The DLS approach to constructing, presenting and reflecting on understanding has already generated a number of issues and conclusions. This work is still ongoing and more elements will be added as the approach is more widely used.
Regarding The Role of the Teacher
The use of DLS tends to fall into the guided-discover to pure discovery range of the pedagogical continuum. Therefore issues raised by Bruner, Dewey, A.S.Neill and others are all relevant to its implementation. The key is excellent scaffolding by the teacher as well as adequate classroom resources to support the work. I have observed in classrooms filled with wonderful materials where the teacher took a more passive approach to supporting learning. Except in a few very motivated and developmentally advanced students, this tended to lead to considerable wasted time and directional meandering that resulted in disjointed or incomplete projects. Those teachers who have carefully configured their classrooms with support materials, who are adept at noting when students need some guidance in structuring elements of a project, and who can provide just-in-time delivery of support and assistance seem to be the most efficacious in helping their students bring projects to fruition. There is no doubt that this can be a more intensive process on the part of the teacher and it definitely involves the need for more planning and flexibility, however it appears to result in very powerful learning experiences for all participants in the process.
The use of digital learning stories as an approach for constructing and presenting understanding raises a number of questions regarding assessment. One method of assessing the work of elementary students is to develop a rubric with them at the outset of the project that clearly specifies the elements of the project that are essential and that will be assessed. With younger students it is useful to spell out the parameters of a project at the outset so that methods of assessment will be clearly established. While this approach to assessment helps to elucidate teacher expectations, it also has potential weaknesses. The current focus on rigid standards and standardized forms of assessment may not fit well with this very open and flexible pedagogical approach. Furthermore, the very nature of structuring assessment parameters and protocols may limit the creativity that students might bring to their work. I believe that the result of work using DLS (see Mozart on previous page) argues against the use of ridgid standards whose implementation is claimed to increase the quality of student work. In this case rigidly defined standards may have the opposite effect. Therefore I believe that it is critical to provide an assessment framework that is open-ended enough to support innovative project ideas, while still allowing rubrics that can accurately and supportively assess a wide range of dimensions regarding the quality of students' work, affect, understanding, and higher level thinking skills. Since an important element of constructing and telling digital learning stories is student's reflection on the process of the project as well as the qualities of the final presentation, Assessing this aspect of the project will also be essential.