Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reflective learning for the net generation student

Through one of my Google groups, I found an interesting research project conducted by Christopher Murray and Dr. John Sandars, Medical Education Unit, University of Leeds in the U.K.: "Reflective learning for the net generation student" focusing on digital storytelling! (Scroll down about a third of the way through this issue of the newsletter of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine, Autumn 2008.) Quotes I particularly like:
Reflective learning is essential for lifelong learning and many net generation students do not engage in the process since it does not align with their preferred learning style (Grant, Kinnersley, Metcalf, Pill, Houston, 2006).The combination of multimedia and technology motivates students to creatively produce digital stories that stimulate reflective learning. Digital stories present a personal and reflective narrative using a range of media, especially photographs and video. In addition, students can feel empowered and develop multiple literacies that are essential for lifelong learning...

Why don't students spend time to reflect on the things they are learning? Our initial research suggests that Net Generation students dislike using written text, but their engagement increases when they use digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is an innovative approach to reflective learning in which pictures and sound are collected and assembled to form a multimedia story.
The digital stories created by the authors' first year medical students began as blog entries using Elgg plus images taken by many of them with their mobile phone cameras. Their digital stories for class were actually told using Powerpoint. The student comments reported were very encouraging and the authors concluded:

Overall, we appear to have successfully engaged our undergraduate medical students in reflective learning by using a range of new technologies and also by the use of mobile phones. Blogs were used as a personal learning space that combined both media storage with a creative space. Images were obtained from a variety of media sharing sites. Most mobile phones have a camera function and the “always to hand” nature of mobile camera phones encourages spontaneous image capture at times of surprise during an experience, the “disorientating dilemma” that Mezirow (1991) regards as being an essential component of transformative reflective learning.


Digital storytelling offers a practical teaching approach that combines multimedia and technology for reflective learning. Our work in undergraduate supports the use of this approach to engage Net generation students in reflective learning but it also appears to stimulate deep reflection. You can read more about our work and see examples at


Ray Tolley said...


Thanks for a very interesting post. However, why is this only for HE students? I would suggest (and I have just asked for evidences) that many Primary and Secondary schools in the UK are already teaching 'Reflective Learning' to some degree.

What I do appreciate is that we must now ensure that RL practice fully recognises the appropriate use of net-media and again the inestimable place of e-Portfolios in the totality of this practice.

Helen Barrett said...

Digital storytelling is not just for higher education. (See my blog entry of January 16 this year, when I had just finished a digital storytelling workshop with high school students.) However, most of the research on digital storytelling is happening in higher education... thus the reference to this research project conducted in a pre-med program. The comments made are applicable to teenagers at all levels of education spectrum. In fact, some of my favorite digital stories were done with two elementary students who happen to be my granddaughters!

Stephen said...

Hi Helen, great find! John Sanders is directing Reflect 2.0, case study research into reflective practice and digital storytelling across disciplines.

The researchers ask that those that are interested join them in the i reflect community where you can find resources and contribute to the community forums.