Japanese Studies Seminar Series - Expressing oneself through digital storytelling : ANU student-centered Japanese language learning Project

Presenters: Dr. Carol Hayes (ANU) & Dr. Yuki Itani-Adams (ANU)

Contact Details: Carol.Hayes@anu.edu.au; yuki.itani-adams@anu.edu.au

Digital stories that combine image, narrative and sound, provide a powerful way of developing student communicative skills. The process of creating a digital story addresses the goals of 21st century student-centered learning expectations, by focusing on creative thinking, risk-taking and effective communication with the added advantage of developing effective technical literacy.

Is it possible to include ‘impact’ within an assessment rubric for intermediate language-learners oral production? By presenting the results of the Digital Story Telling Project that has been running as part of the ANU 2nd Year Intermediate Japanese language course for the past three years, this paper will demonstrate that the answer to this question is ‘yes’. The project aimed to assess the value of using digital stories in Japanese language teaching as an alternative to the individual oral presentations or tests, and secondly to examine methods of encouraging students to become more proactive and to better express their own personal emotions, beliefs and ideas—beyond a superficial ‘it was fun’ level.

One of the outcomes of the performance-based project was the development of a tighter relationship between course oral production evaluation criteria and expected learning outcomes. The assessment process, incorporating a narrative draft, a draft storyboard and a sample narration audio file, before the submission of the final digital story movie, allowed teachers and students to measure incremental progress and provided teachers with material to help assess each student’s specific strengths and weaknesses. On-the-spot oral assessment based solely on student ability to communicate their understanding has proven very stressful for intermediate learners, and the digital story provides an interesting alternative.

This paper will firstly introduce our project focusing on the teaching delivery methods we have developed over the course of the project, including analysis of student evaluations. Secondly, by presenting a detailed linguistic analysis of a number of digital stories, it will demonstrate how students tried to express their emotions, beliefs and thoughts.

Through the Digital Story Telling Project, students were asked to create a story in Japanese about their own personal relationship with something important to them. They were given the title ‘X and Myself’, and allowed to choose any topic that interested them. When we began this project, we encouraged student to use more description, such as adjectival phrases to better express their emotion, believing that this would help. Past research has shown that Japanese adjectival expression can be divided into two broad categories, which we refer to as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ description. Our research shows that most students tend to use only ‘external’ types, which means that their stories became simple descriptions of events rather than successfully expressing their emotional engagement with those events. Further we found that such linguistic devices had very little impact on the success of their stories. Our research has shown that teaching methods and assessment rubrics that focus on the lexical or sentence level structures is insufficient and this will be the focus of our future research. 

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