4 ways journalism educators are using Storify as a teaching tool

More and more news sites have been using Storify to capture reaction and highlight interesting discussions taking place on social networks. And journalism educators have also started using it — to create multimedia course content, organize handouts and teach students how to curate social media.

The tool, which lets users pull together content from various social networks to tell stories, is a one-stop Web publishing shop for even the most technophobic educator.

To organize readings, create handouts

Simply put, you can use Storify to gather up all those “must-read” Web links (which, let’s face it, never get read) and organize them. Like many educators, I use Storify to develop reporting and editing assignments in the classes I teach at Hofstra University. By using Storify, I’ve transformed my out-of-control Instapaper account into topic-specific handouts that I can distribute electronically.

For example, I created this Storify handout to introduce students to making a basic Web news video.

Here’s an example of a Storify I created for my class.

Storify, which recently unveiled a new interface, has helped me develop a system. This is only my third semester teaching and it’s been a lesson in barely controlled chaos. I had posts on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instapaper and Google Reader. I had links just about everywhere there is a “Save,” “Share” or “TLDR,” button.

I had piles of un-filed virtual clippings and paperwork. The more I taught, the more links I collected and posted, to the point where the information became truly unmanageable. I tried WordPress and Tumblr but they didn’t solve the problem. Storify, however, did.

Next semester, all my course content will be published in themed Storify handouts. Each element will include narrative, curated links and embedded multimedia. Students will be able to move through the items without leaving the page.

Other educators are using Storify this way as well.

Jamie Cohen, who teaches new media at Molloy College in New York, uses Storify to create “vignettes” of recent media history by curating YouTube clips, articles and Flickr images.

Cohen told me he’s a big fan of organizing multimedia content in one place: “That way, students always have access to the examples and assigned reading on each topic.”

To teach students to curate social media

Often, I’ll assign a current affairs topic and then have my students create stories built around the sources and information they find through Storify. Robert Quigley, who teaches multimedia journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, also uses Storify this way. He requires students to create a Storify about their specific beat topic and says students are often surprised by how much work is involved in curating social media.

“It’s a journalism skill that needs to be learned,” he said by phone. “Otherwise it’s just a bunch of social media comments.”

Quigley wishes Storify had been around longer when he was at the Austin Statesman. “I was embedding code, pasting links, taking screen grabs and doing this the hard way,” he said. “Storify is a new way to do an old thing.”

Paul Mihailidis of Emerson College said via email that Storify is more than just pulling in bits and pieces of information online.

“It’s multimedia storytelling that can redefine how we think about organizing information, ideas, and identities. In the classroom it helps us to understand curation as a habit of our everyday lives online,” he said. “Storify has helped my students see the purpose, value and real opportunities in crafting trans-media stories as a natural way to report in a hypermedia age.”

To help students gain credibility, exposure

Leslie-Jean Thornton of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, says her students have embraced Storify without reservation. “Within hours of my introducing it,” she said, “students were Storifying, unbidden, all on their own and posting the results to our shared class hashtag.”

The tool, she said via email, has given students a way to be noticed on a global platform.

“If they get in on an active hashtag and start contributing smart material, the chance they’ll be picked up and included in someone’s Storify, which then becomes an archive of sorts, is very good. It’s a way to establish an online presence and credibility.”

Thornton is working with her students on “a huge project — making the Census come alive through multimedia reporting.” Her students, she said, are currently examining ways to incorporate Storify curations into the mix: “There are so many things we could consider, including replies to questions we put out there in social media as a crowdsource technique, and searches in image and video banks.”

Storify co-founder Burt Herman has seen many classrooms experimenting with Storify. There’s a clear benefit for journalism instructors, he said via email, because Storify “always keeps attribution and makes sure proper sources are credited.” This goes a long way toward preventing plagiarism and copyright issues.

“Given the natural inclination of younger people toward social media, many of them get it right away and embrace the new form of storytelling,” Herman said. The Storify folks created a Storify earlier this week that shows how two student journalists used Storify to report on the Occupy Wall Street crackdown.

“We think professors and teachers can actually do more to encourage students to cover major stories, not just the issues on campus,” Herman said. “We’ve seen many students do great work on major news, because they are skilled at finding the best material from social media.”

For more insight, check out this Storify I created on how to use Storify for journalism education.

Correction: This story originally misspelled Leslie-Jean Thornton’s name.

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