Librarians, Curation and OER

Shadowgate. Carnavalet Museum. Aug, 2013. Flickr Creative Commons.

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.


8 thoughts on “Librarians, Curation and OER

  1. Deb,
    I am always intrigued by your blogs because you post about a lot of topics that are new to me. I wish we had a resource person in our school that could do what you do for your teachers! On the topic of Newsela, I have also had some personal issues with some of the articles, but I take it as a challenge to find the “other side” and share that with my students as well! I’d love to learn more about Storify and Symbaloo. Can you share what you like about those tools? Or perhaps a sample?

    • Hi Deb,

      You’re thoughts on curation are very significant. Thank you for sharing this. I feel like I got both concrete information for curation sources as well as insight into your thinking on how to manage information for you and your students. The value of someone like who is staying informed and sharing in a school setting is hard to overestimate. I’ll keep following you!

    • Hi Brooke! Thank you for your thoughts. I’m thinking that although many Newsela articles are adapted form the Associated Press, many begin with articles from news organizations whose writers write articles that people want to read. Sensationalism sells. I’m continually blown away by the power of the media to shape what we think and believe.

  2. “I do not understand why we don’t spend more time in schools on this vital learning skill.” I couldn’t agree more, Deb, but sadly, I’m pretty sure that most people (educators included) have no idea that their internet searches are “personalized”.
    Unfortunately, budget restraints have limited the days our librarian is in our building, but she is an awesome resource for helping my students understand how to conduct a search. We are encouraged to ask for libguides, and schedule co-teaching lessons. It is a disservice to our students if we don’t prepare them to be educated internet users! Sources and the point of view, bias and perspective are all considerations one should consider when choosing articles for a project. We can begin this as noticing and questioning in the elementary grades.

    I also chose to use Participate Learning as my curation tool. A librarian recommended it to me 🙂
    Great post, Deb!

    • Thanks big time for the article Judy, and I totally agree that we need to start young and with questioning. I’m so glad that you recognize the need for digital information literacy and that you have a supportive librarian.

  3. Hi Deb,

    The first thought that comes to mind is “wow”. You have such a wealth of knowledge on this topic. I have only scratched the surface on some of the many resources that you have mentioned above. I am so impressed with all of the resources you utilize. It does make sense that the school’s librarians are the front runners of this type of organization and dissemination of information though I don’t believe our librarian uses any of these resources for the teachers or students. I plan on asking her about how/if she uses any of these tools with our students. Have you used Symbaloo with students? Are students have so many security restrictions on doing internet searches. I am wondering about using some of these for the students to access collected topics of information. Have you ever used any of them with students, where they had to be the ones to curate information on a specific research topic? Do you have any idea how the tools fall in the FERPA/COPA restrictions? It seems like something I would like to look into.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Thank you Jacqueline! A few years ago, at a different school, I set up a Symbaloo dashboard for students and showed them how to make it their home screen through their browser settings. I’ve used Scoopit with students, but only as a search tool. As far as students curating information, we’ve used diigo, which allows for education accounts. Students can create groups and share resources within the group. They can even collaboratively annotate found resources.

      I believe that COPA was created so that commercial websites directed at kids couldn’t collect information from kids, without parental consent. So… to avoid dealing with COPA and looking like they are selling to kids, sites create a “terms of use” which bans kids (younger than 13) to use their site. This is the case with Pinterest, which you can’t even search, if you’re under 13.

      I guess whenever you create an account, you are sharing information, although I’m not sure how much a google apps for ed e-mail is giving someone, especially in cases when students can’t even access their actual e-mails! I do wish that more sites would create easier ways to create ed accounts. My issue currently is with Tinkercad, which the students really need to access!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s