With the amount of content that is shared on the Internet every minute, it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information out there. This is why content curation is becoming an essential digital literacy skill for teachers and students. The act of curation requires critical and creative thinking, as decisions are made around what to keep, what to discard and how to connect and present ideas. Social bookmarking tools allow collaboration across the world to share and build collections.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tools available to help us. In this article, I’ll explain firstly the different ways in which I curate, and then describe some of the different tools I use for curation.
See also: Screencast Software for the classroom
My Curation Methods
When I curate by collecting, I don’t use any organisational structure other than tagging. Collecting is an easy way of gathering resources around a topic into one place to sort through later.
Organising involves sorting through the collection more purposefully. I don’t do this with every collection, but if I’m using the collection for a purpose, such as preparing this article, I find introducing an organisational structure helps. When I organise, I work out what to keep or discard and I play around with the structure grouping information together in different ways. To prepare for this article, for example, I sorted my collection about content curation into three groups: What is Content Curation, Curation Tools, and Content Curation in the Classroom. To view my growing collection of content curation resources, click here.
Sharing is an important part of curation and it goes both ways. I like to use social bookmarking sites, because they not only allow me to store and share my collections, but to view content other people have collected around the same topic. This often produces better results than using a search engine because the content has already been viewed and evaluated by other people. The more shares an item has, the more likely it is to be of use. While there is usually an option to keep collections private on social bookmarking, sites, I believe its important to make collections public wherever possible so that I am adding value, not just taking from the community.
Sharing is also the way I make sense of my collection and convey its meaning to the rest of the world. In fact, this article is a form of curation. I’ve carefully selected what resources to share and made decisions about how to present them in a meaningful way.
Tools for Content Curation
There are many curation tools available. Here are a few that I use.
Evernote is a great tool if you simply want to collect. Its brilliant search capabilities allow you to search by keyword or by a tag, so it’s easy to retrieve any information around a certain topic. You can create notebooks to organise your collection, but I frequently just tag mine with a topic name, such as ‘gamification’ and then run a search for all items I’ve collected using that tag. You can add a bookmarklet to a web browser to clip articles you are viewing online, and you can email items directly into Evernote.
Pocket is a great way to collect any online articles or videos that you want to view later. You can save to it directly from a browser, or from Twitter, Zite, Feedly and other apps. The user interface on Pocket is much more attractive than Evernote, and it makes it a pleasure to browse and view the collection. However, apart from tagging, there doesn’t seem to be any ability to sort Pocket, which in my opinion, limits its usefulness. I like to use Pocket to browse interesting blogs and articles that I’ve come across and haven’t had time to read. But if I decide that I want to keep an article for future use, I send them on to Evernote.
Pinterest allows you to collect, organise and share all at the same time. I tend to use Pinterest for visual collections. For example, I have a board called ‘Gorgeous Art and Craft‘ in which I collect any ideas for classroom art activities. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest just visually scanning other people’s collections and pinning ideas that appeal to me. I use it more for inspiration than anything else. To view my Pinterest boards, click here.
Scoop.it builds a webpage for you, filled with content around a topic that you choose. You can add content to it using a bookmarklet that can be installed on a web browser. Scoop.it also has a built in engine that suggests content to you, and you can re-scoop from other users sites. It allows you to not just collect, but add commentary to your collection, arrange your collection in a manner that suits your purpose, and to share it with others.
Paper.li is similar to Scoop.it, but instead of a website, it builds a newspaper around the content you collect. There is less ability to organise Paper.li than with Scoop.it, however it’s a great way to harvest and collect information from the web. You can tell Paper.li to create a newspaper out of all the articles shared with or by a particular Twitter user, or that are shared using a specific hashtag. I use it to collate all the posts shared with the rotation curation account, @edutweetoz. At the end of each week, it automatically publishes a newspaper that contains a range of interesting articles reflecting the discussions with Australian educators that week.
Diigo is a sophisticated but easy to use social bookmarking tool. It allows you to collect, organise and annotate content, collaborate with others to build libraries and share with others. I used to use Diigo quite a lot, but in simplifying my workflow, and not wanting to house resources all over the net, I’ve ended up using Evernote for most of my article collections. Unfortunately this means I miss out on the benefit of browsing what others have collected around the same topic. It really is a powerful tool and worth looking into. Like all good bookmarking tools, it has a bookmarklet that can be installed on a web browser to allow you to easily collect content.
Storify allows you to collect content from across the web and present it in a linear story. Each story has its own URL which can be shared, and can also be embedded into websites. I use Storify to summarise content from professional learning activities such as the feed from a twitter chat, or the live tweets from a conference. Sometimes I keep these summaries just for my own reference, and other times I share them with the world. As an example, here’s my storified summary of my notes from Ewan McIntosh’s talk on Agile Leadership at Brisbane’s Edutech Congress in 2014.
Pearltrees is my latest, favourite content curation tool. It’s very simple to use and the visual aspect of it appeals to me. Like Pinterest, I can easily scan it to find content. What I love about Pearltrees is its intuitive interface with the ability to organise content through drag and drop and stacking items. This non-linear aspect assists my thought process in the same way a mind map does, allowing me to connect ideas and rearrange them in many different ways. Like Diigo, Pinterest and Scoop.it, its a social bookmarking tool. You can search Pearltrees for topics curated by other users, and when you create your own Pearltree, it will show you similar collections that you can draw from. You can find my growing collection of Pearltrees here.
I’m also quite interested in exploring the potential of Pearltrees as a presentation tool. Rather than using Powerpoint or Prezi, I quite like the idea of opening up a Pearltree and using it to present ideas around a topic in a non-linear way.
The tool you use to curate is really up to you. I choose tools that ‘feel right’ to me, and I like to use different tools for different purposes.
For more curation tools, have a look at the resources in my Content Curation Pearltree.
Feature image adapted from photo courtesy of Flickr, JuditK.