If you imagine sending a child out onto a beach or ankle deep into a creek to play, what they can bring back is revealing. In Cherokee Park this weekend near Big Rock, after about twenty minutes of quiet searching, my five year old son brought back to me a dead crawdead he swore was moving, a mollusk, a shiny rock that he thought was gold, and three perfect rocks for skipping.
Among all of the “stuff,” those are the things–for that short period of time–he found value in.
Giving learners the freedom to not simply explore, but the systems–from RSS feeds to social media streams–to persistently monitor authentic information sources can be revealing.
In this way, you’re sending them out into the creek to see what they bring back.
Better yet, you can see not what they bring back to you–as a teacher–but what they do with what they find in your absence.
So what are the most modern tools available to allow learners to sift, skim, and curate content? And to do so in ways that are personalized, flexible, and meet the increasingly visual standards of digital tools?
Seven Cutting Edge Tools To Curate Content
1. Use RSS feeds
This one’s the most basic, so it doesn’t seem very creative but because of the development of mobile devices from iPads to Android smartphones, what choose to display those feeds is more than ever a choice of design. RSS readers are no longer simply a bulleted-list of your favorite websites, but rather a dynamic and visual data stream.
There are dozens of fantastic RSS readers from Google Reader and Pulse to Feedly and Google Currents to SkyGrid and GReader. These can be used to not only teacher reading strategies like skimming and inferencing, but also allow students themselves top setup, manage, revise, and use constant streams of personalized information on a daily basis. You can email or then share a feed article with an audience, but the curating process itself is entirely individualized. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to you.
2. Create a Learnist board
Learnist is a highly-focused method of curating content. Instead of curating-in-bulk, Learnist users create a learning board around a topic. The content here is specialized–not chosen by vague topics or abstract “interest,” but the utility of that content to teach someone about that content. (We took a look at getting started with Learnist in the classroom here.)
3. Establish twitter hashtags
The “downside” to using RSS readers in isolation is that they’re not published or otherwise easily shared. This may not be a problem, depending on your goals, but if you want something more publicly visible and social than Google Reader, consider establishing a twitter hashtag. This allows users to share articles, data, or microblogging efforts with others who follow that hashtag. In this way, the curation can be “quiet” or social.
4. Create Google+ pages
Google+ pages are social, like facebook, but offer the ability to create Circles. This lets educators–or even learners themselves–separate who sees what, when. This can be done by project, course, topic, or any other defining feature. All sharing is as public or private as you want it to be, and all comments and reshares are documented for future reference–grading, group projects, etc.
5. Curate YouTube Content Via YouTube Channels
While only video content, YouTube channels allow users to “pick” video content that relates to a particular topic, project, or idea. These can be archived for future reference, or passed on to other group members who then take that now-curated-content to the next step. The number of ways–the infinite number of cultural “generes” visible on YouTube makes this is a gold mine of authentic learning potential.
6. Use StumbleUpon page by content area, class, period, or course
In some ways, this is the most versatile option. Social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Pearltrees, and others allow users to “pluck” content they find value or utility in. These bookmarks can be shared, liked, and otherwise used and consumed by anyone in a way that is visual and digestible. Though not as visual as #7.
7. Create a Pinterest board
By now, you’re undoubtedly familiar with pinterest. As an almost entirely visual way of curating content, pinterest allows users to quickly skim and “pin” content that is compelling to them. Boards are not only visual, but tall and wide, filling up a computer screen with tantalizing images. Watching what users pin on their own–in lieu of a teacher’s direction or admonishment–can be extremely revealing, and offer great starting points for personalizing a writing prompt, project, or even full-course sequence.