June 2, 2018

The Information Revolution is like a snowball or an avalanche that started in 1455 when Gutenberg created the first printing press, and it has been getting bigger and faster ever since.
Our ability to create, transmit and store information is unprecedented. But with this astonishing amount of information that is available at the tips of our fingers has come a whole set of new problems and the necessity of new skills like curation.

My browser history probably contains more information than was available to the western world in the previous century. So our biggest problem is no longer to get access to information, rather it is to distinguish the good stuff from the bad. A few months ago I wrote about a teacher’s role as curator. Click here to read more about it.

Be Curators, not just Distributors

A new type of assignment

From a teachers point of view, the information avalanche has opened lots of doors. You no longer have to read through 30 projects based on the same three library books. However, you might still get 30 projects based on the same three websites from the first Google page.
But instead of moaning that your learners are not making use of the vast amount of information that is available to them, have you tried to change your assignments?

There will always be a place for a good research project, but why not change it up and give them a curation task?

What is a curation assignment?

Instead of asking learners to research a topic and synthesise the information in a cohesive form, make the collection of resources a task by itself. Ask students to create a collection of 10 or more sources on a subject. This could be done on paper, but it will result in an enormous amount of printing and photocopying. Using an online platform enables learners to link to a variety of different sites and pages, without having to print anything at all.

To prevent students from just adding the first ten things that pop up on Google, ask them to add a short description to each link explaining how it links to the topic. By adding writing to the task you make a more academically challenging than just creating a list of links.

How would you assess it?

Let’s face it, for you to go through thirty collections and read all the links will be impossible. But this could be a great opportunity for peer evaluation. Randomly send out the links to other students in the class and ask them to look at the collection and rate it. Or to identify the best resources in the collection, which gets added to the classes collection in return.

A curation task can also be an excellent first step in a research project. Similar to the literature studies you do at university. Before you give learners their term project, ask them to compile a collection of resources on the topic. Or it can be the predecessor to a class debate. Tell students that you will have a debate on stem cell research or whether children should be inoculated tomorrow, and for homework, they have to find five articles for and five against it to use in the debate.

How do you create a curation task?

My first attempt at curation was a simple Google Sheet. I posted links to cool lesson ideas so that I can find it again. Later I started using Pinterest for the same purpose because it is so much easier and there are so many cool ideas on Pinterest already.

Why are you not on Pinterest yet?

But if you want learners to create a collection it might be better to use something that is created for that purpose. Thanks to The Cult of Pedagogy Jumpstart Course I recently found eLink, which is very easy to use and ideal for curation tasks.

Here is an example of an eLink that I created with interesting blog posts by teachers.

If you want step-by-step instructions, download my free guide on using eLink and creating your own curation tasks.

So next time you want your learners to do some research, why not set them a curation task?

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