Storify for Essay Drafting

Photo Credit: Aeioux via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Aeioux via Compfight cc

In my workshop on Curation Tools, I work up from ones that work almost automatically ( to ones that require more attention or curation (Pinterest,,, finally to Storify, which while it could be used simply to aggregate resources on a topic as more or less a list with commentary, it is more valuable as long form writing with embedded resources. Sometimes I’m not even sure I should include it in the category of curation tools, except for the ease in which you can collect and add your resources, and as with the other tools in the workshop, the ability to add commentary by both the author and readers. In addition, the resulting story can be revised, so it is not a static object.

As the name suggests, Storify invites writers to write a narrative, the form of most academic writing, whether about literature, history, business, or science. Yes, reports can be considered a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. In this workshop, as in my digital storytelling workshop, I spend some time persuading the audience that the term story has broader connotations today and does not always imply fiction.

Here’s an example of a story about how a curation tool like Storify might be used to illustrate to students how their sources look in relation to the amount of original text that they are writing and prevent plagiarism: [a Storify cannot currently be embedded in, so come back, please]

As my Storify example shows, I relied too much on my sources to speak and did not do enough of my own writing, even though I have revised it a couple of times to add a little more text. Of course academic writing in different fields will have different requirements for the ratio of original writing to cited sources, but the visualization of sources in a Storify document makes that ratio easier to see than in a traditional word processing document. The Storify format made it very clear to me that I need to put more of me into the essay.

I think this tool would be great in a first-year research writing course as a place for students to draft to see how they are using sources. Most recently, I have relied on plagiarism detectors, like Turnitin and SafeAssign, to reveal to students how they are using sources, and whether they are using them with correct attribution. I don’t use the tools to catch students committing intentional plagiarism, but to help them identify accidental plagiarism and fix it. But I want students to think about more than plagiarism when they are writing. Storify would present their work in a visual format that shows exactly what is theirs and what belongs to a source, and as in my example above, where they need to add more original writing. Links and Tweets and videos and embedded documents come to life in Storify and cannot be sneaked in under the cover of just more text. Here’s a better example of a lengthy and thorough essay done by a faculty member in English that I know:

Finally, Storify is yet another tool for getting our students to do some real writing for real audiences. I think that motivation that someone out there in the real world will read it is the best motivation to do it right. You might be willing to cheat the teacher, but are you willing to put plagiarized material out on the web for everyone to see? I hope not. And Storify makes that harder to do.

Categories: digital storytelling, technology

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