Thing 6: Curation Tools

Collecting, Curating and More

 Some rights reserved by Aivar Ruukel

Some rights reserved by Aivar Ruukel

Have you heard the buzz over the past year or two about “digital curation” or “content curation” and wondered what it is all about? We might associate being a curator with selecting objects, interpreting context and managing collections in a musuem, but it describes what librarians do with their collections, aka: ‘collection development’. And if you’ve ever selected, evaluated and organized a collection of great web resources for a research project, then you were doing “digital curation.”

So why the sudden buzz? First, because there’s so much content on the Internet, both good, bad and endlessly repetitive, there’s an increasing value in relying on an expert to select some select the best content for a topic. Second, as that need has grown, many new tools have been developed to make it very easy for anyone to select, collect and share their collections of digital resources. Ironically, this harkens back to early Internet days when we had easy-to-use directories of good resources that were curated for us. Anyone remember these really early efforts? Yahoo’s Subject Directory?  Librarians’ Site du Jour? OpenDirectory? The difference is now anyone can be a curator, which of course leads to the challenge of evaluating which collections are the best, most authoritative, most complete, up to date, etc.

TYPES OF TOOLS

Social Bookmarking: Many of us have been collecting and organizing resources for a long time now using tools like delicious and diigo. Both of these tools let us save links to our favorite web sites, add notes and tags to help describe them and improve findability. They also include a variety of social features that let us share our bookmarked sites with others. Diigo also has collaborative features than can be useful for groups sharing resources.  EduCause has a great overview of Social Boomarking. Some would argue that this is simply “collecting” and that may be true. It depends on how much thought you put into your selections and how effectively you organize them.

Digital Curation tools take these ideas further. Digital curation tools encourage you to select articles, photos, videos, tweets, web sites and other online content about a topic or idea and organize them into a coherent collection that you can share with others. Some digital curation tools let the curator add notes to explain context, offer opinions and ask questions. These collections can be great resources for discovering and keeping up with information. And these tools can be very helpful for students gathering resources for research projects and even for presenting a research project. They can gather information, write notes and reflections on the material, share information in groups and all the while, teachers can be following along and participating as needed. Tools in this category include: Scoop.it, Storify and Pinterest among others.

MentorMob and Learnist are also interesting curation tools, but with an educational twist. They focus on providing a platform for curators to create learning experiences. After deciding on a topic, you gather resources – tutorials, videos, web pages, readings, etc – that will help your audience learn the topic at hand. You then arrange them in an order that will help the learner progress from one skill level to another. Useful in a flipped classroom type of setting or as reinforcement for skills learned in class.

Content Aggregators: This group of tools takes a different twist on curation. They take the sources you specify and provide you with a selection of materials from those sources. Tools like paper.li scan your Twitter and other social media streams and produce a selection of the most popular articles mentioned by the people you follow.  Other tools in this category include Flipboard, news.me and Zite.

USES IN SCHOOLS

Sharing Your Know-How: No one can be an expert on everything, but we all have things that we’re passionate about and perhaps even are experts in. If we create collections of the best resources on those topics and share them, everyone can benefit from our expertise. This is also a great way to share information about what’s going on in the school with parents and other educators.

Digging for Gold: You may not feel like creating collections of resources yet, but you can still benefit from these services. They are gold mines of great material. If you find an expert in an area you’re interested in, then you can follow what they’re curating. In essence they’re filtering out the dreck and sharing just the valuable resources.

Student Use: Students can gather materials for research, create bibliographies, create collections of news articles around a topic, collect graphics  for art projects,  and so much more.

Essential Skills: Students learn essential skills when curating content: how to search for and evaluate resources, how to organize and create a balanced collection. Check out this excellent handout on Building Link Collections to help students learn these skills. From the article Teaching Kids to Curate Content Collections.

LEARNING ACTIVITY

  • Pick 1 (or more!) tools to explore.
  • Title your blog post for this week: Thing 6
  • Share your experiences and ideas about these tools. How could they help you professionally? Personally? How might you use them with your students?

CATEGORY 1: SOCIAL BOOKMARKING

DELICIOUS

Though this service has gone through some hiccups over the last year, it seems to be stable again. Sign up for an account and explore. You can add a handy bookmarklet to your browser toolbar to make it quick and easy to add a site to your account. The FEED tab at the top of your account shows links that have been added by the people you’re following. If you don’t know who to follow, start by looking at the following accounts. Unquiet Librariangrdnldy – (Polly), Hey Jude  Check out who those people are following and you’ll find more people to follow.

DIIGO

Diigo has a bit more of a learning curve, but that’s because there are so many features. To be honest, I havent’t explored them all! Like Delicious, you can add a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar to quickly add sites to your account. One of the most useful features here is the Groups feature. You can set up a group to share resources with others. There are lots of options for keeping groups public or private. Our CoolTools project has a group you can join: http://groups.diigo.com/group/cooltoolsforschool  The RSS feed from that group feeds links into the Tips, Tools & Resources list on the right side of our website.

You can also explore other public groups without joining, like the Google in Education & Teacher Librarian groups. And like Delicious, you can follow people and see what they’re bookmarking. Check out these people: Heather Braum, Joyce Valenza, Karl Fisch

CATEGORY 2: CURATION

SCOOPIT

This service has become incredibly popular over the past year. At the core are topic based pages with previews of articles. Anyone can create a ‘scoop’ on any topic and start adding content. A bookmarklet lets you easily add articles directly from your browser. Topics that are particularly well-curated will attract followers who will come to rely on you to select the best content in a timely manner. Sound a bit like a newspaper or magazine?  As Joyce Valenza talks about in  Curation is the New Search Tool, curation services are terrific places to turn to when searching for content and an opportunity to hone their evaluation skills.

PINTEREST

The hottest new social networking, bookmarking, curation, addictive service. This visually appealing site is tons of fun and is a great way to create a collection of resources to share with students and staff. Basically it’s like an old fashioned bulletin board where you pin photos of things you want to do, places you want to go, books to read, etc.

Users create “boards” on whatever topics they want and when they find a great recipe, book, craft idea, etc, they can click on the Pin-It button on their toolbar to add that item to their boards. You choose which boards to make public or keep private. You also decide whose content you want to follow. And the best thing about Pinterest, you don’t have to follow everything someone is posting. If you’re just interested in someone’s boards about school topics, you can just follow those boards.

Check out 16 ways educators can use Pinterest for a quick idea of how it’s being used in schools.

STORIFY

Storify was also included in the digital storytelling lesson, but it’s also a curation tool. “Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.”

MENTORMOB

Similar to Learnist, use MentorMob to gather learning resources from anywhere on the web and arrange them in a logical sequence for your students to follow as part of a course or for extra exploring. Lots of useful resources created by others.

LEARNIST

Similar to MentorMob, use Learnist to gather learning resources from anywhere on the web and arrange them in a logical sequence for your students to follow as part of a course or for extra exploring. Lots of useful resources created by others.

CATEGORY 3: CONTENT AGGREGATORS

PAPER.LI

Once you’ve set up your account, this service does all the work for you and produces a daily newspaper of content based on the sources you’ve selected in the setup process. If you’re interested in following the articles and resources being discussed using the #tlchat hashtag on twitter, you can set up a paper.li that pulls just that content. Or you could include particular individuals, groups of people or everyone you follow on twitter. Other sources include facebook and google+. Let me emphasize, you don’t have to be active on those services to use paper.li, though at this time, you do need an account on twitter or facebook to sign up. Some popular paper.li’s to check out include: #tlchat (Joyce Valenza) and LibTech News. Joyce Valenza talks about using paper.li with her students in The Kids are Curating.

FLIPBOARD

If you have an iPad or an iPhone, do try this service, if you haven’t already! It creates a lovely magazine of stories based on the services you select. Not only useful, it’s also a pleasure to use. As an example of how it works: I follow a lot of WordPress news and have a folder of WordPress blog feeds in Google Reader. FlipBoard takes that folder of articles and turns it into a nice magazine-like reading experience for me. I can catch up on reading from the local coffeeshop or anywhere else when I find I have time to spare.

2 Responses to Thing 6: Curation Tools

  1. Pingback: Thing 6: Curation Tools | SLS Cool Tools – Hudson Valley

  2. pollyalida says:

    This handy Pinterest Guide is available for download from the MakeUseOf site. Password for download is: makeuseof They put together great guides and offer useful tips, sign up for their email list to be notified of future tips and guides.

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