Using Storify in the Classroom: A Student’s Perspective from Natalie Savoy

Natalie Savoy

MSW Student Natalie Savoy

Back in January, Dr. Jamie Mitchell from Wayne State University wrote about an assignment for her Human Behavior in the Social Environment Theory class that incorporated Storify, a social media platform that allows users to curate a digital narrative about any topic.  The assignment required students to articulate how a theory of their choosing could be applied to a real-world, under-served population or problem of interest using Storify.  As a follow-up to Dr. Mitchell’s post, I asked one her MSW students, Natalie Savoy, to share her thoughts on the assignment, what it was like to use social media in the classroom and how social media might be incorporated in her future role as a social worker.  Here are Natalie’s responses to my questions:

What was your initial reaction to using social media for an assignment in your Human Behavior in the Social Environment Theory course?

When the Storify assignment was first discussed in my theory course, I immediately knew that I wanted to explore how female athletes are sexualized, using the perspective of feminist theory.  I was surprised about doing a social media assignment because I had never imagined using anything like this in my higher education.  However, I was very excited to explore a more modernized approach to theory.  I have a genuine passion for raising awareness about the sexualized portrayal of women in the media, and I felt that this project gave me a voice to do so. This assignment allowed me the opportunity to share my views in the form of a story.  Storify is a way to engage a wide‐ranging audience who may not be familiar with social work, or with this topic, to help them learn while using a creative and interactive forum.  I was able to share this story with many others, including non‐social workers who shared my passion for the topic.

How did your reaction to the assignment change over the semester?

When I started the assignment, I was concerned about struggling to find social media sources to incorporate into my story.  My reaction changed as I began to search for sources, and found that there was more information than space in the assignment.  I really had to prioritize the various tweets, videos, and blogs I was coming across in order to meet the assignment requirements.

Since you never used Storify before, what steps did you take to learn about it and how to use the platform?

I found getting started on Storify to be uncomplicated.  It is a unique tool for organizing a collection of information from different sources and provides a fun visual experience for readers.  Dr. Mitchell provided detailed instructions in class, and links to tutorials, which I used throughout the experience.  I also viewed other stories within the site, to see the various ways in which the topic of “Women in Sports” had been presented.  I learned one  important tip for using Storify – that there are certain settings within Storify that require a user to save progress as they create a story.  I had to consciously remember to hit save each time I added a source.

How did you decide what to include in your story and what not to include?

By permitting a combination of both scholarly and social media sources in our Storify, Dr. Mitchell allowed us greater freedom and creativity to craft a story in our own voice.  I loved having an opportunity to use findings from social media within the context of a researching a topic.  Specifically, I liked using the tweets of both everyday individuals and “Twitter scholars” to understand popular opinion on a topic. I chose to use more opinions of regular Twitter users, because I felt their opinions would be more representative of general public opinion.  Although Twitter scholars (who I consider to be academics, professional bloggers/writers or public intellectuals who use twitter as a platform) have discussions on this topic, I wanted to demonstrate the ways that the “everyday” individuals perceive and express views about how women are portrayed and sexualized in sports.   I chose comments from individuals not based on the number of their followers, but who showed the wide range of opinions, describing athletic women as sexy to “masculine.”

Utilizing popular and social media for this project allowed me to include YouTube videos, tweets, blogs, and images from around the Internet into one space to tell a story about how female athletics.  I knew my use of mainstream photos of women in sports would provide powerful visual support, as each of my sources chosen portrayed them as sexual objects.

To select my social media sources that were older than six months, I utilized Topsy, a website which searches the web for social media content as far back as two years, on previously trending topics.

How does completing the Storify assignment compare with writing a paper on your topic?

I found great benefits in using Storify as a student.  I was able to make connections between other coursework and readings from the class and combine that knowledge with my topic of interest.  I would absolutely recommend the use of Storify to other students, educators, and practicing social workers.  Storify is a fun way to engage students in their learning, and allow creativity while developing a well-rounded story using a variety of sources.   This assignment was one of the first times that I genuinely enjoyed the process working on and completing a project for class.

How do you plan to use social media in your professional practice?

I recently had an opportunity to talk with adolescent girls in school and community center settings about body image. I am passionate about this topic, and I could see using Storify projects as a tool to show girls about how the media portrays women in sexualized ways.  Adolescents are often familiar and comfortable with social media.  Using a platform like Storify, I could show adolescent girls that bodies are diverse and that portrayals of women’s bodies in the media are not always fair or accurate.  This would help girl decide for themselves what beauty, power and strength looks like in women.

Click here to view Natalie’s story Woman first, athlete second

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

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