The last (but not least) compartment in our EdTech toolbox is curation tools. We use these tools and apps to explore the web to find resources related to specific topics that we can save, reference or share out through other channels. In any modern blended learning program, a curation strategy can improve the outcomes for your learners.
According to Anders Pink, curation for learning means:
- Finding the best content from multiple sources, usually external content.
- Filtering it so only the most relevant content makes it through.
- Sharing it with the right internal audiences, at the right time, in the right places.
- Adding value to that content with commentary, context or organization.
With so much content available out there, we need to leverage the power of these tools to more easily find appropriate resources, and make it easier for our communities to access, share, and add to our curated channels.
Automation Versus the Human Touch
Curation tools fall into two wide categories: those that use artificial intelligence (AI) to drive their search, and those that rely mostly on the human touch.
Curation technologies and apps that use AI and algorithms crawl content published on the Web, and allow you to create filters, such as listing keywords or top influencers. These automated tools bring in a wide range of results, and are updated on a regular basis – sometimes within seconds. The results can be narrowed down by focusing in on topics, keywords, etc.
I would argue that all curation tools rely on human input, but some certainly rely more than others on that personal touch. Yes, Google itself is a curation tool (any search engine is), but think about how much work you – the individual - still have to do to filter through those results.
Curation tools that rely solely on human input will never find as many results as those that rely on AI, but you can find that happy medium by starting out with AI-based curation tools, and then filtering further using your own judgment.
Look for These Features
Most of the tools and apps in this category enable team contributions, and have the functionality built in to generate embedded code so that you can share them on your websites. Here are a few different types of curation tools that you can explore.
RSS Feed Readers: Almost every blog, magazine, or serial website has an associated RSS feed. You can pull these feeds together into your RSS reader, and have updated lists at your fingertips to explore. There’s little topic curation at this level, but you can do a broad sweep of the blogs, news sites, and magazines that you want to keep an eye on.
I use RSS feeds every day to get a quick glimpse into all of my favorite online publications and bloggers. My top picks here are Feedly and Feeder, based on ease of use. If I’m on a site that I want to keep track of, I can just click on the Chrome extension icon for Feeder and the site is added to my feeds.
Content Aggregators: Applications like Flipboard allow you to select topics and keywords of interest, and set up magazine-like interfaces based on the AI searches based on your topics and keywords. These two apps, and dozens like them, come in handy when you want to bring together resources around a specific topic, without doing any further filtering. There’s a lot of power in these content aggregation tools, and their output is visually stunning.
Curation List Tools: I am a huge fan of these tools and apps, as I can easily create curated resource lists and share them with my communities. My two favorites are List.ly and eLink. There is not as much AI or algorithm work going on here, but these tools make it very easy for you to build and share curated resources.
Full Curation Engines: There are some very heavy hitters in this corner of the curation toolbox compartment, and some come with a hefty price. These engines are very powerful, and are being integrated into learning management systems and company web and intranet platforms. Many of these tools and apps can layer on top of existing content, which can then power searching and filtering through existing content. Think about companies with enormous content repositories, and the benefits of that capability.
Curation is all about adding commentary, context, and value. The two most important features that I’m always looking for in any content curation tool or app are:
- The ability to add comments, and to enable my learners to comment as well.
- The ability for learners to add curated materials, and moderation capabilities so that I (or someone on my team) can moderate the relevance and appropriateness of those materials.
Garbage in, garbage out. If you’re using any type of automated curation tools or apps, remember that they require human input on the front end. The time you put in to “train” the intelligence engines behind automated curation, the better your results will be.
Remember, curation is an ongoing task, and selecting keywords, influencers, tags, and topics that drive the intelligence engines should be an ongoing effort. Part of curation is care!
What You Might Want to Learn More About
The curation tools and apps that combine AI, algorithms, and the human touch are at the top of my list. Anders Pink is a top player in this space, and they are always looking for training and development professionals to guide the evolution of their platform.
I would keep an eye on these folks as they grow and evolve their application. Out of every tool that I have explored, this team is the most focused on curation from a teaching and learning perspective.
Always Keep in Mind
The greatest value of curated content comes through annotation and context. This is where you, as curator, add your expertise to the showcase of selected works. In a modern learning scenario, annotation is more than letting your learners know where and when content was published, it is wrapping your knowledge around the selected content and contextualizing it.
To contextualize curated content, provide a title, short overview, and explanation of why you think the content is relevant to the learning community you are sharing with. At the very least, give them the answers to these questions:
- What should they be looking for?
- What will they find?
- Why does it matter?
- How does it apply to the work they are doing?
- How does it apply to their learning goals?
- Where can they find more?
Remember to reference where and when you located each piece of content that you share!
Towards the Future
As I gaze into my EdTech crystal ball, I see content curation tools and apps becoming more seamlessly integrated into learning management systems, social media platforms (they’re already there), and training asset development tools. With AI evolving, and the Internet of Everything connecting us together, I can only see search, curation, and sharing becoming effortless.
Don’t worry, we’ll always need that human touch as part of the curation process. That’s the only way we can be sure that we’re sharing only the highest quality content with our learners.