Digital spatial story lines: Constructing historical contexts through geo-storytelling with archival media
This project explored how participants combined archival media with physical locations to construct narratives as a form of personal meaning making and learning about the past. The story texts, curated as tour paths through the city, were authored using digital mobile technology to produce Digital Spatial Story Lines (DSSLs) on the themes of the Civil Rights Movement and American Roots music. The main question was: does the practice of making and taking DSSL tours lead to the development of historical knowledge and understanding? This research used constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Hein, 1995; Jeffery-Clay, 1998) as a theoretical framework, which views learning as the assimilation of new knowledge into existing representations through social interactions. It also draws on Falk and Dierking’s (2008) Contextual Model of Learning in informal settings which assumes that as learners view objects in a physical setting, such as artifacts, historical locations or archival material, they make meaning from them by incorporating them into pre-existing representations which they hold in their unique personal and sociocultural context. Participants completed geo-storytelling tasks with pre-selected archival media at the beginning and end of the DSSL lesson sequence. The pre- and post-task stories were then analyzed to look for changes in the participants’ contextual understanding of historical events. Data analysis suggested that the practice of creating DSSLs allowed participants to develop historical, spatial and temporal understanding of historical locations and create personal meaning from archival material. DSSLs provide a set of activities and experiences to support the learning agenda of cultural heritage institutions, such as museums and libraries, whose mission is to educate the public using archival material. This curriculum practice builds on recent research into the affordances of using digital technology in history education (Dikkers, Martin & Coulter, 2012; Dikkers, Mathews, Litts & Holden, 2012).