Monday, October 26, 2015

Thinking about Curating and Sharing for #OpenTeachingOU

We're hosting the next #OpenTeachingOU chat this Friday, and I've been giving some thought to why I think curation matters and how I manage it personally. And by the way, you haven't viewed them yet, Laura Gibbs has three great posts about curation tools for reading, curation tools for sharing, and curation and student choice.

I was actually all set to write down my thoughts when I ran across this piece by Jo Wikert on the future role of readers as curators and resellers. While the post targets publishers and the evolution of reading digital reading, this particular example hit close to our learning home.
Now imagine that same use-case in a digital world where there are no barriers. Think of the textbook as one long web page the reader can manipulate and add to.  
The original textbook content forms the foundation but the reader can add to it as they see fit. So while Jane is studying chemistry she comes across a slick periodic table website that allows her to dive deeper into any given element. Today she merely bookmarks the site in her browser; tomorrow she drags the url into the textbook, perhaps configuring it as a pop-up element inside the ebook, thereby enriching the reading experience.
Maybe she also finds a few terrific videos online that explain some of the more complicated concepts in this chemistry course. Why not drag those into the book too?
At the end of the semester, Jane has managed to curate an entirely new product. The textbook is the foundation, but web elements and widgets curated by Jane help round it out. This has been useful for Jane, but what if she’s also able to sell her annotated edition to other students next semester? Maybe Jane’s edition sells for $5 more than the standard edition and Jane gets a cut of that price difference.
While I've never believed in a scaled marketplace for student-curated material, I'm a big believer in both the importance of learner curation as well as the need for connectable tools to manage the activity. What Joe imagines is a type of reading that facilitates easier, embeddable connections both within e-books (or web pages), as well as between students. Not surprisingly, I'm all for that vision -- tools that allow us to curate and share --and you can see that support via my activity and the number of tools I actually use for curation.

Like Laura, I use different tools for different needs or habits. As I look at the list, it seems that part of the reason there are so many is because I have refused to change old analog habits and have, instead, selected different tools to map to different analog and digital preferences. In other words, if I had never researched or curated extensively prior to the Internet and, in particular, the rise of great online curation tools, I might be more content using fewer tools.

At any rate, looking through the list and reflecting my workflows has been both fun and instructive. Without further ado, here's what they look like.
  • Feedly (for reading) -- I use Feedly for managing the feeds of the many blogs and news sites I have curated over the years. This list, by the way, ebbs and flows constantly, based on my evolving interests and changes in the information sites I follow. I have been curating blogs and news this way for over a decade and I like Feedly because of its interface, ease of use across all devices, and, well, because I'm getting too lazy to change. I am a big fan of Inoreader and have used it (like Laura) for curating things like Twitter and Google+ hashtags. But I don't utilize enough of its other great features to make me all that interested in moving away from Feedly.
  • Diigo (for bookmarking and sharing) -- Once I find things that interest me on Feedly, I open the website and then use Diigo for bookmarking. My Diigo account began with Delicious and has been evolving for the past 7 years or so. I have almost 10,000 items bookmarked using more than 3,000 tags. This has developed over the years as my personal research database for my professional edtech work and is particularly helpful with consulting and blogging. Because it's public, it's also a convenient place I can point people to when they are looking for a particular reference.
  • Flipboard (for bookmarking and sharing) -- As my life has grown increasingly mobile due to travel, I have done more and more bookmarking on my phone and iPad. While I could do this via other apps or tools, I was an early user of Flipboard and have found it works best for me given how I bookmark on the go -- essentially in short intervals while I'm sitting or standing around waiting for a plane or meeting. I bookmark everything of interest on Flipboard, saving it to my Edudiner zine, which anyone can see or subscribe to. When I find things that are particularly useful for my research, I e-mail a link to myself, open them on my laptop or desktop browser, and save them to Diigo.
  • Twitter (for sharing and discussing) -- I have traditionally used Twitter for sharing links to items and for participating in group conversations. The latter inevitably leads to curating ideas and posts/websites from participants, but I move those over to Diigo. I have tried to use Twitter for information curation on a number of different occasions but it has never taken root with me.
  • Google+ (for sharing and discussing) -- I'm not sure I needed another tool/place for curation and sharing, but I jumped into Google+ to keep up with Laura's active posting and have enjoyed it. I do some curation here, mostly recommendations from trusted sources, but I thoroughly enjoy the interaction and conversations. It's a bit too hard for me to find things on Google+ for it to be truly central to my own process, but I think it's a great place for talking about information and ideas.
  • The Learning Lot (my personal blog for sharing) -- I use this particular blog to think through my own processes and for teaching or learning out loud. This a personal space where I can write more informally than I do at NextThought, as well as on topics that are not necessarily part of my professional life.


  1. It is always fascinating for me, as a librarian, to read things about curation and sharing because there is such a difference in what that means between professions. Librarians have to think beyond the near future into the far future when talking about curation really to the point it becomes preservation and archiving. Capturing digital technologies used in education, involves capturing not only the end result, but knowing if there is a tool that can simulate what was used to create that result. Plus we have to know that we can preserve the files down the the very bits of which they're comprised, across changes in media and technologies well into the future. For instance, 50 years from now, when people want to look back at the pedagogy using technology from the 2010's, will we be able to show them that? As if they were in 2010? Because knowing the answer to that means a lot in knowing if they will really be able to understand what was happening here. So, yes all these tools and methods are fascinating, all serve valid and different interests, but when you invite a librarian into the conversation, remember they'll be looking out across the next centuries, not just the next year and that means a lot of different questions, ideas and methodologies about truly "curating and accessing" this knowledge.

  2. All good points, Carl. I think one of the things that interests me is the juncture of curation activity between: 1) individuals (such as what we're address in our Twitter chat today); 2) commercial services curating content for learning environments (Lumen Learning, Soomo, etc.); 3) commercial services curating content for libraries; 4) librarians curating content for patrons. All of these are for learning and education and yet focused on different goals. To your point, of those four, librarians ideally, are the ones thinking strategically as well as tactically in all of this. However, that strategic thinking, at least IMHO, should incorporate the tactical focus of the others in order to build the necessary historical understanding.

  3. Rob: Truly agree on all points. My previous comment was just to help people understand the other end of the spectrum, not just the tactical focus, but the long-term preservation/archiving that needs to occur later and as a consequence of the tactical use.