This morning I was assisting a teacher with using Newsela, an educational platform which “levels” news articles to meet the needs of students with differing reading abilities. The teacher seemed overly concerned about the content contained in Newsela articles, and shared that she had heard that a parent had complained about the “one sidedness” of the articles in a particular Newsela text set. With a quick investigation, I found out that the parent’s complaint was about something else altogether, however, my interest in the need for sharing “balanced” content with students, and my curiosity about the best way to make that happen, was already piqued.
As a school librarian, I am responsible for providing and promoting access to information resources which meet the needs, and stimulate the curiosities, for members of my school community; curation is something I do on a continual basis. I curate physical collections by creating feeds for choosing and purchasing new and noteworthy books; adding extra value through displays, recommendations and promotions; and implementing shelving scenarios which make sense for our patrons. I curate virtual collections on our library’s website by creating pages which share and promote: subscription databases by subject area, information sources by topic area, web tools by purpose, book recommendations sites by age level and teacher resources by need. I curate for my profession, using tools such as Scoopit, Symbaloo , Storify and Educlipper. Because I serve the needs of many, with many needs, I keep up with all that is new a noteworthy, via blog feeds, Twitter, webinars, google groups and more. Because I know that the best resources are not easily found and not always remembered, I tag, bookmark and annotate resources for later use, using diigo and Evernote. This is what librarians do.
That being said, I still often “go to” master curators and curation platforms when trying to make sense of it all. For example, before sharing a best tool for a particular purpose, I’ll double check Richard Byrne’s blog first, to see that I haven’t missed anything better. When curating resources for a particular topic, I’ll begin with libguides, to see what other librarians have already shared. As Ross Dawson presents, these curators create “high value” information, by filtering, validating, synthesizing, presenting and customizing information; (Jarche, 2012) they help us make sense and create meaning, which in this age of information overload, has become an incredibly difficult task.
Because I am “always interested” it’s especially difficult for me to chose one topic to research and present. However, in light of curation, in addition to wanting to practice curating for balanced content, I would like to further explore the movement towards OER (Open Education Resources). I am interested to see how schools, districts and individual educators are reacting to the DOE’s push for OER content, especially in making their own content free and open. I am always blown away by the contingent of educators who are not open to freely share; in order to fairly research this topic, I may need to do my best to empathize with “where they’re coming from”. In addition, I’m especially interested in the role of librarians for curating resources.
To find content related to this topic, I will begin with DOE sites, news type articles from a variety of venues, the #OER twitter hashtag, Edutopia, Edweek and the like. In addition to articles related to OER, however, are the platforms educators are using to share OER content. Search and evaluation of web resources is something I am continually trying to refine, more for my students than myself. I do not understand why we don’t spend more time in schools on this vital learning skill. For example, the 7th grade LA teachers at the school where I’m currently working allowed me to work with their students for four class periods. These students had zero background knowledge; they did not know how the internet works, never even considered how to create a search query and thought the site at the top of a google hit list was always the best and most credible source. How could we think that they they could learn all that’s necessary about search and evaluation in four class periods, when it takes that long to unlearn what they already think and do!
With regard to curation tools, I will start with Participate Learning because it works well for curating a variety of information platforms and from what I’m seeing, is quickly becoming a popular tool for educators. That being said, the curated content does not have the “shiny” appeal found in other platforms such as Pinterest or Flipboard; there are tradeoffs. For me, choosing a curation tool depends on the platform of information I’m curating, in addition to audience and collaboration possibilities. For example, Scoopit works well for curating articles and posts, it allows for comments, is extremely easy to use, offers like content functionality and following features; I personally have created “Scoops” for Library Spaces, Teacher Librarians and Maker Culture, Education and Spaces. Symbaloo works well for younger students and like content, in addition to browser dashboards; I’ve created this Symbaloo for Making Sites. Storify is my go to resource for curating tweets; I tend to use this tool for curating my own conference tweets and twitter chats. Edshelf works well for curating web tools and applications. I personally find Flipboard more about finding content than curating it. For example, I remember hearing Eric Sheninger saying that he finds most of the content he tweets via Flipboard. Interestingly, he wasn’t exactly sure how it worked; Eli Pariser may shed some light for us on that issue. Similarly, I used to use Paperli to aggregate Tweets, but could not find information on how they choose what to emphasize; I no longer use this tool.
With regards to my interest in providing balanced information, there are databases which already do a good job of this; for example, Gale’s In Context suite. However, I am still on the lookout for a process for making this happen on my own. My first thought is to begin by identifying stakeholders surrounding a topic or issue, and reading information from each of their viewpoints. This is something that I like students to do for gleaning all sides of an issue, however, it’s not exactly doable for all topics a librarian needs to curate. If you have any thoughts or ideas to share, about a process for finding balanced resources, the OER movement, information curation and the need for teaching information literacy skills and dispositions…I’m, as always, interested!
Jarche, 2012. “PKM as pre-curation”. Harold Jarche: adapting to perpetual beta. http://jarche.com/2012/07/pkm-as-pre-curation/