Research on Digital Storytelling: Summary of Studies from the University of Houston

Meridian Stories is not intended as an exercise in using technology, but as a way to explore ideas and come to new realizations about the subject matter.  In other words, students are not learning to make a documentary that happens to be about a landmark or giving a final report on a landmark that happens to be in documentary form.  By integrating media into the learning process, students conceive information and express ideas through images, sound, narrative, movement and interaction. The result is a new learning experience.

When researching for evidence of the validity of this approach, our team ran across a hotbed of activity in this area at the University of Houston.

Although Meridian Stories’ scope of media expands beyond their definition of ‘digital storytelling’, their perspective on learning is wholly applicable to the experience being offered with Meridian Stories. Here is what we learned…

Although widely defined, digital storytelling at its core is “a process of creating a short movie that combines a script or an original story with various multimedia components, such as images, video, music, and a narration, often an author’s own voice.”[1] Digital storytelling plays a major role in the education of today’s students because it “utilizes almost all of the skills students are expected to have in the 21st century.”[2] Through the creation of creative stories and the use of digital media, students will enhance their “digital, global, technology, visual, and information literacies.”[3] Further, students’ “research, writing, organization, technology, presentation, interview, interpersonal, problem-solving, and assessment skills” will be improved as well through the process of creating their stories and producing their own digital story.[4]



In the classroom, digital storytelling is at the intersection of four student-centered learning strategies (Figure 1).[5] It is also “appealing to students with diverse learning styles.”[6]

Although there has not been a great deal of research conducted thus far on the use of digital media in the classroom, the studies that have been conducted have yielded certain benefits that come from using digital storytelling.  These benefits include supporting “student understanding of subject area knowledge,” increasing “overall academic achievement,” and improving “higher order thinking, social, language, reflection, and artistic skills.”[7]

Since digital storytelling is often performed in small groups, student collaboration within the classroom is fostered.[8]  In collaborative environments, it has also been found that students “develop enhanced communications skills by learning to organize their ideas, ask questions, express opinions, analyze and synthesize a wide range of content, and construct narratives.”[9]  Within Meridian Stories, students will also be able to “share their work with peers and gain valuable experience in critiquing their own and other students’ work.”[10]

Despite the many benefits found from using digital storytelling in the classroom, research has also shown that there are certain limitations that educators have encountered when attempting to incorporate digital storytelling into their curriculum.  One of the most widely stated limitations is time; some educators found that digital storytelling takes away from class time that could be used for teaching to the standardized state testing.[11] Meridian Stories seeks to address this particular issue by creating curriculum- driven opportunities that correlate to the need to teach to standardized tests.

Further, the issue of copyright is one that has plagued educators for quite some time and digital storytelling can exacerbate this issue.[12]  Thankfully, there are now websites that allow students access to free music and artwork that they can incorporate into the projects with correct citation.[13] Additionally, Meridian Stories offers its own supporting documentation to help students avoid situations that border on copyright infringement.

To view in-depth articles on this topic, please go to the Digital Storytelling site at the University of Houston at

[1] Dogan, B. & Robin, B. “Implementation of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom by Teachers Trained in a Digital Storytelling Workshop” University of Houston, Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling. Retrieved August 1, 2011 from

[2] Dogan, B. & Robin, B. (2009). “Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: Creating Digital Storytelling Contests for K-12 Students and Teachers.” In I. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2009 (pp. 633-638). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Retrieved from

[3] Robin, B “The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: Retrieved on August 1, 2011 from

[4] Ibid

[5] Barrett, Helen. (2005) “Researching and Evaluating Digital Storytelling as a Deep Learning Tool” Retrieved August 1, 2011 from

[6] Robin, B “The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: Retrieved on August 1, 2011 from

[7] Yuskel, P., Robin, B. and McNeil, S. “Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling Around the World” Retrieved August 1, 2011 from

[8] Robin, B “The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: Retrieved on August 1, 2011 from

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Dogan, B. “Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: The Challenges of Designing an Online Digital Storytelling Contest for K-12 Students and Teachers” Retrieved August 1, 2011 from

[12] Robin, B “The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: Retrieved on August 1, 2011 from

[13] Ibid




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