Innovative Assignment Design: Collaborating Across Departments and Campuses to Create Digital Storytelling Maps

4 Jan

For the second of our postings to share bits from the Fall Semester Innovations in Teaching Series we’re opting to share the collaborative, team-based, cross-disciplinary assignment created by Akosua Addo (School of Music, Twin Cities) and Eric Castle (Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, Crookston), who rooted their course designs to Dee Fink’s concept of significant learning, and their assignment plan to active learning practices that would effectively support students in developing specific skills, learning to learn practices, and disciplinary knowledge required for successful completion of the assignment.

Students completing the Digital Storytelling Maps assignment were enrolled either the Geographic Information Systems Applications (offered on the Crookston campus), or the Mapping Arts Play in the Twin Cities (offered on the Twin Cities campus). Together students from both classes created online, digital storytelling maps as collaborative, interdisciplinary projects designed for viewers beyond the course, especially community members who cooperated with the students in this learning project.

The instructors describe their scholarly and pedagogical motivations for collaboration as “disciplinary and research intensive. We focused on evidence of significant learning and the impact of the collaboration on teaching and learning. Despite the challenges raised students engaged in critical conversations about play spaces and how these impact stories about play. They acquired intercultural communication skills while they researched how patterns of cultural beliefs and behaviors inform play in a rich cultural community of the Twin Cities.”

We share the core course project as the heart of this posting to showcase an assignment innovation that can be adapted to a wide range of programs, courses, disciplines. You’ll find contexting information, an assignment description, assessment criteria, project samples, and links to the instructors’ follow up publication and presentation as ways to learn more about the specifics of their course design process, the development of collaborative digital projects, and their reflective assessment regarding changes they’d make in implementing the follow up version of this course.

Project Design

In their follow up article that reflectively analyzes the course development and delivery, Addo and Castle note significant learning “occurs when curricular designers construct learning environments that give students autonomy and ownership in their interpretation of learning experiences as well as provide opportunities for the sequencing and representation of learning in innovative avenues.” The author/teachers draw on Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning (see below) – rather than the more familiar Bloom’s Taxonomy – as the basis for the course and assignment design. Based on this model, a double column matrix included in the accompanying article (pages 5-6) sets out the taxonomy-specific learning aims for each course.

Fink significant learning wheel

Further, the article sets out ways in which students in the course came to “grasp disciplinary concepts in play and mapping before bringing together, re-sequencing and re-presenting their understanding of play in culture, time in interactive multidimensional mapping environments.” The authors also set out ways they developed instructional activities to support “learning how to learn and ownership, and included modeling for the learner, and coaching and scaffolding learning.”

Finally, through this process, describe, and analyze from course data, ways that learners are “empowered to conduct research, integrated theory and practice on mapping play, apply their threshold concepts and skills to develop a viable solution to the problem – mapping play that captures intercultural variation, and historical changes in context. Learners pay attention to the audience, content selected, and how they use mapping and digital story media, while they think through, question, and find ethical ways to represent projects. Actively engaged in learning, they encounter problems for which instructors use as teachable moments for modeling, coaching and scaffolding learning for significant learning.”

Collaborative Assignment

The digital interactive map with linked stories is a reflexive and recursive representation of your playtime among children or adults. The Cedar Riverside Neighborhood map highlights neighborhoods selected, and geo-spatially situated, different forms of arts play. We will use the area captured below as our starting point for developing our maps and then stories within the map.

Digital Mapping Area

You have 300-500 words to tell a story about play that is engaging. Reflect on your observations and interview. Identify the games and stories about play you would like to include on the digital map. Your digital map will require that you set the context for your observation or interview (using text, audio, images, and music to communicate something about the culture) and edit your video to capture the essence of the play event. Select video and pictures and place on the digital map with an explanation of where the picture and what is happening in the picture. Why is this play significant? Add your initials at the end of each caption.

Organize the map to highlight neighborhoods selected. When a user clicks on a neighborhood, a story or two about play in that neighborhood should emerge. Provide a short note indicating roles you played in designing the digital map.

Assessment Criteria*

  1. Relevance and Appropriateness (4 points): Is the map content relevant to the course? What is the mission and scope of the digital map? Are graphic images appropriate? Are faces of children blurred to protect their identity?
  2. Purpose (4 points): Do you provide a clear explanation of the purpose of your digital story about two arts play events, who is being interviewed, and what the story is about?
  3. Context (4 points): Do we understand the cultural context of the children’s arts play? Are images, text, music, effectively used? Are citations accurate and appropriate?
  4. Content (4 points): Is the essence of the interviewee’s arts play captured? Are we able to get a glimpse into cultural influences on play?
  5. Quality (3 points): Is your digital story visually clear, engaging, and audible? Does your story use a conversational style throughout?
  6. Credibility-citations 2 point): Are author roles of the site clearly indicated? Are citations present and sound credited?
  7. Accessibility (1 point): Is contact information provided for the map?
  8. Economy (2 points): Is the story told with exactly the right amount of detail and in time (3-4 minutes)
  9. Navigability (2 points): Is map organization simple and obvious? Do navigation bars or prompts allow users to navigate to access digital stories in different places on the map?
  10. Children’s play (4 points): Does the map…
    1. Use a variety of media and styles to effectively engage viewers?
    2. Encourage interaction between author and viewer-users or among users?
    3. Capture intercultural perspectives on play through captions?
    4. Invite critical examination or diverse perspectives by giving voice to other play perspectives in images, text and music?

*[Adapted from Gorski, P. (2000). Toward a Multicultural Approach for Evaluating Educational Web Sites. Multicultural Perspectives, 2(3) 44-48, and Catherine Solheim’s digital story grading rubric for FSoS 3104 Global and Diverse Families.]

Project Samples

Presenters’ Resources

Article – Addo & Castle. “A Cross-Institutional Ethnographic Project: Mapping Play in Intercultural Communities.” Higher Education Studies 5.1 (2015): 1-19.

Video of Presentation – the presentation follows an introduction, running between minutes 8 – 34 at (The link will take you to a starter page for loading a video; from here, click on Playback or Download to view the presentation.)


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