UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Designing stories, bridging success : multimodal digital storytelling with at-risk immigrant and refugee students Johnson, Lauren Gayle


This thesis presents an ethnographic, qualitative case study on a digital storytelling project with “at-risk” senior-high aged immigrant and refugee students in a Surrey School District transition program. Most of the students were of refugee background, belonging to a subpopulation of English language learners possessing distinct academic and social needs due to limited formal education and trauma. The study addresses a gap in the research on digital storytelling with refugees by investigating the pedagogical potential of a multimodal project design through which students approach composition non-sequentially according to their individual interests and intents, employing cultural, linguistic, and meaning-making resources. Theoretical frameworks included the socio-cultural perspective of literacy, as well as the notions of multiliteracies and multimodality. Data were gathered through field notes, participant observation, informal conversations with students, semi-structured ethnographic interviews, and the collection of student artifacts and digital stories. I include in the findings both general observations, as well as detailed accounts of the composing process and digital stories of two students. Findings were determined through coding data according to modes of communication and common themes that emerged during analysis, and further organized using an adaptation of Gillian Rose’s visual methodology. This research demonstrates how a non-sequential, multimodal digital storytelling project promoted a democratic classroom environment in which all students felt capable of communicating their knowledge and identities, according to their strengths and interests. Also, students developed a conscious awareness and enhanced their repertoires of how to use and combine different modes to communicate meaning, thus revealing complex thinking and decision-making. The project furthermore extended possibilities for students to communicate complex and abstract aspects of their identities and social worlds, including difficult knowledge. Teachers gained greater insight into the students’ identities, and the students deepened their understanding of their own strengths and accomplishments.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada