Are you building the next experts?

Using curation projects to develop better researchers

The basics on curation:  It is a focused effort to analyze, categorize, emphasize, and contextualize the best of the Internet, making it a useful learning tool.  Making online curation a part of your online or face-to-face course will help your students develop their skills at finding and sharing the best resources.  It will make them experts… the people known as authorities in their field, who provide the most useful, helpful information.  And the online impact of this means that they can be experts to the whole world, not just the 30 students in your course.

How is it different from regular research?

And see more about curation from this pre-curated set of resources.

What are the benefits?

  • Better research skills and performance.  Your students will learn to find the resources with the most impact, and the social nature of the online curation tools can help them make more of it.  A study from the School of Education at Tel Aviv University found that the online commenting, tagging, and discussing of posted content, which many people might dismiss as superficial interactions, had a higher impact on student performance than the number of resources that a given student posted.  Curation projects can lead to a deeper dive than other research practices.
  • A Personal Learning Network.  As students socially interact with each other’s curation projects, they will build relationships similar to what we see with in-class discussions or Blackboard discussion boards.  But people worldwide can also contribute to the discussion.  When students link to and interact with existing online experts, those experts might link back to them.  Your students will no longer be “practicing” real-world hypotheticals; they are in the game.  And while the course’s discussion board is abandoned at the end of the semester, the network of like-minded peers and industry experts that your students have built remains intact, along with their existing means of communication.
  • A showcase.  Students can continue adding to their online store of work, showing what they have learned throughout their college careers.  They can show this to potential employers.  They can use this in their future careers.  Their stockpile of high-impact resources will set them up as the next generation of experts, giving them a head start against other graduates.

What tools do you need?

Remember when research papers started by compiling a stack of notecards, each with a quote snagged from a book or journal?  We categorized each notecard, sorted, ranked, found gaps that needed more research, and eventually, we used our own insights to tie the information into a great paper.  On Bloom’s Taxonomy, this process would involve the highest-order thinking skills. Today’s technology puts this work online

The tool of choice can be up to you and/or the students.  Each has their own quirks, so you will have to explore them a bit to see what looks best.  Some are examples below.  Click the links to see examples or to get more information about using them:

  • Blogs — Probably the best tool for students to add their insights to the material and create a “paper.”  (Sign up for Rob Gibson’s U-Innovate workshops about CampusPack blogs or WordPress.)
  • Pinterest — Built for organizing and posting, less for adding insights.  (New to Pinterest?  Watch this video, or sign up for Rob Gibson’s U-Innovate workshop about Pinterest.)
  • — Similar to Pinterest’s, best for organizing and posting.  (Video)
  • — Good combination of capabilities and a blog’s writing abilities. (Video)
  • Twitter — Generally a little less of an educational focus, but it’s a possiblity (Video)
  • Storify — So use Twitter (and Facebook and YouTube) better, by compiling the tweets, posts, and videos of experts and news media about specific events.  It enables curators to add their own insights to their posts. (Video)

And when steering your students in the right direction for research, don’t forget about the actual, professional curators on campus.  Talk with the WAW librarians about how they can be an embedded resource in your course or how they can develop a LibGuide of hand-picked resources for your students.  They have several workshops as part of the U-Innovate series.

How do you put this into your classroom?

If your class is frequently built around student-led, in-depth discussions, you already understand the basics, but you might consider making the resource-finding and sharing into more of a motivational game for your students.  We sometimes incorrectly assume that they intuitively understand how to be good researchers, but their skills should be assessed informally before you assign the big mid-term paper.  They need some freedom to try out new resources without a graded penalty, and they need to explicitly see the value of one resource over another.  This is how I would do it in my class, either online or face-to-face.

Step 1:  Don’t be the provider of all information.  Tell your students the topic and give them a few days to find two or three quality resources to bring to class (or to post online).

Step 2:  As students discuss the topic, have them judge the utility and trustworthiness of each other’s resources.  This evaluation (higher-order thinking, again) will teach your students a valuable research skill, in being able to judge whether a resource is credible and helpful.  Throughout the semester, your students will learn where to find the best content, and their subsequent work in class should reflect this.  You have also helped them discover the value of journal databases, content experts, and other resources to tap into in the future.

Step 3:  Motivate students to become the Class Experts.  Use a non-graded point system to reward students for bringing the best resources to contribute to the class.

  • Students receive 1 point each for bringing the requested number of resources for the class discussion.
  • 1 bonus point for any unique resource that nobody else found.  This will steer them away from Wikipedia and basic Google searches
  • 4 bonus points if the class judges a resource as that day’s “Most Trustworthy” or “Most Helpful”
  • Whatever else you want to add…  Using computers in class?  Points for the best “On-the-Fly” discovery that came from following up on a discussion point made in class.  If students are posting their resources online with a blog or other account, give points for gaining followers, comments, or likes, and building their Personal Learning Network.  Bonus points for utilizing the helpful WAW Library staff.

Step 4:  Create a Leader Board.  Let your class see who is building an Expert Reputation , and showcase their resources to help everyone else see what the class (not the teacher) has decided is the best.

Step 5:  Not to forget the point of research… Have your students create something from their findings.


2 thoughts on “Are you building the next experts?

  1. Your post on curation projects placed an interesting spin towards the development of better researchers. You are correct in your assertion that anyone can put a bunch of links together and distribute them out. However, it takes a curator to know and understand what resource content is relevant and useful.

    I have to admit, I never put much thought into a specialization in curation. However, after reading your post, I definitely understood why it benefited students in the long run, not to mention, provided a foundation towards research in the quest for higher learning.

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