photo of row of computersBridget Gelms is a guest author and PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at Miami University. You can follow her on Twitter @BridgetGelms where she tweets about her teaching as well as her research interests, which include pedagogy, digital writing, and pop culture.

I love a good Breaking Bad gif. So when one of my students used one during a research activity, I couldn’t help but publicly nerd out a little. This happened on a day when my students used Storify to cull information related to their research projects. Here at GradHacker, we’ve previously highlighted digital technologies that can be used in our teaching, like GoogleDocs and WordPress. Another tool you may want on your radar this semester is Storify.


What is Storify?

Self-described as a curation tool, Storify allows users to search various places around the web and incorporate anything they find into a Storify story. It’s almost like one-stop shopping with all of the internet at your disposal. When my students were in the beginning stages of a research project, I asked them to use it to explore the conversation surrounding their topic. We spent about 5 minutes setting up accounts (it’s free and signing up is quick) before I walked them through the drag-and-drop interface. They compiled news articles, tweets, Facebook posts, sound bites, YouTube videos, images… anything that had to do with their research was fair game. After about 20-25 minutes of exploring, my students published their stories and shared the link with the rest of the class for our discussion, and the opportunity to talk about their topic informally was a fun way to introduce research (hence the Breaking Bad gif in my student’s Storify story about science education). While this is just one way to incorporate Storify in your classroom, I see potential for other ways as well.

Other Possible Uses for Students

Research Logs: Storify can be instrumental in organizing sources. If it’s online and public, it can be incorporated into a Storify story. This is especially beneficial for students who are working with a lot of online material. Plus, sources can be annotated directly in the Storify interface. In this way, I am able to see how students are interpreting information in their own words and access their curated elements directly from Storify.

Informal Writing: While it’s awesome for collecting existing information, original writing can be made the central focus of a Storify story. Composing reading responses and reflections using Storify gives students the option to create intertextual, multimodal documents where they can interact and engage with the material. In my own class, we returned to their Storify stories later in the research process to talk about audience and what their readers might expect to learn about the topic. Students annotated images and social media that reflected what their readers might expect or value, describing how, perhaps, it related to their audience.

Presentation Tool: Storify is public, shareable, and easily accessed on the web, making it great for in-class presentations for both students and instructors. On more than one occasion, I’ve used several YouTube videos in my lesson plan. Rather than taking five minutes before class to pull up each individual video in separate tabs in my web browser, I’ve simply created a Storify that included all of the videos I needed for class. All I had to do was pull up my Storify to access them all in one place. Steph Hedge’s post on teaching with twitter describes how Storify might also be used to compile student tweets about a common reading or video for a later discussion.

Some Drawbacks

The free version works well in a general sense, but don’t expect much in terms of design options (for instance, there is only one choice of font), and only paying users can set their Storify stories to private. I recommend making students aware of this before they begin working. Also, only items that are online and publicly accessible can be incorporated. So, for example, multimedia housed on a student’s hard drive isn’t usable because it’s not online (although Storify can sync with various social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram for instant access to personal multimedia). Furthermore, some of my students lamented they weren’t able to incorporate articles from our library’s databases because that information isn’t publicly accessible—another important drawback to keep in mind, especially when you get to later stages of research projects.

With that said, Storify has functioned in multiple ways for my teaching, and if you’re looking to shake up your approach to research, presentations, or in-class writing, this might be a good place to start.

Have you used Storify before, as a teacher or a student? How has it been useful to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

[Image by Flickr user Missoula Public Library used under creative commons licensing.]


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