Making the most of your conference – Twitter and the Tweetstream

By Kay Oddone.

Conferences are exciting – groups of like-minded professionals, gathered together to network and hear experts share their wisdom, sometimes in far-away locales and always with too much food.

However, conferences are also expensive, and in some ways, a leftover from days before the internet brought us all together with the ability to connect across time and space. A traditional conference presentation is generally a passive, one-way experience – the presenter speaks and the audience listens. As so many people have gathered, hands on activities are difficult to manage, and the limited time-frame of a conference means that pre or post interactivity may be limited.

We’ve all been a faceless delegate at a huge conference… flickr photo shared by richard.scott1952 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Twitter (and other similar micro-blogging tools) has changed this. Inviting participants to share with a conference hashtag via a Twitter back-channel at a conference opens a multi-way conversation for a much richer experience. Using a conference hashtag,  conference delegates (and even those who can’t physically attend) have a way to discuss their responses to speakers,  inspirations and the resources presented at the sessions they attend. Here’s an example of how one person can curate a massive amount of information shared online from a Conference.

But wait…I hear you say “a conference what-tag via a Twitter which-channel??” The lingo of Twitter can be confusing for the uninitiated, and may be a reason why at so many conferences, this powerful tool is under-utilised. So let me explain.

By now most people are aware of Twitter and the increasing number of people using it as a professional development and networking tool. One of the most useful elements of Twitter is the hashtag; a user-generated term, which, when preceded by the # hash symbol becomes a key word that enables users to search and gather together similarly themed tweets. When a conference has a hashtag (such as #sxsw or #edutech15) participants can post tweets that reflect what the speaker is saying, share resources or communicate their inspirations and responses, and ‘link’ these with other delegates by including the hashtag in their 140 characters.

These tweets form the conference ‘back-channel‘ – the discussion between the delegates (and speakers!) that goes on even while the session is taking place. The back channel has always existed (and exists in every classroom or lecture hall) – it is the whispered asides, the notes passed between friends, and the aha moments noted down – but the power of Twitter means that everyone can now benefit from these perspectives, and even those who can’t be there physically can still take part, discovering new interpretations and adding to the conversation.

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

If you are a conference delegate, sharing your notes via Twitter means that you are more likely to connect with other participants (you may notice someone else also tweeting and make plans to meet up) and you are also sharing the conference more broadly with your twitter followers. This can also result in fantastic networking opportunities.

Keeping track during a conference can be overwhelming, especially if lots of delegates are rapidly sharing. A tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps manage this fast flow of information. These tools allow you to separate the various information ‘streams’ coming in to your Twitter stream across a series of columns; you can follow the conference hashtag in one column, tweets that have been sent to you in another (enabling you to easily conduct a twitter conversation while keeping an eye on the rest of the conference tweets) and a third column devoted to all other tweets. Essentially, these apps provide a ‘dashboard’ experience, so you can stay on top of your social media while it is coming at you from all angles! There is even scope for scheduling tweets, so you can set a specific time to ‘tweet’ (such as to promote your session 10 minutes before it starts, or to tweet resources 5 minutes before the end of a workshop).  Having trouble choosing which to use? This article is a simple summary of the best of both.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to 'separate' out the streams you receive in Twitter.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to ‘separate’ out the streams you receive in Twitter. Click to view a larger image.

In addition, once the conference is complete, you can use a tool such as Storify to collate all of the useful tweets into one place for re-reading after the event. This is better than note-taking, because not only do you capture your own thoughts and observations, you also can draw upon any of the other participants’ tweets for a very rich reflective piece on what was shared.

An example of a conference that I have ‘storified’ is below; click on the image to go directly to the story to explore further:

Click to read this Storify in full.

Click to read this Storify in full.

Storify is easy to use. You can log in using your Twitter details, and then simply create a heading and subheading. Then drag the relevant tweets (or just add them all) from the column in the side, which you have identified by searching using the hashtag. You can also search across other social media as well as add text and images, so you can make your Story as rich as you would like. Here’s how:

The conference organiser perspective:

If you are a conference organiser, having a Twitter hashtag is also a great way to advertise the conference and promote it to others. Before, during and after the event, tweets that capture the spirit of the conference and share what delegates are likely to experience and take away from the event will draw new interest, and tweets that delegates make during the conference may entice those who couldn’t attend to plan for next year’s event. Tweets like this are fantastic promotion:

tweet to catch upHow do you make your tweetstream come alive during the conference? Consider these tips in your planning:

  1. Create a short, meaningful hashtag that hasn’t been used before:
    Tweets are 140 characters, so don’t take up characters with a long hashtag (that is also likely to be harder to remember and slower to type!). Select one that is meaningful and related to the conference (and if you are likely to repeat the conference consider keeping the same tag, and suffixing it with the year e.g. #edutech15). Before announcing the hashtag, do a search to make sure it is not already in use – you don’t want irrelevant and unrelated tweets cluttering your stream!

sign up

2.Promote the hashtag well:
Nothing kills a backchannel like hashtag confusion. Label all booklets, posters, fliers and all web presence with the hashtag, so that people can begin to use it even when preparing for the event. Embedding the tweetstream on the conference website also builds excitement, as delegates and those considering attending see the hashtag in use and read about others they might meet at the conference.

3.Consider a TwitterTeam:
Create a team of delegates or organisers who will lead the tweetstream. Having regular tweets (preferably with a range of media such as photos or videos attached) can capture the flavour of the conference, encourage others to tweet and retweet quality observations already being shared. If they are happy to wear one, perhaps consider giving them badges so that others who need technical advice might know who to chat to at the conference.

4.Provide Twitter 101 and a Tweet-Up
Not everyone comes to a conference as a Twitter expert, however many might like to participate if they only knew how. Providing a simple tutorial prior to the conference or in the conference paraphernalia encourages those who are keen to try Twitter, without having to ask others for help (which they may find uncomfortable). Also, give those who are tweeting the opportunity to meet in person, by choosing a time for a Tweet-up during the conference, where all those who have been networking online can meet up in person. This takes the best of the digital world and connects it with the real world for a win win experience! Something like this simple interactive image might be all participants need to become familar with the Twitter interface.

5.Display the tweets during the conference
Not everyone will be twitter savvy, but everyone can benefit from a public display of the tweets being shared. Apps such as Twitterfall or Visible Tweets make it easy to display on the big screen what others are sharing. Simply type in the conference hashtag and watch the tweets appear! These apps are free, and simply convert the tweets to a more public view; if you want more control (say at a student conference, where it is possible that inappropriate tweets may be shared) paid apps such as Tweetbeam (which also has a free option) allow you to moderate tweets before they are displayed, and give you more control over the way the tweets appear.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

So the next conference you attend or organise, why not take advantage of the power of Twitter to create a much richer experience for everyone. Promote, share, network, question and connect – all the things a good conference aims to achieve!

Like this info?  Click the image below for a printable handout that might be useful to distribute and share.

bring your conference alive with twitter (1)


What does it all Meme? The whys and wherefores of a modern communication phenomenon.

See more on Know Your Meme

By Kay Oddone.

An internet meme is that thing that everyone is talking about. The blue/gold dress. Charlie bit my finger. LOLCats. Some of the most well known internet memes are the image with a pithy quote overlaid. They can be in turns hilariously funny, insightful or just crude, however they are a contemporary form of communication which many young people seem to instinctively ‘get’ and which leave many adults feeling like they are missing the joke.

The term meme was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, as a way of using evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena such as melodies, catchphrases or fashion. These small units of culture were spread through imitation and innovation upon an original idea – a spread that is similar to a virus, as they go through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success.

The meme above, known as ‘One does not simply’ is a good example. Drawn from a quote from The Lord of the Rings, where the character Boromir makes the quote “One does not simply walk into Mordor”.

The meme spread across sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur, with variations firstly on the word walk –

See more on Know Your Meme


See more on Know Your Meme


and became so well known it was included as an Easter Egg on Google Maps:

Now, the phrase “one does not simply” is well known enough that memes such as the one shared at the beginning of this post can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, with an underlying understanding of the context – that whatever is being suggested is no simple matter.

It is this rich intertextuality that makes memes both worthwhile, yet challenging. One must know the context of the initial post before the meme truly makes sense, but if the shared understanding is strong enough, the meme becomes a powerful and viral mode of communication.

Internet memes, and their viral spread, are an example of participatory culture, as the reproduction, imitation and re-interpretation of these nuggets of society are practices which have become a huge part of contemporary digital culture. In fact, Limor Shifman, in her text Memes in Digital Culture goes so far as to say that we live in an era driven by a hypermemetic logic, where almost every major public event sprouts a stream of memes. He argues that although at first glance they appear to be trivial pieces of pop culture, upon deeper reflection one sees that they play an integral part in some of the defining events of the 21st century.

Limor Shifman also takes the time to define internet memes differently to the original concept of a single cultural unit as described by Dawkins. Her definition describes an internet memes  as

(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance; (b) that were created with awareness of each other; and (c) were circulated, imitated, and transformed via the internet by multiple users. –

So why do educators need to be aware of memes and their role in communicating culture? They don’t. Educators don’t NEED to be aware of memes, anymore than they must play Minecraft or read Twilight. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider taking the time to think about memes and how they might play a role in teaching – particularly of older students.

Reason One: Engagement

It is true – memes are fun. They can be playful, humorous and, well, there is a reason they spread so quickly. Select use of memes can hook students in, and challenging students to create a meme actually demands higher order thinking at a level students often are not required to meet. The need to not only respond to a context, but respond creatively and concisely is difficult, and the most successful internet memes are often actually very clever. This is not to say all memes are clever; like everything online, there are many in poor taste, and with little depth. However an example of inferential comprehension required to understand a meme is evident with the popular ‘Soon’ meme:

See more on Know Your Meme

What appears to be an innocent cow in a field is rendered threatening by the simple addition of the word ‘Soon’…why is this so?

Reason Two: Information Literacy

Dr Alec Couros argues that the digital participatory culture within which students communicate, socialise and learn provides essential opportunities for information literacy, and suggests that memes are a powerful way of discussing many different aspects of this literacy. He begins by suggesting that students examine memes with a view to understanding how information travels and is distributed online. The viral nature of memes means that whether by merit, messenger or manipulation, a chunk of information/culture/art may be spread via networks at an astonishingly fast pace. Students who understand this are not only more likely to be aware of their responsibilities when sharing online, but are also more prepared for a world where marketing is pervasive.

Reason Three: Critical understanding of current world events

The Australian controversy with our previous Federal Parliamentary speaker is a very recent example of current events becoming a viral meme (helicopters anyone?).

See more on Know Your Meme

One which we can examine with the benefit of hindsight is below:

See more on Know Your Meme

In a hypermemetic world, it is completely possible that current events filter into our Facebook feed as a meme before we even realise the deeper story behind them. A case in point is the Pepper Spray Cop (also known as “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop”) –
See more on Know Your Meme

which went viral after the image of a police officer casually pepper spraying a group of Occupy protesters at the University of California  was captured in 2011.
See more on Know Your Meme

The image was photoshopped into a variety of contexts, which enflamed what was already a very tense political situation, and when the police officer’s contact details were made public online, he was the target of a huge text and email campaign critiquing his actions. This meme influenced news reports, customer reviews of pepper spray available for sale on Amazon and spawned songs and videos. The repercussions of this single (questionable) action resulted in the resignation of the police chief and the loss of the police officers job, as well as compensation claims and legal suits. The full detail of this meme can be read on Know Your Meme, however it is clear that a much larger and more serious story lies behind what many probably thought was a humorous internet joke.

Internet memes are an interpretation of the fad joke that has always been there, however with the power of the crowd and the potential to manipulate and remix in the hands of so many, they have become a much larger part of internet and general culture. It is important to be aware of the complexity behind many of these simple jokes (and be able to enjoy the ones that are indeed just simple jokes).

Have you taught using Memes? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments!



Couros, A. (n.d.). open thinking [Blog]. Retrieved 11 August 2015, from
Gladwell, M. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Back Bay Books.
Internet Meme Database | Know Your Meme. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 August 2015, from
Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.


#Edutechau – Report from the 2015 Edutech Conference

This is why we must have events like Edutech.

The Edutech Conference is the largest of its kind in Australia. Over 1000 delegates, participating in streams reaching broadly across the educational landscape; K-12 Leadership, Teacher Librarianship, IT Directors, Higher Ed, Vocational Education and Training, Tertiary Education, Business Managers – basically if you are in education, there is a stream for you.

The world is undeniably changing, and we must prepare students for a future which will be significantly different to our own experiences. Many speakers, including David Price, author of Open, How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future, pointed out that the rate of technology development is rapidly shaping the skills and capacities required by today’s learners. While the entire 15 minutes of the following video is fascinating viewing, here’s just the final summary, which paints a challenge for everyone in education and indeed in government today:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. George Couros asked us to remember that sometimes, it can be easy to be drawn into the myths of technology, and be swayed by the negative hyperbole of the media. His stirring keynote reminded us that there is a lot to be gained from the connections social media enables us to create; both from a learning and a personal point of view. He presented strong challenges to the myths of technology; that it automatically ensures engagement and that connecting with strangers online is inherently dangerous He also argued against the common beliefs that technology will make us narcissistic, replace face to face interaction and dehumanise us, while also making us dumb! You can read more about each of these on George’s blog, where he addresses each of these myths.

One of the highlights of the 3 days was the effervescent Super Awesome Sylvia, who’s have a go attitude and maker videos have brought her world wide attention at age 13. Her short keynote was a great example of ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’ – she was clearly nervous (as any normal person speaking in front of such a huge crowd would be), but she spoke with passion and simplicity, encouraging everyone to take on a maker mindset, see failure as part of learning and learn through play.

2015-06-09_0933Personally, I had great fun presenting to a group on the value of developing your Personal/Professional/Passionate Learning Network, using Social Media, and also was honoured to be a part of a panel which included Joyce Valenza, Jane Viner and led by Debbie Hunter, where we discussed the value and importance of curation for the Australian Curriculum.


Reporting on such a massive conference is challenging, as it is physically impossible to participate in the workshops run simultaneously by world class speakers, and even a keen eye on the mind-boggling tweet stream could only give a glimpse at the amount of information being trafficked. My summary below is just a tiny snapshot. I have included also as many links as I could to the speakers’ handouts, websites or resources, as well as the links to my Storify Summaries, which are on the final page of the presentation below, which was created in my latest tool ‘discovery’, E-Maze.

The video below tries to capture some of the emerging themes of the conference. You can view it at a more leisurely pace, viewing the videos and accessing the hyperlinks (the little orange ‘play’ symbol indicates if a word or phrase is a hyperlink, and every web address should also link directly out) viewing it online here.

If you would like to read more deeply into some of the wisdom shared via twitter by accessing the three Storify summaries I have created – one for each day.

2015-06-09_08282015-06-09_0828_0012015-06-09_0828_002 This was my first experience of Edutech. It was a great confirmation of the work we are doing at schools in Brisbane Catholic Education, and an opportunity to meet with likeminded educators who all share the belief that being an educator is an ongoing learning experience. Share your Edutech experience in the comments below!



Putting a Pin on it – Pinterest and Professional Learning

One thing that always amazes me when I think about the internet and communication is the way news travels – how things ‘go viral’ and become so popular that it seems everyone is suddenly aware of a new song, image or joke. The way that information travels is particularly clear when we observe the statistics information created by WordPress concerning this blog. Using the statistics, it is possible to see where our readers come from, how they found the blog and what links they clicked on.

By far our most popular post has been on the implementation of a 1:1 iPad program in a primary school – on an average day, this post garners over at least ten times the number of hits the other posts receive – a huge difference.

Why is this?

From what I can see, the vast majority of hits are coming from Pinterest. One or two readers have ‘pinned’ an image of a classroom poster in Pinterest, and hundreds of others have repinned this image, and visited the blog as a result. Quite a few readers also come from Twitter, where I share a link each time a write a new post, and the remainder come from a variety of other sources.

A typical 'tweet' sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

A typical ‘tweet’ sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

It seems that Pinterest is no longer just the domain of crafters and those wishing to share recipes – but also a huge educational community, drawn by the ability to share great websites and classroom ideas easily, and what’s more, visually.

A typical Pinterest page

A typical Pinterest page

After a long day of teaching, it is hard to come home to face screens full of text. However Pinterest’s visually appealing and simple interface allows you to scroll through hundreds of contributions, clicking on those that appeal and digging deeper by visiting the website where the image came from if more investigation is warranted. The improvements Pinterest recently made, linking pins to the board where it came from, as well as a board where someone else has also pinned it makes searching even more fruitful, as one pin is likely to lead to a host of others on a related theme.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

Pinterest seems an unlikely place to go for professional development. However, if you are brain drained and in need of inspiration, boards created by Stephen Heppell, Trish Wade or Vicki Davis are just a starting point for great ideas, curated from all over the world. I maintain a few boards also – focusing on apps for inquiry learning, creative commons images and book trailers, to name a few. You can see an example of some of my Pinterest boards below.
Pinterest boards
It seems that the path to discovering quality information and resources is no longer just a direct line to Google. We know many students do much of their research via YouTube, and so it seems, many teachers are using tools such as Pinterest to direct their searching via items that others have already collated. Why start at the beginning, when half the search has already been done for you?

Faith inspired by contemporary media

Catholic schools are not only places that foster the educational development of students they are increasingly provide the school community, in all its cultural and spiritual diversity, with opportunities to engage with the Catholic Christian Faith Tradition.  In a contemporary context with fewer people regularly attending mass it is often the school that not only teaches the wider school community about religion it also provides the community with religious experience.   It is in this dual nature of the teaching and ministry of Catholic schooling that the wider community needs to be invited into a rich and meaningful dialogue around faith.

Who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church?

The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge spoke at Brisbane Catholic Education’s Powerhouse of Leaders 2012, a gathering of the diocese year 12 student leaders (read more about this event in an earlier post) calling those present to be not only leaders of their schools, but also leaders in the Church.  Leading the Church into and onto the ‘digital continent’ is the perfect opportunity for today’s youth in the church to lead.  His Grace asked the student leaders, who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church?  Watch the Archbishop’s homily to hear more of what he shared.

The call to become ‘digital missionaries’ provides school and parish communities with some challenges but also with many exciting new opportunities to reflect and imagine how this might take place.  An aspect of this challenge is the belief that technology can be seen as a way to replace much of what makes life and living so rich and vibrant, especially a catholic Christian life.  So it is important to engage with technology and media in a way that sustainable, American psychologist Sherry Turkle, in her TED Talk Connected, but alone? examines the way technology is used by people to feel connected.  Ultimately Turkle concludes that contemporary technology must be embraced not as an alternative but as a vehicle to deepen traditional experiences.  This is a balance is not commonly achieved in the secular world, but, perhaps this is where these emerging digital missionaries are needed most.

How might this look in a school or parish community? 

Click on the image to access the Religion and Ethics course.

Click on the image to access the Religion and Ethics course.

It is timely to pause and ask the question, how might this look in a school or parish community?  It is also timely to look to those organisations and groups who are engaging with contemporary media and technology in some really exciting ways, locally, nationally and internationally.  You’ll see it’s already happening.

Locally, Brisbane Catholic Education’s newly developed Religion and Ethics course is a quality example of using media to engage and extend students learning with a blend of traditional and contemporary pedagogies and ultimately providing students with a learning experience that challenges students to be active, critical and powerful members of their communities.

The Faith and Life team of the Archdiocese of Brisbane are also engaging with contemporary technologies and media in exciting new ways.  Hosting a YouTube channel means that now the entire diocese and beyond can connect to the Cathedral and Archbishop Mark.  In addition to this, the recently published prayer resource atimeofgrace for the Year of Grace further engages with technology in an exciting way.  Using a variety of prayers and QR codes or links to online content, this resource merges traditional prayer types with contemporary resources and ways of praying.

Nationally the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference host a media blog and a YouTube channel, both of which provide schools and parishes with a wealth of resources, reflections and ideas.

Caritas Australia are successfully using social media to help communicate to the wider community news about their work and to promote their annual Project Compassion.  Students and parishioners can follow Caritas Australia on the official facebook page or twitter account and can watch the many great films made by Caritas Australia via YouTube.

Click on the image to learn more or to download this app.

Click on the image to learn more or to download this app.

Internationally His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has compelled to the church to engage with social networks.  He himself has almost 1.5 Million English speaking followers on his official twitter account and many thousands more followers across His 8 additional non-english accounts.  Follow His Holiness on twitter here You can also down load The Pope App which provides access to news, photos, video and much more.

Also the team of WYD RIO 2013 are engaging with social media in a way that is quite exciting.  With a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, this team are producing and sharing some fresh and youthful media.  Truly engaging and connecting pilgrims in the conversation of World Youth Day 2013 before the official gathering begins later this year.

How can a school or parish compete with large organisations?

Now that you are more aware of how the wider church community is engaging with contemporary media, the question still remains, How might this look for a school or parish?  Most of these sites produce and distribute media are from bigger institutions with budgets and paid staff.  Many can also draw on the services of in-house professional graphic designers.  So how can a school or parish develop media at the same level?  Again turning to contemporary technology and in particular to mobile devices and the wide selection of photographic apps available schools and parishes can produce media at the same level of quality as these groups.  The following brief list is a collection of some great apps that the team at ResourceLink have used to produce quality pieces of media in a faith context.  Such as the reflective image shown.

Basin and Towel prayer/reflection card

  1. Camera+, add vintage filters, frames and text to your photos with this easy to use app.
  2. WordFoto, turn photos into stunning word art!
  3. PicPlayPost, collage and frame together images and video.
  4. InstaQuote create quotes that are easily shared and beautiful.

What’s a way forward?

Harnessing the power contemporary technology combined with the energy and capacity of young and the young at heart, schools and parishes can be inspired to answer the call of both His Holiness Benedict XVI and His Grace Mark Coleridge to boldly lead the church into and onto the digital continent.  By do so schools and parishes will engage their communities in a conversation about their Catholic Christian faith and to do so in ways that have the potential to challenge and transform believers and those seeking faith.

6 Ways to Keep Track of Digital Information – A Resolution for 2013

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.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Will Lion

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!

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by ransomtech


Kantor, B. (2012, July 13). NTEN Webinar Reflections and Resources:  The Unanticipated Benefits of Content Curation. Beth’s Blog. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from

Young People using Social Media positively: Authentic, real world learning opportunities

Many of you will have heard about Martha Payne, the 9 year old Scottish girl whose blog, Never Seconds, came to international attention earlier this year. If you didn’t, here’s a brief rundown:

Martha began writing her blog as a record of her school lunches.
She promised a photo, and a score:

Photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It won’t happen, will it?

Within two weeks her blog posts had gathered more than a million viewers, and enthusiastic posts from other students sharing their own lunch photos, not just from Scotland, but from Finland, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States. She was garnering so much attention that she even raised a sizeable amount of money for a charity; Mary’s Meals, an organisation that funds school lunches in Africa. Seven weeks later, the local council made the controversial decision to ban Martha from bringing her camera to school; thankfully this decision was quickly reversed after protests from some of her most well known supporters (including Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman) as well as a massive media protest at the short-sightedness of the move.

This is just one example of the extraordinary potential young people now have to influence what was previously beyond their reach; using social media and other 2.0 technologies, the thoughts and actions of young people can have powerful influences across the entire globe.

Another example is the recent news that Hasbro has revealed it will release a toy oven in shades of black, silver and blue, after McKenna Pope, 13, submitted a petition with over 40 000 signatures that she had created on  The thirteen year old was planning to buy the toy oven as a gift for her little brother, but became aware that it only came in pink and purple, and featured all girls in the advertising. Using YouTube to raise awareness of her petition, McKenna showed how social media can be used to create positive change.

With examples such as these for inspiration, there is no end to the possibilities for teachers looking for ways to engage their students in real world action. In fact, as Marilyn M. Lombardi’ suggests in Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, thanks to technology, authentic, real world learning has never been more achievable.

Why not consider the following:

* Use iPads and iMovie to create documentaries on student issues – post to a YouTube channel for a world-wide audience

* Publish student research as a Wikipedia page

* Tweet results of student surveys; ask other schools to comment and compare results

* Create a Google Map of the local area around the school, locating community services and resources relevant for the school community; publish on the school blog

* Participate in a global project such as the Flat Classroom or a local one such as Witness King Tides

* Use real data sets to create suggested strategies for real-world problems – try Saving Migratory Animals as an example

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and the projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out these amazing young people and what they’ve achieved using passion, energy and technology!

A small beginning has led to Random Kid – a website that helps kids solve real world problems:

Using YouTube to share a great message:

Have your students taken on a great real world project? Share in the comments below!

Marilyn Lombardi. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview | ( No. ELI Paper 1: 2007). Educause. Retrieved from