Every day we face new influxes on information – in our email inbox, on our Facebook page, in our Tweetstream, in feeds for blogs that we subscribe to, in discussion forums, and just the stuff we stumble upon while surfing the internet. As busy people, it is often at precisely the wrong time that we find that fascinating article, or when we are looking for something else that we discover a great resource for the future. Keeping track of all of this digital information is important – we all know how quickly our time is sapped away while searching online. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that are easy to use, and which we can use to manage our digital information, so that we can virtually ‘file’ and share with others the quality articles, resources and media to be easily drawn upon again, or to be read at a later, more suitable time.
This blog post therefore focuses upon what is becoming known as ‘content curation’.
Traditionally the term curator refers to someone who looked after objects in a museum exhibition. Nowadays, many of us are curators of the knowledge that we find online, using tools to shape and organise this information around themes or topics, gathering together in one place these randomly placed discoveries. However, Beth Kantor, in her excellent primer on content curation hastens to add that being a quality content curator is more than simply aggregating links – content curators, like museum curators, choose the quality pieces connected by a meaningful theme, create a context for presenting them and organise and possibly annotate or extend upon them to them in order to maximise value for others.
Why should teachers and teacher librarians develop their content curation skills?
Content curation has always occurred in schools – resources were always gathered around the topic of teaching, in order to support and extend student understandings. The difference is that in the past, this consisted of gathering ‘hard’ content – books, posters, newspapers, kits etc (and these were usually gathered together by the teacher librarian, the leading content curator in the school). Nowadays, the teacher librarian and teachers not only have access to these resources, but also to a huge range of digital resources – many of which provide fantastic, engaging learning opportunities for today’s students. In addition, content curation is very central to education – as Beth Kantor states,
Curation is all about helping your audience dive in and make sense of a specific topic, issue, event or news story. It is about collecting, but it is also about explaining, illustrating, bringing in different points of view and updating the view as it changes. (Kantor, 2012)
It’s a pretty pithy summary of what an educator does on a daily basis.
So what do you need to know about content curation? Here are some tools that you will find useful. You do not need to use all of them. What is evident in many articles is that content curation is often done ‘on the fly’, so use the tools that best fit in with the flow of your day. For example, if you already use Twitter quite a bit, you may prefer to use Storify. If you have multiple year levels to manage, you might find Diigo lists a useful feature. If reading blog posts and other social media in a magazine style layout suits you, you may choose Flipboard for your iPad, or Scoopit.
The best part about content curation is the ability to easily create beautiful looking and interactive resources around topics students and teachers need access to. This is particularly useful if students are researching topics where quality information is difficult to find, or to support students who spend too much time being overwhelmed by the quantity of information and not enough time actually creating their response. Curation tools help to cut through the noise, and promote direct access to quality information.
In addition, students should also work on developing their curation skills. Being able to quickly and critically evaluate a range of information sources is a vital research skill, which is of growing importance when considering the huge amount of information accessible.
So here are 6 of the best content curation tools currently available. Check them out, have a play with each of them and decide which ones best suit your information management needs.
1. Storify: Create a story around a topic being discussed on Social Media
Storify allows you to search a range of social media (with Twitter being used most commonly) to create a newspaper style document with tweets, photos or videos that can be saved to read later, or shared among others. Storify is particularly useful if you are following a particular hash tag (for example if you know of a conference going on) and you wish to record all of the tweets posted by participants, but can’t view them all as they are posted. You can nominate to save all tweets with that hash tag, then go back later to read what was said. Here is an example of a Storify which captures a professional conversation which took place on Twitter. Take a tour of Storify.
2. Diigo – Social bookmarking and more
I have written previously on the power of Diigo for saving, organising and annotating websites, and for making them available to others. Without doubt Diigo is a powerful social bookmarking tool, and a must have in the toolkit for any contemporary teacher.
3. Flipboard – Create a personalised magazine on your iPad
Flipboard allows you to import your blog subscriptions, Twitter account, Facebook account and many other interesting web publications into a unique iPad interface which ‘flips’ like the pages of a magazine. Each page is tiled, and with a tap on the screen, enlarges so that you can read the entire article, still in the magazine style layout. Flipboard is fabulous for when you want to gather together and browse multiple web sources, and allows you to quickly flick through and find particular articles of interest.
4. Scoopit – Curating articles from social media and online sources
Scoopit is a growing curation tool that gives you a number of different ways to collect information. You can connect your social media accounts, scoop items directly from the web as you discover them or draw them from a list of suggested scoops based upon keywords which you nominate. Without doubt this last feature is a fabulous time-saver, as many interesting articles are provided for you to scoop onto your page without having to go searching for them. You can also rescoop from other members pages. Once you have scooped articles, you can also add your own comments onto them, making this tool particularly powerful for directing students to specific parts of pages or sections of material. To get an idea of how Scoopit could work for you, have a look at Gwyneth Jones’ page, the Daring Library Ed Tech Scoopit.
5. Pearltrees – building visual mind-maps of resources
Pearltrees is a visually beautiful tool, which allows you to store your digital resources as pearls, which are connected together in a mind-map format. It’s simple click and drag interface means it is very simple to organise your pearls into trees. You can also work with others to co-curate on a topic, which is useful if a group of teachers are all working on a similar topic. Another interesting aspect of pearl trees is the ability to scroll through the pages you have ‘pearled’; this makes it easier for younger students to select the weblink that they want. You can see this feature in the video below:
6. Pinterest – a digital pinboard
Pinterest has grown exponentially since it was launched, and very quick and easy to use. The open nature of Pinterest means that it is possibly more suited for teachers or older students, as there is no way to limit access to just particular boards. Despite this, many teachers are finding it a very simple way to collect great classroom ideas for later inspiration. The best way to start is to find some pinners who have similar interests to you, and follow their boards. You can repin their pins, as well as add your own pins from pages you like on the internet. Add value by writing a short description so others know what the image links to. To get an idea of how Pinterest works, check out one of my boards on mobile learning.
The most important thing to remember is that these tools are meant to assist the management of the flow of information. Use them as part of your work, not as an additional task which must be done. If it isn’t quick and easy, try something different – the beauty of having so many tools is that there truly is something for everyone!
Make a resolution to choose one content curation tool to manage your information in 2013- and at the end of the year, you will be amazed by how much you have collected!
Kantor, B. (2012, July 13). NTEN Webinar Reflections and Resources: The Unanticipated Benefits of Content Curation. Beth’s Blog. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.bethkanter.org/nten-curation/