Curation: Making Meaning & Adding Value


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TeachMeetNJ2012 presentation on curation: what it is, why we should think about teaching students to curate, and entry level tools to use.

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  • Curation is a buzzword that has been kicking around the business and marketing worlds for a few years now, and has started to filter down to education. We’re familiar with the term as it relates to museums, but not everyone is clear as to what it means when we talk about curation in school.
  • You may have read articles or blog posts referring to curation as “the new search”. What does that mean???
  • There’s simply too much information out there. People are less satisfied with a web search that yields millions of links to information. What they really want is either an answer or a few good resources that will help them construct their own meaning.
  • They want that information to be filtered by a trusted source—not sorted by some secret algorithm or possibly driven by advertising interests. And that’s what curators do. 
  • Maybe you’ve heard that “Curation is the New Content Creation.”An equally mysterious claim, but an interesting one.  
  • This is tied to the idea that there are no new ideas—everything’s a remix. View this great video when you have a chance: The video talks about creativity not as something that happens in a flash, like the lightbulb turning on over your head, but as something that happens only after we copy or tinker with other people’s ideas.
  • So curators are not necessarily contributing original work—they are making the ideas of other people readily available to us. But the value that they’re adding is that when ideas are combined, and people begin to make connections, and maybe look a things just a little differently—dramatic things can happen. People are inspired by and build upon the ideas of others.
  • This is a common thread throughout history. Isaac Newton had some good ideas, and he acknowledged that they weren’t completely original!   
  • so with that in mind, What is curation really? It helps to clarify What it’s notIt’s not “sharing” on social networks. That’s more of an “it’s all about me” kind of thing—what you’re doing and what you find interesting.  And it’s not building an all-encompassing collection. We saw this done especially in the early years of the web where someone would post a big long list of sites on a school website and call it “resources”. There was no discernable order, and no annotation to give you a clue what criteria the sites had to meet to make the list.
  • Curation is Content curation consists of identifying and organizing information about a topic that others have produced to share with the learning community using socially powered tools. Curation has a specific audience—and what you’re doing for that audience is helping them to make sense of a specific topic, person, event/product, etc. It involves finding information in a variety of formats from many sources, identifying subject experts, filtering, analyzing, and organizing and sharing the best pieces of content selected for a specific audience and a specific purpose. You’re not just collecting—you’re adding value. You may be blogging about it and adding your own comments and annotations—and you’re putting it out there in a forum where others can discuss it (because, remember, you had a specific audience for it). Not that this is anything new. Librarians have been doing this for years. But I’m suggesting we pass the torch to students and teach them to be curators. Why would we want to do that?
  •  If we look at any set of standards dealing with technology and information literacy, we see that this is exactly what we want students to be doing. AASL Standards…
  • ISTE Nets for Students…
  • A lot of the benefits students can gain by being curators are clear in these standards: critical thinking, evaluation of information, constructing meaning… but there are others that are just as powerful. They need to learn how to find information without relying totally on Google. They’ll need to use databases and specialized search engines. They’ll learn about different information “containers”—how is the information you’ll find in an encyclopedia different than what you can expect to find in a magazine? They’ll learn about primary and secondary sources. Hopefully they’ll compare, and question, and consider the source of the information—oh, to give credit to those sources.
  • Only in school do “subjects” fit into neat 40 minute boxes. We teach “science” by itself; we teach “social studies” by itself… but the two never overlap. In the real world, all these subjects are interconnected and topics cross disciplines. People who curate information gain a broader understanding of their topic because they are able to look at it from different perspectives. How would a scientist view the topic? How would an anthropologist look at it? Curating helps us to make connections and construct a deeper understanding of a subject.
  • We’re really teaching them how to learn. Let’s say we take a social studies class and we give them the assignment to become a curator on a current event that interests them, or maybe on some aspect of history that is underrepresented in their text book. We’re not asking them to memorize facts and be tested on them. We are asking them to construct knowledge by piecing together information in different formats from a variety of sources. This is how people make decisions and solve problems in the real world. 
  • So let’s take a quick look at some of the tools students could use to curate. There are LOTS of curating tools available. I’ve chosen to show just a few that I consider “entry level” tools. If you’re ready to stick a toe in the curation waters, or teach students to become curators, this might be good tools to begin with. Just be aware that there are many, many more.
  • First of all, we want them to have a way to save online resources they find and be able to find them again. They can save them using browser bookmarks, but then they’re only available on the computer they were using when they bookmarked them. A social bookmarking tool would be a better choice. Diigo and Delicious are both popular choices. There are some things that all of the curating tools have in common. One of them is the ability to put a bookmarklet on your toolbar to make it easy to save the sites you want to collect. The bookmarklet is just a button that you drag to your toolbar. It shouldn’t present a problem to put them on the computers at school since you are not installing anything. 
  • When you click on your bookmarklet, a window will open. Some of the information will already be populated for you. Another common feature is the ability to add “tags”– a word or phrase that describes the content of the site that will help you locate it again in your bookmarks. This is a good skill for students to learn, especially since it helps get them thinking in terms of keywords. This helps them become better searchers. We don’t want them typing entire questions into search engines– efficient searchers construct search strings using relevant keywords for better results.
  • One of the problems we run into with most of the curating sites is that in order to log in, you need an email address,Facebook account or Twitter account. This is problematic if you’re in a middle school or elementary school. A way around this is to create an account for your class and give the students the user name and password so they can add their bookmarks. Diigo (one of the social bookmarking sites) lets you create “dummy” email addresses for the students so that each student can have their own log in. For class projects, I have students all contribute to a class account, but I encourage them to create their own accounts at home so they can bookmark other sites not related to the class project.
  • This is an example of a class account. Students tag their bookmarks with words or phrases that relate to their topic and with their first name and last initial. That way, when a student clicks on their name in the tag list, they will get a list showing just the sites that they have saved.
  • At some point, kids begin to “get it”. Notice in the second paragraph of this blog post where a 7th grader notes that “Delicious really helps me and I found out that I have been helping some others that have the same artifact as me.” This gives students a sense of what it’s like to be a curator! He has also begun to think in terms of keywords and lists some of the keywords he’s been using in his searches. We’re making progress!
  • Delicious used to let you organize your bookmarks as “Delicious stacks” that showed you a thumbnail of the site you bookmarked. This feature was popular with curators, but it “went away” in the beginning of August (2012). This site, Sqworl, also offers a thumbnail of the site and allows you to add a brief description below the thumbnail. I like this, especially for younger students– it will be easy for them to recognize and return to the sites they found most useful. You can drag the thumbnails around to organize them. I’ve found the developer of this site to be very responsive to requests and suggestions, too.
  • Whilecurating sites have similar features, each one has its own strengths. This is Symbaloo. If I was working with students to help them learn to organize the sites they were curating in a way that made sense, I might choose this tool to use. In this example, which provides students with resources on the Civil Rights movement, resources for pictures show up as green tiles (with a little camera icon on them), red tiles are video clips, and orange ones are resources with information about specific events.
  • This is a video created by a 7th grader showing how she uses Symbaloo as a Personal Learning Environment. Her Symbaloo account has tiles for all of the websites and resources she uses on a daily basis. While this is not exactly the same as curation, it shows how these sites can also be used to create an individual “start page.”
  • Pinterest could also be used to curate information. You can “pin” information in many different formats– this example shows a video, a Google doc, websties, and blogs. While other people are pinning cupcake recipes and pictures of shoes, you (or your students) could be curating educational content!
  • EduClipper is a relatively new tool that is very similar to Pinterest, but designed for educational use. It’s important to recognize that although most of the curating sites were not originally created for educational use, educators who are early adopters (people like you) will figure out ways to make them work, and will work with the site’s developers to suggest ways to make them more education-friendly. It probably won’t take long for the site developers to recognize that there are educational applications for the tool, and that the education market is huge. Eventually they will roll out an education version. We’ve seen this happen with Voicethread, and with Glogster, for example. So if there is a tool you like, but there are reasons that you can’t use it with your students right now, stick with it! When the education version comes along, you will already be familiar with the tool and you will be ready to adopt it– or to defend its use to your tech people, if necessary.
  • Mentor Mob is another new curation tool. This one lets you develop “playlists”. A playlist is a step-by-step series of articles, websites, and other content. You can go through them in the order in which they were intended to be viewed by clicking on the big NEXT button near the top of the screen, or you can use the collapsible menu (shown expanded in this screenshot on the left side of the page) to see all the steps and select the one you want to view. All of the curation tools have a search feature so you can search for a topic and see the collections curators have put together (“curation is the new search”). Both Mentor Mob and EduClipper are relatively new, so there will not be that much content available yet, but it will come and you can help to build it.
  • There are many, many more curation tools. As you work to learn about topics, you want to get to know who the curators are that you should pay attention to. For the topic of curation, Robin Good is one of the most respected gurus. This is just a small piece of a Mindomo map he created that will link you to all kinds of curation tools, organized by content type. Take some time to explore and see if you can find the tool that’s perfect for your purpose.
  • Thank you!
  • Curation: Making Meaning & Adding Value

    1. Curation in the Classroom: Making Meaning & Adding Value Shayne Russell School Librarian Presentation examples Kenneth R. Olson Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ
    2. ...the new search. Spell with Flickr:
    5. ...the new content creation. Spell with Flickr:
    8. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”--Isaac Newton
    9. ...just collecting andsharing. Spell with Flickr:
    10. ...identifying and organizinginformation about a topic thatothers have produced to sharewith a learning community usingsocially powered tools. Spell with Flickr:
    11. Meeting StandardsAASL Standards for the 21stCentury Learner1. Inquire, think critically and gainknowledge2. Draw conclusions, makeinformed decisions, applyknowledge to new situations, andcreate knowledge.3. Share knowledge andparticipate ethically andproductively as members of ourdemocratic society.4. Pursue personal and aestheticgrowth.
    12. Meeting StandardsISTE Nets for Students1. Students demonstrate creativethinking, construct knowledge and developinnovative products and processes usingtechnology.2. Students use digital media and environmentsto communicate and workcollaboratively, including at a distance, tosupport individual learning and contribute to thelearning of others.3. Students apply digital tools togather, evaluate, and use information.4. Students use critical thinking skills to planand conduct research, manage projects, solveproblems, and make informed decisions using
    13. Going1 beyond Google
    14. Going 2 Seeing the Big Picture1 beyond Google
    15. Going 2 Seeing the Big Picture1 beyond Google 3 Learning how to learn
    16. Add a Bookmarklet to your Toolbar
    17. Diigo Bookmarks
    18. Diigo Student Accounts
    19. Tagging Bookmarks
    20. Example of a student blog entry
    21. Sqworl: Visual Bookmarks
    22. Symbaloo: Get Organized
    24. Pinterest as a Curation Tool
    25. Not Pinterest – it’s EduClipper
    26. Step by Step with Mentor Mob
    27. More Resources
    28. . . . powerful! examples Shayne Russell School Librarian Kenneth R. Olson Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ