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Week 2: Curation and Learning

Curation, it might be argued, has always been an essential practice as a means to stay informed. In today's Internet-powered age, curation is proving to be an essential literacy skill. This week, we'll be focusing on curation tools and strategies as they relate to learning and our work as educators.

(This week's conversation is being facilitated by Liz and Joe.) Please respond to one or more of the following questions (and to each other) in the discussion below:

  • What are the essential skills needed to be an effective curator of your own learning and how can I go about growing these skills?
  • How do traditional efforts at curation, as in a museum, inform the work of educators working in digital environments?

Task Discussion

  • Chad Sansing   July 18, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

    I think I would feel at home in a museum of half-finished galleries or in a workshop of half-finished ideas. I will go mess with Diigo, but I gave a feeling I'm just going make a pile of debris there, as well. It's been years since I tried it and Delicious.

    I think one of the reasons I love expertly-curated resources (like Kevin's video game resource) is that I marvel at how coherent they are. Whereas I think of such work, which definitely highlights process, as part of a curation of finding, I think maybe I am more acclimated to the curation of messes, so maybe I should check out Storify more, as well.

    Any of that make sense? I'm trying to make sense of my reistance to formal curation.

  • Shaz   July 18, 2012, 4:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 18, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

    This resonates with me. I go and make a mess, but I'm quite orderly and organized by nature, so it bothers me, and I try to keep it on a small level. I don't give it the full oomph that it needs.

    Perhaps this is also the back-story to my previous idea that I'm still not totally invested in something enough to "expertly curate", as you say.

    I would identify with a "mess" as the cloud of ideas and interests that I gather and process information on.

  • Paul Oh   July 18, 2012, 7:18 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 18, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    I would add to this thread, Chad and Shaz, a big thumbs up for the notion of curating messes (and curation messiness). In fact, I think the idea speaks to curation as not necessarily only being high-level curation with great annotation and analysis. I think the curation of messes is analagous to low-stakes writing - it's a way to give yourself the room to experience, learn, process, discover, intuit and grow as a curator.

    I do also want to point out that Chad is the founder of a group blog, Cooperative Catalyst. I think with Cooperative Catalyst, one might argue that you've curated people who in turn are pushing out content that is selective. There's a messiness to the curation in that you don't know what people will be publishing, nor do you control it, but it's still organized.

  • Tellio   July 20, 2012, 7:31 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 18, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    We are always experts over our own selves so perhaps you can start there. It's a fear thing-fear of being called arrogant. "Who are you to set yourself up as _______?"  Screw it.  Start somewhere and move toward something.  Broadcast what you are doing. Maybe you can help someone get a leg up to where you are standing and maybe someone else will offer the same hand to you.  Any act like this is necessarily fluid and that makes it messy.  Just make a small mess, clean up, rinse and repeat.  If it doesn't feel good, abandon. If it feels good, embrace.  On I have five curated sites only two of which I add to on a regular basis.  One of them is about tech pedagogy.  Am I an expert?  To my students, maybe.  To Robin Good, no.  But I don't mind being called a poser and a wannabe.  Don't mind at all as long as I don't call myself that.  All I can say is that curation is like meditation, it provides a moment of clarity in wild torrent of information,  Harry  and Dumbledore standing on the rock in the ocean contemplating their task at hand.

  • Chad Sansing   July 20, 2012, 8:27 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 20, 2012, 7:31 a.m.

    I love curation as clarity, mediation, and reflection. I also tremendously value just working and broadcasting the work to share, inspire, and evoke responses that move the work forward.

    The idea od curating the Coöp further actually comes up annually via one back channel or another - the idea being that volunteers would cuarte collections of posts from peers in whose work they are most interested.

    The interesting thing about the Coöp-as-curation-of-people is that the practice of that curation has been collaborative from the start and a practice all members can take upon themselves. I don't think I've recruited anyone for over a year (forgive me if I've forgotten anyone!), and I'm not sure many of the remaining elders have, but the site continues to grow. There's an organicism to our community-on-display that we value and discuss frequently, and our collection of authors and readers might even make it as a curated collection given the ways we self-select for authentic learning and democratic education.

    Thank you all for the prompts to think further on it!



  • Shaz   July 20, 2012, 4:12 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 20, 2012, 7:31 a.m.

    Thank you very much. That was good to hear.


    I think I find it is a heavy word, curation, as mentioned earlier, and I need to remember to make things useful for me. As such, my curation will be about exploration, just because that's where I'm at right now. And I think that makes it more real. 

    It's going to be an interesting experiment guys!

  • Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

    I keep meaning to find the time to put kids in charge of curating our room with physical artifatcs that reflect their identifies online and off. I would also like kids to curate our online presence - I hope to do that this year with a "Things we made today" website edited by older students at the apex of their self-directed learning and making.

    I think democratic education and the construction of learning spaces that reflect community are entry points into student curation of learning online and off.

  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 9:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

    I like that idea.

  • Paul Oh   July 15, 2012, 12:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

    Like Kevin, I like that idea, too, Chad.

    Also, the phrase, "Democratic education and the construction of learning spaces that reflect community are entry points into student curation of learning online and off" may be my new mantra.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 10:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

    I like the idea (Physical artifacts)  too as this a good way to connect and integrate online and offline identities. Im going with your second idea too that the construction of learning spaces that reflect community are the 'entry point'. for student curation.  it's very empowering for learners to contribute to something that builds a community

  • Chad Sansing   July 16, 2012, 6:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 10:59 p.m.

    I think of My Little Pony figures representing some students' viewership on YouTube, for example -

  • Shaz   July 18, 2012, 11:09 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 16, 2012, 6:12 a.m.

    I'm sorry, but the mention of  My Little Pony just boggled my brain.

  • Chad Sansing   July 18, 2012, 1:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 18, 2012, 11:09 a.m.

    Have you watched the new series? I have several experts in my classes.

  • Shaz   July 18, 2012, 4:20 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 18, 2012, 1:47 p.m.

    I wasn't even aware that was a TV show. I just thought they were toys. 0.o

  • karen   July 18, 2012, 7:02 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

    Really nice idea, Chad. I love this.

  • Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:16 a.m.

    I think of the "T-shaped Person" model (which I cribbed from the Valve Handbook for New Employees). Develop a broad beam of media consumption and production literacies to get at a deep vein of knowledge about a topic. I think of immersion, community, debate, consensus, and the ability to hold ambiguity and share compelling conflicts of competing ideas without needing to resolve them.

    Wonder. Discover. Connect. Ask. Design and share.

    "What is curation?" and "What are essential skills for curation?" are largely the same question for me.

    I think the best way to learn is porbably to begin with consumption and move towards curation - I tend to learn new things the same way I read X-Men comics in the 80s and 90s. Consume one. Get hooked. Consume hundreds.  Produce a response (draw Wolverine!). Share it with friends. Tell them to read more X-Men. Hang posters in by the bed.

    In this way, learning to curate is a process of identifying and sticking with what you love until you start practicing it and collecting artifcats that help you improve your practice.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 9:20 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:16 a.m.

    I think that the definition sets the parameters for acting.  In a way every definition is normative.  They tell us how we should relate to the word.  Once we know that (and that can be a damned iconoclastic knowing) then we get skilled or use skills or adapt skills.  After that it becomes the dance of turtles all the way down ;-)

  • Joe Dillon   July 21, 2012, 4:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 15, 2012, 8:16 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing the handbook, Chad. I'm fascinated by leadership models like this one that lean on autonomy as a source for motivation, so I really enjoyed the read. As for the T-shaped person, I like the concept because I believe that tinkering and experimenting helps me develop fluency with a range of tools in digital environments. I also think my expertise in a specific area helps me anchor my work, so even as I tinker, I'm making meaning about thinks that I value and discovering things of use.   

  • Shaz   July 21, 2012, 5:25 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Dillon   July 21, 2012, 4:09 p.m.

    Wow, I must say I hadn't followed the link till you pointed it out Joe. I didn't know who Valve was, but now I bloody well do! I'm becoming more and more interested in autonomy so this is great. Thank you.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 7:44 a.m.

    I think that it might be interesting to look at the traditional products of curation. 

    1. Museum catalogs in an art exhibit.
    2. Audio docents
    3. Some kind of 'negotiated' space for something
    4. Create some kind of coherent thesis/theory
    5. Content generated from sites like blogs (consider WordPress tools like commentpress and Anthologize)
    6. Indexes
    7. Maps like 'create your own adventure' games with forks and usere generated possibilities
    8. A list of essential questions for those interested in the same topic/keyword
    9. Strategies and tools for bringing together 'stuff'
    10. Scripts
    11. Create narratives of various sorts in various media (posts, articles, slideshows, presentations) both analog and digital
    12. Maintain collections

    I realize this list wobbles a bit, but is this what digital curators do?  Here is a very centering article on this by Erin Scime in A List Apart.  Highly recommended that we annotate/curate the article using Diigo Group Bookmarking.  Here is the group if you wish to join.

    Many of us use Diigo, but if you don't we can help.  It is a potent digital curation space and a tool well worth knowing.

  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 8:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 15, 2012, 7:44 a.m.

    Using Diigo now on the article. I use Diigo for bookmarking but not much for annotating, so this is helpful exercise. Thanks.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 8:58 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 8:06 a.m.

    The next step after annotating is to look at each others annotations and comment.  Lots of cross-pollination at this stage.  After that Diigo has this amazing ''extract annotations" function.  It seems to me that once this commenting portion of the show is complete that we extract the comments and copy them to a collaborative document like a Google Doc.  Then comes the editing.  This collaborative editing is a black hole for me.  I just don't know how to make this work in my normal workflow.  Ideas?  I would love to write at least a post together (all of those who wish to participate) to publish here and elsewhere.

    Another option would be to invite the author, Erin Scime, to participate and respond to our comments and to address the needs of teachers specifically.  Just thoughts.

  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 5:46 a.m.

    The Museum Analogy

    You know what came to my mind? I was thinking of a story I had read about the backrooms of museums, and the storage areas, and how filled to the brim they are with materials that were never used and may never be used. So it occurs to me that the act of what to leave out is as important as the act of what to leave in.

    I suppose museums have some systematic way to determine what gets put into a collection and what doesn't. (Systematic including perspective of the curator). But museums are limited by space. The room is only so big. Digital environments are different, but we need to resist the urge to put everything in that space. It requires judicious focus, in a way.

    So, there is some editing that goes on with curation, if it is to be meaningful for others. Or at least, that's an argument I would make.


  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 7:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 5:46 a.m.

    How do we leave stuff out:

    1. Dropping out of the river of curateable stuff.

    2. Having a finite river of stuff.

    3. Having all the normal cognitive biases and blindspots (the 'unknown unknowns') of normal human cognition,

    4. By choosing topics of curation that act as very broad filters, keywords as filters,

    5. By bumping around among the curateable objects we have access to (rummaging in the warehouse so to speak).

    6. By actively choosing topics based upon some algorithm that is on a continuum starting with the simple (stuff I respond to) to the complex (stuff that is related) to even more complex (stuff that might be handy for my perceived audience).

    Perhaps others can add to this list, but the issue this raises for me is this:  how do we decide which methods are the most effective for the curation event we are seeking to promote?





  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 7:20 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 15, 2012, 7:13 a.m.

    Dare I bring Rummy into the mix?

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 8:02 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 7:20 a.m.

    I will see your Rummy and raise you a Taleb.  Of course the reason for both of these is to raise our awareness of the limitations of curations in an unpredictable world.  It doesn't mean we should not curate, but rather that we need to be aware that the choices (active and passive, conscious and unconscious) we make have consequences that need to be re-considered as we see how they unfold. 


  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 5:42 a.m.

    It seems to me that one of the first skills one must develop is some sort of organizational system for collecting and for linking materials together. I am sure many of us use some sort of bookmarking -- either on our brower (which quickly gets unwieldy) or with some online tool like Diigo -- and I suspect that first step of discovery, and then gathering, is a key to our conceptual ideas around curation.

    Here, the use of tagging is critical, right? (As is teaching students how to effectively tag materials and how to consider the idea of "key words"). It does no good to collect material that gets lost in the piles of digital debris. Tagging (along with hyperlinks) are a critical part of the digital architecture, and I don't think we give it enough weight or thought. (I was pondering this the other day while doing some exploring at Digital Is. I was glad for the ability to search by tags, but I realized in one of those "duh" moments that my keywords might be different from the keywords of the content creators.)

    So, if we start thinking of what educators need to know to become more facile curators, and what students may need to know, understanding the use and importance of tag/keyword creator is critical.


  • Paul Oh   July 15, 2012, 12:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 5:42 a.m.

    I like this starting point, Kevin, with regard to skills needed - collecting and linking materials together. Even before collecting, I would suggest that there's the idea of being passionate about a subject. And having that passion honored, both in school and out of school.

    Also, is identifying curators - being a "reader" of curated material and a finder of trusted curators - a skill? If so, I would suggest that's another first path for educators and youth.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 11:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 15, 2012, 12:51 p.m.

    The idea of honouring passion really hits the mark. As educators if we can find the spark that ignites learners imagination then we are on the road to fostering those curator skills of collecting and organising.  Am just reading Out of Our Minds by Ken Robinson in which he explores the way that creativity/passion is undervalued and ignored in our educational systems.

    By the way he provides a brilliant case study of extremely disengaged youth engaging in a full. time, very physical and creative dance program and very unexpectedly developing passion for this art form. 

  • Chad Sansing   July 16, 2012, 6:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 15, 2012, 12:51 p.m.

    Having kids set up RSS readers has long been an unchecked item on my checklist-o-teaching. Maybe this year….

  • Shaz   July 18, 2012, 11:21 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 11:22 p.m.

    Can you curate effectively without being passionate about your subject?

    Or, better yet, would you?


    Not all of us have a dedicated passion in life (yet?).

  • Paul Oh   July 18, 2012, 11:37 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 18, 2012, 11:21 a.m.
    I wonder, Shaz, if the idea were amended to be "interest/passion" instead, if that would work for you? Since the critical question it seems to me is that I as an adult learner curate what interests me, so shouldn't youth be given the same opportunity, at least some of the time, in school?
  • Shaz   July 18, 2012, 12:35 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 18, 2012, 11:37 a.m.

    Hi Paul,

    It would work better, yes. However, I still grapple with the presentation/sharing part of the chain. I find it difficult to share consistently, meaningfully, and with a wider audience than say, your buddy who has the same interest, on topics that are just related to my interests.

    Perhaps that has something to do with where I am in life and that I still do not dive deep into something. 

    I do agree though that youth should be given that opportunity in an educational setting. It's a part of our culture now, so why hide?