Storify: Changing the way we tell stories

While technology is often used for getting work done and staying organised, sometimes the most interesting tools are those that lead us to new ways of doing things. The digital storytelling tool Storify definitely falls into that category. 

Storify allows for the creation of stories using a range of different elements. It can grab content such as pictures and video from many websites and also allows for text to be added. Perhaps the element that sets Storify apart is that tweets and public Facebook posts can also be added to a story. These elements are gathered together in a ‘storypad’ and can then be dragged into the story timeline (on the left of the screen). Have a look here for a quick demonstration of how it works. The great thing about Storify is that all content is linked backed to its original source.

Add  elements by searching in the storypad and then dragging into the story.

Storify has become a popular tool for recording reactions to news stories and current events because of the ability to add tweets to stories. It is also perfect for summing up professional learning events, like this example here of a recent SLAV conference. As YouTube videos can also be added it’s a nice way to put together a series of tutorial videos or screenshots. In fact, all of the tutorials featured on Bright Ideas are built in this way using Storify. You can follow our Storify account to stay up to date with new tutorials. Storify stories can also be easily embedded into your blog or website and there is an iPad app with a nice interface (though I’d recommend building long stories on your computer as I’ve found the app has crashed on me in the past).

Elements can be imported from a range of sources. You can also search Google or use the link icon to manually add content.

Storify also has applications in the classroom. It could be used to create digital stories with pictures sourced from around the web. It would also be perfect for recounts of events such as excursions; particularly if students are also tweeting during the day or taking pictures and video. The linear nature of the story also lends itself to procedural writing, or it could be a nice way for students to present research projects.

Being able to bring in social media elements also means that Storify could be perfect for issues analysis. Students could link to annotated articles and news stories, but also include analysis of tweets by those involved or those observing. It would also be perfect for media analysis of shows which generate buzz on Twitter, like Q & A or Big Brother (that’s the first time those two shows have been mentioned in the same breath!).

Storify has been around for a little while now and a recent redesign means it is well worth exploring. The editor is great fun to use and the wide range of media that it can import lends itself to a number of exciting possibilities.

Automate your Dropbox with Wappwolf

Wappwolf is a free service which connects with your Dropbox or Google Drive account and lets you set automated tasks. It has a number of useful features and is a handy way to automate many time consuming tasks such as file conversions or basic image editing. In particular it works very well when it comes to converting audio, e-book or picture files, which can then be saved back into your Dropbox folder, uploaded to Google Drive and Evernote or emailed automatically to an address you define. Because of the excellent integration with Dropbox these automations could be particularly useful for getting student work off an iPad or other mobile device.

Wappwolf works in similar fashion to If This Then That which we featured earlier this year. You can select a folder in your Dropbox that Wappwolf will watch. As soon as a new file is added to that folder the task you have defined will begin. There are a wide range of tasks that Wappwolf can complete. You can convert files, edit an image, turn a text file into a PDF or upload a picture to your Twitter or Facebook account. You don’t even need to have a computer running as all of the automation is done in the cloud.

As an example, you could set Wappwolf to watch a folder in your Dropbox and as soon as you add a picture to that folder it could be converted to black and white and then sent to Evernote. Or you could create an automation that automatically sends any picture you save in a folder to your Grandmother!  A free Wappwolf account lets you define up to 10 different automations.

Here are some of the automation options available:

For audio files: Convert to MP3, WAV or MP4

For picture files:  Stamp a logo on an image, Convert to black and white, Upload to Flickr

For documents: Convert to PDF, Convert ebook, Send to Kindle, Upload to Google Drive

An example action from Wappwolf. This action stamps a logo on to an image and saves it back to Dropbox.

There are many other options available for Dropbox and also options for Facebook, Google Drive or Box. The best way to understand the range of options is to explore Wappwolf’s features, so have a look at our guide to getting started and see how you can use Wappwolf to make you life easier.

Should we be teaching Facebook?

Today’s post comes from a new regular contributor to Bright Ideas, Tony Richards.

What an interesting week we have just had in relation to movements around cyber safety. Recently we saw splashed across the traditional media a principal’s ultimatum to students and parents “Quit Facebook or be expelled, school says”. The headlines play on the social stigma of expulsion and the dreaded boogie man that is Facebook.

I am sure there is much more to this story that meets the eye but what frustrates me and should concern other educators is the lack of clear understanding that is shown by educational leaders, along with the fear mongering cyber safety experts that get their media ego fix and pump up the tyres of fear around social networks. Yes Facebook has lots of issues and challenges for our children and adults alike, however social networks are here to stay.

We need to change the model and educate our children around why some of these tools are not the best option for communicating, sharing or playing games. The responsibilities one takes on when creating a social networking presence has some profound implications if you choose to ignore or plead ignorance around privacy, friends, comments and all the other components associated with these networks.

We must start to provide social tools at school within the educational environment that students can engage in so that we can model, explore, test, bend and experience connectivity at this level and what it means to operate successfully online.

I find it extremely interesting that one of the great misunderstandings about social networks, especially the larger social networking sites, is that the 13 and over rule found in the Terms of Service (ToS) is based on the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). This act and the law behind it is to enforce privacy restriction on the site owners. As stated in the news article by a Melbourne based lawyer “the Facebook guideline that stipulated users must be aged 13 and older was not enforced by any law.”

When children sign up under the age of 13 in Australia they are breaking the terms of service of the site. Facebook has the onus to ensure that children under the age of 13 don’t sign up, which begs the question, “How do you enforce such a situation?” The stark reality is that you can’t.

The recommendations from some sections of the media around reporting your children to Facebook and getting their account deactivated and cancelled is certainly one step. From my experience working with thousands of students each year if students want to have access then they will get it. If parents or the school have taken these types of steps to remove them then all our children will do is take it underground where you will have no opportunity to help or support them. You will have no credible way to have smart, honest conversations about what they should and should not share.

I am not advocating children breaking the ToS, but I am advocating talking about the challenges, the risks, the complications and the moral question around being part of a service when clearly they should not. We have to talk and listen to our students and we have to help them grow and develop online.

If I were teaching in a class this topic and that media headline would be the foundation of a week’s worth of discussion around the use of Facebook. Why are students on it, what is the draw, why does the media react in such a way and what could have possibly tipped a principal over the edge like this? The headline “Quit Facebook or be expelled” is screaming out for an impromptu debate, preferably with another school using a collaborative tool like Skype to highlight the power of the environment we all access.

What will you be talking about this week with your students around cyber smarts?

Tony has listed a range of cybersafety resources at his blog and he is available to present Online Smart sessions to students, parents, teachers, community organisations and business around successfully navigating social networks and the internet. You can find all of  Tony’s contact details on his profile page, or find him on Twitter @itmadesimple. Let us know what you think about the post in the comments or, quite fittingly, on our Facebook page.


Permission slip

Those of you who follow the Victorian Police Twitter account may have noticed over the weekend an odd tweet about a magical weight loss technique. Most followers would have picked up straight away that the tweet was from someone who had gained unauthorised access to the Victorian Police account and the police moved quickly to inform followers and delete the tweet. (You can read more in this article about the tweet, with obligatory donut reference.) To see an official and trusted account accessed in this way is a timely reminder of the importance of keeping your accounts protected.

We’ve probably all received strange tweets or emails from our contacts, usually with a message that “This user is saying nasty rumours about you” or “I saw this photo of you and I’m laughing so hard” with a link to a malicious site. Because so many tweets share links using URL shortening services it can be difficult to see if a link is trustworthy just by looking at the address. Our tip would be to only open links from trusted sources, and make sure they have some context provided rather than just a general message like “I saw this site and thought of you”.

Twitter in particular seems susceptible to the problem, possibly because of the ability to connect a number of third party applications to your Twitter account. Being able to log in to different services using your Twitter account is very handy, meaning you don’t have to remember multiple passwords and making it easier to share links with one click. But the side effect can be that you are handing over partial control of your account. When you authorise an external service to access your account make sure that you read what the service will be able to do, and only authorise if you feel comfortable and trust the service.

Even if you have given permission to access your account, you still have the power to revoke access to an external service at any time. In order to secure your account and not see your followers or friends spammed with annoying or dangerous messages, we recommend doing a bit of housekeeping. Have a look at the services linked to your accounts and revoke permission to any that you aren’t using anymore or don’t trust.

To help you out, we’ve put together guides below to revoking external access to the three main accounts that you might use; Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Guide to revoking access to your Twitter account

Guide to revoking access to your Facebook account

Guide to revoking access to your Google account

PLN update – week five

As Victorian teachers enjoy a well-earned holiday, many participants in this year’s Personal Learning Network course are instead taking to Twitter, adding widgets to blogs, and pondering issues of digital citizenship.

As many readers of Bright Ideas know only too well, the first few weeks of the PLN course can be bewildering and sometimes a little scary, as people are faced with new terminology, concepts, tools and seemingly endless numbers of new accounts and passwords.

Happily, there’s plenty of support available from the ongoing PLN community, especially on Twitter through the #VicPLN hashtag – if you don’t use it yourself, check  it out. You don’t need to be Victorian to get benefit from the constant stream of resources, links and ideas from teacher librarians and educators at every level.

You’re also welcome to join in the discussion on our facebook group.


Privacy in networked publics

RMIT’s School of Media and Communication recently hosted a talk by Dr. danah boyd, an influential researcher into the way young people make use of social media and technology. The talk, which is available for download,  was a fascinating insight into danah’s work with young people. danah explored the ways teens make use of social media and their attitudes to privacy in what are essentially public spaces.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of danah’s talk was the concept of teens ‘hiding in plain sight’. Teens used to socialise at shopping centres and malls, but now much of their socialising and ‘social grooming’ happens online. To many teens sharing is an important aspect of staying connected with their friends and danah’s interviews expose the very different attitudes that teens can have to privacy.

Interestingly, danah has found that although teenagers may share publicly on sites such as Facebook, this doesn’t always mean they expect this information to be viewed or commented on by everyone (particularly their parents or teachers). Several of danah’s interview subjects revealed ingenious ways of using both structural tricks or codes to protect their privacy whilst still sharing with their friends.  If we think back to our own childhoods, many of us probably used similar tricks to communicate with our friends when older people were around. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

To find out more about danah’s work (including the reason for her lower case name) visit her website, or follow her blog. In a time where the media often resort to scaremongering when exploring how young people use social media, danah’s research provides some balance to this very important discussion.


Penny Bentley’s blog

Penny Bentley began blogging earlier this year. Like a duck taking to water, Penny has found blogging an excellent way of sharing, learning and reflecting. She explains the process:

Earlier this year I signed up for a 12 week, online professional development program. As a teacher of secondary maths and science I have an interest in finding new ways to engage and motivate students. Well, the VicPLN program was eye opening, challenging and arguably the best PD I have ever done.

I used to consider social media, like Facebook, to be a waste of time. Something my kids use instead of doing more important things, like homework. Well, things have changed. I am a blogger, I use twitter, Facebook and many other applications on the web. My blog, CLOUD9 started out as an online record of my journey through the VicPLN program. I blogged about my reading, new discoveries, frustrations and thoughts about classroom applications. I was able to display media such as images, slide shows, video and audio. CLOUD 9 started to feel like my personal place on the web.

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One of the best features of blogging is the authentic audience. Every time I made a post there was feedback, support and encouragement. I started to develop confidence in my ability to use technology, to create amazing things and to put myself out there in cyberspace. By the end of the program I was hooked, I could see the enormous potential for student engagement.

So, my desire to blog didn’t end with the PD. For a while the web felt like a lonely place, I missed my daily feedback and interaction.  There was a need to rethink the purpose of CLOUD9. It was important for me to enjoy blogging, to provide information that is educational and useful to teachers, to make smaller but more frequent posts and to have feedback. I decided to continue blogging about useful web tools, games, virtual excursions and any other application that may be useful in the classroom. CLOUD9 will provide bite sized professional development for teachers, with a taste of maths and science.

An unexpected outcome of blogging is that now I have a record of my 2010 professional development. I am beginning to view my blog as a digital portfolio of skills and achievements; it’s like an alternative to the dusty filing cabinet.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own blog, Penny is an excellent example to follow. Well done Penny!

Virtual revolution: how the net shapes us

Have you been watching the SBS documentary? Airing on Tuesday evenings, there are two more episodes to go in the series.

Over four themed episodes that criss-cross the globe, journalist and academic Dr Aleks Krotoski explores the meaning of a phenomenon that is transforming everything from how we learn to how we shop, vote and make friends. The series reveals astonishing facts about how the web is rewiring our society, our economy and – drawing on a unique experiment conducted specifically for the series – maybe even our brains.

The series brings together everyone who’s anyone on the web – from its inventor Tim Berners-Lee to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; from Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; from web pioneers like Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to digital media barons like Arianna Huffington and Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.

If you have missed any episodes, they are accessible online (for Australians at least, unsure about access overseas.) And you can read the full synopsis here.

This series is a must see for anyone involved in education.

Historical Facebook

Recently edtech guru Richard Byrne wrote about a way to encourage students to research using the concept of Facebook. By creating a faux Facebook account for a person of interest, students need to research that person and try to bring their personality to life. Derrick Waddell has developed a template that any teacher can freely use.

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To read the entire post, click here.

Note: Students will NOT set up a Facebook account, this is merely a template based on the Facebook concept and layout.

The State Library of Victoria Education Services have also alerted me to an interactive way for teachers to bring Shakespeare to life for their students. Sarah Schmelling created this Facebook page for Hamlet:

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Again, Facebook does not have to be used for this unit, but using the template above, students could create new Shakespearean scenes, scenarios, characters or plays, update the play they are studying or develop conversations between characters.

A great way to bring history to life for our students using a format they are familiar with.

OLMC on Twitter

Our Lady of Mercy College Heidelberg has a library Twitter account.

We also set up a twitter account which was linked to the facebook page.  This was an attempt to tackle the facebook conundrum directly and to see if, as educators we can communicate through our students’ choice of social media.  After a year of working to inform teachers of the potential of Web 2.0 in learning and assessment, I also wanted to look at my own area and how we could utilise these tools.
Teacher librarian Michael Jongen explains how the need to tweet came about.
At OLMC Library we have been using Twitter to try to engage and communicate with students.  We use it to promote events like Book Week, Readers Cup and new books as well as good web links. Previously it was linked to the OLMC Library Facebook page which meant that I could place links, news etc onto Face Book and it would also be uploaded to Twitter.  Now that we have a closed group Facebook page this can no longer be done and I have to post separately to Twitter.
I feel that the initial enthusiasm shown by students to Twitter has evaporated and that they are back to Facebook which seems to meet their needs.  While I feel it is a great tool for educators I feel it is not so important with the young who seem to be enamoured with Facebook.  I will still use
Twitter to promote but will focus on Facebook.
Interestingly Head of Library Tricia Sweeney and I are using the school’s intranet portal to promote much more.  Filters enable us to target Year levels so we can target our message much more effectively.

It is really worthwhile to give some new communication methods a trial, so well done to the OLMC library team!