How to Help Students Develop Digital Content Curation Skills?

Education Article - How to Help Students Develop Digital Content Curation Skills?

Content curation has always been there, it is nothing new. It has been an important skill for hundreds of years — think of newspapers, art galleries, museums, or simple storytelling; it has been in practice since forever. 

Teachers too have always been curators— bringing together the most valuable materials to help their students learn. However, in the past, this might have been limited to books, posters, concrete materials, guest speakers, etc. But as of now, we are in a world of information overload; in actuality, we are truly ‘infowhelmed’ and finding it hard to choose the one that matches your requirement. That demands a good digital content curation skill. 

So, to help you hone your digital content curation skills we have mentioned major pointers. Let’s check them out!

Specify 

When you begin a journey, it is essential to specify the desired destination. So, is the case when looking for information. Students should at first find answers to these key questions:  

  • What types of questions am I trying to answer as a result of my search? 
  • What are the criteria that define a successful search? 

To answer these, they should at first, draft specific research questions, related to their topics of investigation, or generate hypothesis related to their area of investigation.  Answering these will guide their further research. 

Survey 

The next phase, survey is focused on choosing the tools that should be used to explore the Internet. 

There are various tools that can be used to seek the information and answers required at any given moment. Like, if the searches are related to common, everyday topics, then “Googling it” would serve the purpose. However, if searches are related to disciplinary or research topics, those with greater levels of nuance and sophistication, then students should be equipped to take advantage of varied and specialized search tools, for example - EBSCOhostPsycINFOPubMed/Medicine).  

At the same time, they should answer the following key questions: 

  • What type of information is being sought (e.g., general information queries, academic journals, books, conference presentations, video/audio)? 
  • What subscriptions to academic databases are available? 

Besides these, student-scholars need to be fully aware of the search tools available in their academic disciplines. To facilitate this, teachers could, for example, ask students to submit initial listings of those resources collected from a variety of search databases (e.g., Google ScholarWorldWideScienceResearchGate).  This beginning step would serve to illustrate similarities and inconsistencies between the selection and rankings represented by search tools in response to common query terms. 

Search

Another critical step is to search for sources. While everyone knows how to ‘Google’ for information, many are unaware of the right way to craft their search terms and queries. So, to get their hands-on on apt. sources they need to use general terms (at times) or use very specific terms to eliminate poor sources.   

The key questions to answer at the search phase are:  

  • What types of search terms and queries will yield the best results? 
  • What are the expectations for this search process (e.g., number of potential resources, variety of sources?) 

At this stage, teachers can help students become better and more efficient searchers by providing demonstrations of how different search terms yield different resources. They should include terms that give results for websites that feature erroneous content to demonstrate the need to be mindful of how one is searching for information. While in online classes, teachers can shoot a narrated screencast video of different searches to teach students how to craft searches in their field. 

Select

After the search, the next phase is select; where the challenge is to select the most relevant and accurate content.  Engagement in this process requires a thoughtful and systematic examination of the available information with an eye toward finding themes, inconsistencies, and newly identified pathways for further searching as a way of strengthening the final outcome. The key questions that guide activity at the select level are as follows: 

  • What types of strategies would be appropriate to assess and verify the quality of the collected information? 
  • Is there openness to the possibility that final conclusions might be contrary to or change initial hypotheses? 

At this stage, it may be advantageous to write a plan that includes topics to be discussed along with the relevant resources.  This could take the form of a Word document or a graphically oriented “Mind Map”. To create a graphical representation of their projects, students can use a tool like Coggle.  

Allowing students to take such steps can encourage them to create a plan of attack and identify their chosen resources easily. 

Synthesize

Any assignment or research should have a properly summarized and synthesized report that gives a clear of the work performed. And faculties often ask students to draw the results of their research into a report, but do not require students to summarize individual works. But the ability to summarize an author’s position is critical to validate its veracity, as it often alerts students to identify gaps in the author’s reasoning. When a student cannot piece together an author’s argument, it might be that the author’s work does not have any coherent argument. Therefore, resource assignments should include a requirement to summarize the arguments of the works used. 

Share

After synthesizing results of the process, the major task then becomes to determine the most effective and appropriate format for distribution to external audiences.  Historically, in higher education, the gold standard for sharing has by far been the research paper (with subsequent conversion to a journal article, book chapter, or presentation).  Although this pattern is likely to continue, researchers can now consider alternate ways to share their work in digital contexts, for e.g. through website, blog, wiki, podcast, video, audio, social media, electronic journals, academic social networking sites.  The key questions that guide activity at the this phase are: 

  • What are the primary and secondary locations that are intended destinations for this content? 
  • Are additional skills or resources necessary to take full advantage of the exposure and dissemination possibilities of the chosen venues? 

Educators are vitally interested in having students master the content in their own academic disciplines and achieve the identified learning outcomes.  Once all of it is done, consider the possibility of a value-add:  Students demonstrate what they have learned through the creation of an authentic digital product (e.g., website, video, blog, infographic).  The Internet offers a vast collection of resources and tools in each of these areas, along with tutorials and step-by-step directions. 

Steward

Generally, students forget about the research sources they used once the class is done.  But students should be encouraged to become “intellectual hoarders” by preserving the sources stacked in a format that can be used in later classes and even after college. As digital creators, curators, and consumers, there will be an ongoing struggle to determine which content should be saved (i.e., short-term and long-term) or discarded immediately after use.  These decisions are subject to considerations about the access (i.e., getting back to saved content on an as-needed basis), the capacity of storage options, cost of storage, and the level at which saved content is secure from outside sources. 

Stewarding information is more than storing them as files on computers, CDs, or the cloud. It also means developing an organizational system that allows the information to be found quickly. It could be as simple as a Microsoft Word document set up as an annotated bibliography of sources the student has used. This allows the student to later survey those sources to see what could benefit them in research.  A more sophisticated approach would be note-taking software such as Evernote, which allows students to post a summary of each resource, or even the resource itself attached as a PDF, along with certain tags that allow the student to query their resources with search terms. 

If you want to your students to master digital content curation skills then consider the phases of guiding your students through the process of digital content curation as a way of helping them learn and practice these disciplines. Knowing how to accomplish a task is one that will serve them well throughout their personal and professional lives, at present and in future. 

Reference: The Teaching Professor

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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