15 September 2012

Curation - Why, Because and Then

Last week I was honoured to be invited by Vance Stevens (@VanceS) to participate on his Learning2Gether, a weekly space where educators meet up to discuss and debate issues related to educational practices. Throughout the talk, my mind was asking further questions about connections and curation, and why they are  so  significant in education. 

My focus  today, though,  is on curation.  Just as writing may be regarded as a talking cure, reflecting on the why-s and because-s of curation seems relevant in order to establish what real role curation may have in  todays' classrooms. 

Let's begin by understanding that curation is different to aggregation: aggregation is the process of collecting information and sources which are both external and internal resources, for example, in businesses and especially in the field of marketing. 

Curation is also collecting but it is much more personalized, becoming a process of discovery of sources and presenting them to a wider audience. 

As someone who curates, I would like to highlight the following characteristics of my experience and how curating is valuable to students:

1. Accepting the notion that curation is a personalized process of gathering information, it becomes relevant when content is in a context. In other words, for curation to be effective and meaningful (and not just mechanical aggregation), nuggets of information need to be in a context, the content should be specific to a certain topic or subject area.  This can range from sports to literary analysis to current affairs. It can be about the environment (a topic that so often is included in a syllabus) or any other topic that makes part of a learner's program. 

2. Because curation is a personal process with the individual searching for information to include in his/her curation, this adds to giving voice, a digital voice, to the curator. 

In an age of regular information overload, curating filters what is relevant to the individual; instead of being caught up in a spiral of never ending links, sites and references, one establishes one's very own points of references. One can then re-visit these references, re-evaluate them, deciding whether they are still relevant or not. 

 3. There are a number of curation platforms available; I happen to use Scoop.iT for several reasons: the magazine layout appeals to my visual  senses, it is simple to find past references by scrolling down the tags/filter and because of the visuals that I regularly add, remembering articles, tools, becomes much easier for me. From a spiral of information in which I lose myself, I slowly find what is indeed relevant to me and in the process, clarity and calm prevail. Whatever information I collect and share, is my personal choice - just as the visuals and backgrounds that I select. 

Personalization is important - students are not mere numbers in a classroom; they are individuals seeking their identity. Giving them the opportunity to search for information on a topic, they are also given the chance of expressing their individuality. 

4. So what else is involved in curation that makes it such a "big deal"? 

* The act of curating information requires critical thinking, the ability to evaluate and when necessary, summarize information;

* It requires reading and interpreting and the skill to evaluate if a certain article is related to the theme and context;

* It helps learners with organization and interacting with "the real world" as opposed to text books;

* Because there is an audience, the information goes beyond the life of a course, information is shared at any time in the future; 

* Participants are empowered by adding comments to others' curated references, thus also establishing a community of practice, not only sharing but contributing with comments, feedback and questions. 

* There is responsibility for the learner; not only for the reasons I mentioned above, but also in terms of collecting and sharing quality in regard to their theme and context;

* And there is reflection - I don't perceive learning without the space of reflecting, of looking back, of evaluating and re-evaluating. In the case of curation, perhaps what was relevant 6 months ago, no longer is relevant; perhaps a point of reference is no longer cutting edge or current. 

Personally, these are curation features which I have experienced and wish to share with my students. This past summer I took the opportunity to look back at some of my curations and in the process, deleted what was no longer of use to me. Individuals will curate for all kinds of reasons - whether to jump on a trend, to propose their name as a brand, to have/add a digital footprint; the motivations are endless. In my particular case, I began my curation with Scoop.iT as a public bookmarking tool - it was a means for me to recall, return to articles/sites which were meaningful to me and as I mentioned above, Scoop.iT 's user-friendly layout made it easy for me to remember and reach out to what I needed at any given time. 

Lastly, by curating I can be "on the go", using computers which are not mine,  include information I am interested in and stumble across,  but don't have enough time to read entirely, returning to them at the end of the day and deciding whether they are significant or not to me. 

The connection between Vance Stevens and myself is curious in itself.
I have been following Vance Stevens' work for many years now. For me, however, it was a surprise that he knew about my own digital world.  Connections happen. 

Connecting, curating, creating communities of practice in our digital world are significant to the world of classrooms today. Through my curations I have also met other professionals and have delighted in their interests which I also share, have learnt from them and with time, consider them people who I may reach out to in times of doubt and debate. 

How will you be sharing curation with your learners this academic year?


You may find other blog entries on curation in this blog, and if you are interested, you will find different articles on curation here,

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