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A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Should Students Become Content Curators?

By Peter DeWitt — September 22, 2014 5 min read
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As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short when it comes to connected education. I’m not the type of guy who usually creates a new idea. I think I look at how present ideas can make my life easier or enhance what I am doing on a day to day basis. There are some great ideas out there in cyberspace, and the implications for classroom and building practices is real, but sometimes it takes me awhile to jump on board.

One of those areas where I seem to be a few days late is content curation. As I looked for resources, I noticed last month was “Content Curation” Month. Ask my former staff at Poestenkill Elementary School, and they will all tell you I was never very good with dates. I’ve been known to show up two days early or to the wrong building for a meeting. I’ve even called in to conference calls 3 hours early...what are these time zones anyway!

So it’s no surprise that I’m coming to the content curation party a little bit late. I don’t feel that bad though, because even Word doesn’t recognize “curation” as I type this, so at least I’m ahead of the Microsoft tool.

What is content curation?

In Teaching the iStudent, Mark Barnes compared content curation to the work that librarians or art directors do. They weed through everything that is out there and find the best resources or paintings in a sea of bad ones. Librarians and art directors have an eye for knowing what they are looking for, and even if they don’t, they have an open mind to make sure they don’t miss something outstanding.

According to this Webby Thoughts blog by Mark citing Bhargava, “A content curator is a person who finds, collects, organizes and shares the most relevant and the best items for a particular collection. With this, content curation is basically archiving and curating within the digital world.”

Take Twitter for example. Are you not on Twitter? Shame, shame, shame. Educators should join Twitter. So much information comes through Twitter. Some of the people you may follow have already curated for you because they are re-Tweeting only the best resources. Other times, it’s up to you to curate the content because you don’t want to read everything, and certainly do not want to re-Tweet everything.

Mark from Webby Thoughts goes on to provide 5 subgroups for content curation. They are:

  1. Aggregation. This is the act of curating data that is relevant for a specific topic within one location only.
  2. Distillation. This is the act of curating data in a simplified format wherein only the most relevant and the important information are shared.
  3. Elevation. This refers to the curation process with the intention of identifying a significant trend coming from small musings posted online.
  4. Mashups. This is a unique curation juxtaposition that merges an existing content resulting to a new and innovative point of view.
  5. Chronology. This is a method of curation that combines historical information and is organized according to time which will eventually show the evolution and understanding of a specific topic.

Mark (written in 2012) goes on to provide 58 content curation resource tools. It’s very helpful, because as soon as you see some of the resources like Pinterest or Delicious, you will gain a better understanding of content curation.

Content curation helps build digital literacy, organize thoughts and bring the best ideas out into the open. It’s so important in this fast moving information highway century that we are living in, that we can wipe out the noise we don’t need and find resources that will help us grow.

What About Our Students?

Many connected educators believe we have to inspire our students to think the same way about content curation. In this day and age, they have millions of advertisements, images, stories, and noise flying at them on any given day.

The internet is vast and it’s easy for students who are not prepared to understand it all, may use resources without giving credit or they may just take those resources and repackage them to make it their own. Content curation is about organizing information and creating some of it on our own.

My guru of content curation, Steven Anderson, Tweeted out this blog about content curation by Steve Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum provides five guidelines for quality content curation.

They are:

  • Be Part of the Content Ecosystem - Be part of the content ecosystem, not just a re-packager of it. Often, people think of themselves as either creators or curators as if these two things are mutually exclusive. What a curator really should do is embrace content as both a maker and an organizer.
  • Follow a Schedule - Audiences expect some regularity, and they’ll reward you for it. It doesn’t need to be a schedule that you can’t keep up with. If you want to curate three new links a day, and write one big post a week, that’s a schedule.
  • Embrace Multiple Platforms - It used to be that your audience came to you. Not anymore. Today content consumers get their information on the platform of their choosing. That means you should consider posting short bursts on Tumblr, images on Pinterest, video on YouTube, and community conversations on Facebook.
  • Engage and Participate - Having a voice as a curator means more than creating and curating your own work. Make sure you’re giving back by reading others and commenting on their posts. A re-tweet is one of the easiest ways to help build relationships with fellow bloggers and curators.
  • Share. Don’t Steal - Take the time to give attribution, links back, and credit. The sharing economy works because we’re each sharing our audiences, and providing the value of our endorsements.

In the End

If you’re like me, you’re coming to the content curation party a bit late...but at least you’re attending the party. As you look through the resources you will see that you most likely have been participating in it without fully knowing the name. That’s ok! Who wants to get stuck on names anyway??? Now you can say, “Content curation? Oh yeah...I’ve been doing that for years!”

As educators, how do we get students to become effective content curators? We can engage them by finding the most relevant resources out there, but we need them to follow suit and use social media to find relevant resources as well. We need to get them to share their resources, give credit where credit is due, and inspire them to create their own content to share.

And that is content curation.

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Steven Anderson is looking for your help when it comes to content curation. Please click here to fill out a short survey.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.