Critical Connections

Multilingual digital storytelling boosts language learning and digital skills.

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By equipping teachers with skills that help students expand their multilingual repertoire through digital storytelling, a new teaching and learning model has helped boost young people’s language learning ability and supported them take pride in their heritage.

Developed by Dr Vicky Macleroy and Dr Jim Anderson, Critical Connections has been introduced in over 50 UK primary, secondary and complementary schools to date and more than a dozen partnership schools in six other countries.

Over 300 languages are now spoken in Britain, but language learning in the home with parents and extended families is often overlooked in mainstream education. Children often have little opportunity to share their bilingualism outside the home.

Critical Connections sought to re-engage young people with language learning through a student-centred approach while also promoting active critical and creative engagement with digital technology.

Since its launch in 2012, the project has engaged over 1,500 children in a digital storytelling community.

Using photographs, moving images, artwork, objects, shadow puppetry, stop motion animation, green screen, poetry, dance and drama, children and teenagers have created three-to-five-minute videos. Students create their stories bilingually, which affirms their bilingual identities and provides a context for valuable insight into metalinguistics – the relationship between language and other cultural behaviours.

An important spin-off from Critical Connections is how storytelling and film-making facilitate parents and guardians' involvement in their children’s learning. Not only have they helped develop ideas, and in some cases, used their own advanced digital skills to take the lead, but the project has also helped young people uncover their family histories and value the sharing of traditional heritage with their older relations.

Digital stories have been shared across the globe at film festivals, to online audiences and at schools. In contrast, new connections and collaborative research with lead teachers on the project have developed. The project website and the Critical Connections Handbook for Teachers have helped embed Critical Connections in schools and transform practice.

In addition, new connections and collaborative research with lead teachers on the project have developed.

This research was submitted for REF 2021.