Archive for category Curation
We’ve all heard the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” While the bears were away, the hungry little girl, Goldilocks, entered their cabin and tasted their porridge. However, one was too hot, and another one was too cold. Finally, baby bear’s porridge was just right, and she ate it all up. Likewise, as teachers design digital learning experiences based on their students’ personal strengths and interests, they need to search for the “just right” instructional resources to meet their students’ varied needs.
With the use of the technology for digital lesson design and delivery, teachers have powerful tools that make it easy to communicate with students; manage the virtual classroom; provide access to instructional resources; and track student mastery of learning standards. Yet despite all that functionality, teachers still face additional ongoing challenges.
Teachers are now engaged in a time-intensive daily process of designing digital instruction from resources they find on the Internet. A recent survey noted that teachers spend up to seven hours per week searching for instructional resources and another five hours designing their own instructional materials. (Marci Goldberg of K-12 Market Advisors)
The seamless integration of interoperable technology resources within an intentionally designed digital learning ecosystem can provide teachers with the necessary digital lesson design tools and access to curated learning objects that are vetted for quality and correlated to learning standards. This digital content may include resources licensed from publishers; curated open educational resources; and teacher-created resources that are shared throughout the district.
As districts prioritize the process of curating instructional resources and making them readily accessible, teachers can begin designing digital instruction more effectively. The following strategies are important to remember during the process of selecting digital resources while designing lessons:
Focus on the Standards – Teachers should utilize content that is correlated to learning standards to make an instructional difference for each learner. After identifying the essential skills embedded within the standard, the teachers can determine what processes or products might demonstrate understanding. Teachers should be able to conduct a search for standards-correlated content and embed it in their assignments. These assignments should be designed to help students show mastery of a particular concept or skill.
Scaffold Understanding – Within the design of a lesson that incorporates digital content, teachers should scaffold understanding. How are those resources being used to engage student learning? Online discussions can include curated content. At the beginning of a lesson, questions can set the stage for new learning and help students focus on the core components of a concept or process. Video within a lesson should be used purposefully and with short clips (less than a few minutes) to stimulate questions and critical thinking. Directions need to be clear, yet minimal, so that students can utilize critical thinking when solving problems. Finally, there should be a variety of types of formative and summative assessments provided so that students have multiple risk-free opportunities to demonstrate learning and ensure success.
Plan for Interaction – After students view video or another form of digital content, they should be encouraged to interact and collaborate with each other to construct new meanings from that information. Students can participate in discussions to pose new questions and ideas about their learning. Assignments can be collaborative to support students working together to solve problems. Teachers can use digital content to help students compare and contrast new concepts in these collaborative groups, and students can create authentic products to demonstrate their learning.
Utilize a Variety of Content – As with all forms of media being shared with students, teachers must carefully preview all digital content. Teachers should consider the needs and expectations of their learning communities – the age of the students and the values of the community – before utilizing digital content for instructional purposes. In addition to the use of video, other types of digital content should be utilized for instruction, including interactives, images, audio files, documents, and eBooks.
Personalize Learning Experiences – Students have unique talents, abilities, and differences that can pose challenges to the one-size fits all classroom. By personalizing learning experiences, teachers can help students identify the pathways that meet their individual learning needs and interests. A teacher could begin helping students identify their strengths through a learning style inventory or interest checklist, but digital content can also be used meaningfully to differentiate learning experiences. One way that this can be accomplished is by designing personalized playlists correlated to learning standards and assigning them to students based on their learning needs.
Like Goldilocks who consumed the bear’s “just right” porridge, through intentional lesson design, today’s digital age students can engage with the “just right” digital content so that they can experience academic success and make the most out of every teachable moment. Those students may even become producers of their own “just right” original content that they are ready to share with others.
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.
1. Design a comprehensive strategic plan for curation.
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.
2. Specify what content needs to be curated and created.
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.
3. Organize and train teams in content curation at multiple levels.
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.
4. Outline the logistics of when, where, and how to curate content.
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.
5. Develop a strategy for contextualizing curated content.
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.
6. Construct a rubric to assess content for quality.
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.
7. Determine how content should be stored, accessed, and sustained.
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.
8. Communicate about curated content to the intended users.
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.
9. Provide professional learning in the use of curated content.
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.
Schools and districts are now utilizing an influx of digital tools, content, and platforms with several hopeful intentions. With the use of these resources, educators are planning to better engage student learning, increase academic performance; and prepare students for an ever-changing digital world. Whether the technology devices are owned by the students and brought to school as part of a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative or provided by the district, teachers and students are using these tools and accessing online platforms to transform learning experiences by developing new ways to connect with each other and digital content.
Although greater access to technology tools and devices has increased, with public schools now providing at least one computer for every five students and ensuring high-speed Internet connections (Education Week, 2016), these resources are still not fully achieving their desired goals. There are many possible reasons why teachers are still struggling to use technology to transform instruction. While districts have rushed to provide teachers with access to technology tools, platforms, and the Internet, most have not spent time curating the digital content necessary for teachers to maximize the potential of these resources. Of course, many districts have also increased their subscriptions to digital content providers, but to strategically curate digital content is a different initiative that requires its own comprehensive plan.
In a professional learning session, a teacher once complained to me that her district was technology rich, but resource poor. However, the district had placed greater emphasis on acquiring devices and the use of learning platforms for classroom management over the curation of digital content. Consider that in the past, teachers were usually provided with a textbook that included most of their necessary instructional resources. While simultaneously reducing the expenditures on print resources and raising funds for technology purchases, many districts eliminated textbooks and provided teachers with devices. Now, many teachers are engaged in a time-intensive daily process of designing digital instruction from resources they find on the Internet, in addition to learning how to use new technology tools, while attempting to increase student engagement and academic performance.
Content Curation Activities
A district’s strategic focus on the curation of digital content for its teachers and students can help to facilitate the transition to a digital learning ecosystem. Curation for this ecosystem entails more than just collecting, gathering, and organizing. The process of curation involves the following purposeful activities:
- Selecting content at multiple levels and from diverse sources
- Evaluating content for quality, including relevance and authenticity
- Creating essential content that cannot be located externally
- Annotating content to provide meaning and context
- Organizing content to facilitate searching and productivity
- Storing content to ensure safe, reliable, and equitable access
- Archiving content that may no longer be relevant
- Deleting content that is no longer necessary
- Communicating about content to the expected users
- Sustaining the content with a thorough plan of action
Reasons for Content Curation
Although the strategic process of curation has often been overlooked by K-12 school districts, it has been a regular practice in higher education, museums, and libraries, and its necessity to business continues to grow in importance with the need to inform and educate workers and customers due to the abundance of information readily available online in the digital age. Likewise, there are numerous reasons why the task of curating content should be systematically implemented within K-12 school districts, including the following:
- Preserving instructional time
- Utilizing resources more effectively
- Providing greater access to content
- Promoting equity among users
- Protecting digital rights
- Supporting online safety
- Encouraging innovation
- Saving money and resources
- Ensuring quality in content
- Nurturing a sense of community
Without purposeful curation, it is impossible to realize the full impact of digital learning resources and initiatives. There would be no consistent approach to the acquisition and use of digital content to inform the improvement of teaching and learning practices. Not only does curation help to ensure the quality of resources that are being utilized for instruction, but it also promotes equity, especially when those resources are incorporated within an accessible digital curriculum. In my next blog post, I will explore various strategies for content curation.