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Twitter & Storify in the Classroom

Sharing ideas and online resources for using Twitter, Storify and other social media in the classroom -- and aiming to teach journalism students how to build and tell better stories and narratives using tweets, images, videos, etc.


  1. Disclosure No. 1: This semester will be my fourth teaching journalism, specifically, newswriting and digital storytelling, to college students after a 22-year reporting career.

    Disclosure No. 2: While having a Twitter account since 2009, I only began tweeting regularly in late May, after attending a seminar for journalism educators called "Teaching the Craft of Writing (in the Age of Twitter)" at the Poynter Institute in Florida.

    Seminar leader Kelly McBride suggested I tweet twice a day to get comfortable with Twitter. Also, guest lecturer Simran Sethi showed us how her students had used Storify, the social media publishing platform, to preserve and present their service-learning experience.

    Since then, I have spent my summer seeking ways to use Twitter and Storify in the classroom. Newsroom executives have made it clear that college journalism graduates must be proficient with social media to get hired these days. What follows are just a few resources and examples to help my fellow journalism educators better prepare students for what lies ahead.
  2. I truly hope Twitter helps my students' writing as much as it has helped Mallary Jean Tenore. As she writes in her recent column, having to make your point in 140 characters teaches you to write succinctly and with confidence. It teaches you to consider what your audience wants, the value of capturing reaction and what it's like to be among other writers. It also offers a chance to write with humor and sarcasm, something I've never felt comfortable doing.

  3. In recent months, both Twitter and Facebook unveiled pages on their vast platforms specifically for journalists and newsrooms. Here are some other sources for resources and ideas for educators: The Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers, 5 Unique Uses of Twitter in the Classroom, Twitter for Journalists, Facebook Journalism 101 for College Media, 8 Useful Tips to Become Successful With Twitter and 99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications.

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  5. Remember, I first heard about Storify -- and its capacity for letting people collect and filter content from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Google, RSS feeds and other websites -- in May. A month later, aiming to satisfy a graduate-school assignment, I created my first Storify, about the much-anticipated second encounter between the Rev. Al Sharpton and Cornel West. The reaction from friends and others surprised me. "How did you do it?" "How did you choose which tweets to use?" "Can you do a webinar about it?"

    Within a couple of weeks, I did Storifys on how my wife and I spent our Fourth of July cleaning out her parents' home, and on a solo journalist offering tips about video journalism. The next week, I was back at Poynter for its Teachapalooza conference, doing a 10-minute show-and-share that co-organizer Al Tompkins titled "Using Twitter and Storify for Good Not Evil."

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  8. Since then, I have done two more Storifys -- capturing the week-long visit of my niece and her best friend from Georgia, and recounting a panel discussion on personal online branding. Amazing that some consider me a master at something I have only executed now six times. Happy to help whomever asks and looking forward to teaching my students the tool ASAP.

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  10. Storify recently won a grand prize for journalism innovation, with the judges saying it "inspires others to challenge the way they've been telling stories." In sharing how newsrooms and journalists are using Storify, Mark S. Luckie wrote that it "makes collecting and displaying web content in a timeline format incredibly easy." Zombie Journalism calls it "easy multimedia for even the most technologically challenged journalist" while offering 10 ways they can use the tool, and Poynter tells how Storify's best uses turns news into conversations. These articles also provide journalism students and teachers options for classroom study or execution.

  11. In this its first year, Storify has been used to tell such significant stories as the death of Osama bin Laden, resignations of Ellen Weiss and Rep. Anthony WeinerCasey Anthony's verdict, President Obama's Twitter Town Hall, and both the royal wedding and riots in Great Britain.

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  13. This item caught my attention because of newswriting assignments I give.

  14. My students have written 500-word stories about major occasions ranging from the Declaration of Independence to President Kennedy's inaugural address to Princess Diana's eulogy to Obama's "Yes, We Can" speech. They typically get one to two hours to finish. These days, competition and the Web require journalists to rattle off updates much more quickly. Using Twitter -- specifically live tweeting as the YouTube video plays on the classroom screen -- will help move my students toward the six outcomes cited in Tenore's column above.

    Here are a few other ideas, in addition to all those presented in the weblinks shared above, I'm considering for this semester:

    * Having my students live tweet when we have guest speakers in class, in hopes that more learning and interaction will happen.

    * Having each student live tweet from events outside of class, then using classmates' tweets to create Storifys with text, images, videos, weblinks -- whatever helps best tell the story.

    * Having them tweet three things learned each session before leaving class.

    * Having each student add their own Twitter feeds to their class blogs.

    * Having them follow a media company's Twitter feed -- and or maybe that of an entertainer, business titan, political leader or professional athlete -- to study how it impacts branding.

  15. Finally, George Daniels offers us balanced caution concerning the use of Twitter and even Storify in the classroom. Teaching Twitter requires time and it works best in a skills-oriented class, he writes. His concerns are duly noted, but journalism students must learn to use social media effectively in order to find work in a newsroom. My hope is they will come to value Twitter and Storify faster and more willingly than they do The Associated Press Stylebook.