Sunday, April 26, 2015

PowerPoint and Storify Projects In Your Classroom:

In lieu of there being two blog posts this week, I will try to keep this post short and to the point.

Rorabaugh and Stommel’s journal entry, “How to Storify. Why to Storify,” promotes integrating social media into the classroom in the form of social stories.  Rorabaugh and Stommel seem to think that social media has a unique place in the classroom, and that students can learn from social media trends when they are linearly related.  The aims of storifying are, “bringing together media scattered across the Web into a coherent narrative.” This narrative is then to be read and analyzed in the classroom.  Storifying, “takes the glorious chaos of dynamic interaction and makes it contained and linear.”  I could see storifying being useful in applying literary works to current events.  For instance you could read a novel about the civil rights movement such as, To Kill A Mockingbird, and storify the various #blacklivesmatter hash tag posts from twitter and Facebook, as well as eNews articles written on police violence against African American citizens.   You could then apply the themes and social issues from a novel written almost 75 years ago to American current events in American society today.  The only issue I anticipate with incorporating storifying into a classroom, is that it might be difficult for an educator to see why a social story may be relevant to their curriculum and educators might have some difficulties creatively assimilating social stories or “storifying” their curriculum. On one hand social stories may lend to making the curriculum relevant to students today through cultural modeling, but I’m not sure how “storifying” social media would really be more valuable to students than other more conventional technologies in the classroom. Rorabaugh and Stommel’s article does a good job of explaining what storifying is and what it should do, but they don’t really explain how using a linear model of social media stories may or may not apply to current content standards, or how it would enhance an ELA curriculum.  How do you see the ability to storify being useful in an ELA classroom?  Do you think storifying would make content more relatable to student’s lives, thus making them more interested in the novels being read in your classroom?  Would you use storifying in your class? 

            Juxtaposed to this is Edward Tufte’s, “PowerPoint is Evil.” From Tufte’s strong feelings on PowerPoint, “degrad(ing) the quality and credibility of communication.”  I feel that it’s safe to say, Tufte would not be a fan of storifying anything in the classroom.  Tufte seems to be an advocate of good old fashioned written reports “using sentences.”  He finds the use of PowerPoint in the classroom “particularly disturbing,” and if he can’t find value in presenting main points of the text free from extraneous details, I can’t see him supporting studying linear models of twitter posts.  Having used PowerPoint in school since the seventh or eighth grade, I can attest to how useful it is across curricular subjects.  PowerPoint is particularly useful for students who are not strong language learners, especially ELL students and students with disabilities.  PowerPoint allows for students to learn and demonstrate their content mastery in ways besides the traditional text reports using sentences.  I definitely recognize the importance of teaching and using sentences in the classroom but PowerPoint is engaging and an effective instructional tool through its images and media as well as its bullet pointed “main points,” for those students who struggle with language.  What are your thoughts on the role of PowerPoint in the classroom?  Have you ever considered negatives when using PowerPoint in an ELA classroom?  What do you think of Tufte’s argument, was it substantiated?

Finally, in Tufte’s article he states that, “When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships.”  I’m not sure if "information stacked in time," means when information is stacked in a “linear relationship” way (exactly like storify is) that it is difficult to understand?  If so, this would seem to make him completely opposed to storifying in the classroom.  Do you think Tufte would be as opposed to storifying as he is to PowerPoint? 


  1. These are two great readings to juxtapose here, Marisa. You provide great summaries of each, while also explaining their relationship to one another. I agree with you completely that Tufte would be opposed to Storify, particularly because it creates a static narrative out of the dynamism of communication. I think Tufte goes too far in his essay, but I also think he is trying to be hyperbolic to get his point across. In fact, I found it fascinating how quick most all of you were in Annotation Studio to defend PowerPoint. While I mostly agree with your objections, I do think Tufte makes some important points about how PowerPoint gets used. It is indeed a problem that such slide ware often eliminates context, privileges format over content, and requires linearity. That said, I would argue that teaching is a narrative act, despite Freire's objections. This is not to say that all teaching should be following the "banking concept" of education, but one of the main roles of the teacher is to organize/package/structure the learning experience for the student. In many cases, this leads to a "storification" of the curriculum. In other words, when I teach a course like the survey of British literature, I am essentially telling a story about British literature by virtue of the course texts I select, the order in which I teach them, and their relationship to each other. I never claim that my version of this British literature story is the best one, just that it is one. There are many others who might tell a different story, one that adds voices or narrative lines that I excluded. This is why I think PowerPoint has such a hold on educators. It provides a medium for the narrative of a course.

  2. Hello Marisa--I think you raise some interesting points and incorporate both readings splendidly.

    While I certainly agreed with Tufte in the moment--hard not to when your trying to digest what he is arguing for and against--I found points where I found his ideas to be, well, narrow-minded. Sure, a PowerPoint, as Alex points out, forces us to condense our ideas and to exalt the layout of information and images over in-depth analysis. However, that is the point of a PowerPoint: to synthesize information in the quickest manner possible and to still have information you need to communicate (we all know how boring it is to see a presentation where the presenter uses a PowerPoint that they simply read off of rather than extend or use as guiding points. I think this is also true of the "storifying" assignments: you use the tools you have to extend or as guiding points, and if social media is a tool that can help students extend their ability to understand a complex text, especially a text set in a period of time that they only read about but have not experienced, then why not use these tools? Now where I draw the line is using the tools as the primary method of educating students. As educators/future educators we will all struggle with creating assignments that blend both the literary and current trends, but you'd be surprised what can be done to meet the standards you are concerned about. Surprisingly, the standards can be incorporated into any assignment, but I would recommend starting with designing the assignment and then considering the standards you think best address the assignment and the needs of your students.

  3. I think that Rorabaugh and Stommel's "Storify" is a great idea, and as Samantha says, could easily be incorporated into the state standards. What I love about Storify is that it shows a communication that goes in many directions, like our ones in nondigital places, while also showing how ideas can progress. I think the sort of wandering path (not necessarily trying to harken back to "The Garden...") shown in Storify would help students draw connections easily, and help them draw meaning to the conversation. It also can combine the visuals and links that might make us get diverted from a narrative. However, at the same time, finding these diversions can help students draw meaning as well. What would be nice about Storify in the classroom is that everyone in your class could add to the story using informational text (if we want to get closer to the CC) that they found and that are meaningful to them. It would allow all students to take part in the formation of the story, and everyone would easily be able to reference it. As for PowerPoint, I have to agree that the slides could help the presenter form a narrative and engage the viewers. However, Tufte makes it seem like it is only there to present information overload. I don't think this is necessarily true to all PPs. It depends on how you use it.

  4. Thank you for the making great connection between the two readings, Marisa!
    When I was reading Rorabaugh and Stommel's "Storify", I was quite inspired by the idea. It sounds like an advanced version of PowerPoint, incorporating various aspects including social media like Twitter and Facebook. It does engage more voices in a “conversation” thus break the traditional narrative line in the classroom. I agree with you that the “storification” of a curriculum may be hard for an educator, for it seems that the process not only takes time and effort, but asks for ideas and imagination. But if we, as Brian says, try to invite our students to complete the storification together with us, they may feel motivated. Given the chance, I might try a little bit of storification in my class.

    As for Tufte’s critique on PowerPoint, although my gut reaction is to strongly oppose to every word he writes, I have to admit that he is partially right. As a means of visual aid, it has to be viewer-friendly, which means creators have to pay attention to the format of the slides. I have teachers who merely put paragraphs on the slides, which, of course, makes me dizzy. The golden rule of using PowerPoint, as far as I am concerned, is to balance your content with format, to make it information-loaded and also good-looking. Also, I agree with Alex that “teaching is a narrative act”, that what we are trying to teach is not the definite interpretation, but a possible one. We want to inspire our students by our own narrative in order to have them generate their own understanding.

  5. Great post, Marisa! Comparing these two texts is extremely interesting for the manner in which they present two sides of the argument. Tufte was extremely vehement in his treatment of Power Point, and there is no denying that he does have valid concerns, even if I feel he is blowing them out of proportion. I do believe he’d react the same way to Storify if only by virtue of the chance it might enable users to use it as a crutch. Tufte seems to fear that manner of presentation tools taking over the classroom, but I’ve only ever seen it used to enhance it—badly on occasion, but not enough to swear it off forever. Many of Tufte’s concerns could be addressed if students and presenters were shown how to frame their information in a format like Storify and PP.

  6. Thanks for the post, very interesting. I do see a benefit to storifying in the classroom, specifically in the writing classroom. Storifying does more than other social technologies in acting, not just as a way of presenting information, but as a way of finding a thread through many different thoughts, conversations, or stories. In this way the student who is using the program is forced, not to re-post this information, but to consider what a way is of tying this information together. This is also the task of the writer, and this is the task that we are asking our students to do when they write. When a student composes, she must take many different sources and consider what common thread can draw elements together that represent the student’s own ideas. Assigning a storify project to a class will help them to practice this skill without their being confused by the language or ideas of a writer. It is, however, important to make the students aware of what ability they have learned in preforming this exercise; in this way the ability may transfer to writing.

    I think Tufte might not, in fact, oppose storify. The distinction I see between storify and PowerPoint is, as Tufte says, “the standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content.” I strongly agree with this claim. As both a PowerPoint presenter and observer, it has been my experience that I am rarely unaware that I am watching a PowerPoint presentation, as they are too often filled with distracting transitions and unnecessary sounds. Perhaps PowerPoint has a place in education as proficiency in it is expected for most jobs. This place, however, may be in a business preparedness class of some sort, and not in the composition classroom. I think Tufte would see storify as something different; it relies on content for cohesion.

  7. Thanks, Marisa! This is a great comparison of two of the pieces that we read for homework this week. Although I am still on the fence about the use of social media in the classroom, I like the example that you give about using trending hashtags alongside literature. This is an innovative way to provide the students with context, and show how these issues are still relevant today. I have to wonder, however, if it’s necessary to seek out social media for this. I don’t think anyone could argue that students would respond well to an assignment like this, because it involves one of their favorite outlets, social media, and it shows them how this media can be useful and more productive than they probably realize. So a part of me thinks it’s almost necessary to bring social media into the classroom whether we like it or not to promote its benefits, and push students to use it for a greater purpose. On the other hand, I think an assignment like this should also involve other news outlets or other types of media because social media is already so prominent in their lives. I guess I don’t see the harm in trying it, and I’ve heard a lot of great examples of the role social media can play in the classroom, some of which we’ve discussed this semester, I just can’t help but think it sometimes forces students to make connections , rather than letting them make them on their own. I think overall though, with both “storyfying” and PP, it depends on how we teach it, rather than the tool itself. Neither is necessarily good nor bad, and I guess the only way to find out what works, like a lot of the technology we’ve talked about, is through trial and error.

  8. I find the most problematic aspect of Storify’s self description to be this line: “We are building the story layer above social networks, to amplify the voices that matter.” This is a troubling claimand it seems to work against some of the awesome things we talked about when we discussed Kim and “The Rules of Twitter (specifically regarding the multiplicity of voices being given a platform to speak and be heard). So who deicides which voices to amplify?

    Of course that is the choice of the user, and I like how Rorabaugh and Stommel attend to the importance of these acts of curation in their section second tip “stage.” They write: “Curating material for a Storify involves taking a position, because you’re deciding what should and should not be included; however, it’s also important to make that position transparent and to offer some (even if minimal) introduction to the materials you’re collecting.”

    I really like the idea of introducing this concept to students of making their position transparent — I think Tufte would be one board with this idea of transparency. I found Tufte’s piece quite compelling and it made me wonder about the problems and reasons for PP’s overwhelming ubiquity in the classroom. I like Alex’s idea about the need to narrativize in the classroom in connection to PP but certainly we can do this without PP, perhaps more effectively. As I mentioned in Annotation Studio, my big gripe with PP is that it seems to eclipse (in my own teaching experience) the instructor’s more nuanced narration, distilling students attention down to a few bullet points, to scrawled down in a notebook, to be looked upon with confusion later. The “bullet points” are meaningless acontextually and yet students seem to assume they are the most important, the answers. Instead of distilling information onto a slide, which students often take notes from, perhaps we should be narrating without PP, having a conversation with students, and to letting them choose the metaphorical bullet points, or what’s most important/meaningful to them.

  9. Thanks for your post Marisa! It was very interesting how you juxtaposed the two readings. I definitely think you are right that Tufte would not be a fan of Storify, as both formats seem to focus on organizing a linear path through what might otherwise be more dynamic or wide ranging content. As I mentioned in my comments in Annotation Studio, I do feel some concern about how PP is sometimes used in the classroom, as I do not think that it easily lends itself to deep and thoughtful engagement with content. Which is not to say that it couldn’t serve a purpose or be useful in certain ways. I think my concern is mostly based on cases where I have seen PP offered as an alternative or stand-in for a fully developed essay. I do think that PP could be useful as an outlining tool, similar to how some students might use a graphic organizer. It is obviously important for students to learn how to organize their thoughts in advance of writing, and I could see PP being useful for that kind of an exercise. For example students could have one PP page per essay paragraph – they could outline their thesis on the first page, and then have a page for each of their evidence paragraphs where they fill in their topic sentence and then bullet points (the dreaded bullet points!) with the quotes that they want to use to support their argument, then a page for the conclusion mapping out key points. While I would not want to present this as a REPLACEMENT for a writing assignment, it could be a useful intermediary assignment for students who are preparing to write a more formal essay. As much as I understand Tufte’s resistance to how PP encourages us to boil our ideas down to bullet points, it is important for students to be able to organize their thoughts, and to summarize and abbreviate their language so that they can present their thoughts clearly and concisely. Using PP as an organizing tool could offer some good practice in these skills. Like all of the tools that we have discussed in this class, everything comes down to our own responsibility to use PP thoughtfully and not be distracted by the functionality or lack thereof. We need to use these tools to elevate and enhance our students’ learning, and not let the tail (technology) wag the dog (content).

  10. Thank you for your post, Marisa. I have to admit going through the article on Storify that I didn't quite understand it or it's use pedagogically to being any different than how we attempt to make narrative our of our own tweets with the hashtag we use in the weeks that we annotate text on Twitter, It's interesting in reading how the Storify website has been updated since this article has been written and it was sold to another company, that the syntax around the site seemed to deal less with the idea of creating a social media narrative and more with being a social media curator, two terms I believe have very different meanings and implications for how the thing is being used.

    I think Tufte makes many salient points about how we've grown to use Power Point and how it could possibly be received, but find trouble in his large scale dismal of it as a useful tool in which to engage and present to our students. I do think it's important that as we use these tools, we do attempt to stay innovative in the ways we use them, less they turn into the sort of marketing meeting template he notes in his essay. I think his wholesale dismissal of using charts and data in these presentations is pretty off base, but that his point that using these sorts of things in presentation should be useful and not simple garnish for the educational meal we are trying to lay out. As Alex noted, while Tufte seems largely hyperbolic in his overall message, there are a lot of truths to parse out in the essay.

  11. Marisa,
    Great post! I wouldn’t have thought to compare Tufte and Rorabaugh & Stommell, so this really got me thinkin’!

    To re-present some of the ideas I tossed around on Annotation Studio, I can definitely appreciate Tufte’s perspective. Even as a regular user of Power Point, I can see that the program has some serious pitfalls – such as the ever-impending threat of information-overload. At my school there are a few teachers who have the reputation of relying too heavily on their slideshows, with lessons being less about student engagement and more about throwing as many factoids at the students as possible. As result, many students become disinterested and uninvolved., preferring instead to review the slides (which are available online) on their own time as they prepare for the paper/quiz/assessment.

    I’m not really sure why this ends up happening --- Tufte seems to think it’s an inherent flaw of the program, and he may be right. But given the fact that there are plenty of Power Point users who continue to captivate their audiences, it doesn’t seem to be a hard/fast rule but just a trend. I personally think that the TMI-per-slide may be a result of presenters who’re concerned about omitting something important and/or hesitant to present without a note-by-note supplement. Perhaps, as Tiril suggests, “Tufte’s concerns could be addressed if students and presenters were whown how to frame their information…”

    As far as Storify is concerned, I definitely think it could be interesting to have students use it in class. However, I think that the best use of it would as a means of exploring the idea that no individual will craft the same exact narrative, even if attempting to grapple with the same basic scenario/topic. When I taught Creative Writing, I used to do an assignment about narratives with multiple narrators which encouraged students to look at a single event from multiple perspectives. To get them started, I would spend the first half of a class acting outlandishly (walking in with a fake mustache, speaking greeting students in Spanish, playing loud music out of nowhere, handing out cards with different quotations on them, et cetera). At a certain point, I’d have all the students do their best to write down every detail of the class thus far, and afterwards we’d compare the narratives. I’m thinking that Storify might be a great means of conveying this same idea – especially for an especially media-conscious class like Journalism.


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