Guest Article Written By: William Ryan, Ph.D.
Curation sounds like something companies do as they seek out new customers and feedback about their products or maybe paint drying. Content curation, on the other hand, is the process of reviewing content from various sources and formats and then synthesizing the key items into an organized theme providing meaning and context and then sharing with like minded community members. Sound strange? Imagine if you go back into your past you probably had teachers who, before you left for summer vacation, shared reading lists you might find of interest. Currently I see teachers sharing websites with their students to keep math and science skills sharp. Using their knowledge and “expertise to identify and organize the best resources on a topic and then share those with students is what curation is all about.” A leader in the area, Beth Kanter, wrote that content “curators provide a customized, vetted selection of the best and most relevant resources on a very specific topic or theme.”
Terms like “vetted,” “expertise,” “organized,” and “synthesized” sound like characteristics of an active assessment strategy focused on the individual demonstrating competence whether it be in an academic or business setting. The process is the same with a defined goal: topics must be researched; sources must be identified and cross-checked for validity; gathered information must be organized in a way that makes sense; and the solution must be submitted, or shared, for review and evaluation (grade).
A key component to this process, which is tied directly into active assessment strategies, is synthesizing or making sense of the information gathered. Sense making can be writing a blog post using the links (like this post) or summarizing the key points in a presentation. Gathering and collecting specific content points is the beginning, and creating the theme is where an individual demonstrates their analysis and evaluation of the content included in a post or presentation shared.
How does this fit into our traditional instructional framework? No where better than looking at Bloom’s original taxonomy model and I also introduce the Engagement Pyramid, proposed by Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang. The learning process begins with knowledge where we discover, observe, or watch. Comprehension leads to the application of knowledge and skills acquired by solving, designing, and sharing. As we begin to work through our understanding we analyze, recognize trends, and comment on them. The synthesis phase brings composition and combining of data, of modifying and producing new ideas. Finally, as we reflect and evaluate, we judge, recommend, and curate to others.
Key to both models is the top rung where information obtained is recommended to others, it is shared in a format that the community of users can easily understand and apply appropriately. Kanter wrote, “Content curation is not about collecting links or being an information pack rat, it is more about putting them into a context with organization, annotation, and presentation.”
An assessment strategy has defined criteria to be measured against and I would propose that information curated has a context that could be applied and measured against the defined criteria. It is within the context of the assignment, or workplace issue, that the individual can provide focused information directed to help the community of users and learners make sense of it all. Robin Good said that “curation is about making sense of a topic/issue/event /person/product etc. for a specific audience” and here is where our instructional and design skills can be maximized. We can work with the content curators to help them create solutions so the learning community can “see” different ways to solve the problem be it text, graphic, video, or a mix. From the assessment perspective we can put in place a design and delivery model for the curator that is consistent, contextual, and easily understood by the end user. In doing so we engage the author as a strategic partner guiding them to selectively choose content objects that will engage the user community, tell the story the learners want (or need), and inspire action that leads to their success.
Lifelong learning is our new norm and assessments can be an active component of the learning experience itself. An active assessment strategy should focus on ways to enhance the understanding of the content within the context of the problem/situation and promote critical thinking skills that will be used throughout their professional and personal lives. Just as portfolios showcase products and performances over time, content curation exhibits the individual’s efforts, progress, and achievements in a specific area, actively leading to long-term, engaged learning and their participation as active community builders.
Bio: William J. Ryan, Ph.D. consults on topics related to the implementation and application of performance learning in the training and development field serving corporate, industrial and educational organizations. Currently VP of Education for Almost Family Inc., he served as National Leader for Curriculum and Technology Solutions with Humana Inc., serving a global learning community focused on improving performance in the business ecosystem. Ryan holds a M.S. from Ithaca College focused on Instructional Design, and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education from Nova Southeastern University. Follow his Monday Morning Musings blog (www.mondaymorningmusings.org ), via Twitter (@WmJRyan) or connect via LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/pub/william-ryan/0/620/298