Digital Content Curation
By Lisa Shappee, Kansas State University Polytechnic
There is an abundance of useful information on the Web. When working in different positions in education, it can be important to find a way to share this information to others, whether that be students or colleagues. The question is, how to share all of this information without bombarding them with emails, tweets, and Facebook posts.
The answer is digital content curation. From Flipboard to Pinterest, digital content curation allows you to share information found on the web in a visually pleasing and less intrusive way. A user can choose to follow you or go to a link provided to find content shared on a particular topic. This allows for a myriad of uses including ad hoc learning, embedding information in online courses, or creating a personal learning network.
What is Digital Content Curation?
Digital content curation is the act of collecting, organizing and displaying digital content that relates to one topic or area of interest. Digital content curation allows an individual who is knowledgeable in a particular field or perhaps wants to learn more to curate interesting or pertinent information that they deem important to their audience. The information can then be shared with others in a more meaningful and visually pleasing way than random and frequent emails. The beauty of digital content curation is that you do not have to be an expert on a topic to curate information, you only need to do know where to go for quality information.
Why Digital Content Curation?
In the past, information was known by experts and filtered out for the rest of us. Now information is quickly available anywhere and anytime. "…People create 571 new websites every minute, tweet 175 million times per day and upload 48 hours of new video each minute" (Buck, 2014). Therefore, finding information is no longer a struggle, filtering out the millions of results returned in a Google search is the challenge. A content curator can filter out this abundance of new and ever-changing information to find what is useful and meaningful to their intended audience.
Digital Content Curation Uses by Professional Roles
As an instructional designer (ID), digital content curation can be a great way to share technology and helpful digital classroom tools with faculty and colleagues. There are always new tools and applications available for educational use which makes it difficult to keep current. With digital content curation, it is possible to create a digital space where this information can be posted for faculty to use when they need help or new ideas. You can start by periodically sending out an email reminding them of the space, with the hope that eventually they will go there on their own. This type of curation can be great for just-in-time training, as you can link not only information on new programs but tutorials as well.
Digital content curation is a helpful tool for librarians. When working with faculty, it is useful to aggregate information about new resources, articles or publishing opportunities. Students often need help deciding what topic to research. Creating a space with current trends or news in their field can be helpful to spark their interest and keep them current as they progress through their program.
As an instructor, digital content curation can be utilized to group articles or other digital artifacts you find on topics about your course. Most content curation tools allow for easy sharing in learning management systems or class web pages by either embedding HTML code to display the content or by linking a URL. This allows the sharing of articles found while perusing the web, your twitter feed, or any resource you use and have the information automatically updated in your course through the digital curation tool. Many content curation tools allow you to invite students to collaborate, and as a class, the group can be curating content that can be beneficial to their classmates. The student collaboration piece could be utilized for group projects or extra credit in online courses.
Digital Content Curation Strategy and Tools
While useful, digital content creation can become time-consuming for the curator. It would be impossible to find every shred of information on a topic, therefore, finding the schedule and tool that works best for the curator are the first steps in successful content curation. Many choose to schedule 10 -15 minutes of their day or week to finding content on needed topics. Another and perhaps easier solution would be to utilize your own chosen information sources that you follow to curate information. This allows you to keep up with your own professional development while curating useful content for others.
There are many digital curation tools available. It can take time to find the tool that works best for the curator and the intended audience. The majority of these tools are intuitive, visually appealing, and available on many different devices and platforms. The two focused on here will be Flipboard and Pearltrees. Tools are chosen because they are available on multiple platforms including Apple iOS and Android Devices. These tools also allow for collaboration. You can invite contributors, allow departments to work together, or utilize them for group projects for students. Both of these tools have browser buttons for utilization when on the web as well. If a contributor finds content of interest, they simply click the browser button and the content will be shared automatically, allowing for quicker and easier content curation. These tools make more than just a list of links; they make the material more graphical allowing users to decide what they want to read based on visuals rather than lists with links.
Flipboard is touted as a digital personalized news magazine allowing you to create a magazine not only for your own personal use, but also for curating content for others. Flipboard only allows for the curation of online content such as articles, blog posts, and tweets, making it a great choice for curating content on current issues. As you add new content, Flipboard reorganizes the information with the most recent content first, but it does allow for editing that lets you organize or even delete articles as needed. Flipboard’s visually appealing style of presentation and organization gives users a new look and feel that different from a generic list of links or a wiki. When used on a computer, Flipboard is displayed like a blog, but on a mobile device, the user can swipe pages as if reading a digital magazine. This trendier look may entice users to flip and read more of the curated content. Users can then subscribe to your magazine allowing them to return as you add more relevant content. Follow this link to see an example of a Flipboard magazine on educational technology and online learning.
Flipboard is great for personal use. Users can add social media accounts to their Flipboard magazine, turning their Facebook and Twitter accounts into a digital magazine. This tool also allows the user to search by topic and find other content feeds to follow allowing you to completely customize your experience. This type of customization can also lead to easier content curation as you can choose to share any information you find in your own Flipboard magazine on other social media platforms.
Figure 1. Flipboard Example
An embedded link to the above site is available here:
Pearltrees. The next curation tool, Pearltrees is different from Flipboard in that you can share many types of information. This tool allows you to share web pages, photos, PDFs, PowerPoints, and much more. One perk of this tool is that when you share content like file attachments, the user can view the content in Pearltrees. There is no need to open another program or window. Since this tool allows for the attaching of files, it is not only useful for content curation, but can be utilized for group projects. Pearltrees also allows the user to type notes and attach them to their Pearltrees bundles to help explain for more understanding or to give direction to group members for next steps in the project.
Pearltrees organizes information in bundles or trees. that can branch out into other areas. This tool allows you to search other users’ trees by topic and then subscribe to them or add the content to your collection. As you continue to follow others and curate your own content, the bundles become interconnected allowing for a community of content curators sharing content on similar interests. In effect, other Pearltrees users are helping you to curate content as they add to their collections of which you choose to subscribe. An example of a Pearltrees collection follows.
Figure 2. Pearltrees Example
There are many content curation options available making it easy for a budding curator to find the one tool that works best for their needs. Whether you want a visually appealing digital magazine or a program that allows for the sharing of documents and presentations, the tool that is right for the job exists. Anyone can be a curator and assist students, colleagues and even themselves find useful information on any topic.
Buck, S. (2013, May 9). If you use the web, you are a ‘curator’. Mashable. Retrieved January 8, 2015 from https://mashable.com/2013/05/09/curator/.
About the Author
Lisa Shappee is the Library Director and Instructional Designer for Kansas State University Polytechnic. Ms. Shappee received her Master of Library Science and MS in Instructional Technology and Design from Emporia State University. She has presented regionally, nationally and internationally on faculty development, distance education and instructional technology. Ms. Shappee is responsible for creating online teaching training as well as faculty technology training on the K-State Polytechnic Campus.
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