Part 2: Beyond Tweets
I needed a way to take my students beyond the simplistic, but creative tweets, and delve into some serious higher-order thinking with Macbeth. Analysis of the tweets might just do the trick. We were focused on characterization in this unit and studying Macbeth provides a number of interesting characters: Macbeth’s fall from power, Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness, Banquo’s perfect foil, Malcom’s growing maturity. I thought my students could snap a screen shot of their tweet and then write their analysis in Word or Google Docs, but somehow that seemed to be an inelegant and cumbersome solution. I wanted something more seamless and less likely for my students to struggle with the steps in the process. The work and the struggle should be with the analysis not the construction of the project.
I am currently researching to create a broadcast/multimedia journalism class. Storify.com had come to my attention because of its use by journalists. Some major news outlets like CNN, The Washington Post, ABC News, The Guardian, and CBS News use it to aggregate and curate images and tweets from far flung sources on a single news story like this one about Hurricane Sandy from CNN or this example from Skift.com about Anthony Bourdain’s trip to Libya post-revolution. If well constructed, the final story, or storify, can provide an interesting and diverse picture of an event or place. I did not want the tweets or images to be from widespread sources. The tweets would be from our students alone and with nearly 3,800 there would be plenty of tweets to select from.
I could see the potential. With Storify I could easily group together the tweets from each of my three classes reading Macbeth for each scene. Yet there were still problems with my plan. A little quick math put that at 21 separate “storifys” for Act I alone (with one per scene per class). This solution was still too labor intensive on my part. I would still have to score several hundred tweets for each act of the play, and I was without a rubric or a clear idea of what I should be scoring for in a tweet. Also it still lacked the serious analysis component I wanted to include.
After looking elsewhere for a solution, I came back to Storify again. I noted that the blocks of text that could accompany each tweet were not limited in length. In journalistic “Storifys” these blocks of text are necessarily brief; however, without length limits my students could write in depth. This freedom would give them the time to develop their ideas and dig deeper. I was nearly there.
So I created an assignment which would be completed at the end of each act with the analytic depth I wanted and tried to complete it myself. My first attempt was too complex as I required the student to analyze all of their tweets. That equated to seven paragraphs per student just for Act I. Despite this setback I could clearly see the power of this novel approach.
The students would compose an analysis of their tweets and the tweets of their peers. What was the point of view of the tweet? How does the tweet represent the traits of the character at this point in the play? How does the tweet illustrate what the character knows or is thinking about? Suddenly the doors were open! The students could reply to each other’s tweets as the characters or ask questions of each other as the characters, and then analyze their replies!
The tweet was no longer the end of the intellectual conversation.