Engaging All Learners, Teaching with Technology

Teachers and Students as Curators of Networked Learning

by Michaella Thornton, Assistant Director for Instructional Design, Reinert CTTL

First, a brief, lively video explanation of what digital media curation is:

What is Curation? from Percolate on Vimeo.

There’s an exciting movement underway regarding the tried-and-true textbook.  The Internet, digital scholarship, open-access journals, academic crowd-sourcing, and on-going debates about providing equitable, affordable, and timely course information to students have all contributed to educators questioning the role (and possibly even the relevancy) of the almighty textbook.  There’s even an Institute for the Future of the Book. The first sentence of their mission statement reads: “The printed page is giving way to the networked screen.”  True enough.  But how true is this statement for professors and college students?

While a great textbook can help organize numerous concepts and content into more manageable and organized chapters, textbooks can sometimes become instructional crutches, overly relied on for coverage-based courses instead of thinking about why a particular text or series of texts serves as a primary authority on a subject or how such a text supports the learning objectives of the course, among a bevy of important skills many of us hope students hone and use beyond our classes: critical reflection, deep and close reading, analytical thinking, and encouraging students to connect the dots between the texts they read to their lives, other texts, and the world at large.

Some commonly used digital curation tools that many teachers are finding success with, especially in co-constructing course reading lists and co-creating collaborative learning experiences with students, include:

  • Twitter: Instructional designer Jerod Quinn wrote a great primer about using social media in the classroom in an earlier blog post, in addition to getting the most out of this micro-blogging and bookmarking tool.
  • Pinterest: This visual bulletin board is not just for the super crafty or photo-obsessed. Professors are using Pinterest for “visual sharing in architecture, photography, design, and art classes,” among many other things.
  • Diigo: Diigo first started out as an online bookmarking tool. Nowadays the website and app allows users to “collect and highlight, then remember.” Many educators use this tool to create reading lists with students and to organize web-based research.
  • Bit.ly Bundles: Helps professors unify, organize, and then share web-based information more easily with students. For an example, check out the blog, Technology for Academics.
  • iBooks Author, Red Staple, and Folium Book Studio: There are many ways to e-publish a course text. These are a couple options to help you consider the possibilities if you’re interested in creating your own course text.

So, what digital curation methods do you employ in your classes?   Do you view your role as a curator of educational experiences?  If so, how do you help students explore compelling questions through the digital learning objects you’ve assembled?

2 thoughts on “Teachers and Students as Curators of Networked Learning”

  1. Although I hadn’t thought of my role in this way, I do think that’s an accurate description for what many educators do. Certainly, as I strive to sift, filter, prioritize, catalog, and point to some sources and texts over others, that’s the role I’m assuming.

    Recently, thanks to Chris Grabau, I learned about Tab.bz (http://tab.bz/) as a great tool for organizing, sorting, and sharing links, which I think has a lot of potential. And I love Evernote–particularly as it has evolved to make sharing easier, I think it has a lot of potential. Was talking to a student this week about the possible uses of Evernote for an annotated bibliography, a growing, curated list of readings that could also be shared with colleagues.

    And finally, I’ll just say this: I think the work we do in the Reinert Center is often curatorial — attempting to distill and select key resources that will be helpful, and not overwhelming, to faculty. Thanks for a great post, Kella – Gets the brain working!


  2. Debie, many thanks for your thoughtful comments and the great addition of Tab.bz and Evernote. I also have heard of a lot of scholars and researchers loving Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/) as a useful (and free) reference manager and academic social network too. I feel like this metaphor (“teacher-curator”) has become increasingly more prevalent in the Information Age. Curious to hear if folks identify with this phrase or not.


Comments are closed.