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Modern curation: How does it change teaching?

3 min read


“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” — John Dewey

Rewind: The old way of curation

In the past, curating resources was relatively easy. Teachers, known fondly to their family and friends as pack rats, filed and saved just about every piece of paper they could find. They crammed worksheets and memos into color-coded files near the back of the classroom.

During my student teaching, there was a teacher who planned to retire in June. I distinctly remember the day she “gave me her files.” This seemed like such a boon! I greedily carried boxes and boxes of endless science articles, ancient TIME magazines and edHelper worksheets to my car. At the time, I thought there was nothing more valuable in the world.

Such collections of valuable resources were not readily available at that time. Teachers were zealous about their materials, and they were even more zealous in protecting them. Therefore, the act of curation in the past was largely individual. (As was the act of teaching in the past. But that’s a different blog post!)

Teachers were left to their own devices to find, aggregate and retain meaningful resources about their practice. This led to overstuffed classrooms with teachers who were constantly wondering, “Where did I put THAT?”

While the old ways of curation still hold their value, they are far less likely to provide you with a thorough, interactive system for personalized learning. Opening your eyes to the new ways of curation can greatly enhance the tools, tips and strategies at your fingertips.

Fast forward: Modern curation

Today’s curation is completely different. Most importantly, it is highly social. Teachers can share their collections with each other effortlessly, making the quality and quantity of resources available to new teachers and new curators much more robust than in the past.

Tools such as Pinterest, Pearltrees, Twitter and Diigo allow educators to work together to aggregate and share resources. (Check out this example of my favorite videos to use when coaching teachers via my Pinterest board.) While this process still requires a significant time investment, the results are much more powerful, interactive and complete. Also, collections are searchable so you never “lose” anything! As teachers identify, evaluate and organize their resources digitally, they not only make meaning of their lessons, but also enable others to benefit from their hard work. Digital curation invites collaboration that is more powerful than ever before. In essence, we are better together!

What does modern curation mean for teaching?

Modern, digital curation offers teachers a way to share and communicate beyond their individual classrooms, schools and districts. It helps teachers find resources that will meet students “where they are” in today’s “plugged in” society. It also promotes the virtual teamwork that we must model for students, as it is one of the most critical skills our students can learn.

So, if you know a pre-service teacher, ditch the boxes of National Geographic. Instead, share a Pearltree, tweet or Pinterest board!

Kristen Swanson (@kristenswanson) is a learner, leader and teacher. She is a consultant for Authentic Education and an Edcamp organizer. Swanson is also a Google Certified Teacher, Twitter teacher and Edublog Award nominee.