NOTE: This is a repost of an article written for the Desire2Learn Community site in July 2012.
Everybody collects something and we all organize our collections in our own way. “Growing up” on the web means that most of us collect links to sites and resources we want to keep handy. Organizing those is also a highly personal activity.
Initially, bookmarks of links were stored within your web browser. This worked great in the days when we only had one device that was online. As each of us gains more and more devices online, it became clear that these collections of links had to cross devices easily. Delicious is, of course, the granddaddy of organizing a collection of bookmarks that can be centrally accessed.
As Delicious evolved, the service became more customizable with longer descriptions, tagging, and networks to allow social sharing of bookmarks. The latest addition of stacks, allows the user to build a collection of links around a theme. Stacks are more visually interesting and provide a customizable way to share a collection than just a tag search.
As web tools emerge and the use of the web changes to one more of creation rather than consumption, it is important for instructors and students to understand the art of curation when creating lists of links and resources to use for study or to share with a class. In fact, curating a collection involves many of the higher order thinking skills expressed in the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Curating is not just a fancy word for collecting. Curating goes beyond gathering a list of links and into the higher. The definition from Corrinne Weisgarber’s Teaching Students to Become Curators of Ideas: The Curation Project sums up the skills needed for a successful curator:
“A curator scours the… world, selects the finest works, gathers them together around a unified theme, provides a frame to understand the … messages and then hosts a conversation around the collection.”
The tools that are emerging allow for successful curation within a web browser that can be shared within a Desire2Learn course, blog or other web site.
Aspects of Curation
Beyond Delicious, new tools are available to make curating a collection easy from within multiple devices and platforms. A curation tool must have mechanisms for collecting, arranging, filtering and describing the items in the collection. Other factors to consider are:
- Ease to use
- Data Liberation
Ease of Use
In order to curate a collection, the collection has to be easy to gather. Tools that provide multiple means of gathering the links are the most useful. Bookmarklets and browser bar buttons allow the user to easily add a resource to their collection tool from within the browser of their choice without having to leave the resource, enter the tool and copy/paste a link or other action. Having a mobile app or tool is also important for curation via a mobile
The local interface for the curation tool also must be intuitive and easy to follow in multiple devices for both the curator and the audience.
Annotations and Sharing
As Weisgarber’s definition state, a curator must provide a frame to understand the collection. A list of links with a few tags can work for a simple resource list but a truly curated collection must provide context, background information or related information to give value to the listings.
Tools that allow for annotation, notes, descriptions and flexible organization allow for the richness of information that curation can provide. Aspects to consider when selecting a tool is when/how the annotation and notes can be created: when the link is added, after a link is added and if users of the curated collection can create discussion or additional annotation.
Sharing the collection is also important. Look for tools that allow for embedding the collection into other sites, such as a Desire2Learn content module. Consider the ease of sharing a collection or single items via other social tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Web tools appear and disappear on a daily basis. Everyone has had a favorite site or tool that seemed “mission critical” only to discover that it is being discontinued in six months. With the flux of web tools, it is extremely important to determine an “escape plan” for the data you collect within any given tool or site. Before beginning any curation project, determine if the tool you select has a way to migrate or export your data into a form that can be used within other tools. If it doesn’t provide a means, look at tools like Backupify to see if it can pull data from within the tool.
Example of Curation Tools
Bag the Web
Bag the Web (bagtheweb.com) calls the user-generated collection a “bag”. The bag can then be linked to other bags as additional references. Within Bag the Web, multimedia can be played so it is easy to build a multimedia bag by just adding links to YouTube and Vimeo videos, SlideShare presentations and Flickr photos.
The ease of use for Bag The Web is the “Bag It” bookmarklet you can add to any modern browser. This button allows you to quickly bag a resource from the page itself without having to leave and log into Bag the Web.
Bags can be published or private and also allow for embedding into a web site, sharing via email of Facebook and more.
Discussion around a collection is also very important. By embedding a bag within a Desire2Learn course, instructors can use the discussion or chat tool to engage students in exploring the usefulness of their curated collections and how to ascertain value from other collections.
In addition to the bag presentation, Bag The Web provides a text version, which allows for easy data migration via copy/paste as well as improving accessibility to the collection for screen readers.
Scoop.it (http://www.scoop.it) is a magazine style tool for presenting collections around a central theme with sharing and design at the forefront of the tool. In the free version, you can build up to 5 themes. Scoop.it does have an education version for about seven dollars at month that allows for up to 20 themes and up to 30 users working together. For a class curation project, this might be a good option to consider.
You can share Scoop.it collections via the usual channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. It also offers easy way to embed into WordPress, Google + and Tumblr.
The customization option allows you to insert HTML, create headers and footers and other aspects of the look of the page. For curating within a visual field such as art history or interior design, this capability might be more desirable than a straight text list as Delicious or Diigo would provide.
The Scoop It bookmarklet works just like the “Bag It” mentioned earlier. A major difference is that you can also share the resource to Facebook pages and WordPress press blogs from the same screen.
As far as data liberation, Scoop.it provides an RSS feed for your topic so you can capture it in a RSS reader and archive the information. It also provides an embed code for sharing within blogs, Desire2Learn and other web pages.
With Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy using creating, evaluating, and analyzing as the higher order skills, incorporating curating as a skill within a class allows for a fun and useful means to improve and practice these skills.
New tools such as Bag the Web and Scoop.it allow for a easy to use interface, simple collection via bookmarklets, sharing capabilities within a Desire2Learn course and other public web sites and social aspects to network between other curated collections and curators.