Digital Storytelling and Language Learning

Just a note to sing the praises of two wonderful and simple tools for digital storytelling and to explain how they could be used in the language classroom.

The first tool is Five Card Flickr Stories. People tag their fotos on Flickr with “5cardflickr” and through the magic of Alan Levine, the images are added to the site and off we go.


It has been a while since I have had my students play with this tool. Maybe I was sleeping when it was first developed, but I did not realize that once you make a 5 card flickr story, those same images can be recycled and another story can be written by another person, and so on and so on.

For example, my student Hannah started the ball rolling here with ” Juanita y los dulces,” but then several of her classmates (and complete strangers too!) also used those images to tell another story. Very cool.

Feel free to add your own story to the list!!!

The second tool is Voicethread.


At the end of August 2009, Voicethread partnered with the NY Public Library and now has over 700,000 digital images from their collection for our students’ storytelling adventures. I just had my students do a take home exam as Voicethread in which they had to incorporate all of the grammatical forms we had learned from (yawn) Chapter 4 in the textbook into a story of their own creation.

Here is an example of one of my students’ voicethread creations, with my comments…feel free to add your own comments if you have a voicethread account!

~~SCREEECH! WHAT? wait, did you say take home tests? In a second year language class? No fill in the blank, photocpied, conjugate these verbs, 50 minute written chapter tests? Yep, you heard me right. All of my chapter tests for this class have been take home exams… the results have been amazing, creative, fun to read and even fun to correct/grade…. and the bonus? we gained back 6 class periods that were not lost to tests.~~

Technology can be a time saver…but only if you can figure out where and how you can to save time. Technology can also enrich language teaching when you provide your students with tools that allow them to create more meaningful examples of language in context and in turn encourage their growth in the target language.

I welcome your comments.

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Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!


  1. uberVU - social comments · November 30, 2009 Reply

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by LanguageLabUnleashed: New blog post: Digital Storytelling and Language Learning

  2. Dispersemos · December 1, 2009 Reply

    I am soooo excited about the possibilities for VoiceThread in language teaching! I started using VT last year with students in Intermediate Spanish and have since incorporated this tool into just about every course I teach. In addition to take-home exams, I use it for storytelling, reflection on study abroad, practice for oral assessments, etc. And the best part is that when I ask my students what impact VT activities have on their learning, they overwhelmingly respond that VT assignments help them listen to themselves; they become more aware of their own pronunciation and usage, making improvements based on what they hear.

  3. Barbara · December 1, 2009 Reply

    So glad to hear of your plans and of your successes! I am taking my Intermediate Spanish class to the our (wonderful) college museum this week and am thinking this could be a really interesting way for them to talk about art that appeals to them, tell stories about what they think is happening in a painting or a sculpture, etc. Also with the video comment feature it is possible to see their facial expressions, gestures, etc. I will let you know how it comes out…

  4. flickr for vocabulary and writing practice | languagewire · May 16, 2011 Reply

    […] Barbara Sawhill’s post over at “Language Lab Unleashed”  introduced me to the concept of Five Card Flickr. This site allows you to pick a series of five […]

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