Multimodal voices in the L2 classroom: Redesigning a digital story, a formative experiment



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The fields of second language acquisition (SLA) and applied linguistics (AL) continue to research and implement suitable approaches to teach a foreign language to 21st century learners at the tertiary level considering both social and technological advances. Thus, some holistic approaches to second language (L2) skills development rely on multiliteracies to supply a learner-centered experience where students’ voices can be heard. One tool that materializes these concepts is digital storytelling (DST). DST—defined as the “combination of the old storytelling tradition and new technology” (Trondheim, 2011, p. I)—has been implemented in the L2 classroom to integrate traditional literacy practices such as writing and oral production activities with 21st century skills such as multimedia researching, production, and presentational activities (e.g., Oskoz & Elola, 2014, 2016; Ribeiro, 2015; Vinogradova, 2014). Furthermore, based on the concepts of design and remix, educators have used digital stories (DSs) to promote the development of collaboration (e.g., Sevilla-Pavón, 2015), redesign practices (e.g., Hafner, 2015; Hernández-Zamora & Zotzmann, 2014), and student voices (e.g., Nelson, 2008, Yang, 2012). However, empirical research still needs to test the value of pedagogical materials based on multiliteracies and designed for the new scenarios brought by the pandemic that has pushed technology-based pedagogies forward. My dissertation describes the implementation of a course project (CP) based on the tenets of (1) multiliteracies and (2) DST in combination with (3) a protocol that guides students to look into the voices and perspectives of specific content through a formative experiment (FE). The CP was implemented in a hybrid, intermediate, L2 Spanish undergraduate intensive course at a southern university in the United States during Fall 2020. The CP was completed online by students in groups of three. Specifically, I examine the qualitative data of two groups (i.e., Zoom recordings, Google Docs, surveys, final DS, oral presentations, and focus groups) motivated by two research questions: (1) How do the components of an activity system mediate the development of an online DST course project in an intensive L2 Spanish course? (2) What design choices do L2 Spanish students make when collaboratively redesigning a digital story to expand their multimodal authoring (pedagogical goal) and represent their voices and perspectives? I examine the data through the lens of AT (Engeström, 1987) and the analysis of multimodal meaning (Kalantzis et al., 2016). Results show that (a) AT components such as tools, rules, and division of labor had a more significant impact in the mediation of the activity system to create a collaborative DS, (b) participants were able to understand and make monomodal and multimodal design choices during the redesign process of the DSs, but had limited resources to materialize them in the final DS, and (c) DST provides a multimodal venue for students to express literal and metaphorical, individual and collective voices. This investigation offers insight and advances understanding to the existing body of literature on DST and multiliteracies by fully situating individual and collaborative tasks within AT and a FE as well as comparing the design choices of two groups of students. The investigation also contributes an enhanced version of the CP for potential future use by educators and researchers.



Multiliteracies, Multimodality, Spanish, Second Language, Voice, Digital Storytelling, Formative Experiment