This topic fits with the previous subsection on Reading Aloud with Children. A great way to find understandable, interesting books is for the children to create some of their own books. The files in this subsection provide ideas on how adults can help children create books.
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There are 4 parts to this subsection :
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2.1 Children Can Make Their Own Read Aloud Books
One way to find books for reading aloud with children is to help children make their own books. Of course, these books can be in any language. There are many ways to make books. Here, we will describe the easiest way, a way that costs almost nothing. This is based on an article which you can read at http://journal.wima.ac.id/index.php/BW/article/view/2354.
We can use simple materials to make books with children. First, we need paper. This can be standard A4 paper. To be eco-friendly, we can use paper that has already been used on one side. Second, we need pencils, pens, crayons, or other writing/drawing equipment. Finally, after the book is finished, we need something to hold together the pages of the book. The easiest way is to staple together the pages.
Now, we come to the important part. We need to negotiate with the children about the content of the book. Remember, please, that this is their book, not our book. We want to maximize children’s feeling of ownership. The easiest idea for the book’s content is to take a book the children already know and change it. For example, if we have recently read a story with children about the adventures of a young turtle, we can replace the turtle with one of the children. Everything else can stay the same. For example, if a sentence in the turtle book says, “Tanya the Turtle had a friend named Frankie the Fish,” the children can change it to “Zi Wei had a friend named Frankie the Fish.”
The best topics for child-created books often come from the children’s own lives, as one of the main pieces of advice for writers is to write what you know. For instance, children from a country with a tropical climate, such as Singapore, might not be able to write a book about playing in the snow, but children from a colder place, such as northern China, would be better able to write such a book. Topics based on children’s experience include My Family, My Home, My School, My Best Friend, My Favorite Day, and My Typical Day. Alternatively, after a trip to a park, a restaurant, etc., children can write a book about their trip.
Not all books that children write need to be realistic. They can also write fantasy books, for example, about the adventures of favorite cartoon or video game heroes. Or, children themselves can be superheroes in the books that they create, with their families and friends also being characters in their books. The possibilities are as endless as the children’s imaginations.
The role of adults in creating the books should follow the principle of letting children do as much as they can on their own. We want to make it very clear that these are the children’s books. For example, if children cannot yet write, we can do the writing, and the children can do the drawings. If children are having difficulty thinking of what should come next in the book’s plot, instead of us jumping in with an idea, we can wait patiently for the children to come up with ideas, or we can suggest three ideas and let the children choose. Remember that dialog plays an important role, not only when we read aloud with children, but also when we help children create their own books.
As to grammar and spelling, children can first write in pencil, using what is called “invented spelling,” spelling whichever way makes sense to them. Before the final version of the book, we can suggest more correct spelling and grammar. The point is to not interrupt the children’s creative process with constant concerns about accurate spelling, etc. Using electronic devices, such as laptops, has advantages of the spell checking and grammar checking features, as well as all the images on the internet. Plus, children can develop their IT skills. However, old-fashioned paper and pencil can be great, too.
Do not forget that books need covers. Encourage children to observe what goes on a book’s cover, such as the title, authors, and illustrators. Books also usually have a title page with such information as when the book was written and where. Indeed, observing how books (and so many other things) are made is a very useful skill for children to develop.
Once children have finished a book, it should go in a special place in their home so that others can read it, and so that the children can easily find it for us to read with them or for children to read, either silently or aloud. In this way, these children-created books can serve as a bridge between us reading aloud with them and them reading on the own. Please remember that traffic on this bridge goes both ways, so that even after children are reading silently, they can still come back for us to read aloud with them.
Summary: There are many sources of reading materials that we can read aloud with children. One of those sources are books that children create, with our help, while dialoging with us.
George M Jacobs
Singapore, Republic of Singapore
Key words: Student-generated, student-centered, writing, dialogic, self-reliance, peer interaction
This article explores one technique that is consistent with the student-centered paradigm in language education: student-generated books. First, benefits of student-generated are discussed. Then, the article explores the crucial area of maintaining student ownership of their own books. The next topic explained in the article is why dialog is important as the students are developing their books. Finally, it is suggested that book creation works for students of all ages and levels, with examples given of students at the early childhood level and of second language students at university level.
In the teacher-centric paradigm, students’ designated roles mostly involve receiving. They receive, for example, teachers’ explanations, teachers’ instructions, teachers’ and other education professionals’ assessment instruments, and education materials developed by education professionals. In contrast, in the student-centric paradigm, students play more of a role in creating all of the above (Blumberg, 2016). These differences between teacher-centric and student-centric education find similarities in the wider society (Jacobs & Farrell, 2001), such as the absence or presence of democratic structures in a country or other political unit. This article focuses on how students can create reading and other materials for themselves and peers. The article contains four parts: benefits of students creating their own books; student ownership of the books they create; the importance of promoting dialog during and after book creation; and which students should create their own books.
Benefits of Student-Created Books
The term “create” a book is used instead of “write” a book to highlight that creating can often involve more than words, in particular visuals should often be added to promote visual literacy (Kiss & Weninger, 2017). Additionally, book creators can include tactile features, e.g., pasting leaves into books, and sounds, e.g., making audio books and adding sound effects to online versions of books. Book covers also offer space for exploring non-text communication.
Many benefits may accrue when students create their own books. These include:
1. Improves reading and writing skills – Research supports that idea that the language skills of reading and writing, as well as listening and speaking, support one another and are usefully combined (Bromley, 1989; Grobe & Grobe, 1977; Krashen, 1982; Sun, Yang, & He, 2016).
2. Increases to use language -Sudirman & Ati (2019) found that when students have more control over what they write, their desire to write increases.
3. Provides appropriate reading material–When books are created by students themselves, the books’ topics are more likely to fit students’ interests (Asaba & Eidswick, 2018),and the difficulty level should be in the range of students’ current proficiency level (Yano, Long, & Ross, 1994). At the same time, even in the same class, student interests as to what to read and write differ based on many variables. For example, Merisuo‐Storm (2006) reported that in her sample of 10-11 year old Swedish students, while girls preferred adventure books, boys expressed more interest in comics and humorous books. Similarly, even in streamed classes, proficiency levels vary.
4. Demystifies books and authoring – It may be an exaggeration to say that students think books grow on trees or are produced by robots –the latter already happens (Poole, 2019) – but in the authors’ experience, while most students, especially older students, have met people in many walks of life, they do not know any book writers, nor do they know about the book writing process.
5. Increases self-esteem – When students accomplish a task, such as creating a book (however simple that book might be) in a supportive setting, they receive positive feedback (although constructive criticism also has an important place) from teachers, peers, and perhaps others, such as family members, their self-esteem is likely to grow (Manning, 2007).
6. Builds observation skill – To create a book, students need to observe how books are constructed. In Gardner’s taxonomy of multiple intelligences (Armstrong, 2018), observation skill can be considered part of naturalist intelligence.
7. Boosts organising skill – Creating a book also involves organizing skill, as students need to plan such aspects as the parts of the book’s content, the visuals if any, how to bind the book if it is hard copy, and how to distribute the book. Of course, even with careful planning, creating a book often becomes a recursive process involving redoing and replanning various aspects (Abas, 2016).
8. Heightens communication skill– Students need to learn to avoid writer-based prose, i.e., writing that can be understood by the author, but not by others who lack the author’s background knowledge. Instead, book creators need to communicate more effectively by asking themselves whether their books are reader-based, i.e., enough context has been provided (Ädel, 2017).
9. Strengthens self-reliance – rather than always depending on teachers and others, in keeping with the spirit of student-centered learning, students can generate some of their own materials (Allen, 1985).
10. Increases students’ enjoyment of reading – Researchers have found that students involved in growing plant-based foods increase their consumption of such foods (e.g., Heim, Stang, & Ireland, 2009). Perhaps, similarly, “growing” their own books may increase students’ fondness for book reading.
11. Builds bonds between students and teachers–Teaching has been called a lonely profession, which seems paradoxical. How can teachers be lonely when all day we work surrounded by others: our students? However, teacher-centred instruction, with its emphasis on hierarchy, may tend to separate teachers from their students. At the same time, research suggests that loneliness poses a significant obstacle for students (Richardson, Elliott, & Roberts, 2017). Development of Communities of Practice (Kevany&MacMichael, 2014; Wenger, 1998) offers a student-centered approach that may overcome separation and loneliness. Communities of Practices build common interest and purpose among disparate groups of people, including students and teachers. Creating and sharing books offers activities with which communities can engage together.
Students’ felt ownership of the books they create lies at the heart of student-generated books. Without that feeling of ownership, book creation becomes just another teacher-centered activity, similar to doing worksheets. Thus, thought needs to be given to ownership issues that may arise; certainly, context will play a role in how teachers will address these issues.
Perhaps the most difficult issue teachers face in helping students create their own book involves the degree to which teachers should intervene in the process. For example, some students may have difficulty thinking of topics for their book. In such cases, teachers might want to use prompts, e.g., How many people in your family? or What is your favorite hobby? Also, models can be very useful. Students can use other books as models, varying them in such aspects as location, time, characters, and ending.
Also, on the matter of book topic, students should be able to change their minds whenever they wish. For instance, in the middle of writing a book, students can decide to abandon (temporarily or possibly forever) the specific book or even the idea of creating their own books. George was once helping his five-year-old neighbor write books. In the middle of one book, the author decided to switch from Ninjas to Princess Sophia. This right to change is similar to the right of students doing extensive reading to start reading one book and then change to another after deciding that the first book was, for whatever reason, not presently to their liking (Jacobs & Farrell, 2012).
Probably the place where teachers feel the greatest temptation to intervene resides with the vocabulary and grammar of the book, although organization and formatting can also be issues. Student-generated books provide comprehensible input (Krashen, 1992) for the students and their peers. As a result, many teachers, as well as students and other stakeholders, do not feel comfortable unless they are confident that the vocabulary, grammar, and other language aspects reflect standard language usage. In contrast, other teachers believe that successive approximation (Hoskisson, 1975) may work, i.e., non-standard forms can be accepted as part of the process of moving closer and closer to standard usage.
Also, even those who believe that teachers should intervene to help students achieve standard form in their books may postpone this intervention until later in the writing process, which designed to follow the recursive steps of prewriting, drafting, editing for content, and proofreading. Peers can be involved in these steps. Perhaps, peer intervention may be less threatening to students’ feeling of ownership.
Ownership extends to areas beyond the content of the books. For example, students should decide how to hold their books’ pages together, e.g., one student used one of her hair clips, but more typically, students use staples, or they punch holes and use string, or they have their books more professionally bound. Options for preserving the books include lamination and putting each page in an individual clear plastic sleeve. Of course, many online options also present themselves.
Other non-content issues with student-created books include whether to rewrite books to create neater versions and what should happen with finished books. One option for when students have completed their books is to create a class library, thereby making it easy for the students’ present classmates, as well as future students to enjoy and learn from the books. Alternatively, students may want to take their creations home to show family members and friends or to be used as gifts. Again, the choice should probably remain with each book’s creator.
The Importance of Dialogue
Vygotsky (1978) highlighted the importance of language in students’ cognitive development. More specific to language learning, Long(2017) emphasized that interaction with peers and others promotes students’ second language acquisition. Taking the above theoretical perspectives into account, Dialogic Reading (Doyle & Bramwell, 2006) was developed to enhance a practice that has long been common among teachers of young students: reading aloud to their students. With Dialogic Reading teacher read aloud sessions become more interactive by sparking conversation on a wide range of possible topics, including social / emotional ones, and often connecting to students’ lives. The same ideas used in Dialogic Reading also apply to the theme of the current article: helping students create their own books the dialogic way.
By emphasizing dialog, the book being read or created becomes just a tool for generating discussion, and while this discussion can touch on language matters, such as the choice of punctuation or tense, and comprehension, matters on which the teacher serves as authority figure, in keeping with student-centered learning, a much wider range of topics are available. Because teachers and students are seen mostly as co-learners, discussions resemble those found in everyday settings with a preponderance of referential questions, i.e., questions for which the askers do not already know the answers, instead of display questions, i.e., questions for which the askers already know the answers (Farrell, 1999; Long & Sato, 1983).An example of a display question might be, “What was the name of the sister in the story?,” whereas a referential question could be, “Do you know anyone who is similar to the sister in the story, and, if so, how are the sister and the other person similar and different?” Display questions tend to dominate in teacher-centered classroom interaction.
Another aspect of the questions used to promote dialog compared to questions used in teacher-centered learning involves a focus on thinking questions (Degener & Berne, 2017) rather than surface questions. With surface questions, students can often answer by merely going to the text and retrieving the answers from there, whereas with thinking questions, more elaborated thinking comes into play. An example on a surface question might be, “What room in the story has blue walls?”, whereas a thinking question might be, “What is one thing in your bedroom that you do not need very much and might want to give to charity?”
Classroom dialog should extend beyond individual one-on-one student conversations with teachers. Student-student dialog should also take place, during all the recursive steps in the writing process. In this way, even if books are single-authored, the authors can acknowledge the contributions of others, just as often takes place with professionally published book. Students may need assistance in learning the skills involved in providing peer feedback (Min, 2016). Providing specific positive feedback is one such skill, e.g., instead of saying, “This is good,” students might tell a classmate, “I really like all the colors you used in your drawing” or “I like the way that you help your parents.”
Which Students Should Create Their Own Books
Many different types of students can create their own books. For example, Pelton & Pelton (2009) described how students created comic books as part of their mathematics studies. This next section of the paper looks at two groups of students creating their own books: early childhood students (3-8 years old) and teenage and young adult second language students. The content of these books is flexible, depending on the students’ interests and purposes.
Early Childhood Education
Characteristics of early childhood students include that they may not be able to write at all, or they may need a great deal of help to write. Several ways exist to compensate for these students’ lack of writing skill. One, they can use invented spelling (Martins, Salvador, Albuquerque, & Silva, 2016). With invented spelling in an alphabetic language, students spell words in whatever way fits their understanding of sound-symbol correspondence. The latitude given to students to spell as they wish can go as far as students writing squiggles, as long as those squiggles have meaning to the students. A second way to compensate for students’ current lack of writing proficiency involves someone else writing for the students. This writing could be done on a separate piece of paper from which students then copy into their book, or the helper could write directly into the students’ books. Three, students can use a template from which they can copy many words, only writing the words needed to individualize their book. For instance, to help students create a book about their family, part of the template could go as follows, “There are people in my family. They are my mother, my father, my sisters, my brothers. Also, my lives with us.” Students can delete the parts that are not relevant, e.g., if they are only children, students can delete the parts about sisters and brothers. These templates seem more compatible with teacher-centric education. However, the hope is that these templates represent a first step toward increasing student independence.
Another fairly unique characteristic of students in the early childhood years is their appreciation for visuals and their enjoyment in creating visuals. Indeed, many books written for these students feature a large drawing on each page accompanied by only a single sentence. Taking this emphasis on visuals over words even further, early childhood literature also includes wordless picture books (Grolig, Cohrdes, Tiffin-Richards, & Schroeder, 2020). One advantage of this emphasis on visuals relates to the issue of student ownership; whereas teachers and other stakeholders may be loathe to allow student books to contain less than stellar language, most people accept a developmental view of students’ art skills, possibly because the arts occupy a less valued place in the curriculum, especially as children near higher levels of education (Gregory, 2017). As a result, teachers who might readily intervene in students’ language usage may be more willing to allow students complete ownership of the visuals they create.
Teen and Young Adult Second Language Students
Extensive reading plays a key role in many second language education programs. To do extensive reading, students require books at their independent reading level, i.e., the difficulty level at which students can understand the books with little or no external assistance, e.g., from dictionaries or peers. Most books in secondary school and university libraries, hard copy and online, are far above second language students’ independent reading levels. Thus, graded readers, i.e., books specifically written or adopted to cater to second language learners at different levels of reading proficiency, were developed (Holster, Lake, &Pellowe, 2017). Graded readers often come with a variety of accompanying activities(Mitchell, Snead, & Walker, 2019).
Student-generated books have at least two advantages over the typical graded readers, which cost money to purchase and cater to international audiences. In contrast, books produced by second language students for themselves and their peers cost little (perhaps a fee for laminating or binding) or nothing, and students should have less difficulty understanding books created in their local context, although students need to be cognizant of producing reader-based texts, e.g., in the case of students from Iran doing books about their home context in a multinational class with classmates from countries such as India, Japan, and Spain.
Books appropriate for early childhood students may not be appropriate for older students. For instance, teen and young adult students may be likely to reject as childish books that consist of pages with a large drawing and only a single sentence. Also, while books of five-six pages may satisfy young students, older students may want to produce longer books. One method that the authors of this article have used with older students involves producing anthologies in which each student takes responsibility for one page. For example, each student can write for an anthology entitled, “A Scary Moment.” Teachers can also contribute to the anthology with an entry of their own, or they can find a model by a professional author or a former student. Rather than only distributing the model to students, teachers might want to spend time facilitating students’ appreciation of salient features of the model (Sowell, 2019).
As mentioned earlier, dialog can be useful at all stages of the writing process. Furthermore, students can dialog in order to share how they created their books with dialog prompts such as, “What is your favorite part of the story and why do you like it?” or “What was some useful feedback you received, and did you change your story because of the feedback?” Other opportunities for dialog can arise after peers have read each other’s stories. Here, students can write their own discussion questions to accompany their stories (Song, Oh, & Glazewski, 2017).
In addition to anthologies, another type of student-generated book for second language students arises out of a well-known education practice: dialog journals (Mukti, 2016). With dialog journals, students write regularly in a paper notebook or on an electronic device. Journal entries can be based on the entire class responding to the same prompt, or each student can base their entry on whatever inspires them at the time. The dialog in dialog journals comes into play as each journal entry receives a response from peers, teachers, or others. Over the course of a term, students’ books will have grown large with many journal entries, each with one or more responses. While students may not wish to share their dialog journals widely, perhaps these books can serve as a way to encourage students to reflect on their own thoughts, thereby mobilizing their intrapersonal intelligence (Armstrong, 2018).
This article has suggested one method of inspiring more student-centeredness: student-created books. Student ownership of their books deserves highlighting, as in the experience of the article’s authors, establishing student ownership constitutes a key potential stumbling block. The book creation process is impoverished without it. Furthermore, a vital aim of student-centered education is to encourage students to become life-long learners. Whereas teacher-centered instruction risks draining education of the joy and excitement inherent in learning, student-centered pedagogy offers the promise of a citizenry keen to learn throughout life and, just like students may share the books they create, we hope people throughout their lives will share their learning in a host of varied ways.
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Using Information and Communication Technology to Help Students Create Their Own Books the Dialogic Way
Francisca Maria Ivone
Department of English
Universitas Negeri Malang
George M Jacobs
International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education
Made Hery Santosa
English Language Education Department
Universitas Pendidikan Ganesha, Bali
Teachers guiding students to create their own books has been practised for many years (Dupuy & McQuillan, 1997; Mak, Conjam, & Chan, 2008; Rodgers, 1997). Jacobs (2020) discussed various advantages of and obstacles to students creating their own books. Fortunately, information and communication technology (ICT) has done and continues to do much that improves and facilitates students’ book creation. The present article suggests areas in which ICT can assist students as they generate their own books in dialog with teachers and peers. Areas discussed in the article include students developing ideas for their books, dialoging and otherwise collaborating with peers, creating text, visuals, and other non-text elements for the books, receiving and responding to peer and teacher feedback on book drafts, and storing and sharing their books. Moreover, students creating their own books with technology also promotes their technology and media literacy.
Empowering Technology-Supported Interaction
Some researchers worry that modern technologies, such as smartphones, isolate students, as students may put in their earbuds or put on their headphones as a means of cutting themselves off from those around them (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears, 2006). However, Cho (2015) reported an opposite effect. Perhaps, teachers have a role to play in whether students’ technology use results in isolation or interaction. Students will be more likely to use technology to interact with peers if teachers help them learn and deploy the collaborative skills needed to interact harmoniously and efficiently when using technology (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 2007; 2020). Examples of some of the many collaborative skills useful with ICT include encouraging others to participate, asking for help, asking for reasons, thanking and praising others, and pointing out other perspectives.
ICT in support of learning enjoys support from many theories in education, e.g., Social Constructivism (Palincsar, 1997). Social Constructivism has “constructivism” in its name to contrast it with what had been the prevailing theory in Educational Psychology: Behaviorism (Gardner, 1985). Behaviorism sees learning as externally driven; teachers, family members, reading materials, etc. pour information into students’ heads just like someone pours water into a glass. Everyone, according to Behaviorism, regardless of age, personality, and even species, learns in this same way. All students who are taught the same information, attitudes, etc. learn that same information, those same attitudes, etc. Constructivism, in contrast, focuses on internal, not external, forces shaping learning. These internal forces reflect the uniqueness of all students; as a result, what students learn will be different, as everyone constructs their own, individual learning.
The word “social” in Social Constructivism highlights that people learn mostly from their interactions with others. In the case of students, these enriching interactions can take place not just with teachers, but with peers as well. Social Constructivism looks not just at cognition – thinking, knowledge, and skills – but also at affect – emotions and attitudes – (Niedenthal & Brauer, 2012). Interactions can not only enhance thinking and bring to the fore pleasant emotions, but the resulting dialog and other forms of collaboration can improve the work students do as they learn, e.g., students can make better books when the books are made as part of a collaborative process, even when each student is responsible for their own book. For instance, the stereotype of artists shows them as solitary people who work alone, whereas in reality, many artists, in areas as diverse as painting and dance, rely on colleagues for guidance. An example is Pablo Picasso who did not consider one of his paintings finished until fellow painter George Braque had given his comments (John-Steiner, 2000).
What tools do students use to do their social construction? Dialog functions as one of the crucial tools (Mercer, Hennessy, & Warwick, 2019). Dialog need not always take the form of face-to-face spoken interaction; it can also be written and visual, as well as taking place over a distance via ICT. It can also be in the form of collaborative tasks and projects. Relevant studies include those that have examined the doing of projects via digital means (Dalim et al., 2019; Özen & Duran, 2019; González Mesa, 2020), interactivity (Hutchison & Mitchell, 2009), and animations (Yıldırım & Torun, 2014). This article will introduce some of the many ICT tools via which students can interact with peers and others. Excitingly, these digital tools are increasing in number, improving in quality, and becoming more widely available, sometimes at lower cost. Some ways that ICT can serve to increase student dialog (spoken, written, and via drawing) in all the areas listed in the previous paragraph will also be discussed.
Creating Books the Dialogic Way Using the Process Approach
In this section, we will talk about the importance of the process students experience as they create their books.
Nowadays, most teachers advocate that students use the Process Approach (Boas, 2011) in their writing, whether they are writing something 10,000 words long or something 30 words long, something with many visuals or something with no visuals. To understand the Process Approach, it is first necessary to understand the Product Approach, which is a very different way to create. In the Product Approach, writers believe they are transferring unchanged what is in their minds onto the paper or the screen. Usually, one draft is thought to be enough to create the final product. The Product Approach is partly based on the inaccurate stereotype of talented writers and artists as people who create their great work with a minimum of preparation, in a linear manner from start to finish without any restarts or changes. At one time, teachers taught students to follow the Product Approach.
However, with the ascendance of cognitive psychology and social cognitivism, researchers investigated what professional writers actually do, and this research suggested that most professional writers do something very different from the Product Approach (Flower & Hayes, 1981). Furthermore, the research also suggested that the same non-linear process also applies to artists in other categories (John-Steiner, 2000). For instance, the researchers found that expert writers often write in recursive phases, not in a linear, consecutive, one-after-another manner.
Different researchers use different names for these recursive phases in the Process Approach, but here is one set of names for these phases in the writing process and a description of each phase.
- Idea generating phase – Writers develop ideas about what to write and about how to organize their writing, e.g., will they write a regular book, an audiobook, or a comic book. Ways writers use to generate ideas include reading, watching videos, note taking, talking to others, brainstorming, observing others, and self-reflecting. In this idea generating phase, technologies in such forms as websites, software programs, and mobile applications can assist in these processes. Examples include virtual wall applications (e.g., Padlet, Linoit, Online Stickies), cloud collaborative platforms (e.g., Wakelet, Evernote, Pocket, Google Docs, Google Slides), interactive whiteboard (e.g., Jamboard, Charlala, fi), and mind map apps (e.g., Mindmeister, Mind Node, Free Map). These technologies aid student writers to research, brainstorm, and take notes collaboratively. Students can also share resources, ideas, and notes with each other via websites and mobile apps.
- Drafting phase – Writers do a draft of what they will write. Sometimes, writers need to do many drafts. Sometimes, before drafting again, they need to go back and generate more ideas. Sometimes their drafts involve not only text but also audio, visuals, and audio-visual formats. When drafting, writers do not worry about surface matters, such as grammar or spelling. Similar to what happens in the idea generation phase, in this drafting phase, writers can employ collaborative writing using virtual wall or collaborative cloud platforms. They can also create visually rich drafts in the form of storyboards using collaborative apps for drawing, such as Jamboard, Charlala, and fi. The technologies used in this stage should allow students to collaboratively draft in multimedia formats.
- Editing (for content and organization) phase – In addition to self-feedback, writers can ask others to give them feedback on their drafts, but only on the ideas and the way the ideas are organized, not on surface matters. Students can help each other reorganize their books on collaborative cloud platforms. They can also leave comments or feedback using review features available in word processing and presentation software and apps. Plus, they can edit by annotating any file format using mark-up features that enable them to give comments in the forms of text, audio, and images. They may also suggest suitable illustrations for their peers’ books. To do this, students can simply share images through chat applications (e.g., WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Telegram). The technologies used in this editing stage facilitate students’ collaborative drafting in multimedia formats by modifying and annotating each other’s digital drafts.
- Proofreading (for surface matters) phase – When writers are happy with the content and organization of their writing (sometimes this requires many phases of idea generating, drafting, and checking for content or organization), they check, and ask others to help them check, for surface matters. Technology may assist student writers in two ways during this stage. First, it can be used a tool for checking spelling, grammar, and diction. Spell and grammar checkers in word processing and presentation software and apps can all serve the purpose of giving instant feedback on spelling and grammatical accuracy. Students can also give such by themselves. Second, technology can also be employed as a medium for collaborating. All of the collaborative apps mentioned in the previous stages can be used to serve this purpose.
- Publishing – When writers are happy with their books, they can publish them in many forms, printed or non-printed. This stage may not be the ultimate goal of student writers. For instance, they can also publish for the purpose of collecting feedback from others. Thus, they may revise their books even after they are published. There are many outlets for publishing books electronically, e.g., students can publish books on their blogs or other social media networks. They may also circulate them within a limited audience, for instance through class course management systems (CMS), e.g., Edmodo, Google Classroom, Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.
As noted earlier, the Process Approach is recursive, not linear. “Recursive” means that instead of doing one phase or one part and then never going back to work on that phase or part again, sometimes writers repeat the same phase, perhaps repeating it multiple times. Furthermore, they may make many changes to what they are writing, even throwing away or deleting some parts. The proofreading phase comes last among the first four phases in the process, but the other three phases can take place at different times. For example, sometimes writers may think they have finished, but then, they wake up in the morning with an exciting idea to include in their project (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).
It should come as no surprise that many of the researchers who discovered and explored the Process Approach used a Social Constructivist lens (Slavkov, 2015; Vygotsky, 1978) to look at human thinking, because unlike the Product Approach to writing, the Process Approach offers many opportunities for dialog. For example, in the idea generating phase of the Process Approach, students can develop ideas for their writing by reading what peers have written or by reading books that peers have recommended. Furthermore, students can discuss their writing ideas with peers who can offer supportive ideas. However, being supportive does not always mean that peers only make positive comments. Instead, constructive criticism can point out possible weaknesses. As a Russian proverb states, “An enemy will agree, but a friend will disagree.” This dialog can take place as students write their own books or collaborate with others in writing books together. Our argument is that the process of book creation should be interactive, meaningful, and emotionally engaging for the students who write the books and for other students who read the books or help in the process of writing the books.
We have given some suggestions about how ICT can aid students’ writing process, and we will give some more specific suggestions later in this article. At this point, let us cite some studies suggesting that students creating books with digital tools can promote interaction and emotional engagement (Beach, Clemens, & Jamsen, 2010; Beetham, McGill, & Littlejohn, 2009; Carrignton & Robinson, 2009; Kim, Ng, & Lim, 2009). Please note that the studies cited in the previous sentence all pre-date 2010; thus, while the use of digital tools is becoming increasingly common, it is by no means a new phenomenon. Digital storytelling is increasingly popular in language learning, and apps used for digital storytelling also promote student-centered, technology-enriched learning environment (Dalim et al., 2019), because they allow stories to be told in more exciting, multimedia ways, with not only texts but also visual images and audio, and even in the form of videos.
Developing Multiliteracies by Creating Multimedia Books
In this section, we explore some digital book formats that incorporate textual, visual, and audio elements. Multimedia books may take the form of visual books, audiobooks, audio-visual books, and interactive books that make use of Augmented Reality technology. They can be in such forms as picture books, comics, animations, and branching narratives.
Some people feel that visuals are only appropriate in books for young children. With the rise of technology, this view has been rendered outmoded. Yes, the old definition of literacy – being able to read and write and to detect the messages embedded in written texts – now has a companion: visual literacy (International Visual Literacy Association, 2020; Sinatra, 1986; Stankiewicz, 2004). Visual literacy involves being able to read images and to create images. Just as students of all ages, as well as adults not involved in formal education, need to be literate in reading and writing texts, so too do we all need to be literate in understanding the images created by others, as well as in creating our own images for ourselves and others. Technology has made image creation so much easier. Furthermore, the advent of video games, YouTube, Instagram, and other visual-predominant forms of communication continues to heighten the importance of visual literacy.
Indeed, modern education seeks to incorporate “multiliteracies” (Cope & Kalantzis, 2010), i.e., in the 21st century, students need to be literate (able to understand and create) in many modes. Previously, the main mode that mattered was the mode of words, and literacy mostly meant reading (understanding words) and writing (creating words for others to understand). Other overlapping literacies include video literacy, musical literacy, game literacy, health literacy, critical literacy, and emotional literacy.
Multiliteracies fits with concept of Multiple Intelligences (Armstrong, 2018), the idea that humans are smart in many different ways, and for education to be both effective and equitable, all intelligences should be deployed to help students learn and to assess their learning. These intelligences include not just verbal/linguistic intelligence, which focuses on ability with words, i.e., the traditional view of literacy, but also intelligences that have more recently been given more attention, e.g., musical/rhythmic intelligence, bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, inter- and intrapersonal intelligence, and logical/mathematical intelligence. We see these changes in literacies and intelligences reflected in children’s books. For example, some children’s books include touch, e.g., books about rabbits with imitation rabbit fur, and pop-up books that provide three-dimensional experiences.
With all these modalities, students have more ways to learn and more ways to create; they can share more completely what is in their minds and what they are creating as they engage in various modes. All these options fit with the spirit of these times in which people are taking more control of their experiences. For instance, instead of listening only to the music available on a small number of radio stations, people make their own playlists, and instead of selecting a movie or tv show and then watching it till the end, an end chosen by the producers, people play games in which they have a major role in determining how the story develops and ends.
The use of technology for sharing ideas, communicating opinions, collaborating, and reviewing others’ books is explained in this section. The section presents examples of current technologies that can be used to facilitate students interacting among themselves and with their teachers, creating the kind of multimedia books proposed in the previous section, and publishing their own books.
Technological tools, including new ones, to be utilized for digital story creations vary in features from accommodating static to interactive reading, from review to creation and publication of books. Websites for reading abound. For instance, Let’s Read Asia (https://reader.letsreadasia.org/) provides thousands of free digital stories for children. The stories come from Asian perspectives and cultures, with varieties of languages and art canvas-based illustrations, making them rich and compelling. Room to Read (https://literacycloud.org) has various stories from around the world which are accompanied by supplementary materials, e.g., videos, selected reading lists, and other resources for the readers. The stories include colours and illustrations. The materials come with indications of reading level, thereby assisting readers in finding the materials most comfortable for themselves. Story Weaver (https://storyweaver.org.in) is another worthwhile digital story platform. Besides having thousands of completed stories, the platform allows digital story creation by its readers. Authors just need to provide a storyline, because illustrations are provided within the system. The use of levels is also employed here, both for reading and authoring story books. In addition, stories can also be presented in the form of videos. One example of a website with video stories is Storyline Online (https://www.storylineonline.net/). The website by SAG-AFTRA Foundation streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books in creative, interactive, and emotionally compelling ways.
In terms of illustration-making, some other web-based and non-web-based platforms exist to assist the process of creating digital stories. Storybird, for instance, provides collections of illustrations in a wide variety of themes, but it does not allow authors to use their own illustrations. On the other hand, Story Jumper gives story creators opportunities to use their own illustrations. Some image-based platforms, such as Bitmoji and Avatar Creator, can also help with the creation of characters (humans, animals, and even aliens) to illustrate student-created stories. Photoshop and other vector graphic software are available to those who are capable of editing and creating more sophisticated characters and supporting images for their digital stories. Non-copyrighted image providers, e.g., Freepik, FreeVector, VectorStock, and Pin Clipart, are also handy for writing digital stories or books, as they allow writers to use relevant images and illustrations at no charge. Table 1 lists some of the affordances mentioned in this article.
Cultivating Creativity and Relevance
According to Ulu (2019), originality is one important dimension of the creative writing process. However, McCormick (2015) questioned whether originality is always essential, even for Arts students. Nonetheless, students should feel free to be original, at the same time that quality in all spheres of book production is promoted. Scaffolded activities framed within a project-based learning approach utilizing process and technological supports can be one way of assisting students’ digital story creation.
The technologies listed in Table 1 are only some of the tools for digital story creation. The process of cultivating originality of ideas, themes, characters, plots, settings, and supporting elements, including colours, size, and concepts, should be emphasized to ensure authenticity of writers’ creations. Since story characters do not have to be human, creators can also use objects, animals, and buildings they are familiar with as their characters. They can reinvent themes, plots, settings, and additional elements in their stories. Allowing students to connect to what is familiar to them encourages being observant, critical, and creative. Students can also be authentic in their stories, because different people perceive things differently and experience different events in life. Encouraging student writers to research before writing and re-research during writing is also a good practice during their book writing process. It is also necessary to teach them to be critical and reflective by asking each other questions such as:
- Will the story be interesting to readers?
- Will anything in the story be fun for readers?
- Will readers learn anything from the story?
- Will the story (words and visuals) be understandable to readers?
- Will the visuals be attractive to readers?
- Is there a problem that the main character(s) have to confront in the story?
- Is the problem resolved at the end of the story?
- Is there anything in the story that might make any readers uncomfortable? For example, vegetarian readers may feel uncomfortable if people eat meat in the book.
- Is there a cover with the title of the story, the author(s)’ and illustrator(s) names?
- Are all the pages numbered?
- Are the illustrations consistent? For example, if the cat is brown on the second page, is the same cat yellow on the fourth page?
These questions can be answered in collaboration with other students during the editing phase of writing in which creators rethink the content and organization of their stories. This editing practice teaches students to not only learn from sources but also to be critical and reflective. Moreover, making students aware of copyright and plagiarism issues is also important. Everyone should learn that there are things which they can take and use for free, but there are many others that belong to other people.
Some students may be able to write a 100% authentic book, but most students, for the first one or two books, will need to lean on examples of previous works. Thus, their creation may not be 100% original. Instead, their books may be modifications of previous works. In this section, we will also talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that may hinder or assist students in creating their own books. The underlying principles of the following methods are collaboration between writers and employment of technology to facilitate collaboration as well as book creation.
Students may start creating books from scratch, but they may need some help along the way. They need to think about such matters as the characters, setting, and plot of their stories. AI-injected websites, such as Masterpiece Generator (https://masterpiece-generator.org.uk/), can help them do these tasks. Students can then discuss what was generated by the websites and decide what to use in their books, i.e., what the websites generate are only possibilities; the final decisions are up to the students.
Book writing may also start from researching previous works. In fact, students can be encouraged to write a book which is inspired by previous works. What is interesting is that the previous works do not even have to be in the form of books. If many film makers can make movies based on someone’s life or a bestselling novel, students can certainly write books inspired by biographies, movies, comics, as well as stories told by their parents or friends, and many other works. For instance, they can read book series and write books to continue a series. Students can also transform previous works into a different book format, for instance, from a novel into comic strips, or from a movie to a short story. Another possible way of creating books is by simplifying previous works. Simplification can take the form of reducing the number of main and supporting characters, eliminating less important details and events, or summarizing parts of plots. Students can add illustrations to a story, shorten its length, and simplify the language used in the story.
Book writing offers a way of personalising reading, listening, and viewing experiences. These experiences may occur within the context of students’ first, second, or foreign languages. When students read, listen, and view, they form their own interpretations, preferences, and expectations. For instance, people might discuss movies they watch and question why the ending is not a happy one or why the main character ends up marrying the ‘wrong’ guy. Therefore, when students write their own books in the target language, they do not need to start from scratch. They can modify the beginning, the middle, or the ending of a story they have read, listened to, or watched before. They can rearrange the events and change some of the details. They can introduce a new character, omit a character, replace a character or change the personality of the characters. They can also rewrite the story from the point of view of one specific character.
Still another interesting way of writing is by using gamification to create interactive story telling content using a narrative branching structure. Branching narratives, so called because their structure resembles branches in a tree (Berger, 2020), are structures that allow readers to shape their own story from a number of possible storylines. This gives readers the opportunity to determine the trajectories of stories. Readers are directed to a particular scene as a consequence of the choices that have been made. Students can work together on the same story, and they build in several ‘intersections’ at which the readers take part in the story as characters who need to make a decision at each intersection. The decision can be as trivial as deciding what is for lunch or as important as choosing someone to marry. Student writers can compile the different ‘versions’ of the story and create a digital story with ‘branches’ of different possible consequences that may happen when the one character makes a decision. When stories are presented in digital form, readers can just click on hyperlinks or pictures that will take them to different plots.
Fostering Technology and Media Literacy Development
Two approaches to guiding students’ development of skills and attitudes are to: (1) teach the necessary skills and attitudes before students embark on tasks; and (2) teach the skills and attitudes as students are doing tasks. We have usually employed the second approach, as we find that instruction in skills and attitudes resonates better with students when they can immediately see the usefulness of what we are teaching (Koda, 2018). For example, students may appreciate the importance of communication skills, e.g., asking for assistance and giving reasons when teaching others, when they are in the midst of communicating with classmates about the books they are creating. Similarly, students will value the importance of technology in language learning when they are able to use it during language learning.
Students need to have sufficient technology and media literacy to be able to create their own digital books. A study by Decat et al. (2019) suggested that technology provides a new modality of learning representation that allows students to learn and to show what they have learned, especially in the context of young learners. Yamaç and Ulusoy (2016) also found that the use of technology assisted students in understanding elements of digital story books while at the same time enabling them to process ideas for story creations. It is worth noting that when technology is used in the creation of multimedia books, students will not only grow their technology and media literacy but also their writing ability.
Despite the positive support of technologies in students’ learning of media literacy and in creation of digital storybooks, Talaee and Noroozi (2019) pointed out that it is still very important to look at the students’ digital divide in this era of saturated access to technology. The digital divide may handicap students’ performance in the use of technologies in the teaching and learning process. Some students are technology experts, but many use ICT only for communicating on social media. Thus, teachers should consider training their students, starting with the simplest technology available for creating their own books. In addition, teachers may need to train students to use various technologies to support communication and collaboration among them.
Book writing is a worthwhile adventure on students’ language learning journey. The experience will not only lead them to produce comprehensible output but also take them on meaningful language learning paths in which reading is an essential part, collaboration is indispensable, and technology is a tool and medium of creation. There are soft skills that students will learn on their collaborative book writing mission, e.g., creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. There are also multiliteracies to be polished along the way, such as media literacy and technology literacy.
Many technologies have been introduced and explored in this article, but it should be kept in mind that it is not the technology that defines the success of language learning; it is how the technology is used to support language learning and thinking skills. Technology provides students and teachers many avenues for writing books the dialogic way. Some educators may argue that we can at any point omit technology from language teaching and learning, but the future predicts that we will rely more and more on technology, especially during emergency times such as the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in 2020.
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