October 16, 2013

Curating in the Cloud


Lifelong Learner - Nazareth College, Rochester, NY
Lifelong Learner / NazarethCollege / CC BY 2.0

Many of us use social media to help us live as lifelong learners. We create, communicate, and curate with blogs, Twitter, and our PLNs (Personal Learning Networks). The lessons I create for my students are far different from those I developed before social media was as available as it is today. In my early days as an educator I stated more than once that I was going to write my own textbook. And my mathematics students seconded that idea. Now I do that. Every time I create a unit or a lesson. I love the freedom to develop lessons that meet my students’ needs while I meet current standards in my discipline. Technology--hardware, software, the web--allow me to do that so much more easily than I could have done the first time I thought about writing a textbook.

I’ve been thinking a lot about curation this month as my students (pre-service teachers) are using blogs and Twitter as they begin to develop their own PLNs. For many years my curation process consisted of (1) bookmarking sites and (2) organizing documents in folders on my desktop computer at home. I began using social bookmarking as soon as I discovered it. I love the fact that I can access my bookmarks from any browser on any computer! The application I used for that began to have difficulties so I moved to Delicious. I have investigated Diigo from time to time, but for my purposes Delicious serves my needs. When I was the technology director for my school district I encouraged the teachers to access my bookmarks to help them find relevant sites for their teaching. Now my students have access to my bookmarks if they wish.

I did not need that anywhere/anytime flexibility for my documents and other files. I am at my most creative working at my computer at home. At school I am more likely to be involved with colleagues and students than with creating units on the computer. Until I began using a smartphone. Mobile technology is beginning to change my habits. I find myself at school or elsewhere wishing I could access documents or files that I have organized in my folders on my home computer. I store some content in the cloud. But not all. It’s time to think about curating in the cloud.


Larry Bird, curator, Political History
Larry Bird, curator, Political History / Karon Flage / CC BY 2.0
I began to investigate the concept of curation. We have a curator of the museum for our local historical society. What does a museum curator do? Kim Kenney (http://www.bellaonline.com/about/Museums) in What is a Curator (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art31080.asp) lists some of the duties of a museum curator: acquisitions, collections management, exhibitions, research and writing, and community connections.

That sure sounds like what I do as an educator. I acquire content and ideas for teaching it. I manage my acquisitions in my social bookmarking site and in the folders on my desktop computer. I create exhibitions (curriculum, lessons) that are organized collections structured in a way that I and others can learn from them. I research and write so that I can develop new content that is useful for myself and others. And I share with the various communities of which I am a part: colleagues, students, PLN.


Curation has taken on a new role in today’s Web 2.0 world. (See Beth Kanter’s (http://www.bethkanter.org/about-beth/) comments about content curation at her blog (http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/). So much information is created nowadays that we can no longer stay up-to-date by reading or writing about all the news stories. Some folks have developed full-time jobs using tools to help them watch what’s happening all over the world, spotting trends, and sharing that information. I found this 2011 interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMn-cJHzF8A) of Robert Scoble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Scoble) by Howard Rheingold (http://rheingold.com/about/) about online curation to be very interesting.


So what are the best tools for educators to use for curation? Many tools were suggested in articles* I researched about curation. I read about bags, binders, and online newspapers along with other ways to create, collect, consume, communicate, and curate data and information. Here are the tools that interest me the most at this point for my curation needs.

Evernote (http://evernote.com/)... collect your sites and documents... access from anywhere

Evernote Taiwan User Meetup
Evernote Taiwan User Meetup / othree / CC BY 2.0
  • I have played with Evernote but was never sold that it was an appropriate tool for me. After my research for this blog post and for the new unit that I added to my course I am convinced that Evernote will help my acquisition and management processes be more efficient. It will also provide that anytime/anywhere access that I need for my documents and other files. I think that Whitson Gordon’s (http://whitsongordon.kinja.com/) article I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing (http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing) was written for me!
Logo of Delicious
Logo of Delicious / Bernard Goldbach / CC BY 2.0

Delicious (https://delicious.com/)... my old friend for social bookmarking... supports tags and comments... do I need Delicious AND Evernote?

  • Apparently it’s a bit of a challenge to import Delicious bookmarks into Evernote. (I came to that conclusion after searching for a method to do so.) I do have a lot of Delicious bookmarks with tags. I don’t have time to play with that at the moment, so for now I will use Delicious along with Evernote. Delicious has been and continues to be a useful acquisition and management tool for me.

FlipBoard (https://flipboard.com/)... create magazine... your sites... uses social media feeds... magazine looks almost real and definitely interesting

Flipboard / Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • I have investigated FlipBoard previously and have seen other educators use it. It did not appeal to me as a tool to use with my students. When I create a class or workshop I usually use a wiki as the foundation. Wikis are convenient to use as I’m working with my students. I keep the wikis published and available for the students for several years so they can access them later as they need to do so. I try to make them attractive and inviting. And it’s easy to modify them as technology and my own knowledge change. But... rather than create wikis containing all the content I use in a particular class or workshop, perhaps I should use wikis as the organizational structure with FlipBoard magazines as the unit of structure for individual topics. FlipBoard looks like a good tool for communication and curation.


Would you like to review some of the *articles I read about curation and appropriate tools for curating? Here is a partial list of those that flavored my thinking and my decisions but that I did not quote or explicitly mention in this post.

4 Promising Curation Tools That Help Make Sense of the Web
by Steven Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation
If You Use the Web, You are a "Curator"
Content Curation Tools
Top 10 Content Curation Tools
by Terry Heick

Curation Tools

The Best Tools for Content Curation
by Amit Agarwal

Here’s the list of websites that I investigated as I searched for appropriate tools. Many of these websites are very useful for a variety of purposes. The tools I chose in this blog post are specifically for the purpose of curation.

addictomatic: inhale the web
google news
huffington post
listorious.com (now called muckrack)
the awl
yahoo news

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