What do pins, tags, and shares have in common? They are terms used for content curation. Content curation is a hot topic this year, but it is not a new concept. Beth Kanter defined it best:
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.
I used to be a fan of the one-size fits all tech solutions. However, sometimes the variety and the specializations make life easier. Sure you have to learn the different tools, but it makes tasks easier in the long run, when you are more efficiently able to access resources. There are several categories of content curation tools. This is my personal breakdown of the different types of tools.
The daily category is obvious – that links that you need daily (or almost daily) access to. SymbalooEDU is my bookmark tool for daily use. It is perfect for learners of all ages. Symbaloo is highly visible and a mix can be embedded. The links I want my students to have access to are embedded on my school webpage. You can access Symbaloo from any computer with your log in information or using the iOS app. So what makes it content curation instead of just social bookmarking? You can create separate webmixes for different content/classes/groups. Personally, I have Symbaloo webmixes for school, personal, student resources, grad class links, PLC resources, and blogs (some with RSS feeds). Symbaloo remembers the last webmix open, so students do not see my bank or Facebook links even when my screen is projected. The webmixes can be shared with others. However, it is not possible to have multiple editors of the webmix.
These resources can be used to store information, links, documents, images, etc across devices and computers by storing them in the cloud. I have three school friendly options for online storage: DropBox (with app), Evernote (with app), and GoogleDrive (basically Google Docs with extra options). Each of these allow you to organize content by folders and to share the items or folders with other people. GoogleDrive and Evernote will also allow you to add tags to the content to make it easier to find. For an analogy, I would compare DropBox to a backpack and Evernote is like a notebook. These resources are so important as our district continues to use BYOT because it makes content easily available between devices. DropBox and Evernote provide options for having students submit assignments directly to the teachers account.
The research tools also count in as social bookmarking tools (explained next), but not all social bookmarking tools are optimized for research. The advantages to Diigo and Zotero are the ability to bookmark, add to lists, add to groups, highlight content, add sticky notes, and tag. Diigo is the bookmarking tool I use the most. You can create groups to share resources for research of just to form a common knowledge repository – like the TechCamp DTSD Group. When you have a group, you can share links as well as the highlights and written notes. This provides opportunities for asynchronous communication and collaboration. Zotero is for more advanced users. It has additional options for managing the bibliography information and automatically guiding the creation of the bibliography in Word. It is great for term papers or large research papers.
Visual Bookmarking is another sub-set of Social Bookmarking; the value comes from the connections of content and people you follow. The reason this is a separate category is the visual focus. A website must have an image for the website to be grabbed, pinned, or bolted. Pinterest exploded in users and popularity in the last year, specifically with the 18-34 female audience. The visual component provides inspiration for projects and classroom lessons. There are other visual bookmarking sites besides Pinterest, like Learni.st and Bo.lt, but they all function in a similar way. Be prepared to lose many hours checking other people’s posts.
Social bookmarking relies on folksonomy - content being described, tagged, and categorized by a collective group. There is a Common Craft video that explains the advantages of social bookmarking using Delicious. There are many options for social bookmarking: Diigo, Zotero, Pinterest, Learni.st, and Bo.lt were already described, additional tools are Delicious, Bundlr, Educlipper (in Beta). Educlipper looks like it would have great potential, so sign up to try it once it is available. Social bookmarking can be used for personalized professional development or collective knowledge for a group. The image for Bundlr summarizes the process that is similar for the social bookmarking sites: you save the website with a description and tags. Everyone can contribute their comments. To continue the content curation, there are built in channels to share the bookmarks.
These tools present your content to your audience in an aesthetically pleasing and easy to follow way. Pearltrees is an idea web; the pearls are each a node within the web. You build out from a central topic. Below is an example with content curation tools (click for full size). LiveBinders looks like a binder with tabs across the top. Each tab can have pages with text or images of a webpage. There are some good examples of textbook alternatives organized with LiveBinders. A small caution with LiveBinders, it does not display easily on smaller devices, but they are working on a mobile version.
Museum Box literally embodies content curation, with traditional curation being done in a museum. The box can include text, images, and websites. I played with this last year, but since then it has been updated and I can’t log in. Hopefully, that is not going to be a long term issue.
There are two websites that present a series of websites in a particular, linear order: Jog the Web and Mentor Mob. You also provide a description for each website. This can be a great way to present a Top Ten list or an independently paced lesson.
The last category is unique: magazines. In some ways these tools auto-generate your content by searching for specific topics. The tools search social media and other popular sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc. The tools gather relevant topics and publish an issue. Scoop.it , Storify and Paper.li are web based; Flipboard is an iPad app. This is a great way to share a content around a central topic without hand picking every story. Here is an example for the Olympics with Scoop.it ,Storify, and Paper.li. Classes could use this for a topic studied in the curriculum. The magazines can be published on a daily or weekly basis. They are easy to share with a single link for each magazine.
So now what?
Now that you are overloaded with information – I suggest you create accounts for Symbaloo, Diigo, DropBox, and Evernote. Check out the visual bookmarking tools and magazine. Both provide great publishing options, but you need to find one that matches your style. If you find a good match you are more likely to actually use it. I might not have all the answers, but as you explore, I will gladly provide guidance and suggestions. There is not a single correct way to do everything, but there is a best way for your own style and needs.