Digital Storytelling To Foster Education In Singapore Education Essay

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As Ryan and Bohlin (1999) wrote, "…education seeks to help students to develop as persons, character development is part and parcel of whole enterprise…" (quoted in Benninga, Berkowitz, Kuehn, & Smith, 2003) and as Pring (2001) argued "education itself is a moral practice", scholars attempt to bring across the point that a holistic education would have to incorporate both the intellectual and moral development to wholly develop a person. The Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) desired outcomes of education too emphasises the importance of the character and moral values of a person, other than the academic achievement. Under the Singapore education system, one should develop to become a confident person, self directed learner, active contributor and a concerned citizen (Singapore Ministry of Education, 2010). This is underpinned by the six core values-respect, responsibility, integrity, care, resilience and harmony-that the ministry has identified and wished to inculcate in her people (SMOE, 2010). These values are crafted in the civil and moral education syllabus and explicitly taught to students during lessons. To prepare the Singapore students for the challenges in the globalised and knowledge-based world, education in Singapore has seek to rebalance to focus more on the character building aspects, equipping them with not only cognitive skills, but also the 'soft' skills and values. In 2008, the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) committee was formed to review the primary education, reflecting the ministry's recognition of the integral role of character education. The committee recommended the strengthening of the quality of non-academic education in primary schools, with greater investment in subjects such as physical education, art and music, which play a central role in character development. Such situation indicates that character education is increasingly integrated into the formative education and more proactively promoted.

There are various definitions for character education. Lickona (2001) comprehensively manifested character education as an intentional, proactive and combined effort by schools, families and communities to help students to know the good, desire the good and do the good. The Character Education Partnership (2010) delineates character education as an educational movement that supports the social, emotional and ethical development of students and it is a proactive effort by the school, community and nation. The definition is further supported with eleven character development principles. The Singapore MOE (2010) conceives character education as teaching students values and social-emotional skills, and providing students with the opportunities to carry out moral actions. The government believes values form the basis of a person's character and it is these core values that guide the person's behaviour and assist one to make the appropriate choices in life. Though there is no consensus to a fixed or standard explanation, the scope and fundamental rudiments of what character-building is, the assortment of definitions set the directions for the respective organisation's character development programs.

The eleven principles for character development, laid out by the Character Education Partnership, act as a guidepost for the design of character education programs of several countries and schools There are several approaches to deliver character education. Some of the methods that will be elaborated in this paper are the cultural transmission approach, dilemma discussions, role-playing, service learning and storytelling. Among these approaches, storytelling is most commonly used in character-building programs. Storytelling is an ancient art of transmitting knowledge, culture, values and wisdom from the old generation to the new generation (Umaschi, 1996). More importantly, stories offer a simple yet powerful way to understand the realistic and complicated world (Bruner, 1990; Gils, 2005, Salik, 2008), as the children could directly witness how moral thinking, feelings and actions being put forward by the plot characters.

Technological use for character education IT masterplan 3, integrating of IT into curriculum and promoting character education. Students learn by doing. Engage in active learning. Authentic context. Collaboration to construct knowledge. Connected to the world. Wide perspective. Digital storytelling offers as a viable way to cultivate values in students and shape their characters. Thus, this paper seeks to explore the use of digital storytelling to promote character education in Singapore primary school.

Theoretical background

Kohlberg's theory of moral development (1.5)

Cognitive dissonance

Moral dilemma  moral reasoning

Sequential step, not jump steps

Does not proceed to next stage as mature, proceed after resolving moral conflict

Just community model


Developmental-appropriate programs, present reasons that are one stage above the reasoning given student

Thomas Lickona's framework (1.5)

Moral knowing (cognitive), moral feeling(affective) and moral action (behavioural) .

Approaches to character education

Eleven principles of effective character education

The Character Education Partnership (CEP), which Dr Thomas Lickona serves in its Board of Directors, was launched in 1993 and has since been the United States' leading organisation which is committed to advocate character education in schools. The eleven principles laid out by the organisation offer as criteria for schools in their development, implementation and evaluation of their character development programs (Lickona, 1996).

The first basic principle states that sound core values set the premise for character development (Character Education Partnership, 2010). These core values involve ethical values, such as respect, responsibility, care, honesty, and performance values, such as resilient, diligence, perseverance (CEP, 2010). It is these values that guide a person's action, prompting the person to think of the consequences prior to action, and subsequently to make the most appropriate choices and be accountable for the choices made. The CEP asserts that it is an obligation for the school to integrate and infuse core values into the schools' philosophy, vision, culture and curriculum. As Lickona (2001) argued, to holistically develop the character of the student, the character building effort should consider the three spheres of moral life-moral thinking, moral feeling and moral action (principle 2). In addition, for character education to carry out effectively, the third principle indicates that the school needs to take on a proactive role to meticulously infuse the core values into all aspects of the school, for example, leadership, policies, curriculum and environment.

With the first three principles providing an overall general scope for character development, the subsequent principles narrow down to the more specific steps. Principle 4 and 8 state the necessity of a caring school environment with supportive school staff who advocate the school's core values. The school staff include teachers, administrators, canteen vendors and school cleaners. Learning does not only take place in the classrooms; students also learn socially. Immersed in the ethos of care and respect in school, students implicitly model values from adults and peers and internalise the values. To achieve such environment, the school leadership play a critical role as suggested by the ninth principle. The leadership not only come from the school administrative committee, students should also be given opportunities to be moral leaders to champion the efforts (Lickona, 1996). This principle coincides with principle 5, which urges school to provide chances for students to apply values, echoing the fundamentals of the previously mentioned principle 2. Besides the cognitive acquisition of knowledge, students learn by doing. Opportunities, like peer mediation, group work and service learning, allow student to practise their moral values in authentic situations. Practices of moral values can also be carried out during lessons of academic subject.

Principle 6 emphasises the meaningful and challenging integration of character education into academic learning (Lickona, 1996). While providing the students with the content knowledge, they need to be taught life skills. This is where teachers and the classroom climate come into the picture. Teachers should engage students in active learning, dialogues and collaboration, bringing out the moral aspects of the curriculum to create a classroom climate of trust and respect (CEP, 2010). Not forgetting the moral feeling facet, CEP's principle 7 urges school to develop students' intrinsic motivation so that students believe and are committed to the core values that the school instil. This could be achieved with a school discipline system, which guides students to focus on intrinsic rewards, and to truly understand and comply to the school rules.

Character education does not occur solely in the school premise; it is extended to the family and community who are also stakeholders in education. Thus, principle 10 proposes the engagement of the parents and community to take part in the character-building efforts, in order to reinforce core values outside the school and provide more opportunities for moral action. Lastly, school should reflect and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their character-building programs for improvement purpose. CEP (2010) suggests the school's character education should be assessed from three aspects-the school character, school staff's development as character educators and the students' character.

Among the set of principles, the first three principles generally set the tone for character education. While principles 4, 8 and 9 address the leadership and climate of the school, principles 5, 6 and 7 directly involve the students. Principle 10 extends the character building efforts to the community and the last principle concludes with the criteria for assessment. These principles spell out the possible strategies that schools could adopt to promote character development in students.

Pedagogical approaches

Cultural transmission

The cultural transmission approach refers to the school climate which promotes moral development in students (SMOE, 2010). This approach includes the direct instruction in classroom, role modelling by teachers and the school ethos. A school policy statement which clearly stipulates the values that the school seeks to promote has effects on the development of the school culture as the subsequent policies and practices would be developed and implemented according the fundamental of the school (Pring, 2001). A safe and caring school promotes a sense of belonging and good behaviours in students. Being an integral stakeholder of education, teachers play a part in articulating the school's values. According to Pring (2001), the classroom is a place where teachers share their common humanity with the pupils. In the course of teaching, teachers demonstrate and transfer their principles and values to students, helping them to make sense of the world. As teaching is a social practice that embodies the values of the teacher, students may be inherently influenced by the teacher (Halstead and Taylor, 2000). Direct teaching can also explicitly and intentionally promulgates the desirable values to students, raising their awareness of the sound values. However, this approach is limited to the facet of moral thinking, suggesting that core values may not be effectively inculcated and cultivated in students.


Teacher-led or group-based dilemma discussions assist in moral reasoning through exposing the students to various difficult moral conflicts. Seldom do students face moral dilemmas in life; the hypothetical moral situations challenge the students' existing value system, engaging them to carry out moral reasoning. The moral argument process in discussion groups exposes students to different ethical views, confronts their values and improves their conflict resolution skills. Guidance from teachers and competent peers could also help students to attain a higher level of moral maturity by presenting a moral reasoning stage higher than the students' (Institute for Character Education, 2007). Discussions also encourage perspective-taking, teaching student to respect diverse and even minority views, and to reach an agreement harmoniously. However, moral dilemma discussions only attend to the cognitive dimension of moral life, not relating to one's affective aspect which could determine one's action (Watson, 2003).


Children engage in role-playing everyday when they socialise or interact with other children, informally learn to make sense of the surrounding activities and have understanding of others' feelings (Stauh, 1971). Role-playing allows students to assume social roles, put themselves in others' shoes to perceive matters from another perspective so as to understand others' plights and gain a more balanced view of matters for sound moral judgement. The process involves both cognitive and affective components of moral development when students adopt the perspective of matter from the standpoint of the distressed party and empathise. Empathy is a central emotional response in role-playing, whereby one appropriates one's feeling to other's situation than one's own (Vitz, 1990). Through role-taking, children grow in their social sensitivity and considerations for others. With guidance and induction from adults or peers, students can have a better understanding of the predicament of the 'victim' and are more likely to provide assistance, advancing a step forward to putting desirable values into practice (Stauh, 1971).

Service learning

Service learning, a form of experiential learning, engages students with the wider community, enabling them to put their value convictions into action. Student will be challenged with difficult moral situations that require them to reflect, evaluate and make decision based on their value systems. These personal experiences in real-life situations enhance the students' moral reasoning skills and nurture students to be a social responsible being. In Eyler and Giles' (1999) study, students who actively participated in service learning perceived themselves to appreciate the community more, become more tolerant to others, and had acquired leadership and communication skills (as cited in Hinck & Brandell, 1999). In addition, students who engage in service learning are required to keep a self-reflection journal to record experiences, observation and thoughts. The reflection process raises the students' self-awareness, enables them to connect to the inner thoughts and internalise values, contributing to character development (Hill & Steward, 1999).

Narratives (storytelling)

Storytelling is an old traditional way of passing on cultures, values and wisdom to the next generation and has been central to moral education (Vitz, 1990). Coles (1986) affirmed that stories are an inspiration and emotional source to children and children better understand their moral behaviour in the narrative form (as cited in Vitz, 1990). Real or fictitious stories appeal to the affective realm and relate to life experiences of students without intrusion. Telling a story engages the storyteller in self-scrutiny and gain insight of self, while listening to or reading stories exposes one to the social norms and values in a vivid social context. Watson (2003), in his paper "Using stories to teach business ethics", evaluated the significance of stories in shaping character. He indicated that stories exemplify moral standards for children to follow and inspire them to become a better person. He also argued that stories are able to present abstract value conceptions in a more concrete manner, facilitating understanding as people visualise the scenarios in mind. A simple story could help students to make sense of the complex world. Thus, people are better able to remember stories and the lessons taught in the stories. His view is accordance to that of Vitz (1990) who advocated the use of stories to directly bring out the values to be learnt. Stories are morally neutral; they constitute complex plots, good and bad characters, desirable values and vices put into practice (Vitz, 1990). As such, stories allow children to image various moral experiences and moral actions and subconsciously instil the values in children, instead of having them to work through moral dilemmas. At the same time, the narratives elicit one's sentiments according to the plot and consequences of the moral actions carried out by the depicted characters.

Nevertheless, this method requires moral reflection via teachers' open-ended questioning, clarification and summarising to facilitate students' understanding and consideration of the values embedded in the stories (Halstead & Taylor, 2000).

Leveraging technology for character education (2.5)

In this highly digitalised and interconnected world, technology serves as a good complement to the current character education. Integration of technology into curriculum

How technology has been used for character development through examples

Zora virtual city

second life

(0.5) Digital storytelling has stood out as a promising approach for character development. Digital storytelling has been around since the early 1990s when the Centre for Digital Storytelling was founded (CDS, 2010). CDS is a non-profit organisation which has been enthusiastically promoting digital storytelling in United States and Canada by holding workshops and trainings. It believes that everyone has a story to tell and the technology allows people to tell their stories in a creative and interactive way that touch people's lives (CDS, 2010). According to Robin (2008), there are mainly three categories of digital stories, namely personal stories, historical stories and instructive stories. Personal narratives refer to the stories created from own or others' real life experiences. When historical events are used for story creation, these stories are considered historical stories. The third category, instructive stories, pertains to the use of materials from subjects like Mathematics, Science and Geography to formulate a story. In this study, the focus will be on leveraging digital storytelling of personal narratives to enhance character development.

Digital storytelling has an added advantage as compared to traditional storytelling, as it allows children to become a creative storyteller instead of a mere story listener, actualising personal or fictitious stories in vivid images or video with text and audio effects (Ng, Chai, Wen, & Lim, 2010). A digital story should contain seven elements-storyteller's viewpoint, a question for reflection, emotions, voice, music, economy and pacing-to bring a story to life in a concise, touching, efficient way (Robin, 2008; CDS, 2010). As children enact their experiences or present their life challenges in visual images, they engage in self-reflection, reviewing their values, choices and actions again. Adding of voice and music adds sentiments to the stories and involve the children emotionally. Publishing digital stories online will enable students to engage in collaborative learning and sharing in the online communities. In this way, the children could witness and show empathy to the sufferings of or share joys with others, increasing their social sensitivity to social matters. In addition, the approach of digital storytelling could train the children to be equipped with multiple literacy skills to face the twenty-first century challenges. These skills include social skills, for example interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and academic-related skills, for instance problem-solving, writing and technology skills (Robin, 2008).

SAGE (Storytelling Agent Generation Environment) is an example of an interactive form of digital storytelling which allows children to listen or tell stories in an authoring environment (Bers & Cassell, 1998). Children have difficulties operating the tool. Platform, technology, study Abi

Animiated vignettes

Social ability for disabilities

Small conclusion. Affective, reflection, interaction, able to incorporate several approaches

The future subsequent section proposes the use of Web 2.0 application to better facilitate digital storytelling for character development.

Recall experience, enhance comprehension, stories articulate in images, abstract concept to be more understandable. Multi-media rich, engaging, attractive, capture attention, skills developed, involving intellectual and social-emotional facets

Incorporate learning strategies-collaboration, role-playing, discussion, reflection.

(Farmer, 2004)

allows them to construct meaning on a personal level

Recount stories

Original and authentic product of the child's knowledge and imagination

Sharing with global audience, stories are stored and archive

Validate one's belief and values

Connect to the world.


I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Assistant Professor Chao-Hsiu Chen for her guidance, advice, encouragement and support, without which I would not have the confidence to complete this assignment. It has been an appalling experience writing this assignment, as I faced with time constraints and bottleneck periods. Nevertheless, advices from professor have taught me to learn to take things in my stride and view matters in positive light. Many thanks are also given to my classmates, family and friends in Singapore who cheered me on and provided me with the strength to carry on during this critical period.