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Using Stacking Stories to Investigate Children’s Virtual World Play in a Primary Classroom

By: & Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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As literacy researchers, we are interested in how children make meanings using digital technologies: how they use applications on digital devices such as laptops and iPads to create and access texts, as well as how they navigate and make sense of digital environments such as virtual worlds and video games. One of our methodological challenges involves finding ways to explore relationships between what children do on-screen and what they do off-screen. We are interested in how on- and off-line activities merge and mesh, and how what happens on-screen in a particular moment is shaped both by wider social, economic and cultural factors and by individual histories, experiences and feelings. The research methods often used can lead us to draw artificial boundaries between on- and off-screen activity: like other researchers, we have used observation (sometimes with video recording) to investigate what children do around screens, and chatlogs and screen-capture to record what they do on or through them, but these methods have particular limitations. We developed the “stacking stories” approach to help us address this methodological dilemma and arrive at more complex and nuanced insights into children’s meaning making using digital technologies. In this case study, we describe this approach and illustrate what it offers. We use three stories from a project investigating children’s virtual play in a virtual world, Barnsborough. While developed for use in researching children’s meaning making in digital environments, stacking stories may also be useful in researching literacies more generally or indeed for exploring other topics.

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