Monday, October 21, 2013

Curation as Creation

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.   ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week's post has been written by a guest author.  Thank you to Mrs. Melanie Ringman for her time and willingness to share.


In a time where we are struggling to meet all of our learners’ needs, we need to find ways to work smarter. Teachers need to step away from thinking that they have to create or find everything for the classroom. Education is no longer a one way path; embracing education as a learner/educator model and realizing that our students are wanting ‘buy-in’ to the process and have much to bring to the table is a paradigm shift that is happening and should happen in schools.

The question remains --  how do we make that shift? The teacher should spark inspiration that drives students to explore and locate the resources, to critically think about how those resources can contribute to the assignment, both personally and shared with classmates. In this process, the students learn how to find answers to their own questions. I employed this method in a recent unit over Mood and Tone where I was trying to create student buy-in and engagement. I wanted to find engaging texts and then transition my students to challenging pieces to analyze. In the past, I brought in song lyrics to start the lesson, but it was music that I loved. When they looked at me, they did not see my music choices as relevant to their lives. I finally asked myself; why couldn’t they bring in their own music and videos that we could analyze? So I tasked them with finding a music video that they felt conveyed a strong mood and tone. They were to find and curate (organize, save, and use) something that was personally meaningful to them.

When they came to class, ALL of my students (yes, I said ALL) were eager to share what they found. The groups then viewed the videos and voted on the best one to share out as a class. I can not tell you how many authentic teaching moments I had with my kids as they discussed and evaluated the validity of what they brought. They were using text evidence to argue their point and having (take a deep breath and wait for it) an academic discussion.  And let me tell you, Taylor Swift is brilliant at teaching mood and tone because she is an angry woman with a broken love life  -- and the kids got it. The students wanted to write about the tone and mood they found in the music, and the transition to the pieces that I wanted them to read and analyze was a much easier one because the foundation was in place.

It made my job easier!!! And we all know there are not a lot of things that are making our jobs easier these days.  The students want to be a part of the process of education. We have to make it authentic and give them a voice in what they are learning. If all the knowledge can be googled, why do we not let them search for their own questions or even set their own questions to guide their learning? Our task is then to teach validity, problem solving and critical thinking with students that are engaged in real world material.

In class we ventured into expository reading and writing. This type of writing is so important for them to master because it is a life skill. For the most part, whatever career they choose will have some form of expository writing, but it is the most boring (to the kids) type of writing to do.  I wanted them to see what the world had to offer in Expository writing. I had them curate and bring authentic expository pieces about topics that they wanted to read. Instead of spending my time finding the pieces, they were building their cache of authentic real world pieces that we still refer to, even though we have moved on from that unit.  Anytime we are writing, we will pull pieces that they have included now as mentor text in their writing territories.  It is not just about finding authentic engaging pieces but using them as a resource over time.

Learn more:  Click here for a great article about the value of learners curating.

Have you ever had your learners curate for you?  Share your experiences.

Is this a new idea?  If so, how could you include curation of resources (online games, videos, photos) into your learning experiences?


  1. This year I let my kids design their own curriculum. The first week of school they decided what they wanted to learn from this course and then sorted into categories. We then removed all the "googleable" questions and came up with objectives to focus on for the year. The questions they came up with amazed me! They want to learn way cooler things on a much deeper level than the state of Texas recommends for them.

    Each six weeks, I plan to start with their objectives and design around them. They are currently designing a MOOC for elementary kids to teach concepts of health and science. They are in total control of the course, from what they create to add to the course, to the topics we teach. Having an authentic crowd that actually uses the products they are creating makes for some really cool projects! They are learning content on a much deeper level because it matters to them and they are the ones that decided what to learn in the first place.

    Some people criticize that I am able to do this because I teach a non-tested course, but I argue that this is possible in ANY class. You can connect their interested to TEKS and required course content in any subject.

    1. This is FANTASTIC - I love that your kids are designing their own learning experiences. I would love to see some educators that are reluctant to allow their kids to design their own learning experiences sit down with you and discuss the in's and out's of how you executed this! This method of curriculum design truly allows he kids to own their learning. Also love that you are spreading their learning into 'teachable' moments with the elementary learners - this fosters a purpose for their work with a very authentic audience (like you mentioned!). I wonder if you could get some of your international learners that are a part of your iTunesU course help you to curate some of your course content? Just a thought.. but could be a cool addition! (For those that don't know Jodie, she using iTunesU with her Anatomy & Physiology class and has close to 100,000 learners subscribed to her course... world-wide!). Thank you so much for posting!!

    2. I agree with you, Jodie, that connecting to student interests can still happen within a tested course. Connecting to student interests can lead to much deeper learning and transfer than simply focusing on the required content. Following your example, a 5th grade teacher in the district is trying something similar within his tested science course. Thanks for being a great leader!

  2. I have the unique opportunity to participate in this curation as creation blog, not as a teacher but as an observer. As the facilitator of the HUB at iwest, I enjoy acccess to all the students assignments. The beginning of the school year is often a time for all about me assignments. Our LA, blended Learning teacher, Laila Sanguras created one that utilizes curation as creation. The students were learning to embed quotes in their work. Mrs. Sanguras asked them to make a life list of quotes from books, songs, poetry or movies. She asked the students to explain how each quote related to them. The students were required to write a paragraph using parts of these quotes in a way that the reader would believe that they were their own words.
    I thought it was a wonderful way for students to do self reflection and learn a new writing skill.

  3. I've never thought of having students curate content--but from Jodie's curriculum changes to even having students help curate our content we use as resources and things to research (student interest)...I have some thinking to do :)

    There's some aspects of the next few units that it would be great to have students do their own research to bring in scientific articles and news stories (NPR, TED, etc) to discuss as a class...ethical issues, debates, and even blogging, to learn about our EOC-driven content through their lens, not mine!

    1. I LOVE that you can still see through the constraints of an EOC driven course to allow your learners to curate the content with the same end goal in mind!

  4. so often we ask learners what they are interested in thought the use of interest inventories, and yet have difficulty finding meaningful ways to incorporate the findings.
    these ideas about having learners be the curators of content is one an incredible example of authentic learner engagement and truly designing learning where learners are making meaning!

  5. It's my first year as a librarian, so when I hear the word "curate" I think of collecting sources for my learners and teachers. One of my very early examples was this Symbaloo (Copy and paste the link to see.) Please forgive its rudimentary form; I am a beginner!

    When I think of students curating their own sources, I think the work must be accompanied by lessons/coaching in knowing what sources are valid and trustworthy. Also, just as learners use mentor texts for writing, it is necessary to provide good examples of curation for them.

    I do, of course, think curation is entirely possible in the lower grades; however, I'm not sure how this will work. I'm still trying to understand it. One thing I do know: As educators we must all understand it first and predict the pitfalls.