Reflections on Learning
Show MenuHide Menu


July 2012
« May   Aug »

Developing Future Workskills Through Content Curation

July 27, 2012   

Come to my session at ISTE 2016: “Personalize Learning With Student Curation” 6/28 4:00 – 5:00 CCC 113, Table 2

The response to my previous post on Understanding Content Curation has been incredible. This definitely is a topic people are

passionate about.  Perhaps part of the reason for this is the tools and technology available provides an easy pathway to curate and follow our individual learning passions.  This has me thinking more about the role content curation can play for students in inspiring passion-based learning, moving towards personalized learning and of the many skills and habits of mind that students can develop through the process.

I have enjoyed exploring the many links and sources that were shared via Scoop-It, Pinterests, blogs, and other connections to my post.  My own learning and understanding increased tremendously through the process of exploring these.  Imagine what this kind of networked learning might do for students?

One link in particular has helped move my thinking forward regarding the benefits for students who curate: the Apollo Research Institute Future Workskills 2020 study conducted last year that identifies critical workforce skills that our students will need to be prepared for future jobs.

A closer look suggests that critical workforce skills identified in this \ study can be easily aligned with the skills practiced with content curation.

The skills a student employs  to successfully curate information include curiosity, media literacy, ability to make connections across disciplines, information literacy, the ability to evaluate and understand perspective, synthesize and evaluate information, and a good dose of self-direction.  Here is how they line up with the 10 skills identified in this study.


Sensemakingability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed”

This goes beyond simple definitions to imply an insatiable curiosity or sense of wonder about something.  For this affliction, curating is “the cure.” Curating is in one sense a quest to understand something – and then to share it –or teach it to others.

Computational Thinkingability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning”

At its heart, curation requires information literacy:  analyzing and organizing data in the pursuit of understanding.  An excellent article from Google breaks apart the skills used in computational thinking to include decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalization and abstraction, and algorithm design.   These same skills are applied in the curation process as we strive to make sense of our topic for ourselves and others.

New media literacyability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication”

A distinguishing factor of content curation is synthesis and evaluation of information and of course this information comes from multiple digital media forms, such as blogs, wikis, and video. While content curation doesn’t necessarily involve taking this to a next step of purposefully developing persuasive communication, the act of sharing the curated content can certainly have this end result.

Transdisciplinarityliteracy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines”

A natural part of the content curation process is to begin making connections across disciplines.  A perfect example of this for me has been my exercise in curating resources about content curation. While I hoped to define this process for education, this was aided tremendously through the influence of people who curate content in the field of marketing.  The incredible curation tools and social networks available on the web make it possible to easily connect with people and ideas across disciplines, and increase the speed and ability to reach understanding.

Cognitive load managementability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques”

This skill is synonymous to content curation.  As the amount of information and data continues to grow, this skill becomes essential to future success. We must be able to sort, sift, and make sense of information and data in an effective and efficient way.  The American Association of School Libraries in Standards for the 21st Century Learner describes self-direction under Standard 1, “Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge”  as “making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.” The key word is “independent.”  If students are spoon-fed resources for cookie-cutter research projects, they will not be practicing self-direction and will not be able to develop the vast array of skills outlined here through the process of content curation.

Social Intelligence  “ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions”

I see this skill evolving from curating and sharing content – as communities of learners form who have a common interest.  The curated content serves as the impetus. This is further enriched through people joining these communities from different disciplines and schools of thought.

Novel and adaptive thinkingproficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based”

This is a direct outcome of the process of curation – the higher order thinking skills of synthesis and evaluation imply that the end result will be novel and adaptive thinking.

Design mindsetability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes”

Content Curation requires a design mindset — evident in the way this is described   in the design and personal development blog of Ash Menon, graphic and web designer.

“A design mindset is a way of thinking that continuously evolves, changes, and adapts. It is based on a series of principles most commonly found and practiced in the design industry:

1) Practicing a methodology that involves identifying the problem, issue, or question at hand, and approaching it from various perspectives.

2) Allowing any idea, regardless of quality, to appear on the table before it is judged.

3) Taking risks with approaches and solutions that have never been applied or attempted before.

4) Continuously striving to improve upon a current situation or condition, in an endless cycle.”

I love this statement in thinking about content curation: “If you can’t see, try changing glasses.”

Cross cultural competencyability to operate in different cultural settings”

Tools available today for curating content and the social networks that connect us to information shared globally make it easy to learn in different cultural settings. With curating content that is shared through social media, your global network grows and with that growth comes the ability to gain perspective and global understanding.

Virtual collaborationability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.”

While this is not a requirement for content curation, certainly the tools available to engage in this task facilitate virtual collaboration and sharing of ideas, knowledge, and understandings in ways that have never been possible previously.  I’ve lost count of the number of people from other countries that have visited my blog, and “re-scooped” and commented on my curated resources. What a powerful thing this would be for students to make contact with people who have interests demonstrated through curating on a similar topic!

Future Workskills 2020 suggests a monumental shift and change needs to begin now in our education system. These skills can be developed through the process of content curation.  Content curation has the added benefit of helping students find their passions for and take ownership of their learning. Just one question remains. How will you incorporate content curation as a powerful learning strategy for your students?

Understanding Content Curation

July 7, 2012   

Please update your links/bookmarks!

New blog address  

New post address 


There are many buzzwords and phrases prevalent in education today.  “21st Century Learning”, “Blended Learning”, “Personalized Learning”, “Flipped Classroom” – just to name a few. The one that has recently caught my attention and curiosity is “content curation.”

I manage a grant project in my district designed to assure students acquire “21st century skills” A current strategy for this is using backwards design, formative assessments of 21st century skills, and “blended-learning.” New for next school year: teachers are being asked to “curate resources” to accompany the backwards-planned, inquiry-based units of instruction.  I had my own ideas on what curating meant at the time I was asked to design professional development for teachers in the project – but realized very quickly that this term has taken on a life of its own, in uses by not just educators, but marketers.  A quick Google search on “content curation” turns up 1,240,000 results. Remove terms like “marketing”, “business”, “influence”, “customer”, and “startup” and the results are pared down to about 45,400 hits. Within this subset of information about curating content, definitions of curating seem to have no boundaries – collecting – aggregating – curating –what exactly is the difference?  Or is there a difference?

This curiosity led to further questions:  Why curate?  What is the value of curating for teachers? Really –what is the benefit of curating in terms of the learning goals – enduring understandings and 21st century skills for our students?

Collecting vs. Curating Content

I set out to read as much as possible of what others have written on the subject, (see my Scoop-It on Curating Learning Resources) to help with my understanding.  My goal was to come up with a framework to define curating in the educational sense, in order to answer the question of what is the value-added of curating, vs. collecting information.  Below is the graphic organizer I used to develop my thoughts.

Creative Commons License
Defining Curating in Education by Nancy White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Thinking Level

The first thing I realized is that in order to have value-added benefits to curating information, the collector needs to move beyond just classifying the objects under a certain theme to deeper thinking through synthesis and evaluation of the collected items.   How are they connected? What does the act of collecting add to understanding of the question at hand?




As I sifted through many so-called examples of curated items, I noticed that a lot of these resources seemed to be pretty loosely connected and lacked evidence of any real depth of understanding on the part of the collector. There seemed to be randomness to many of the collections that didn’t inspire deeper thinking.  To contrast, think of an inspiring museum display that you’ve visited.   Museum Curators go through an inquiry process to interpret a collection of artifacts, and then purposefully select, arrange and annotate them to tell that story. The key phrase here is inquiry process.  My conclusion is that to do justice to using the term “curating” for educational resources, inquiry must be a part of the process. Part of this process is deciding what goes “in” to the collection – meaning many, many items are evaluated and set aside.



In considering how resources are organized that have been curated, vs. simply collected, determining that collections are linked together thematically was an easy starting point.  I started wondering what the value-added aspect is with curating. I believe when we curate, organization moves beyond thematic to contextual – as we start to build knowledge and understanding with each new resource that we curate. Themes have a common unifying element – but don’t necessarily explain the “why.” Theme supports a central idea – Context allows the learner to determine why that idea (or in this case, resource) is important. So, as collecting progresses into curating, context becomes essential to determine what to keep, and what to discard.



In considering the advantage of collecting vs. curating, it seems that collecting serves primarily the needs or interests of the collector. With curating, a larger goal is to benefit not only the collector, but other potential learners as well. It is meant to be shared. And, both the process and the product of curating help the curator as well as those who view the curated collection to understand and to learn.



One element that seems to be understood about curating is that it is done for a broader audience. This necessitates that the curated items be organized, annotated, and published. This is an important part of the learning process that comes with the educational benefits of curating as compared to collecting.


One of the teachers in our grant project asked if her curated resources could just be part of her Moodle course, or if there is some different aspect to curating that required her to publish the resources elsewhere.  Actually it was this question that sent me on this learning journey.  My conclusion is that through publishing the curated resources, you add value to the collection as a whole by allowing others to share in that knowledge, comment on it, add to it, and participate in the learning that it generates. It gets back to my belief that learning is a social endeavor.  Participatory learning leads to increased understanding.  This led me to my next big understanding as a result of this inquiry.


Students as Content Curators

It’s great for teachers to curate learning resources for students, but isn’t it the students that we want to do this deeper thinking and reach these enduring understandings? So wouldn’t it be more powerful for students to be the curators? The act of true content curation allows students to construct knowledge. As teachers, we can build the scaffolding, present the problem or ask the essential question, design the learning scenario, give them the tools, and then turn over the learning to the students. Perhaps this act is a first step in assuring that students take ownership of their learning. And, a bonus with this is that students are practicing a very important skill for the 21st century –information literacy.