionally, digital storytelling projects give students a voice and a way to express themselves (Educause Learning Initiative, 2007, p2). For these reasons, digital storytelling has great value in the classroom and beyond.

My own digital storytelling project took on the form of a visual novel. I was able to utilise free software to create my visual novel and use creative commons images and music to enhance it. I found the format somewhat challenging, as I was coding at a level above my comfort zone. However, the process of troubleshooting, with the aid of online forums, was a satisfying part of the journey in the creation of the visual novel. This project was a valuable learning curve for me. I discovered a format of literature that I was previously unaware of, I developed coding skills, and was able to conceptualise a context and story, then bring it to life. I felt proud of myself for achieving something that had appeared daunting and I was left wanting to create more digital stories in this format. My experience is certainly not unique – it is an echo of the experience of many who engage in digital storytelling.

What the future holds for literature in digital environments is unclear. Current trends suggest that we are living in a hybrid age, straddling the digital and analogue worlds. Whether or not this will continue, and for how long, we can only speculate. What is clear is that digital literature is not going away. In schools, it is vital that we embrace digital literature and look for ways to make it valuable for our students rather than pretending that it doesn’t exist or has no value. Digital storytelling provides a great way to take on the best aspects of what digital literature has to offer and give our students a real way to make their voices and stories heard.

As this subject concludes, I feel equipped with a vast array of resources that I can readily use with students. I also have a much clearer view of the issues surrounding digital literature and access to a wealth of professional conversation about these issues to which I can refer. I look forward to meeting whatever the future holds and am ready to keep exploring what it holds right now.



Educause Learning Initiative. (2007) 7 things you should know about digital storytelling. Retrieved from

Kearney, M. (2011). A learning design for student-generated digital storytelling. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(2), 169-188. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2011.553623

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17.

Larson, L.C. (2009). e-Reading and e-Responding: New tools for the next generation of readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(3), 255-258. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.53.3.7

Leu, D. J., McVerry, J. G., O’Byrne, W. I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., Kennedy, C. & Forzani, E. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5-14. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Malita, L., & Martin, C. (2010). Digital storytelling as web passport to success in the 21st century. Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2(2), 3060-3064. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.465

Riley, K. (2015b, September 7). A reflection on digital literature. Retrieved from

Sadokierski, Z. (2013). What is a book in the digital age? Retrieved from

Yokota, J., & Teale, W. H. (2014). Picture books and the digital world: Educators making informed choices. The Reading Teacher, 67(8), 577-585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262


Image source: Notebook by Skitterphoto. Public Domain.

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