Digital Storytelling as a Means of Education and Formation of Spiritual and Ethical Values in Adolescence (on the Base of Classic Literature Material)



The article presents the results of the study that identifies the possibilities of applying activity technologies in education to create digital stories for the purposes of formation of spiritual and ethical values in adolescents. The study took place in March, 2023, on the basis of MBOU SOSH school No. 4 in Kashira town, 38 schoolchildren of the 7th grade aged 13-14 years old took part in it. As part of the study, during three sessions 9 cartoons were created in the stop-motion animation technique, they were based on the literary material of A.P. Chekhov. The article presents an analysis of the production process of animation products creation, it also discusses the aspects of the formation of spiritual and moral values ​​while creating cartoons. The article also focuses on the empirical data that demonstrate the peculiarities of the adolescents’ perception of joint activities when working on cartoons and according to the degree of motivation for the activity. The study proves the effectiveness of the use of practices for creating digital stories by adolescents for establishing interpersonal communication, appropriating moral and prosocial behavior patterns, developing interest in classic literature, and creative self-realization.

General Information

Keywords: drama; moral (value) education; digital storytelling; stop-motion animation; adolescents; classic literature; spiritual and moral education

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The study was financially supported by the Ministry of Education, state order No. 073-00038-23-05 "Teenage theater as an activity technology of upbringing and the formation of spiritual and moral values".

Received: 23.06.2023


For citation: Poskakalova T.A. Digital Storytelling as a Means of Education and Formation of Spiritual and Ethical Values in Adolescence (on the Base of Classic Literature Material). Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2023. Vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 177–189. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2023280411.

Full text

Digital storytelling in an educational aspect

Today, digital storytelling has become an integral educational practice in both higher education and schools [8]. In education, digital storytelling is seen as a pedagogical technology that involves delivering the content of education in the form of a story with its typical structure and components (introduction, development of events or conflicts, climax, resolution), but with a focus on digital visualization and the use of digital tools. Though digital stories can take forms of multimedia presentations, documentary films, animated videos, infographics, web publications, etc. The advantages of digital storytelling in education include its memorable narrative due to emotional impact, effective delivery of information, presentation of a large amount of material in a concise, dynamic, and visual form, stimulation of motivation for learning and individualization of education [5]. Digital storytelling is often used in school to develop ICT and communication skills, linguistic and intercultural competencies, critical and creative thinking, multimodal and functional literacy [17; 18].

Currently, it is passive storytelling that predominates in Russian pedagogical practice. It implies the teachers use of digital stories to support and visualize their explanations, simplify communication with "digital natives" or teach online. According to this approach, teachers use technology to enhance their own speech, while students are supposed to be attentive viewers and listeners[1]At the same time, it can be assumed that more effective practices involve active storytelling, when it is students themselves who become authors of stories, whereas the teacher’s role is to articulate the initial event or a problem to develop in the plot as well as to control the process of creating a story and evaluate results. In this approach, the teacher imparts not only explicit knowledge but also "hidden" knowledge - skills that are difficult to assess or distinguish but the ones that encompass a range of acquired skills (communication skills, self-regulation, reflection, logical thinking, etc.). The most convenient form of implementing active digital storytelling is through project-based work [1]. Digital storytelling projects can address one or several academic disciplines, establish interdisciplinary connections, bring together different groups, and contribute to the formation of prosocial behavior.

However, it should be noted that despite the growing interest in digital storytelling in the educational context, it is still rarely used by Russian educators as a tool for character education, particularly for the purposes of spiritual and moral values formation.

Digital storytelling and classic literature

Spiritual and moral education in secondary school not only stands for students’ integration into society, but also encompasses the formation of a communicative and empathetic personality, which is characterized by such qualities as kindness, mindfulness, responsibility, respectfulness, empathy, and willingness to help. Spiritual and moral education also aims at "realizing the moral and aesthetic value of literature". Classic literature serves as a "guide and manual" for shaping moral ideals and value orientations [3; 6; 13, p. 1321]. However, contemporary teenagers have shown a decline in interest in reading, partly due to a lack of understanding of moral ideals and orientations presented in classic literature [9, p. 253]. In addition, according to N.N. Kaznacheeva, today’s youth is characterized by “the contradiction in the formation of value orientations that causes a slow internalization of values, which leads to the phenomenon of moral infantilism that results in social immaturity” [4, p. 20]. Among the reasons why teenagers refuse to read are: the trend towards simplification, the prevalence of visual culture, the preoccupation with social media and self-presentation, the preference in reading hypermedia texts rather than classic literature texts [10; 14; 15].

To address this situation, a systematic solution is required, such as expanding a variety of educational systems and pedagogical technologies[2]. Digital storytelling could be considered as a tool to help teenagers pay attention to classic literature, analyze it from a spiritual and moral perspective, form their own value orientations as a mature and cultural personalities.

It is worth to mention that in recent years digital storytelling has been actively developed for the purposes of school literature classes. Students are encouraged to prepare essays, writers’ biographies reports, simulated interviews, virtual excursions, and book trailers (creative videos by students with reviews of the books they have read) in digital format [5]. To increase the range of active digital storytelling practices as well as to explore the ways of integrating ICT into the educational process for the spiritual and moral development of contemporary teenagers, a study was conducted as part of the project "Teenage Theater as an Activity Technology of Upbringing and the Formation of Spiritual and Moral Values". It was carried out on the basis of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research of Contemporary Childhood, MSUPE, the research objectives were:

  • studying teenagers' perception of digital storytelling as a new creative practice and experience;
  • assessing the educational potential of active digital storytelling and evaluating its role in the moral development in contemporary teenagers;
  • examining the impact of digital storytelling on teamwork within project-based activities;
  • assessing the acquisition of new digital competencies;
  • evaluating readiness for artistic reinterpretation and presentation of spiritual aspects of classic literature in digital format;
  • identifying difficulties in the process of learning digital storytelling.

Research design

The research was conducted in March, 2023, on the basis of school № 4 in Kashira town, Moscow region; 38 teenagers aged from 13 to 14 years old took part in it. The teenagers were divided into two groups:

  • unmotivated teenagers (17 students from the 7th "A" class, characterized by detachment, conflicts, weak academic achievements, lack of motivation for new types of activities);
  • motivated teenagers (21 students from the 7th "V" class, distinguished by friendly relationships within the class, high performance and involvement in school life).

During three sessions (1.5 hours each), the teenagers created 9 cartoons that were included in the final performance of the project – in the play "Who Are You, Mr. Chekhov?". After finishing the cartoons, the teenagers filled in:

  • a questionnaire "How I created a cartoon", consisting of 10 mostly open-ended questions, aimed at revealing their roles in the creative process; self-assessing contribution to the teamwork, analyzing the difficulties of realization of ideas and implementation of plans; evaluating the value of the acquired experience;
  • reflexive diaries, the purpose of which was to reveal the teenagers’ emotional attitude  to the activities on animation production, their reflexive observations of their own progress, changes in the teammates.

The results of the surveys were processed with the use of descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis.

Stop-motion animation for upbringing and educational purposes

As a literary basis and reference for digital stories the teenagers chose short stories and words of wisdom (quotes) by A.P. Chekhov, since the educational potential of his texts has been noted by researchers [6; 16]. They created cartoons in the stop-motion technique, which presents frame-by-frame animation. Its production involves sequential shooting of photographs with further montage of these photographs into a video or animated story [12]. This technique was chosen due to its simplicity. For teenagers it is both easy to understand and use for artistic self-expression, also it allows to work in groups of 3-5 students and create creative products relatively quickly. The plan of work (stages) is shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Stages of cartoon creation process with the use of stop-motion animation technique

Considering the specifics of the activities, the main criteria to assess the educational achievements and  the results of formation of  spiritual and moral values were figured out, they are [7]:

  • spiritual and moral interpretation of literary material;
  • established relationships between students and students as well as students and teachers, based on mutual understanding, respect and cooperation;
  • organization of students’ independent work (interest, motivation, consciousness, self-assessment, reflection, self-realization, self-determination and etc.);
  • students’ mutual assistance (willingness to help, patience, sensitivity, respect).

The sessions  were conducted in accordance with the indicated goals, the content of the sessions is presented in the table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of digital storytelling sessions


Goals and tasks

Content of the activities

Formed values

Session 1.

Pre-production stage

1.1. Getting acquainted with stop-motion animation.

1.2. Formulating the plot or the main idea of the cartoon.

1.3. Visualizing the plot with the use of digital storytelling technique (including the selection of means of artistic expression to enhance the morality of the story).

1.4. Conflict-free teamwork, development of patience towards others' opinions.

1.1. Self-organize into teams, choose literary material for digital story (for the unmotivated teenagers - Chekhov's quotes (words of wisdom) previously studied and discussed; for the motivated teenagers - one of the Chekhov's short stories - "Enemies", "The weakling", "The Rook", "Surgery").

1.2. Learn how to convey the text/ verbal content through a visual image - formulate the idea of a cartoon, create a brief script and a storyboard.

1.3. Distribute responsibilities among the team members.

1. Orientation on moral values and norms in situations of moral choice, with an evaluation of the characters’ behavior and actions in literary works, readiness to assess one's own behavior and actions, as well as the behavior and actions of others from the standpoint of moral and legal norms, taking into account the awareness of the consequences of actions; active rejection of antisocial actions, freedom, and personal responsibility in the context of individual and social space[3].

2. Development of moral feelings (honesty, duty, justice, parliament and friendliness), development of empathy and maintaining a positive attitude towards people, supports positive life guidelines and planning[4].

Session 2.

Production stage

2.1. Designing a situation of a moral choice for the cartoon character, the moment of his decision-making and analyzing its consequences.

2.2. Developing a critical view of the digital story, analyzing the integrity and logic cohesion of the statement.

2.3. Conflict-free teamwork, developing patience towards others' opinions.

2.1. Draw preliminary sketches, backgrounds and characters, minding their movable body parts and elaborated ideas.

2.2. Shoot the first frames/ photos of the cartoon.

2.3. Redraw, correct or finish characters (puppets) and the backgrounds if there were misfortunes and mistakes during shooting.

2.4. Shoot photos in reversible technique according to the approved plot.

2.5. Try to montage the photo-material to assess the quality and correctness of it.

2.6. Re-shoot the photo-material if necessary.

Session 3.

Post-production stage

3.1. Improving ICT competencies.

 3.2. Increasing teenagers’ unity, solidarity and social integration.

 3.3. Developing the habit of completing what has been started, training for responsibility for work outcome. .

3.1. Choose the necessary musical accompaniment or sounds.

3.2. Think up hashtags, a name of the cartoon, characters' lines, comments and subtitles.

3.3. Edit cartoons in the InShot application.

3.4. Critically assess the work done (whether moral content of the cartoon is clear).

3.5. Conclude and analyze the goal achievement. Discussion.

While teaching the sessions, the educators created and implemented the personality-developing situations: teenagers had to organize their activities without adults’ help, distribute equipment (tripods, lamps), share tools and craft materials, assign responsibilities for different types of activities and actions, formulate the moral "core" of their stories and critically assess achievements.

Analysis of the cases on creating animation

From a pedagogical point of view, spiritual and moral education is a multi-stage work. Within the framework of the process of cartoons creation, these stages included [2]:

  • formation of ideas about values ​​- analysis and discussion of literary material, inventing a plot and characters, thinking over the moral foundations for characters, their motives and etc.;
  • consolidation of values ​​in the structure of the personal value system and formation of readiness to act in accordance with them - development of effective communication in teams, formation of responsibility for task fulfillment, acting independently from teachers (self-organization), expression of empathy, helping the “lagging behind”;
  • practical activities based on previously formed values ​​- self-control of behavior, the spread of developed behavioral models to both school life and daily life.

According to the assessments by teachers, who worked with teenagers during the sessions, the project participants started experiencing difficulties already at the stage of analyzing the moral value of the literary material. Also, they couldn’t interpret the essence of what they were reading. Thus, the most active teenage team took on the making a cartoon based on the short story “Enemies” by Chekhov. This story raises the question of a doctor’s duty and responsibility. “Enemies” tells about the moral conflict between two characters, a doctor, whose only son has just died because of the illness, and his visitor, Mr. Abogin, a selfish and manipulative person.  Mr. Abogin is of a higher social status; his fake grief turns out to be a farce and mortally insults the doctor as he is suffering from the real loss. Initially, the story was perceived by teenagers only as a certain sequence of events and characters’ actions (“the external level of the story”), they justified Abogin’s actions by the fact that any doctor, whose service is paid, has to obey and do his job, neglecting his own dignity, demands and feelings. During their work on the cartoon, teenagers not only repeatedly analyzed the text of the story, but also researched the writer’s biography and letters, watched the film adaptation directed by Yu.P. Egorov (1960). As part of this work, the teenagers discussed and in collaboration interpreted such concepts as "humanity," "vulgarity," "offense," and "human cruelty," which were initially completely incomprehensible to them. The teenagers carefully worked on the story's characters, focusing attention on their motives and emotions. Such practice was useful for the teenagers as later they incorporated their experience in the final play of the project. They played themselves the episode with the doctor and his visitor on the school stage.

Besides misunderstanding the characters’ feelings and misinterpreting the essence of the moral conflicts, the teenagers also consider some moral statements (words of wisdom) incomprehensible. For example, the quote "An idle life cannot be pure" by A.P. Chekhov confused the teenagers, as they believed that the word "idle" does not have a negative connotation.  What is more, the teenagers believed that if people were resting 24/7 and enjoying pleasures, they were truly happy, though such way of living cannot be considered as meaningless or lead to harmful consequences for both individual and society. One more example of such mixing up the meanings is animated interpretation of Chehov’s quote "Life is like a flower, growing luxuriantly in the field: a goat comes, eats it and there is no flower". Teenagers again saw it as an ability to live a life joyfully and fully rather than the fragility of life and brutality of actions that can take it away in a moment. After some analysis and discussions, the team of teenagers created a cartoon, showing a person's foot stepping on a flower, struggling to grow on the meadow under the sun, and totally destroys it. This plot, in their opinion, reveals carelessness towards the surrounding world, including living nature, though they reflected the idea of the quote quite directly and failed to recognize a metaphor. Interestingly, in the teenagers’ team, worked on this quote, there were two competing leaders who could not agree with each other . However, another girl later joined them and since then all the team started working productively and managed to complete the cartoon. The situation suggests that the teenagers themselves were able to cope with instability themselves and emerge from it, showing friendliness and determination.

One more case of two boys S. and D., who used to stay apart from their classmates before the project, demonstrates the similar positive impact of participation in cartoon-making project on interpersonal communication. Their learned helplessness led to the fact that in the first session they even did not start working, as they had not had prepared for it properly, though they could not even ask for help or borrow craft materials from the classmates. They also did not dare to approach the teachers, it was difficult for them to form a request. Had discussed the problems in the second session, they finally chose the quote to work on. It was "There is no better reward than the peace paid with work", which they initially interpreted as the need to earn a lot of money to be able to relax and chill out.  As a result, the boys came up with a plot about building a public bath/sauna, where after hard work on its construction not only the builder, but also other people could have a rest. However, during the work, it turned out that the boys did not get along with drawing and cutting out operations due to underdeveloped motor skills. They were very ashamed of their inability. With the teachers’ help the boys explained the problem and asked the girl A. to join the team. Not only three of them completed the work but also became friends and now support relationships in free-of-school time.

Among other plots on a moral choice of cartoon characters in a problematic situation, the most striking one was the plot due to which teenagers help a young mother who does not have enough physical strength to drag the stroller with a newborn into the porch. This episode reflected the quote "While young, strong and full of life, do not stop doing good things". Another cartoon showed a story in which a pedestrian indifferently watches as a hooligan breaks a snowman, made by a child. As a punishment for indifference to the observed actions of bulling and injustice, the pedestrian turns into a huge black hole. The idea arose on the basis of the quote "Indifference is the paralysis of the soul and a premature death". Thus, the analysis of some animated plots confirms that the cartoon project participants after discussions and team work in the sessions demonstrated a tendency to create social advertising, reflect on their experience, develop their own pro-social behavior, which resulted in decrease in conflicts in their daily school life as a whole. In addition, personal changes in the team members were noticed by both the project participants and even those teachers who did not take part in the project but continue teaching these teenagers. For instance, Mrs Hegai, a teacher of Russian Language and Literature, noted that "the teens, involved in the project, have become more confident in answering during her lessons, their motivation for learning and self-esteem increased as well".

Adolescents' perception of digital storytelling as a form of collaborative activity

Despite the fact that, when working on cartoons, the majority of teenagers in both subsamples experienced difficulties in joint activities and communication, by the end of the sessions the greatest dynamics in establishing relationships were observed among unmotivated teenagers. In their reflective diaries not once they noted that they learned to “work in a new company”, “communicate normally with classmates”, “negotiate and come to an agreement with other guys.”

These changes were also confirmed by the empirical data. Unmotivated teenagers to a greater extent saw in the cartoon creation activities an opportunity to make friends with classmates and unite (23% of the unmotivated teenagers and only 6% of motivated teenagers) (Fig. 2). In their turn, motivated teenagers saw more opportunities for development and personal growth. Thus, they largely noted that they were able to discover new talents and interests in themselves (35% and 47% of unmotivated and motivated teenagers accordingly) and get acquainted with new creative activities (29% and 41% of unmotivated and motivated teenagers accordingly). The largest number of teenagers in both samples mentioned that, thanks to digital storytelling sessions, they were able to become better acquainted with works by Anton Chekhov (35% and 58% of unmotivated and motivated teenagers accordingly). This means that during sessions the largest number of teenagers paid attention specifically to the literary and semantic aspect of the activities.

Fig. 2. The teenagers’ assessment of the results and value of digital storytelling activities.

Reflecting on the question whether animation experience would be useful in the future, unmotivated teenagers mostly answered “I don’t know” or “it will be useful at work,” while motivated teenagers thought about more realistic prospects. They assumed that they would be able to implement their obtained knowledge “in creating projects at school”, in such classes as “Technology and Fine Arts”, “in some other creative activity”, they would also be able to “help children in the future”, etc.

In both subsamples the empirical study demonstrated a difference in teenagers’ motives and in the assessment of their  animation activities. A quarter of motivated teenagers noted that they achieved their goals and completed assignments in class, but not a single teenager from the subsample of unmotivated teenagers noted that they completed the work to the end. At the same time, the majority of unmotivated teenagers answered that they could produce cartoons (45% of the subsample) or were ready to try (22% of the subsample) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Teenagers’ attitudes towards digital storytelling classes.

Interestingly, absolutely all motivated teenagers noted that they felt passionate while working on cartoons (100%), among unmotivated teenagers this number reached 71%. At the same time, 22% of unmotivated teenagers experienced frustration and dissatisfaction with themselves, 7% of unmotivated teenagers felt fear that they would not be able to cope with working on cartoons, that they would not succeed. Also, after digital storytelling sessions, 43% of unmotivated teenagers experienced fatigue, while none of such students were found among motivated ones. Also, among motivated teenagers, a significantly larger number of project participants perceived animation activities positively and would like to develop in this direction (75%), while only 36% of unmotivated teenagers would agree to continue producing cartoons (Fig. 4).

Рic. 4. Emotional perception of activity on digital storytelling production


The received data shows that digital storytelling as a practice-oriented pedagogical technology allows to solve a wide range of tasks from establishing interpersonal relations to creative development of teenagers. The mechanism of creating digital stories not only helps to develop digital competencies, understand the moral essence of classic literature, express one's opinion and attitude towards the studied problem, but also offers a range of opportunities to reduce conflicts among peers, instill moral traits in them and make teenagers confident in their abilities. While working on digital stories, based on literary material, regardless of team cohesion and motivation, such experience contributes to the formation of spiritual and moral standards of teenage behavior and the development of their pro-social active positions. Also cartoon creation activities increase discipline in a team as well as form such personal qualities as responsibility, goodwill, sociability and meaningfulness, etc. In addition, this pedagogical technology is perceived positively by teenagers, since teenagers promote its practical application in their school and extracurricular life, using skills of digital storytelling for personal purposes (for example, for promoting themselves and their products on the Internet, developing relationships with peers, etc.). Thus, digital storytelling meets the needs of the society (for the purpose of spiritual and moral education of youth), the state (as a new pedagogical technology), and teenagers themselves (as a way of socialization and solving psychological problems specific to their age and developmental stage).

[1] Digital storytelling. Opportunity to develop skills in modern technologies, creativity and imagination URL:

[2] Order of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 996-r from May 29, 2015 “On approval of the strategy of development of education in the Russian Federation for the period until 2025.”

[3] Order of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation No. 993 from November 16, 2022 “On approval of the basic federal educational program. general education", p. 101.

[4] Order of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 996-r from May 29, 2015 “On approval of the strategy of development of education in the Russian Federation for the period until 2025.”


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Information About the Authors

Tatiana A. Poskakalova, Researcher of the Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Contemporary Childhood, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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