In our digitally connected world, most of us have become curators of content as we utilize the technology tools in our pockets to interact with each other. We practice curation for both personal and professional reasons by saving our favorite links, images, videos, and other resources, which we have either found ourselves or have been shared with us. In turn, we usually share this curated content with each other through social media, email, text messages, etc. We can then carefully curate the information that we assemble and organize on social media, as it collectively becomes our representation of our digital selves. Even this blog is another example of curation, as I often include the links to other sources that I find valuable, and arrange my thoughts, ideas, and illustrations into a cohesive whole.
Although most of us participate in daily content curation, many people frequently make mistakes in the types of content that they share online and damage their reputations and/or digital footprints. The content in these situations may be inappropriate, lack authenticity, or distract from the intended message. These concerns are relevant to both personal and professional attempts at content curation and necessitate a purposeful, focused, and methodic approach to this task
In my last blog post, Curation for Digital Learning, I detailed the reasons why schools and districts should engage in content curation to facilitate digital learning. I also listed the activities that are involved in content curation, specifically within K-12 learning environments. Now, to better nurture digital learning ecosystems, this blog post contains an overview of some specific strategies that schools and districts can undertake to begin, execute, and sustain a successful plan for content curation. I have attempted to list the strategies in order; however, once the process of content curation is initiated by a school district, many activities begin to happen concurrently, and there may be some overlap in timing as different teams and individuals begin to fulfill their roles and responsibilities within that process.
Different departments within school and districts often pursue their own disparate plans for new initiatives and seldom have a written plan for implementation. Because content curation requires a comprehensive strategy that involves everyone in the district, it is necessary to spend some time reflecting about this process and brainstorming about the requisite curation strategies. Likewise, mutually acceptable goals and objectives should be collaboratively established for content curation. Ultimately, this plan should be continually revisited and occasionally modified to remain current, relevant, and adaptable to accommodate changes in personnel, new goals and initiatives, and innovations in instructional practices and technology. The remaining strategies in this list should be included within the district’s overall plan for content curation.
Within a district’s plan for curation, content serves various purposes and originates from various sources. A district can begin this process by conducting an inventory and review of its current instructional content. Some of these instructional resources may be available within a digital format to better connect students to engaging content at any time and place while using their own technology tools or devices provided by the district. Districts may already be subscribing to resources that will fulfill some of their content curation needs and purposes. These resources may be provided by various publishers of digital content. Other resources may be available from open educational resources that can be found online or acquired from the content that the district or its teachers have already identified. Once district personnel have completed this inventory of available resources, there may be a need to source additional content to further address instructional needs or learning initiatives. Any content that is determined to be unavailable to procure from external sources may need to be created internally within the district and included within the overall body of curated resources.
A school or district needs to realize that curation is a process and will require organization and training at multiple levels from district-level to school-level personnel. This organization may require that teams will need to be involved in different aspects of curation process. Some teams may need to focus on specific subject areas, grade levels, or even instructional strategies. Other teams may focus on how the different resources are being utilized to facilitate teaching and learning. District-level teams may focus on the goals and objectives of a specific department and include the on-going review of resources that are being shared by schools. School-level teams may include lead teachers and department chairs who represent grade levels and content areas and curate the resources that are utilized by teachers daily for instruction. Teams may also be composed of media and technology specialists who regularly deal with curation of learning resources, an understanding of copyright information, and the use of technology platforms and tools for curation. Content curation teams should have clear goals and objectives, and the individuals involved should have determined roles and responsibilities. Finally, each team should operate under well-defined expectations and deliverables to be accountable for its success.
Because multiple individuals will be involved in the district’s content curation strategy, they may need to follow a consistent set of procedures of when, where, or how they will curate content. They will need time to fulfill their responsibilities, and the district will need to consider how to provide that time. They may also require additional equipment or resources for curation that will need to be made available. These logistics should be clearly documented within the district’s overall plan for curation. Finally, it may be necessary to develop specific forms or templates for recording the logistics for how each team will complete its assigned tasks in curation.
Individual items of content, otherwise known as learning objects, may have limited meaning when each resource is looked at separately. Curators will need to consider any metadata or additional information that is necessary to provide meaningful context to those resources. This information may include descriptive details such as key words, tags, correlations to standards, intended grade level, student interests, etc. Context can also be provided with how the curated content is packaged together into a cohesive whole such as within a playlist, individual lessons, or a comprehensive digital curriculum. Determining who is responsible for completing the above tasks and providing that context is another aspect of the content curation process.
Because the content is curated from many sources and by different individuals, it is important that the curators are utilizing a rubric or checklist to help ensure quality. Again, the design of this rubric should include whatever specific goals and strategies that the district determines are essential for the learning objects to reflect, and should support the district’s overall digital learning initiative. Some evaluative aspects that could be addressed within the rubric include student engagement, flexibility of resources, accuracy of information, or other pertinent details. A school or district may also want to consider having different levels (school and district) of evaluation to ensure that the best resources are selected for curation.
There are a variety of digital platforms available for curating content. Some digital tools and resources make it easy for teachers to begin locating and sharing resources informally, but these platforms may not support an overall sustainable and equitable content curation strategy. Some platforms also focus more on instructional design or class management rather than on the curation of resources from a variety of content providers. Districts also need to consider interoperability among the digital platforms within their digital learning ecosystem to ensure that teachers and students have a seamless experience in accessing and utilizing these resources. Perhaps most importantly, districts should determine that any curated resources can be readily migrated from one platform to another, as necessary, since the needs and direction of the district tend to change over time.
As resources are being curated for instructional purposes, districts will need to consider how they will communicate about the new resources and where they will be located for the intended users. Teachers and students are often unaware of where to find the resources that are being curated by district. The district may choose to send out a weekly newsletter of new content that has been curated and the intended purposes for those resources. They may also want to provide recorded webinars or other information about how to locate curated content. Having a consistent location and process for accessing the curated content will make it easier for everyone involved to know exactly where to search to better implement those resources for teaching and learning.
In addition to knowing how to locate curated content and utilize any platforms involved in this process, teachers will also need ongoing training for their role in the process of curation and in how to use curated resources for instruction. There may be different expectations for how that content is to be used, which would influence the training that is provided. For example, some of the curated objects may include interactive simulations, materials for research, specific units of study, or even digital lessons that each require their own specific training. A district may find it helpful to organize teams focused on various aspects professional learning and differentiate among training on how to utilize a platform; how to locate quality resources; or how to incorporate specific resources within instruction. An ongoing professional learning plan will help a district in achieving the instructional goals for their content curation strategy.
There is no one-size-fits-all content curation strategy that works for every school or district. Because every learning community has its own specific needs, challenges, and strengths, the above strategies may need to be modified to address those differences. In future blog posts, I am planning on exploring these strategies to provide more specific details and resources about the content curation process to benefit digital learning.