Thursday, October 6, 2011

Using Storify for Synthesis Writing

One of the writing standards in the Common Core involves synthesizing information from "multiple print and digital sources" (Common Core p. 46). For most of us, that would mean research, but since the common core asks us to do synthesis writing often, it isn't feasible to do formal research projects over and over again.

We are also expected to have students write in a variety of modes, from casual to reflective to formal, and to apply this synthesis skill in those modes as well. Once again, formal research just isn't going to work.

I was introduced to a very cool website called Storify. It is a source collection site that can search a topic within social media (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, You Tube, Slideshare, etc.) and allow you to create and embed a stream of sources for your students to pull from. By simply adding your instructive text to the stream, you can assign students any type of synthesis-based writing you want.

I have already created a couple of Storify stories that are linked in this blog. My first story I was able to put together as the presenter was explaining the site; it's that easy. I had been reading a series of articles about the public derision against The Onion's satirical piece on Congress members taking children hostage and thought it was a great opportunity for discussing free speech vs. responsible speech. I now have a collection of several sources discussing two recent free-speech issues in America and have inserted discussion questions into the stream.                                                                                                  

My second Storify I created for my freshman Enlglish class. I complied several You Tube videos of songs and artwork relating to Romeo and Juliet, and have asked the students to write a reflection on the play's timelessness. Students must reference at least two sources in the stream and find an additional third source for their responses.

With Storify, you are not limited to searching only social media sites. The site has a URL importer which will allow you to embed any article or page of information you like from anywhere on the web. Its only current fallback is that it will not allow you to upload your own documents, so your instructions can't be attached, they must be on the stream itself. Since the site is still in beta, users have requested this capability, and it is being reviewed.

When you are ready to publish your Storify, you can embed it onto your class's webpage.

If you don't like to play with new technology without a tutorial, I have a quick run-down of how to operate the site below. I hope you'll have fun with it, and that you'll find several ways to apply this incredible source.

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