From literary text to digital story: an innovative approach to teaching Italian as a foreign language and an analysis of its impact on the manifestation of students’ expressive potential

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Lis Ventura, Sara
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University College Cork
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This study explores the impact on foreign language learning of an innovative pedagogical approach, one which brings together literature and digital technology. Specifically, it investigates how combining the analysis of a literary text and the creation of a multimodal composition can help students generate communicative artefacts that simultaneously adhere to the stylistic features of a specific genre and respond to personal expressive intentions. The purpose of the project is twofold. On the one hand, it intends to encourage a humanistic-holistic approach to foreign language teaching by re-establishing the role of the expressive and aesthetic functions of language and by re-focusing attention on learners as sensitive and emotional beings (Kramsch, 2006). On the other, it aims to contribute to the expansion of the concept of literacy in language education by exploring new ways of including multimodal composition in the language classroom. The study, which draws on the theoretical framework of the multiliteracies approach (Kern, 2003; Paesani, Allen & Dupuy, 2016), takes the form of a qualitative case study: eight second-year undergraduate students of Italian as foreign language were first introduced to a literary text, a mix of two genres (i.e. a recipe and an autobiographical narrative). They were instructed on the stylistic features characterizing the text and finally they were engaged in creating a multimodal composition. The last task involved producing a digital story, a short digital video based on a script of 250-350 words that combines the author’s narrative voiceover with a variety of multimedia tools, such as photographs, music, and sounds. The objectives of the research were mainly three: i) investigating the students’ multimodal orchestration practices in order to understand how their “voice” – reinterpreted here as sign of personal and emotional involvement in the meaning-making process – emerges in the digital stories; ii) exploring the impact of the combination of text-analysis and multimodal composition on the students’ development of genre awareness; and iii) examining their perception of the learning experience, in particular considering its impact on linguistic skills, intrinsic motivation, and emotional engagement. The investigation was undertaken by carrying out a multimodal discourse analysis (MDA) of the participants’ digital artefacts and a thematic analysis of their individual semi-structured interviews and reflective journals. The MDA was conducted from a social semiotic perspective and by applying the Appraisal Framework (Martin & White 2005), an approach that aims at understanding how different resources are used by the author to construct textual personae, to manage interpersonal positionings and to negotiate and amplify emotions, judgments, and evaluations (Martin, 2000). The findings of the study show that the combination of literary text analysis and digital storytelling: i) can deeply engage students in the meaning-making processes by expanding their opportunity to manifest expressive intentions through multimodal orchestration; ii) can facilitate students’ development of genre awareness in the FL and promote the emergence of individual stylistic variations at the same time; iii) can intrinsically motivate the students, engage them on an aesthetic and emotional point of view, and be useful for developing their speaking and writing skills. Considering that due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic Irish higher education institutions have moved all teaching and assessment online, my study provides important insights into an approach that can be adapted and implemented in an online environment, thus offering a contribution to addressing some of the many challenges third-level language education is going to face in the next few years.
Multiliteracies approach , Digital storytelling , Foreign language learning , Multimodal discourse analysis , Literature in language teaching , Italian language teaching
Lis Ventura, S. 2020. From literary text to digital story: an innovative approach to teaching Italian as a foreign language and an analysis of its impact on the manifestation of students’ expressive potential. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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