Learning to speak with 'impact': The Australian National University's Digital Storytelling Project

Carol Hayes, Yuki Itani-Adams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Effective communication is more than a one-way expression of a speaker's message. For communication to occur, the listener must understand and respond to the speaker's message, and so it is important that the speaker think about the listener's response and consider the 'impact' of their words, and whether or not their story is successfully drawing their listener in. In second language learning, an understanding of these aspects of communication - over and above learning to use expressions and grammar correctly - is important, if learners are to communicate effectively. To raise student awareness of the role impact plays in communication and to develop narrative skills, we have been running an Intermediate Japanese Language Digital Story Telling Project in the School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University since 2009. Digital stories are short three to four minute multimedia productions that combine a first-person narrative, with image and background music, and provide a powerful way of developing learner communicative skills. Digital stories also provide a place where textbook language learning combines with more authentic communication, where teacher-centered and student-centered approaches combine and where the storyteller interacts with their audience. While contextualizing our work within the discourse of foreign language teaching and learning, this paper will introduce the project and present an analysis of successful student productions. This will demonstrate how effectively Digital Stories can be used to develop student awareness of the importance of understanding the 'impact' of their words, if they are to communicate their message and to achieve more holistic communication goals. The Digital Stories discussed in this paper demonstrate that students have achieved this impact by employing sophisticated features not only in the language they use in the narration, but also in the background sounds and music, and in the images used to create their movies. Some have used humor, irony or suspense to draw their audience into their story, while others varied their tone of voice and speech style to create the desired impact. The more impactful stories successfully employed not only these verbal features but also incorporated visual creativity to harness the full potential of the digital movie form.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)116-135
    JournalElectronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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