Wednesday, January 30, 2013


What is curation? From the Latin word curare - to care for, curation is the role a person takes to lead an audience through an investigation of some kind. The curator at a museum will lead the patrons around the exhibits, explaining the significance of each and illuminating the larger topic therein.

So what does this have to do with the daily grind of teaching? I believe this is the trend, and hopefully future (as a revisit to the past), of education as we know it.

I think many educators would agree that a prime goal we have for our students is for them to take their learning by the horns and acquire a thirst for thirst; we want them to not just recite back facts and figures, but to actively engage in content, discover knowledge on their own, and create new ideas.

We also know that if you open Pandora's box, chaos ensues. We cannot unleash our students on the world sight unseen and expect miracles. If that were the case, teachers wouldn't exist, and people would spontaneously know exactly how, where, and why to understand anything.

This is why curation is the Golden Mean. It allows teachers, who have the content knowledge and experience, to suggest, persuade, influence, explain, and sometimes coerce students towards finding their own way.

Curation is the antithesis to "spoon feeding." It is embodied in quotes like "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" (John F. Kennedy) and "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled" (Plutarch). It is embodied in the idea of a flipped classroom. It is embodied in the idea of a 1:1 school. It is embodied in MOOCs. It is embodied in the idea that kids do not need their own textbooks; they create their own textbooks.

This trend towards curation, towards ownership of thought and creativity, is not easy. Students who are accustomed to passive learning do not enjoy the recently kindled fires in their minds. But I think this is the way to get our next generation engaged and productive.

Curation is a timeless concept. Socrates was curating his students' thoughts millennia ago; technology just lets you get from 0-60 that much faster. These tools allow a teacher or student to organize media in various ways. This is the heart of curation. In a way it is a rehashing of the art of a research paper; finding sources, but using your own voice and thought process to organize and conceptualize the information. What makes this richer than a research paper is that many media are supported, and the ability to share makes the process more democratic.

Here are a few of the digital tools that can get you and your students on the highway to enlightenment:

Mentormob - Create "playlists" to go through material (videos, links, pictures) in a specific sequence.
Teachem - Similar to Mentormob.
Storify - Collate Twitter chats into archives for later reference.
Scoopit - Organize and catalogue web sources in a curated manner.
Evernote - Can be used similarly to Scoopit.
Sophia - A place to host and share curated videos.
Mobento - A place to find curated videos for autodidactic learning.

PS. If you clicked on any of the links in this post, you participated in an act of curation! Even blogs and  the static websites of 5-10 years ago can serve as vehicles for curation. You do it every day as a teacher, there are just more tools out there now to help you do it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Formative Assessments

There are several websites out there that let teachers quickly assess student comprehension. Most allow the students to answer questions using any device (smartphone, iPad, computer, etc) and can show graphs of results. Question types often include polls, multiple choice, true/false, and other non-divergent responses. Some of the websites may allow for saving the questions so that you could create a more summative type assessment for students to take.

These websites are great for pinpointing student understanding and allowing the teacher and students to progress at an appropriate rate during a lesson. They replace the "clickers" of interactive whiteboards and update the tried-and-true practice of exit slips, tiny pop quizzes, or other fast assessment tools. It could even replace "Please raise your hand to show you understand" and the chaos that can ensue in a large classroom. Because of the results data, teachers can find common misconceptions and more easily target them.

Listed below are some of the tools I have come across. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor do I favor one over others (in truth, I haven't had an opportunity to try them all.) Do any of these pop out at you as especially worthwhile?