Digital Storytelling For Transformative Global Citizen Education
Truong-white, H., & Mclean, L. (2015). Digital Storytelling for Transformative Global Citizenship Education Résumé. Canadian Journal of Education, 2(38:2).
This article explores the potential impact of digital storytelling as it relates to Transformative Global Citizen Education (TGCE). Findings are based on a case study of Bridges to Understanding, a program that connects middle and high school children.
Increasingly, the education agenda is being redefined to prepare students for a complex, interconnected world that has widely diverse cultural histories and stories. Frequently, this narrative is focused around transforming citizen thinking to ensure action individually, locally, and globally. This is coupled with a learning environment that is increasingly digital in nature. This research examines the relationship between TGCE and Digital Storytelling (DS).
The team focuses on three questions:
- What is the Bridges digital storytelling curriculum’s conception of global citizenship education?
- In the Bridges program, to what extent does the process of digital storytelling (from conception to creation to dissemination) support transformative global citizenship education practices?
- Based on our analysis of the Bridges program, what are the challenges and implications for the application of digital storytelling for transformative global citizenship education?
Transformative Global Citizen Education (TGCE):
Global Citizen Education is designed to equip students with the skills, knowledge and values needed to work collectively towards the solutions for pressing global issues. Thorough their literature review, Truong-white, H., & Mclean, L identify six main dispositions common to Global Citizen Education:
(1) a view of human life as shaped by a history of global interdependence; (2) a commitment to the idea of basic human rights and global social justice; (3) a commitment to the value of cultural diversity and intercultural understanding; (4) a belief in the efficacy of individual action; (5) a commitment to child-centred pedagogy; and, (6) environmental awareness and commitment to ecological sustainability (p.9]
In addition to this, a concern regarding the bias of western ideology, an us/them mentality, can permeate programming and education. Cultural stereotypes, hidden agendas, and privilege can taint a student’s perception of global citizenry.
Shifting the Framework
Evidence suggests that teacher practice focuses on knowledge acquisition and inquiry skills: transformative practices that emphasis an understanding of ideology are less evident.
Andriotti (2006) “advocates for critical and reflexive practices that challenge students to critique relations of power (e.g., who is intervening on whose behalf?), analyze the relationship among multiple viewpoints to understand the origins of their assumptions, and consider how we are all implicated in creating and solving global problems.”
To address this, the authors draw on critical pedagogy. In particular, outlining Johnson and Morris’ 2006 framework that defines citizenship under four dimensions:
social/collective, self/subjective, and praxis/engagement. They also reference Friere’s 1972 concept of praxis: “
critical analysis and reflection are
tied to personal transformation and collective action to challenge the status quo.” (pg. 5)
Any framework for TGCE needs to ensure that students have knowledge and understanding of global histories, of interconnectedness of power, culture and transformation, of ones own identity and capacity to reflect, and finally, how to affect systematic change.
Digital Storytelling in Education
Digital Storytelling (DS) is frequently defined. Some helpful quotes for my literature review may be:
“Digital storytelling leads participants through a process of sharing lived experiences in a
story circle that results in a two- to five-minute digital story blending personal narratives
with multimedia content, including voice-overs, digital photos, video clips, music, and
computer-generated text” pg 7
“The multimodal affordances of digital storytelling can allow students to express lived experiences in poignant and dynamic ways by
juxtaposing layers of multimedia content to convey meanings that may not surface within
a traditional linear print-based text” pg 7
Further, and more importantly connecting to the concept of TGCE:
“Moreover, research with youth around the world has shown that the process of creating and sharing digital stories facilitates critical reflection, promotes personal transformation, and serves as a tool for political organizing and social activism.” (PG 7)
In short, Kids are engaged in Reflection >Transformation > Action
The Case Study: Bridges to Understanding Digital Storytelling Program
This Seattle based program founded in 2000 was designed to connect middle and high school aged students. It is now dissolved, and is being used by Teachers without Boarders. At the time of the study, both the website and wikipages were active. However, now they are not.
This creates a whole new avenue to explore: What is the point of digital storytelling if the story is muted?
However, onward. This case study revolves around studying one component of the program under the umbrella Climate Change Curriculum. Two student–created digital stories were analysed. One was from India, and the second from the United States.
First, the authors examined the curriculum and recorded references to TGCE and sorted them into the four dimensions model (ideology, collective, subjective, and engagement). They further sorted in to content vs processes. They indicate a solid reference to content, but a lack of attention to the processes, particularity under politics(ideology).
They also employed a multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA) framework by formulating a list of questions to guide their analysis. “Central to MCDA is the understanding of how words and images intersect to create meaning and whether those meanings serve to maintain ideologies and power relations or challenge them.”
Of particular interest to the authors was how the curriculum document perpetrated or counters the us/them narrative, or its level of western bias.
The Bridges Curriculum guides students through three phases, consisting of three lessons, with the DS embedded into each phase. Developing an action plan was an important component of the structure.
The challenges presented indicate that while the potential for engaged interaction under the umbrella of politic/ideology, the curriculum did not expect it of the teachers or students. Big questions were typically relegated to homework or a single lesson. Big Questions of How, What. Who (pg11) were not explored in any depth.
Further, the resources suggested were unavailable, and the authors (showing some bias themselves as the documents were not available for analysis) hypothesize that using a single source as a ‘expert document’ is limiting to a bias, likely a western one. The concern raised is that a superficial exploration of climate change could result, particularly with teachers lacking confidence.
A major strength of the Bridges Curriculum was seen in the set of reflective journal questions embedded at the end of each lesson. This repetition “offered students multiple opportunities to reflect on their own position, context, values, and culture, and to engage in critical analysis of
their complicity” (pgs 12,13) Students were asked to imagine what making personal changes could feel/look, how much control they had, to think about the histories and systems that led to this, and think about action and change.
The Bridges Curriculum engaged students in group dynamics, role play choices, global connections, with a priority on taking action.
“the process of composing personal narratives can open up spaces for students to re-create their identities, to construct and re-construct agentive selves, and to script themselves as capable actors in creating alternative futures” (pg 13)
Comparative Study of Digital Stories
In a nutshell, the authors chose two stories to analyse and compare. Their bias is obvious in the choice and reflection on the pieces.
The first DS was created by a team of 13 year olds in India. This project honoured each of the four dimensions outlined earlier in the paper. The second DS, created by a team of 8th graders, demonstrated the inherent issues we face as a western, developed, privileged culture.
In summary – DS offers innovative opportunities to support TGCE.
However, specific concerns were raised related to the Bridges Curriculum:
- online discussion forums assume equal footing, but in a global context, those with access to the best technology or communication shape the conversation. It does not provide guidelines for educators to grapple with the facilitation of complex, multi racial, ethnic, and language backgrounds, ensuring an equal voice
- educators need to be aware that a digital story does not reflect a cultural story: one story is not representative of an entire culture, but of one voice in that culture. Educators need to be able to facilitate discussion around dissent and controversy
- educators “require professional development that explicitly models ways to engage students in discussing, debating, critiquing, and questioning global issues that are contentious in nature” (pg 20)
- This curriculum focused on students taking action, but did not necessarily push student to engage in action that leads to systematic change. It touched on the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, but not the social justice citizen. (Westheimer and Kahne 2004) This relates to article on “I want to do big things”
“The degree to which digital storytelling engages students in a social critique of global problems and promotes collective action for change will depend on the pedagogical approaches embedded in the curriculum and adopted by educators.” (pg 21)
I agree. Education is only as good as its educators.
Things to contemplate:
The authors are very aware of the western, privileged story being perpetrated. However, that indicates a certain lack of respect for the historical context and social structure of western kids. Dismissing the Grade 8 students perspectives on climate change, as limited as they were, seems to fly in the face of what the authors were saying initially.
As an educator, I tend to see the expectation adults have (in this case the researchers) on students of any age frustrating. This paper outlines what kids cannot do. It expects a level of citizen engagement that is typically not modeled in the adult world.
We need to look at what comes before this idealized version of Global Citizen. What do we as educators embed in everyday practice that is developmentally appropriate, building the characteristics of citizenry into the fabric of our system?