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Living with Digital Natives in Dual Language Elementary Classrooms: Fostering New and Traditional Literacies through Digital Storytelling

When/Where: Monday, 10:00-10:25am in Ballroom E2.

Presenters: Joanne Falinski, Independent Consultant; Lizabeth Fogel, The Walt Disney Company. Presider: Faith Rogow

Objectives: This session describes how digital storytelling in a participatory culture builds multiliteracies – visual literacy, technological literacy and media literacy – as well as traditional literacies. Presenters share students’ multimedia compositions, discuss positive outcomes and challenges, and describe the process of supporting students in the creation of their digital stories.

Audience: PK-12 Schooling


What does it mean to be literate in our society? According to Jason Ohler (2008), children are growing up as creators of stories and media in a new storytelling era, not just as consumers of media. Given opportunities and support, each child has an ability to create rich stories in their own language using media. Digital storytelling, the blending of images, music, narrative and voice (Leslie Rule, Digital Storytelling Association), is an important pedagogical tool because it combines traditional literacies – reading, writing, speaking and listening – with new literacies – visual literacy, technological literacy and media literacy.

Our children live in a “participatory culture,” an environment which supports collaboration, artistic expression and civic engagement (Jenkins, 2006). Teachers need to create spaces for students to experience a participatory culture in classrooms while they use their increasingly sophisticated visual literacy skills to design digital stories (and other multimedia compositions) using simple and inexpensive technology. Authentic encounters with technology generate a high degree of student enthusiasm and motivation as well as unlimited possibilities for the learning of multiliteracies (Burn and Reed, 1999; Davis, 2004).

Unfortunately many classroom teachers do not know how to implement a digital storytelling model with elementary-aged children. This session will focus on a yearlong digital storytelling project implemented with fourth grade students enrolled in a dual language program. Presenters will discuss the project, and share examples of students’ multimedia compositions. Participants will learn about the positive benefits for all students, particularly English language learners, by hearing students talk about their literacy learning through digital storytelling. This session will show educators the importance of including digital storytelling into their language arts curriculum to support elementary students’ learning of 21st century standards.


Burn, A., & Reed, K. (1999). Digi-teens: Media literacies and digital technologies in the secondary classroom. English Education, 33(3), 5-20. doi:10.1111/j.1754-8845.1999.tb00720.x

Davis, A. (2004). Co-authoring identify: Digital storytelling in an urban middle school. THEN: Technology, Humanities, Education, & Narrative, 1 (1), 1. Available:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st

century. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom: New media pathways to literacy, learning and creativity. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Participant Involvement

We believe in active participation in our workshop sessions and attempt to model the creation of a participatory culture whereby we are all learners whose voices are respected and valued. We view ourselves as facilitators of a conversation about digital storytelling in the elementary school and are eager to hear of participants’ experiences, ideas and questions. Throughout the workshop, we will encourage reflection and response on the part of the participants, and invite questions and comments.


  • Joanne Falinski, Independent Consultant: Joanne Falinski has been an elementary teacher, a supervisor of instruction, an elementary principal in suburban and urban school districts and a teacher educator at Pace University. Currently she works with New York charter schools as an independent consultant. Her area of expertise is literacy learning and language arts curriculum development, and her current research interest is writing and technology, specifically the use of digital storytelling with dual language students in elementary schools. Joanne completed her doctorate in educational administration at Syracuse University.
  • Lizabeth Fogel, The Walt Disney Company: Lizabeth Fogel is responsible for insuring the educational validity and integrity of new products and services developed by The Walt Disney Company. She manages relationships across all of the internal business units, advising and guiding them in the use of learning content.Prior to joining Disney, Lizabeth taught at the elementary and university levels for over fifteen years. She holds master degrees in elementary education, developmental psychology and a doctorate in educational psychology-organizational leadership from Pepperdine University.
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