Get it together

What can we learn from digital curation of content? Let's start with some theory: According to the revised Bloom's cognitive taxonomy by Anderson and Krathwohl, 'creating' is suggested as the peak of achievement. It replaces evaluation as the pinnacle in this revised model, but many have wondered why Anderson and Krathwohl suggested it in the first place. Why swap evaluation and synthesis in the taxonomy? I wrote about this new model question recently, and critiqued it in the context of emergent forms of digital learning. But all discussions need a reference point, a starting place from where the arguments can proceed. If we accept this premise, then it can be argued that activities such as curation should be placed at the apex at this 'creating' level.

When you curate you are actively seeking content, but you are also creating, organising and adding value to the content you have found. You may also have dialogue with your personal learning network as you discuss that content. During curation, you are synthesising content, concepts and contexts from disparate sources, and uniting them together in one place. You are creating a shop window for that content through synthesis. 'Synthesis' in the old model is replaced by 'Creating' in the new, revised Bloom model.

Let's look at this from the beginning: At the start of the process, organising it is not the most important task. Simply finding it and making sure that it is in the correct category, and is accurate is enough. This is a fairly low level cognitive process, but it does require some discernment and decision making ability.

The second stage, integrating your content within your repository, relies on a similar level of decision making. Where is it best placed? The default mode would be to place your most recently discovered piece of content at the top of the stack, and indeed in most cases that is where it sits. However, if you want a more defined display of content, sometimes you have to deliberately place it within a chronological, historical, cultural or alphabetical sequence. Some tools such as Storify will naturally sequence content chronologically. Others such as provide the flexibility to promote or demote content.

The third stage, also a choice for the curator, is to add extra value to the content already within your repository. You could add notes (annotations) or highlight sections with colour for example. Diigo is a tool that offers these options. Learning often emerges as a result of the writing, rewriting and editing of this content.

Finally, aware of the social context, you have the capability to share your content (or indeed your entire repository) with your professional learning network. The dialogue that ensues can in itself be quite powerful but unpredictable, because no-one can be sure which direction the conversation will take, or what conclusions might be made.

All of the above components demand specific ability and skills from the curator. Some are more critically reliant than others, but all of the stages as part of a process, have learning possibilities. It's not difficult to see why curation is becoming a very popular knowledge management activity, and with the recent introduction of ready to use tools, it has never been easier. It is up to us, the users, to organise content on the Web, and we learn while we do it. It may look simple, and anyone can do it, but don't be deceived. When done extensively, and at the highest level, curation of content can be a complex and deeply engaging process, providing rich learning opportunities for curator and readers alike.

Photo by Julia Frost

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Get it together by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Anonymous said…
Nice post Steve. Content curation indeed involves a range of cognitive processes. There is one skill i think you could add to the list, and it is more creative than cognitive. Understanding what to curate can be also defined by the mood or tone of the blog/website etc that you curate for. Establishing and maintaining a personal brand can sometimes be just as important as what information is contained within, especially if you want people to come back to it. Sometimes it may be necessary to modify or revisualise content to suit personal style. In fact, the more i think about it, there are a range of skills on offer there. Cheers for the read - necessary considerations in a world of exponentially growing information. Here's an article you might like too
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks, Paul. That's a very useful comment, especially the part about maintaining a personal brand. I consider that this is more likely to be seen as 'curation of self' than content though, and will need to think a while on the idea.

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