Curation as an Educational Challenge

When I saw the following headline from a German article by Nele Hirsch, I was immediately hooked to click my way through. Kuratierung als Bildungsherausforderung, or in English “Curation as an Educational Challenge“) was just the right headline for some of the thoughts, that have been going around in my head and have been a recurring popular topic of discussion with two cohorts of teachers I am currently coaching from Argentina and Canada.

The big questions we are pondering are about our responsibility, as educators, of

  • (1) being aware of curation (What is it? What are strategies? What is the urgency to bring curation into the classroom?)
  • (2) curating as an integral part of our own “NOW skills and literacies”?
  • (3) gaining skills and fluency in the use of current curation tools and platforms
  • (4) embedding curation skills in our current curriculum/subject area/ grade levels

What is Curation?

Digital curation is the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. Digital curation establishes, maintains and adds value to repositories of digital data for present and future use.

Wikipedia’s definition of Digital Curation

Thinking about curation is not something new to me. Over the years, I have documented my thinking around Students becoming curators of Information (2011), Twitter as a Curation Tool (2013), Blogging as a Curation Platform (2014) as well as written about it in Janet Hale and my book A Guide to Documenting Learning (2018), when we made connections between documenting learning and curation and we wrote:

An important aspect of being a digital curator is becoming a responsible information filter for others. Curating implies more than just collecting resources or artifacts. It requires organizing and articulating the importance of the information. Documenting develops and calibrates cognitive thought processing that goes beyond being simply collectors of information to being thoughtful curators. When students and teachers are expected to include reflections, recommendations, and relevant connections related to the learning, it adds value to the learning process. It also causes learners to be reflective about their evidence of learning, and how to make those reflections visible to others.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano & Janet Hale in A Guide to Document Learning

Is there an urgency to bring curation into the classroom? I am not sure if I can continue to speak of “urgency” when the importance of educational curation (awareness, skills, fluency) has been of interest for more than a decade. Can I talk about urgency, even though, I still see few examples and little documented and shared evidence of how teachers use curation as part of learning strategies for their students. Please share any examples or documentation you might have on the topic in the comment section below…

… but I will continue to speak of it, of that URGENCY in giving educational curation the priority in upgrading curriculum content and teaching practice it deserves, even though it is still a challenge to many to even wrap their mind around the topic.

What are my curation strategies?

Two main strategies come to mind, when I think of curation work. One being my own network that funnels relevant resources and information to me, instead of me spending time looking and searching aimlessly online. The second strategy is the workflow I have created in order to make saving, tagging, categorizing, archiving, finding information again, adding value and fluently disseminating to my network as easy and least time consuming as possible for me.

I know the value to grow and maintain a relevant and quality learning network on various platforms. I spend my time in nurturing that network as well as weed and grow that network to keep it healthy and relevant for my areas of interest. I use:

  • RSS feed reader ( to subscribe to various blogs of interest
  • Twitter, where I follow 7000+ (mostly educators from around the world) to get tidbits of information and resources as well as follow educational trends, conversations and topics via #hashtags
  • social bookmarking ( app, that let’s me save, tag, connect, and retrieve links.
  • news monitoring and research tool (

I have created a workflow that works for me to easily save or funnel interesting resources to my network. Key to that workflow are bookmarklets and extensions for my various network platforms (Hootsuite, Pinterest, Twitter, Pocket, Facebook, etc.) on my various devices (desktop, tablet and smartphone). I also look for apps and tools that allow for synching of my curation work across devices (ex. Adobe Sparks Post).

How do we demonstrate the “now skills and literacies” as we are curating?

Curation has everything to do with the now skills (communicate, collaborate, connect, create & critical thinking) and the now literacies (information literacy, network literacy, media literacy, digital citizenship and global literacy). Curation goes beyond collecting and randomly sharing out information and resources, but is an active, strategic thinking process of:

  • what is worth keeping/saving/archiving? (critical thinking)
  • what is of little or no quality and therefore not worth keeping? (information, media literacy)
  • what is considered fake news and therefore needs to be prevented from further dissemination (critical thinking, information, network, media literacy, digital citizenship)
  • how would others benefit from my sharing? (communicate, collaborate, network and global literacy)
  • what is my responsibility, as part of a network, to contribute and be a filter for others in the “information overload” era? (network literacy, information literacy and digital citizenship)
  • what value could I add to the original resource? (connect, create, information, media, network literacy,
  • how do I save resources, tag/label/categorize them appropriately, so they connect with resources others have tagged (think folksonomy), might search for with specific keywords, and/or other resources I might save in the future? (connect, communicate, collaborate, critical thinking, information literacy, network literacy)

Have you heard of “tagging literacy“? Something that is intrinsically linked to curation. Think of some of these questions below. Definitely something, I am interested in exploring further in depth.

  • What are distributed classification systems (DCSs)?
  • What do tags signify?
  • What makes a good tag?
  • What is the social value of tags?
  • How do I find things using tags?

As so often, I am asking myself: Who is teaching these skills and literacies to our students?

In my chats with other educators, the topic turns often to the growing responsibility for networked learning or for each others’ learning (#welearnbettertogether). Curation plays a crucial role in that as well.

Being a curator, we hold the responsibility to add value to the learning of others. This changes HOW we read and write:

  • how I read and write online in general?
  • how I read with the benefit FOR others in mind?
  • how I write to present information to others?
  • how I create a flow between curating, filtering, and funneling that information to my network?

How do we gain skills and fluency in the use of curation tools and platforms?

As a self- motivated and self-directed learner, you need awareness of what you want to learn next. What are the skills you need to tackle? What practice do you have to “put in” in order to develop your skills? Best way to get started is to assess where you are right now in order to know where you are going:

  • HOW are YOU curating information?
  • How are you dealing with the seemingly ever expanding overload of information surrounding us?
  • What are your strategies, techniques and methods of adding value to information you are finding, receiving, or creating?
  • How are you strategically creating, selecting and presenting your own online presence?

Be purposeful as you are starting to curate for yourself and for others. Choose a specific lens, a topic, an area of interest and passion.

  • DON’T save and share EVERYTHING… that is not curating!
  • Don’t get stuck on one tool or a specific platform. Try out several ones to find which ones work best for you. Be aware how they work/connect/sync with each other. Also be aware that tools and platforms come and go. Don’t put all your eggs in one “basket”.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s not your job to curate EVERYTHING. Your responsibility it to add value to your network, add value to disconnected information or resources and add value to your own learning by organizing information/resources that are useful to you!

How do we embed curation skills with our students?

If you are a regular reader of Langwitches, you can probable already guess my recommendation on HOW to get started with your students: I am convinced that the best way of getting started with your students is to get started with YOURSELF as a learner! As you are gaining skills, be metacognitive about:

  • WHAT you are learning with curation?
  • HOW you are learning as you are curating?
  • What CONNECTIONS are you making to other skills, literacies, content knowledge, etc.?
  • What SKILLS are you developing as a curator?
  • How are you AMPLIFYING learning through curation?

John Spencer, one of the educators who seems been wrapping his mind around the same topic, tweeted today about our obligation to teach students to become curators, if we wanted them to become critical thinkers! He points out that

Curation is often the bridge between creating and consuming.

John Spencer

Rachel Buchanan relates curation as an essential skill of our students’ digital footprint and digital citizenship!

Children could be taught HOW to curate their own online presence. That is, they could be explicitly taught not all they do online needs to be hidden. Curation is about knowing what to display publicly and what should remain private.

Rachel Buchanan in Why Children should be Taught to Create a Positive Online Presence

Years ago, I was able to witness content knowledge curation in action as part of Mark Engstrom‘s 8th grade geography classroom. Take a peek into the following classroom, as collaboration and curation unfolded.

How could curation look like in a classroom using the following apps/platforms/tools?

Have students take on the responsibility to contribute resources to individual boards with topics of their interests related to curriculum content. If students are 13 years or older, they can have their own accounts and contribute to a collaborative board. If they are younger, create a classroom account and assign a “Pinner of the Week” who will add curated images to the classroom board(s).

Curating a “Pin”, does not mean to simply add one image after another to the board.
A curator on Pinterest bears the responsibility to:

  • check for quality of the link
  • make decisions of choosing a meaningful image from the site to display
  • add value by creating a description of the resource, the reason WHY the information is valuable and meaningful to be included in the collection.
  • select or create an appropriate board that connects other pins of the same board under a common theme/topic.

Instagram is based on uploaded images and corresponding text description. Curators don’t have the ability of adding links to other sites in their description, but can take advantage of #hashtags to connect their Instagram post to other Instagram posts that have used the same hashtag.
Check out how Mariana Ducros uses the hashtag of #laclasedemarian to curate book reviews in her literature class.
A curator on Instagram has the responsibility of:

  • visually represent information
  • visually tell a story (around the curation topic) with images
  • add value by writing a relevant description of the image to the curation topic
  • add relevant #hashtags in the description to connect information to other resources/information
  • encourage others in your network to contribute (crowdsource) relevant images and value by using a strategically chosen #hashtag
  • present the chosen images in a visually branded form (optional in the beginning)

The microblogging platform, can be used with a classroom account (for students under the age of thirteen) or curation can also happen through specific #hashtags and @mentions.
Have student curate their learning (aha) moments. Have them write it on sentence strips throughout the day and enter them into the classroom account at the end of the school day as a form a review/reflection. Older students can use their own Twitter account to contribute and annotate relevant resources to a topic of study by using a classroom specific, previously agreed upon, #hashtag. A curator on Twitter has the responsibility to:

  • check links to resources before sharing them with an explanation why it is valuable and relevant to a curated topic.
  • read, filter and re-tweet relevant links from others, adding appropriate #hashtags, @mentions and comments.
  • create, present and share relevant ideas, reflections, conversation around a curated subject topic.
  • make connections between ideas, resources, experts from your network

Blogs give us opportunities to curate information in many different media forms. One can write text, insert images, embed videos or any other content, that provide us with an embed code (ex. Wakelet), or any combination of these media. Imagine the possibilities of a classroom blog, where students are guest authors for a chosen topic of interest, their passion or a curriculum unit. They are in charge of finding research, evaluate sources, connect artifacts to reflections, explanations, summaries, and are presenting their curation topic for their readers. The blog (or blog category) becomes a vetted source of ideas, resources, information, connections, etc. about the curation topic.
A curator using a blog has the responsibility of:

  • use tags, categories or labels to organize their posts and content within their blog.
  • connecting information and resources to topic of curation.
  • create new value to collected and re-shared information by presenting it in new forms, with a new twist, in new media, with annotations to create new meaning or connections, etc.

Is a curation platform, that gives curators an easy way to “connect the dots” of information, resources and annotations.

The web is filled with disconnected pieces of information and it’s growing all the time. Even the most specific terms bring up thousands or even millions of results that include articles, videos, blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, documents and websites. […] Now we can bridge the gap between humans and algorithms by empowering people to curate content in a stunning, useful and more personal way.

About Wakelet

Currently, in a Wakelet collection, one can add links, add one’s own text, insert videos from Youtube, add tweets that one searches via a @user or via a #hashtag, bookmarks, images, PDFs or links to one’s Google Drive.

Wakelet also gives users the option to invite others and work collaborative on a curated collection. This opens up interesting opportunities for classrooms as they can share curation efforts. Create different collections of Wakelets, each one a different topic (interest, passion, curriculum unit, etc.). Students choose/are assigned to be collaborators for a specific topic

Curators on Wakelet are responsible to:

  • find, evaluate and organize information.
  • add value by carefully and strategically selecting sources related to the curation topic.
  • add value by adding annotations why chosen resource belongs in the collection.
  • search and select from a variety of media forms.
  • create own tweets, links, images or videos to upload and make part of the curated collection.

Social Bookmarking: Pocket/Diigo

Social bookmarking is an online service which allows users to add, annotate, edit, and share bookmarks of web documents. […] Tagging is a significant feature of social bookmarking systems, allowing users to organize their bookmarks and develop shared vocabularies known as folksonomies. […] In a social bookmarking system, users save links to web pages that they want to remember and/or share. These bookmarks are usually public, and can be saved privately, shared only with specified people or groups, shared only inside certain networks, or another combination of public and private domains. The allowed people can usually view these bookmarks chronologically, by category or tags, or via a search engine.

Again, teachers could create classroom accounts with younger students or ask older students to create their own accounts on a social bookmarking platform. As they research, become “experts” on a given/chosen topic, they save, tag, organize and make their bookmarks available to others. A social bookmarking curator is responsible for:

  • “checking out” the link before bookmarking it to evaluate/ verify quality, relevance and validity.
  • tagging the bookmark with a relevant keyword(s)
  • adding a description of its relevancy and/or connection to the curation topic

I am calling YOU to action! Are you up for it? How will you introduce, raise awareness, take on the challenge of CURATION as an educational urgency? Don’t see it as “yet another thing to add to your plate”, but be creative in connecting the skills and content you “need to teach anyway” to curation skills and amplify teaching and learning.

Further curation resources: