Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘curation

I am constantly on the lookout for resources that are relevant to courses that I facilitate. 

One series of modules on ICT for Inclusion is a few months away, but I already have more new resources than I can share in the short time that I have with my students. So I embed just some of them here.

Video source

Video source

Video source

The first two videos highlight the ways that various technologies enable differently-abled folk to live their lives. I like that they are local examples and will connect with my learners.

The third video is of a well-known YouTuber. He is not a local lad, of course, but he represents a faction of people who do not consider their “disabilities” to be disabilities. It reinforces my message that we need to focus on what students with special needs can do or might do, instead of what they cannot.

I am also reminding myself that I have a reflection on the myth that is learning styles. I curated several resources and linked them one to another after I kept hearing more and more pre- and in-service teachers tout this falsehood.

Rising above, what I have done illustrates the difference between merely bookmarking or collecting resources, and actually curating them. It is easy to collect and just as easy to forget that these resources exist. It is more difficult but far more meaningful to see how they fit together to teach a lesson or two.

One of the simplest forms of digital curation is teaching YouTube algorithms what videos to suggest.

Curating by informing YouTube algorithms.

I do this by marking videos that I have no wish to watch with “not interested” (see screenshot above). I also remove some videos from my watched history listing.

Sometimes I watch videos based on a suggestion or a whim, but I find them irrelevant. If I do not remove them from my watch history, I will get suggestions that are related to those videos the next time I refresh my YouTube feed.

These simple steps are an example of cooperating with relatively simple AI so that algorithms work with and for me. This is human-AI synergy.

I remember Ask Jeeves like I remember Lycos and Hotbot. These were search engines before Google.

I remember curation before the likes of fire-and-forget services like These tweet “curations” are Ask Peeves for me because they piss me off.

Last month I tweeted an article about providing effective formative feedback.

The title of the article included the word “cartography” because the writer likened feedback to knowing 1) where you are, 2) where you need to be, and 3) how to get there.

However, individuals and bots who did not bother to actually read the article auto “curated” it into papers about geography, way finding, navigation, and the like. Even my attempt to hashtag the tweet with #feedback did little to stem the tide.

I dread to think of “experts” and trainers showing teachers how to set up such fire-and-forget services in the name of curation. It is not curation if you 1) have not read the article, 2) are not telling a coherent story, and 3) are not doing any of the heavy lifting.

If you like fire-and-forget strategies, you are taking a shortcut. You might get views and followers initially. But when they see that you lack effort and substance when you fire, they will forget.

Almost every day I get notified on Twitter that something I created or shared is part of someone’s “curated” e-paper. I should feel flattered, but I am not always pleased.

The part of me that celebrates is the fact that everyone today can be a leader, publisher, or broadcaster. Your artefact can be right beside or even more highly featured than a prize-winning journalist or a Sir Ken Robinson.

My beef is not with the content creators because they are the leaders, publishers, or broadcasters. I like them even more when they share generously and openly because the rest of us benefit from their ideas, perspectives, or wisdom.

lazy by delgrosso, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  delgrosso 

I take issue with those that pretend to curate the content with tools like, flipboard, or some equivalent. I have shared some other thoughts on auto-curation before.

Auto-curation tools are efficient. They allow a user to pull and pool content from just about anywhere into themed e-papers. But it is one thing to do this for your benefit (like how some of us still use RSS to get our daily nuggets). It is another to share these as one’s own effort and expertise.

I have described these efforts as fire-and-forget because there is little effort beyond initial set up. These tools, and by association the people that use them, trawl social media riches but remove the social, the personal, and the contextual.

For example, I know of e-curated sites that feature only one source of articles while touting how many people tweet-share articles from that source. Others put their articles in the top-ranking section at the beginning and everyone else’s later. These are more about self-promotion than sharing.

There are others that claim expertise or specialization in a topic. To the uninformed eye, the daily churning out of e-papers with articles based on the hard work of others seems impressive. However, quite a few of the “curators” do not produce any of their own work to share. They might also have little or no reputation in the topics they dabble in.

If you try having conversations with these entities, you soon learn that they sometimes a) do not reply, b) are bots, or c) cannot carry a light load of logic or critical thought.

What saddens me is that curation might be redefined by efficiency and convenience instead of care and context. There are digital tools like Diigo and that lend themselves to more considered and reflective curation. However, I worry about the slick and shiny tools used by educators and non-educators alike who inevitably push the wrong curation agenda. I worry that it promotes lazy thinking.

I am all for showing people how easy it is to use today’s technology. But I am against modelling that good use is effortless. Like most things, the best things in life often take care and hard work. Digital curation is no exception.

On an almost daily basis, I get notified by Twitter that something I wrote or a tweet I shared is part of someone else’s curated e-paper. For example, I get tweets like “The [name] Daily is out! Stories via @ashley…”.

These tweets become spammy when others listed with me retweet or favourite the tweet and I get notified repeatedly. The notifications are easy enough to ignore, but some of the malpractices of digital curation is not.

There are at least two types curation tools, auto curation tools like, and manual curation tools like It is the auto tools left in fire-and-forget mode that concern me.

An owner of something like a space defines content by including Twitter handles and hashtags, amongst other parameters. The tool harvests information daily and spits out pretty decent-looking papers based on algorithms.

The original authors or creators of content are assured that they can opt out or stand to gain increased traffic.

Let me address the first issue short and sweet: How about first being asked if we would like to opt in? Even if I share content openly, what happened to “Please may I use…” and “Thank you for sharing…”?

On to the next issue. Does algorithmically-determined curation really benefit the original creator with more traffic or credit? I think not, particularly if the 1) collection is not focused in terms of topic and audience, and 2) attribution goes to someone else.

I share and create mostly educational technology ideas. But I have seen my tweets and content shared under categories like art, sports, and science in the right sorts of education-flavoured papers. My content has also been included in totally unrelated papers.

In an attention economy, a “curated” paper is likely to only attract specific target audiences with specific needs. If my tweets and blog entries are categorized by basic algorithms that do not factor context and nuance, then they will not be read.

I share my own resources by amplifying them on Twitter or might be the first to tweet something. However, auto curation tools may not be smart enough to detect that. I have seen my content attributed to someone else in platforms like

Auto curating platforms like also remove comments in favour of links to content. This can lead to a misrepresentation of who I am or what I stand for. For example, I might tweet a resource with a comment about it being a negative example. However, will share the headline and URL while removing my comment and thus the context in which it was shared.

I ask those that think they are curating to learn how to curate with Diigo or with For example, here is what I curate on flipped learning.

Digital curation, like museum curation, takes work. You must want to tell a story or provide a custom set of resources for those who request it. For example, when people in my PLN ask for resources, I would create bundles for them (unfortunately these are being “sunsetted” soon).

If you wish to call yourself a digital curator, I ask that you also create your own content and share it openly. Imagine if no one created any; what would there be to curate? I also warn that auto curation breeds laziness, especially if you do not manage by manually taking control from time to time or monitoring for accuracy and quality.

This article, Why Content Is Still King, cites Bills Gates in 1996 declaring that content is still king.

I disagree.

The content as defined in 1996 was oriented towards what television broadcasters, traditional news and magazine companies, and other publishers produced.

Gates did refer to user-generated content, but not in the sense that we have today.

One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.

This is duplication or replication, not creation or curation.

The type of content described in 1996 was the type that gets thoroughly edited, vetted, and polished before it goes on display. It takes a long time to create. It is typically not openly shared, or if it is, only for a princely sum.

It is the type of content that makes traditional publishers of books and journals salivate. It is the type of content that make publishers who have moved to electronic platforms want to regulate or control, e.g., prevent Google from indexing and caching their content.

I am not saying that content is not important. After all, if there is no content, what is there to consume? If there is nothing to consume, then there will be no consumers.

I am saying that our understanding and acceptance of what content is has started to change. That change is due to the fact that our consumers are now also curators and creators of content.

Our traditional view of content monarchy is being dethroned in a democracy represented by citizens like YouTube and Wikipedia.

There are very few monarchies left in the world. We have moved on to other forms of government. To describe content as KING in that sense is irrelevant. There are other rulers or governors that work together.

To also describe the 20th century type of CONTENT as king is also losing relevance. There already is entertaining, enriching, and educational content produced by the people and for the people without the traditional vetting process. Quality and acceptance also bypasses the so-called expert layer in favour of the popular vote.

Traditionally created or curated content is no longer king. Connecting with openly and socially generated content and their curators/creators is.

That is the shift that we must leverage on in education if we are to stay relevant. To not do so is to serve a king that is aging and losing his grip on reality.

Video source

This is a video made from 852 Instagram photos.

But I wonder whether to call this curation or creation.

I liked Steve Wheeler’s four elements of digital curation. He elaborated on this in his blog entry, Get it together.

I simplify the four elements as:

  1. Finding
  2. Organizing/Arranging
  3. Adding value
  4. Sharing

Based on Wheeler’s argument, curation is a form of creation and therefore at the apex of Bloom’s revised taxonomy. I have no argument with that.

The thing that still troubles me is how some people think they are curating when they are not.

Tools that can be used to curate digitally include Diigo,, and Storify. Take Storify for example. Simply finding tweets and arranging them chronologically for archiving is not curating. It is recording and storing.

I would suggest that reorganizing the tweets so that they follow logical pathways like conversations or idea streams is a component of curating. Adding value by providing explanatory comments or resources to the Storify is the next component. Then sharing and managing the ratings, comments, and discussion that follow in Twitter or Storify is another component of curating.

If you don’t do one of these components, are you curating? If you merely pass things along and have not created something new from something else, have you really curated? I think not.

The apex of a mountain is not easy to reach. Neither is curating if it is done right.

I read Edudemic’s curated comments on the pros and cons of using Minecraft in Education. It was a good example of curation being superior to creation.

When some people argue about the merits of curation over content creation, at least one party will point out that curators can only curate what others create.

But as I find some of the claims that some writers at Edudemic make questionable, I was glad that one of them crowdsourced for opinions on the issue of Minecraft for education.

The opinions were well-worded and powerful. In particular I enjoyed:

I think Minecraft has about as much inherent educational value as an overhead projector, in that it depends entirely on the skill and vision of the instructor using it. Its a great blank canvas system, and the tools for leveraging that canvas are only getting better with time.

I tend to agree with the pedagogy-before-technology group. More important than the resources a teacher has is that teacher’s creativity to use what s/he has to teach effectively.

But the argument that technology is “just a tool” will gradually get stale. We shape our tools and our tools shape us. We found more efficient ways to plant and harvest crops and that gave us better nutrition and more time to pursue other interests. We search with Google, and in effect train it, and now it influences how we look for information and learn.

The rest of the comments focused on the unbridled enthusiasm of pro-Minecraft folks. They pointed out that Minecraft was not a panacea for educational ills and that it was not a one-stop, one-size-fits-all solution.

I agree. But I also think that argument is getting old.

Why not question the one-size-fits-all solution of textbooks and school periods? Why not find ways to stop making excuses for not trying newer and more relevant ways to reach and teach so that students yearn to learn?

One reason I make the time to meet with folks outside of NIE is the opportunity to learn.

These opportunities rise from the request of the outside party for me to share or to teach. But I end up testing my own thinking or consolidating separate thoughts.

I had started to question the traditional wisdom that “content is king”. Folks in publishing, broadcasting, training, and schooling rely on this basic tenet.

But it is not the only foundation to build on especially in this day and age. This is particularly true if the content is only created by experts. A good example is Wikipedia which has challenged traditional encyclopedia businesses and put a few out of business.

There are other Cs that challenge the throne:

  • Creation
  • Curation
  • Consolidation
  • Contextualization

Content creation, particularly by learners, is an underutilized activity in many courses. How many of us can say that at least 50% of course content was learner-generated for example?

Sometimes there is no need to create content because it is already available. TED and YouTube already have educational tools that allow teachers and students to curate content by pulling different videos together into learning units.

Often these same tools leverage on other tools. Videos alone are consumptive. To allow critical expression or collaboration, the video platforms often provide space for online discussion. Alternatively, one can embed a video in a wiki or blog and create opportunities for consolidating learning in one spot.

Finally, the videos might come from different sources and might not seem coherent. But the learner of today is more forgiving. The instructor of today must create context in the use of these videos.

Content creation is no longer king. He is aging and the dictatorship is ending in the face of more modern, democratic learning.


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