Teaching Students to Become Curators of Ideas: The Curation Project

by corinnew on April 16, 2012

I know a lot of people view curation as a buzz word devoid of meaning, but I like the metaphor! I think it beautifully captures the process we need to go through to best make sense of the vast amount of information available on the web. Of course, it doesn’t help that a lot of people use the word curation to describe activities that don’t live up to the metaphor. And that takes away from its power. To talk content curation, we really need to think through the duties of a museum curator for a second. A curator scours the art world, selects the finest works, gathers them together around a unified theme, provides a frame to understand the artists’ messages and then hosts a conversation around the collection. That’s not unlike the 21st century teacher who must comb through an overabundance of information to discover the significant and relevant, bundle those ideas into course modules, contextualize them for the class and then create an environment for students to explore those ideas and enter into a conversation about them. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to think of my role as a teacher as that of a curator of ideas (also see my SXSWedu presentation on the topic). I’ve also come to believe that the steps involved in the curation process are key new media literacies which we should teach our students. That’s why this spring, I introduced a brand-new curation assignment (described on the back of the syllabus) in my social media class.

The Curation Project & the PLN

As part of the social media class, my students are required to set up a network of online mentors using social media tools. They have to identify experts in their field and connect with them in order to build a personal learning network (PLN). One of the goals of the PLN is to connect them to resources they might not have otherwise discovered. In other words, their PLN is designed to help them discover valuable information through social search rather than regular search (i.e. a Google search). It’s designed to bring information and resources to them that have been vetted by other Internet users, not just an algorithm. This semester, I asked my students to “curate” that information the way a museum curator would curate an art exhibit. I told them they would need to comb through the resources received through their PLN to discover the significant and relevant, bundle those ideas together, contextualize them for their audience, repackage them and share them through a social media platform. I suggested they use one of the following free services: Scoop.it, paper.li, Storify, or Storyful and strongly encouraged them to follow the 8 steps to successful content curation discussed in class (see slides below).

In essence, I tasked students with  creating the ultimate resource on a particular topic and to share it with the world. Students knew they would be graded on the level of engagement they were able to create and had to hand in a short report explaining how they tracked their curation, how they tried to host a conversation around the content, and how successful they were at disseminating it.

The Student Projects:

This was without a doubt one of the most rewarding assignments I’ve graded. It was nice to see students walk their readers through these resources and provide a frame to shape the way their readers view/experience their curation. The report I asked them to write required them to think about social media metrics, decide which to use, and track the level of engagement their curated resource received. A number of students who did their curation project on the topic of social media measurement came to the conclusion that they should have listened to their own advice with regards to tracking! Others were amazed their content was viewed in countries as far away as Switzerland (yay to breaking the physical walls of the classroom!). Most were thrilled that others were interested in their content.

As far as curation services are concerned, it seems most students gravitated towards Scoop.it and Storify. Take a look!

Storyful Projects:

Scoop.it Projects:

Storify Projects:

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