“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.” William Pollard (1911 – 1989)
Physicist William G. Pollard may not have experienced the Digital Age first hand, but he hit the nail on the head when he observed that information without context or form is more burden than blessing.
Over the last decade, students and adults alike often identify information management as one of their biggest challenges. And unhappily, access to more information than any one person can reasonably be expected to cope with appears to be a growing problem. Researchers currently estimate that on average most people are exposed to the amount of information it takes to fill 174 newspapers (at 85 pages each) every single day!
Information literacy is emerging as an increasingly critical skill set for students and adults. Definitions for this type of literacy commonly address four facets: identifying, locating, evaluating, and using information. But there’s a fifth aspect of this skill set—the ability to organize the information that’s been found so that it can be effectively evaluated and used—that has largely been ignored until recently. The advent of tools that allow users to ‘curate’ digital content is changing this.
What is ‘content curation?’ The term refers to the idea that digital information must be organized in order to make use of it. One formal definition of content curation is, “the gathering, organizing and online presentation of content related to a particular theme or topic” (WhatIs.com, http://bit.ly/1xuTqSO). Educators and students have ready access to many free and low-cost online tools that can be used to organize—or curate—information so they can use it more effectively.
Summer break is a good time to explore new tools. Whether you want to resolve personal information management challenges or are looking for tools you can share with staff, students, and parents, this may be the perfect time to check out the three content curation tools described below. Each is easy-to-use and meets a different need related to organizing information. Give one or more a try!
1. ScoopIt!: ScoopIt! allows curators to glean and republish articles from the Internet in newsletter format, based on keywords the curator identifies. This can be an effective way to share online news with a variety of target audiences, depending on the viability of the topic selected. For example, it will be easy to find articles about mobile devices but might be more difficult if the topic is confined to creating content with mobile devices. There is a free version and fee-based accounts are available as well.
2. Bag the Web: Bag the Web is a free tool that is ideal for those times when you need to share a limited number (5 – 12) of links focused on a very specific topic. Like Pinterest or Learnist, Bag the Web supports quick curation of short lists of digital content. Unlike Pinterest, a link can be added to a list even when Bag the Web can’t find an image to grab and display. I frequently use multiple Bag the Web lists during professional development when I want to draw participants’ attention to particular resources.
3. LiveBinders: Finally, for large collections of resources that will be curated over time, you can’t beat LiveBinders. The metaphor of a digital three-ring notebook makes it easy to organize hundreds of resources related to one main topic (notebook) through use of sub-topics (dividers). Anything that can be digitized can be uploaded and linked in a LiveBinder as can web pages. Free and fee-based accounts are available.
These are just a few of many excellent content curation tools already available. New tools are regularly being developed. If you have a favorite, please add it here as a comment along with a brief description and URL.