Understanding Digital Badges and Open Badges

I was cleaning out my closet last weekend when I found my school port from Year 2. It was a hard blue port, the type that kids in the early 80’s all had, with clips at the front and the tendency to rattle loudly when it was filled with just a lunchbox. Covering the port were stickers. Stickers I had earned from my teacher, and had proudly displayed on my port (yes, I was a nerdy little kid!!).

Digital badges are like super-powered stickers, displaying an achievement of skill; but their super-powers make them much more than glorified reward stickers.
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as:

an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.

This short video gives a great introduction to what badges are, and their role in contemporary learning.

In a world where information is everywhere, and learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the way we demonstrate proficiency must change. As social media and ubiquitous internet access puts us into contact with expert teachers and mentors from all over the world, and MOOCs and Connected Learning environments enable us to develop skills and understandings in new and unexpected ways, we need a method of displaying what we know and can do. Traditional, formalised learning opportunities are not the only sources of education, and paper-based certificates just don’t cut it in a digital world.


Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence

As professional development becomes more learner centred, badges offer a more flexible and personalised method of recognising achievements. Badges allow for modular, learning-centred designs, where multiple learning pathways are accommodated, acknowledging the varying levels of expertise held by participants, and reflecting achievement in short courses, work-based experience, assignments and projects, as well as soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, problem solve or engage in positive conflict resolution.

Created by @BryanMMathers, Licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Digital badges enable potential employers to check against specific skill and knowledge needs. The ability to capture skills, knowledge and abilities developed from experiences across personal and professional spheres makes sense in a digital and fast changing environment such as education, where many skills need continual updating as recognised by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Systems such as the open badges infrastructure developed by the Mozilla foundation address the issues of identity, verification, validation and the ongoing management of badges. Badges created and issued using infrastructure such as this include metadata which is hard-coded (‘baked’) into the badge image file itself. This links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. Badges are also not necessarily permanent, and can be de-activated after a particular period of time if skills need to be refreshed (such as in the case of the yearly update required to maintain certain first aid qualifications).

Badge Anatomy This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

Badge Anatomy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

The Horizon Report (2015) places digital badging as a technology which is likely to enter mainstream use in K-12 education within the next 4-5 years. The report is a well-respected research document which is widely used internationally to shape strategic plans in education in both K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Currently, large corporations such as Samsung, and schools such as Carnegie MellonKahn Academy and Yale have all begun developing and using badges.

If the introduction of digital badging is introduced in a cost-effective way, organisations could see benefits through better management of professional learning, more data on the levels of professional learning of staff and more effective placement of staff through the recruitment and selection process.

Disclosure: This post was written not just to share this information, but also to earn myself a badge! In researching this topic, I discovered #OB101 which is an online course about open badges. The first task was to write 250+ words on the following:

  • What Open Badges are
  • How Open Badges are different from digital badges
  • Some ways Open Badges can be used

Did I meet the criteria? You will have to check my Badge Backpack to find out! Why not start collecting badges to demonstrate your many skills…you never know where it might lead.

Creating Connections for Learning Using Social Media

This is the first of a series of posts which explore the what, how and why of social media in learning –

  • What Social Media is…
  • Why it is important in a learning context…and
  • How it can be used to create connections

This first post looks at the what and the why of social media, and once the scene is set, we will dive into an exploration of creative ways it can be used in learning and teaching to create connections and enable opportunity across a range of contexts.

flickr photo shared by mikefisher821 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Social media in the classroom is not an end in itself. Used creatively, it can be an amazing teaching tool, providing students with new ways to communicate and express themselves and their learning.

It is also the space where students are building a digital profile; even young students’ actions leave  traces of their actions online. It is important that they are aware of their digital identity, and how this will develop and become increasingly important as they go through high school and beyond. Introducing social media into the learning context allows students to make informed decisions when online, and reduces the risk of actions which may lead to consequences for their future.

For our students, there is no differentiation between the different tools, between ‘going online’ and simply being…they use these tools naturally as part of their everyday lives. That’s not to say they are fully informed users; they know what they know, and they know that very well – but it does mean that to leave out social media from their education is to disregard a massive part of their everyday life, and to not acknowledge a major form of communication and networking.

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Stuck in Customs: http://flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/4991717429

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Stuck in Customs: http://flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/4991717429

So what exactly IS  ‘Social Media’?

Before we begin discussing social media, let’s reflect on traditional media. Educators have always accessed a wide range of traditional media in the classroom; books, TV, magazines, newspapers – all of these sources of information were (and still are) brought into the classroom to resource learning, to link students to the world, to inspire and engage them; but this traditional media is one to many, meaning that it is usually produced by one person or group, even if it is accessed and used by many- essentially a one way channel. Students can read books and newspaper articles, view television programs or documentaries, but they cannot contribute to their creation or shape the content being communicated. Traditional media is easy to manage, and there is no interactivity between creators and consumers; when we limit access to traditional media, the amount of information and access to experts students have is also limited.

Today – we continue to interact with traditional media, but also we can also engage heavily with social media. Social media is many to many, and two way; and this challenges us as educators, as it brings a whole new dynamic into the classroom. Social media is participatory, it encourages collaboration and interaction, it promotes open communication, and requires creativity and sharing.

social media definitionHow can we define ‘social media’? It is so much more than just Facebook and YouTube. Social media includes blogs, podcasts, collaboratively created mindmaps, wikis, polls and surveys, Skype, social book marking and content curation, online games, video sharing, photo sharing, online productivity tools such as Google Docs or Evernote, forums, listservs….any media that allows for creation and communication with others. If we use this definition, you can see that social media provides so many different sources and resources to enrich learning.

WHY is Social Media important in Education?

From what has already been discussed in exploring what social media is, it should be pretty obvious that it is important that we include social media as a way of engaging, working with and learning with our students, because it is a major form of communication, information access and knowledge construction being used in our world today. However, if you need more convincing, please consider reading this book: Why School, by Will Richardson.

Click image to purchase from Amazon.

Click image to purchase from Amazon.

Why School is from the Ted series of books, and it is just 35 pages long, and costs $3.75 to download from the Ted Books app, or you can buy it through the Amazon Kindle store. In it, Will Richardson, a teacher, speaker and writer, outlines why we need to engage in new ways of learning and teaching in a world of abundant information and provides a vision for the way learning can shift from content mastery to learning mastery; where students learn more than literacy and numeracy, but also develop skills in creativity, persistence, critical literacy, collaboration and problem solving. He acknowledges that this move to connected learning isn’t easy; but there are many strategies and tools that we can use to begin implementing change.

Richardson also states another really important fact; one that I believe we can’t overlook; access does not equal the ability to use the web well.

He points out that no matter how often we call our students ‘digital natives’, simply being able to access this wealth of information and knowledge doesn’t mean that they also automatically become self-directed, organised and web-literate; students need our assistance to develop the skills needed to connect and build relationships with others online in safe, ethical and effective ways. The environment of abundance that they live in requires in some ways even more support from educators than before; just a different kind of support, and with a different kind of focus.

Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor at Plymouth University says that to thrive in this new, hyperconnected world, learners will need new literacies;

new literaciesIt is interesting that he says ‘learners’ not ‘students’ for these are skills that we are all developing; and so how do we learn these literacies, and how do we teach these to our students? By engaging in the media that requires them.

The next blog post will explore the HOW of social media – not by looking at lists of tools, but by focusing on what we hope the students will learn and what skills and knowledge they will take away from the task.

Every school has a different context; different levels of access to technology, different security requirements, some schools are very open when accessing the internet and social media tools, others are quite locked down. Every teacher has their own comfort level with using technology and students come into the classroom with varying capabilities. Focusing on the task and the outcomes helps us see that we can work creatively in the context we are in. The next post will explore Twitter, so that you can take these ideas into different settings and share them with different groups.

I have curated a range of the related social media tools that are mentioned in this and future posts on my Pinterest Board here:

Read on!

Creating Connections for Learning using Social Media: New Ways with Twitter

Building on from Part One, which focused on what social media is, and why it is important to include it in learning and teaching, this post aims to investigate creative ways social media may be used to enable students to engage, create, publish and connect with others.

Suggestion One: Be a connected educator!

flickr photo shared by Castaway in Scotland under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

The best way to become comfortable with social media is to be your own guinea pig. By using the tool you wish to implement for your own purposes, you will learn about the requirements of signing up, how time consuming it is to familiarise yourself with the tool, whether it works on the school computer/network environment, and then you will feel more comfortable with introducing it to the students. You will probably have also discovered many different ways you may include it authentically in learning that you hadn’t considered before.

New ways with Twitter

Twitter is well known as a fabulous tool for educators (and others) to use in developing a Professional Learning Network (PLN). I have written about Twitter and the value of Professional Learning Networks before, and with the ability to connect with wisdom from all over the world, it is one of the best sources for new ideas, resources, teaching tools and feedback. If you have a quality network, just ten minutes on Twitter will reward you with a bounty of education insights.

10 Minutes on TwitterTwitter is a great tool for professional learning, but it can also be harnessed for powerful learning with students. Not every student needs to have an account for you to use Twitter in the classroom. In fact, as students under the age of 13 are not permitted to have an account, often a class account, created by the teacher is the only way to go. You can use a class account very effectively to not only model how to use Twitter safely and appropriately, but also to share the work students are doing, collaborate with other classes on Twitter, communicate with parents and stay up to date with current affairs.

Twitter accounts can be protected, so what is shared is only available to those who have asked and been permitted to follow. Therefore the community may be closed to just parents and students, or left open (if you have older students) to communicate with the world.

Why not use Twitter in the classroom to:


Increasingly important world and local events are being shared using social media, including Twitter. One great example is @AnzacLive, which was an experience across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). 30 journalists ‘took on’ the personae of 10 real people who lived through ANZAC Day, and using the journals of these people, recreated their lives on social media, as if it were a tool of communication 100 years ago. The ten individuals posted daily pictures and updates, sharing their experiences of the war, and members of the public were encouraged to interact with them, asking questions and chatting with them. The journalists had access to war historians who guided their responses, to ensure an authentic experience.


Many events now have a hashtag (e.g. International Women’s Day, Australia Day etc) and these provide an engaging way for students to interact with the world and share the experience with others, as well as learning about others’ perspectives on the celebration.


An increasing number of classes are getting online to share their learning with others. One fantastic example is #KidsedchatNZ – a twitter chat that takes place every Wednesday between 2-3pm across New Zealand. The aim of Kidsedchatnz is to motivate kids to be active, engaged and connected learners, and each week a series of questions are posted on the Kids Ed Chat blog, for the participants to respond to during chat time. The experience not only provides a monitored experience of social media, it gives students the ability to discuss their learning with students from all over the country, and acts as a moderation tool for teachers, as they can assess their own students’ level of understanding against others. Why not consider creating a chat opportunity with a range of classes across your state or region? The model of Kidsedchat NZ is easy to follow, and can be explored both on Twitter using the hashtag #KidsedchatNZ, as well as the blog: http://kidsedchatnz.blogspot.co.nz/

Students are given an image via the blog to reflect on prior to their chat. This is a sample of their responses.

Students are given an image via the blog to reflect on prior to their chat. This is a sample of their responses.


Click the image to read more about the #notsilent campaign.

Click the image to read more about the #notsilent campaign.

This year the Anne Frank Trust and Penguin books marked the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.

Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate Anne Frank’s short life, participants were asked to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing.  They provided a selection of passages suitable or participants could choose one yourself, or they were encouraged to read something they had written about their own life and hopes. Participants were also asked to start or end the reading by explaining why they chose to take part.

This is a new way to raise awareness, share information, and reflect; it could be transformed in many ways for students to promote a particular cause, or share reflections on a text. By recording voice clips using Vocaroo, or creating short video clips and sharing on a website such as YouTube or Vimeo, a tweet with the link and a relevant hashtag could be a powerful way to inform others of student learning or opinion.


One of the great aspects of using social media in learning and teaching is that you can actively teach critical skills that allow students to participate more safely online. A fantastic activity which does just that is to search for well know public figures on Twitter, and identify which account actually belongs to them. A good example is Julia Gillard’s account- the first is fake…how do we know this?

2014-09-19_1345 2014-09-19_1342

It may be that the open nature of Twitter is just a little too much if you are completely new to social media. If this is the case, why not try Twiducate: a solution for elementary and secondary students. Rather than having your students sign up and enter an email address, you sign up and create a class code. Using this code, your students log in to your class network.

Here, they can answer questions, collaborate on problems, and even embed pictures and videos. As a teacher you have full control over the network. You can even add other teachers! This gives a similar experience to Twitter (although they will not be able to connect with the wider community).

twiducate twiducateJust like Twitter, there are lots of ways that you can use this tool to model proper and responsible use of social media, and loads of creative teaching ideas; some of which you can read about in this great blog post by Tait Coles.



Creating Connections for Learning with Social Media: Bringing Blogging Back!

Building on from what was suggested in earlier posts, educators who become familiar with social media tools and who use them in their own personal practice are more likely to feel confident introducing them into the classroom. Blogging is a tool that often isn’t considered when thinking about Social Media, however it is a platform for authentic communication, which allows users to express ideas and connect with others, and therefore is a teaching tool that should not be overlooked.

New Literacy

The title of this blog is ‘bringing blogging back’ because as an older social media tool, it may seem that blogs are passe or not likely to draw student engagement. However, setting a student up with a blog where they share their learning is a great starting point for building a positive online presence – and even if you choose to go with a tool that is not entirely public, allowing students the chance to develop skills and familiarity with this genre will mean that should they choose to keep a blog of their own in the future, it is more likely to be a well-presented document of themselves online – always a positive in a world where social media is often the first place potential employers browse when deciding among applicants!

flickr photo shared by rebe_zuniga under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Blogging is also a great strategy for teachers to not only develop their own online presence, but for reflecting, sharing, clarifying their thinking and more. Steve Wheeler writes very convincingly and comprehensively when presenting Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog, another fan of teacher blogging is George Courosread his reasoning here.

To begin blogging with students, start off low tech. social media doesn’t have to completely rely on computers and the internet! Try wall blogging, suggested by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, where students share their blog post and others post their comments using post it notes before moving onto publishing online.

When making the move online, it is good to consider a number of different platforms, as each have their strengths and weaknesses. Two platforms to consider,  that represent different approaches, are WordPress and Kidblog.


WordPress is an open blogging platform used by the general public. There are two WordPress formats; .com which is hosted by WordPress, and is the best one for beginners, and .org, which is self hosted, and requires just a little more tech expertise (as well as somewhere to host it). I would advise going with .com for students. WordPress  is open, flexible, and lots of options – and it may be a good platform to consider if you have switched on high school students who want lots of flexibility in how they publish and share their work. However for younger students or when privacy is a consideration, Kidblog is worth exploring, as it allows the teacher to set up student accounts which they can access without needing to create an account or have an email address themselves.

If neither of these take your fancy, don’t despair! There are lots of blog platforms out there- a good guide is the The State of Educational Blogging 2014 which summarises a range of platforms from an educational perspective.

flickr photo shared by langwitches under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

There are many reasons why you might consider having your students blog. Some schools are using a student blog as a portfolio to capture their work, or as a place where students can reflect on their learning. The act of writing regularly is a valuable literacy skill, and the ability for other students to comment enables peer support and an authentic audience. Depending upon the platform you choose, blogs can be as open or as locked down as you wish, and many learning management systems have a blogging tool built in.

Blogging also informally teaches students about digital safety, and the language of digital publishing as they’ ‘tag’ their posts with keywords to assist in locating them later, comment and respond to comments, manage their account, choose copyright free or creative commons images to include and assess their blog ‘stats’ to measure how many hits they have received, from what locations and more.

A great blog post on blogging as pedagogy has been shared by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, who has put together a number of resources on blogging in the classroom including this fabulous printable handout, Getting to Know Your Blog.

Students don’t always need to have their own blog – a class blog which is jointly constructed could be a fantastic shared writing experience for younger students, and older students could be extended by writing blog posts from the perspective of different characters in a book – a single blog could have posts written by a different character each day.

visual blog

Click on this image for a live demo of this image focused blog theme.

Blogs don’t necessarily have to be text based either; while Tumblr and Instagram are popular image blogging social media apps, more control could be maintained by establishing a single traditional blog account, and having students upload images they have created (photographs, scans of artwork etc). Platforms such as WordPress have a range of templates, some of which are designed particularly for image based blogs. This would be terrific for art students, photography classes or any student who had a preference for visual expression.

When it comes to commenting, there is an art to this also. While blogs don’t encourage the same level of interactivity as Twitter or Facebook, there is definitely the capacity for conversation to develop in the comments section. Leaving constructive, clearly expressed comments is a skill that many overlook, and yet this type of feedback can be a powerful form of instruction, particularly when it comes from peers. In addition, there is always the potential for teachers to negotiate with colleagues, or even better a ‘guest commenter’ such as an author or expert in the field of study to add their thoughts – a very authentic learning opportunity!

And so, I encourage you to think about beginning a blog; or getting your students to blog; or creating a class blog – and if and when you do, share your experience in the comments and bring THIS blog alive too!


Remix, Reuse and Re-energise using Creative Commons and Open Education Resources.

Beth Noveck Open GovTeachers and students are becoming creators and publishers due to the possibilities new technologies provide. Traditional copyright can limit creativity, however Creative Commons and Open Educational Resources open up a new world of content to re-energise the possibilities when developing resources, and encouraging students to design new ways to demonstrate their learning.

It used to be that when teachers and students created content, it could only be shared within the classroom walls. Today, the classroom walls are flattened, as we share resources and publish our learning to a worldwide audience. Not only do we have the ability to publish to the globe, students and  teachers have unprecedented access to content which is easily able to be remixed, recreated and reused. We have come a long way from the days when scribes painstakingly handwrote copies of manuscripts. Now, Control C, Control V are the keys of power, and with a video camera on every phone, and free editing tools just a click away, students and teachers (and everyone else besides!) must be familiar with their rights as creators, and must also be aware of the need to respect others’ intellectual property also.

It all begins with Copyright

Statute_of_anneCopyright, first initiated by the Statute of Anne in 1710, is a tool which aims to promote creativity, by protecting works from replication. As artists derive their income from selling their works, Copyright seeks to protect this source of revenue from being exploited by others. However, there are many that argue that in the internet age, Copyright is broken. While it is true that wholesale piracy and profiteering from the work of others must continue to be legislated against, the avenue of the internet as a forum for sharing, communicating and creating may be limited by stringent enforcement of Copyright regulations against those who do not seek to make commercial gain, but only to use others’ ideas and work as a part of their own creative expression.

One of the strongest proponents of the need to seek changes in Copyright law is Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and the founder of Creative Commons.

There are some provisions within different countries’ Copyright laws that allow students and teachers to use some copyrighted material in the course of education. These provisions, which fall within Fair Use, Fair Dealing and Statutory Licences are useful, and should be taken advantage of; however they are only of use within strict educational settings. For those who wish to share their work more publicly, other options exist.

Public Domain Content

One source of content which can be freely used is that which falls into the Public Domain.publicdomain

Once the term of copyright has expired (usually between 50-70 years after the death of the creator, although this varies internationally, and according to the type of work), it enters the Public Domain. The underlying idea of a work cannot be copyrighted, and therefore concepts such as mathematic and scientific formulae are also within the public domain. Content created before the existence of copyright also falls into this category.  Some government agencies and public institutions donate their content directly to the Public Domain. Some of the most notable include NASA and the British Library.2015-02-20_1821

Content which is in the Public Domain is able to be freely used or remixed without any permission, although it is good practice to acknowledge the source. Fantastic examples of public domain remixes are everywhere – one to check out is the Tate Gallery 1840 Gif Party, where works were recreated as animated Gifs as part of a competition. See the results here.

There are many sources of Public Domain images online; access a range of sites on my Pinterest board here.

As rich as Public Domain content is, it is still limited by the length of copyright. A middle ground between Copyright and Public Domain is Creative Commons. Creative Commons is an effective way to source images, videos and documents while giving credit to the original owner. Creative Commons creates a “some rights reserved” model. This means that the copyright owner retains copyright ownership in their work while inviting certain uses of their work by the public. Creative Commons licences create choice and options for the copyright owner.

Creative Commons Licences

There are 4 primary licence elements:

These elements are mixed and matched to describe whatever rights the creator wishes to reserve. The six standard Creative Commons licenses are

The Licences #CreativeCommonsFinding Creative Commons Material

There is a growing amount of content being released under the creative commons licences. This State of the Commons report released late last year shares the staggering growth of this amazing movement:

Click to access the whole infographic.

Click to access the whole infographic.

Click the image to go to Pinterest board.

Click the image to go to Pinterest board.

This makes it much easier to find Creative Commons Licenced content to use, remix and repurpose. A great place to start is the Creative Commons powered search, which enables you to search across multiple providers. However, for specific resources, check out my Pinterest board for lots of ideas of where to go to find more material. Another great resource are those put together by the wonderful people at Smartcopying, and Creative Commons Australia, who have just released excellent resources for educators.


I have also written about this in more depth on the ResourceLink blog here and in the Copyright Copyleft Wiki I created in my role at Brisbane Catholic Education.

Tips and Tools to Reference Correctly

Of course, you can’t go about using Creative Commons licenced material without clearly referencing it, and acknowledging both the creator, and the licence under which the work is released. Fortunately, referencing is simple, and this handy, printable (PDF) guide is excellent for providing examples and information. This wiki is also an awesome and easy to follow guide.

To make it even easier, several tools exist to make referencing as simple as copy and paste. I have written before on the ResourceLink blog about the wonderful work of Alan Levine, who has created a tool for Flickr, which loads not only the reference, but also an embed code for any Creative Commons licenced image shared on Flickr. You can get the button for your bookmarks toolbar by simply dragging and dropping – read all about how to do it here.

open attributeAnother handy plug in is Open Attribute. By installing this extension into your browser (works for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and more), whenever the site you are on contains a Creative Commons licenced object, a CC logo will appear in the address bar. Click on this, and the text or html attribution will appear, for you to simply copy and paste. Although this only works for content that has been licenced with the machine readable code (find out more about the layers of a CC licence here), many pages include this metadata, and it sure makes referencing content easier!

Wikimedia Commons is another phenomenal source of open content, and they too provide copy and paste referencing, known as the reuse assistance tool. Read this handy page on the wiki to find out more!

Open Education Resources

Click on the image to learn more.

Click on the image to learn more.

Many believe that the high cost of textbooks and other educational resources are leading to the commodification of education, and that education should be free and accessible for all. By encouraging educators and other educational resource producers to share their work by either releasing it to the public domain, or by licencing it in an open way using Creative Commons, a growing bank of resources is being developed, so that everyone can share access to knowledge.

This cause has many supporters, and resources can be contributed and accessed via a range of channels; some of the best known open educational resource repositories are listed on this Smartcopying page. The more educators are aware of these repositories, and contribute to them, the greater the availability of quality educational resources for all.

In a world where everyone can publish to a world stage, the concepts of Copyright, Creative Commons, Public Domain and Open Educational resources must be familiar to all. Take the time to explore, and remember, technology truly allows us to:

This work, "RRR,PPP", is a derivative of "Open source gifts for the holidays" by opensourceway, used under CC BY-SA. "RRR,PPP" is licensed under CC BY-SA by KayO.

This work, “RRR,PPP”, is a derivative of “Open source gifts for the holidays” by opensourceway, used under CC BY-SA. “RRR,PPP” is licensed under CC BY-SA by KayO.




Learning the art of Digital Content Curation

It is undeniable that we live in a world of information overload. Check out Internet Live Stats to be truly ‘infowhelmed’!

Just one second of internet traffic....

Just one second of internet traffic….

As busy people, it is often at precisely the wrong time that we find that fascinating article, or when we are looking for something else that we discover a great resource for the future. Keeping track of all of this digital information is important – we all know how quickly our time is sapped away while searching online. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that are easy to use, and which we can use to manage our digital information, so that we can virtually ‘file’ and share with others the quality articles, resources and media to be easily drawn upon again, or to be read at a later, more suitable time.

So how does one ‘curate content’?

Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally the term curator refers to someone who looked after objects in a museum exhibition. A new and increasingly popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content, organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent Primer on Content Curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context specific knowledge is added the each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.

2015-03-08_1104This sounds more complex than it is. More simply, it means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context within that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users.

I’m a teacher/student- do I really need to do this stuff?

Content curation has always occurred in schools – resources were always gathered around the topic of teaching, in order to support and extend  student understandings. The difference is that in the past, this consisted of gathering ‘hard’ content – books, posters, newspapers, kits etc (and these were usually gathered together by the teacher librarian, the leading content curator in the school). Nowadays, the teacher librarian and teachers not only have access to these resources, but also to a huge range of digital resources – many of which provide fantastic, engaging learning opportunities for today’s students. Content curation enables this huge range of resources to be arranged in a usable, accessible way.

Students too can benefit from learning effective curation skills as being able to quickly and critically evaluate a range of information sources, and then curate these into a meaningful collection is a vital research skill. Content curation is even becoming a study skill which is explicitly taught to students.

Be the best curator you can be – avoid the pitfalls!

One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the pitfalls to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, When Educators Become Curators:

Curationpitfalls.jpgShe describes these traits as the following:

The Hoarder: a curator who collects  everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t  organise their content, and doesn’t  share – this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.

The Scrooge: one who, similarly hoards their information – although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either; one of the key purposes of educational content curation!

The Tabloid (or National Enquirer):  a collector who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!

The Robot: a curator who uses tools to shares  automatically, with no context related additions or value adding; in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.

Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.

It’s all a bit much – are there tools to help me?

The task may seem overwhelming; however, as I mentioned above there are many fantastic tools to make the process streamlined and simply part of the work of the day.

Keep in mind that not everyone will like every tool. That’s why it is important to think about the audience, as well as the type of content you are curating. An example is the choice between Pinterest and Diigo. Both Pinterest and Learnist are very visual in their appearance, and therefore likely to suit younger student groups,  groups who are disengaged or those studying very visual learning content, such as Visual Arts studies. However, Pinterest now requires a membership to see full boards; therefore, for younger students (those 13 and under, who should not have their own membership due to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) requirements), Learnist may be the best tool. For older students however, this may not be a consideration.

The right tool for the right purpose.

The right tool for the right purpose.

Content curation tools and how to use them have been explained countless times online. One of the benefits of content curation is that you don’t re-invent the wheel; you simply share what already exists. With this in mind, I have used a number of tools to curate lists of curation strategies, curation tools and articles on curation, which I share with you below. Click on the images to access these sources.

Click to access board.

Links to articles that detail effective content curation strategies as well as how and why educators and students should be digital content curators.

Click on the image to access.

A curated board of tools that are effective and enjoyable tools for curating educational content.


A Flipboard of curated articles and tools for those who enjoy accessing their information using this magazine style app.

I have written in detail on a few curation tools in the past, including Pinterest and Diigo, and published these on my work blog, ResourceLink. Although it may take some trial and error before you find a range of tools you become comfortable with, you can be sure that once you have set up your curation accounts, and start actively selecting from the streams of information you receive, you will be surprised by how quickly you begin to build quality sources of digital content, which will be worthwhile resources for many others to access.

**A Word about Content Curation and Copyright**

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book ‘Steal like an Artist’, itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically, apply to ethical content curation.

ALWAYS link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as Learnist, however, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site which references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, I take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:

A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.

This is particularly important when curating from pages which include articles like ’10 great tools for x’ – these are aggregations themselves of original work, and not the original creator.

Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and wherever possible ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.

Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.

Have fun!

Seeing curation as an art is a great way to begin your journey. It takes time to develop the skills, and everyone will approach it differently; at the end, however you will have created something truly unique, and a source of content that others will enjoy and benefit from. Share your experiences in the comments box below!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian

Becoming info-savvy : Information and critical literacy in the web world

This is the first of three posts which focus on information and critical literacy. This first post outlines the importance of developing information and critical literacy. The second post will give specific strategies and tools to use when evaluating information found online, while the third post focuses on verification of social media. Slides to support these blog posts are available on Slideshare.

The democratization of content creation is a wonderful thing; even as I type, I am enjoying the ability to publish to a worldwide audience. Thanks to the thousands of content creation and distribution platforms including WordPress, Scribd, Weebly, Storify, and of course YouTube just to name a few, millions of voices which might have never been heard have a channel to communicate their message. Content is being created at a mindblowing rate:
Click the image to open the interactive version (via http://pennystocks.la/).
Whereas previously content had to pass through extensive editorial processes prior to work being published, there is no such on the internet. Therefore we see just as much accurate as inaccurate information being posted online;

bogus tweet

Disturbingly, it’s not just the accuracy of assignments that are at risk by this spread of misinformation; in the past 90 days, according to this article by the Washington Post, 84 people have self-published Ebola e-books on Amazon; and almost all of them include information that’s either wildly misleading or flat-out wrong.

We need to develop skills in what Howard Rheingold calls ‘Crap’ Detection – knowledge of how to find and verify accurate, useful information – or basic information literacy for the internet age. This type of literacy is something which must be taught to students, and which must be brought to the attention of anyone who uses the internet as an information source – which, it seems, in Australia at least, is most people.

So what are these information literacy skills, and how do we learn them?
This series of posts attempts to outline some of the strategies, tips and tricks which can be applied to ensure the accuracy of information sourced from the internet; of course, much of it comes along with the fact that a little common sense goes a long way…

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Ludie Cochrane

The multimodal nature of the internet allows users to create any version of truth. You might have seen the Dove Evolution video, where an attractive young woman is ‘transformed’ into a supermodel using photoshop; more recently, a human interest reporter Esther Honig wanted to see just how much culture influences beauty, and so she had the idea to ask 40 photo editors in 25 different countries to photoshop her picture.
“Make me look beautiful,” was the brief. The results show the amazing way the internet connects us, and the way technology can manipulate what we believe to be true.

For students, the internet is the dominant medium and place they go to for information. In a world of information overload, it is vital for students to not only find information but also determine its validity and appropriateness.

For teachers in particular, it is necessary to not only have these skills, but also to be able to educate students to become informed, literate, self directed learners, who are able to navigate effectively the information accessible on the internet. Mandy Lupton, in her research on inquiry and the Australian Curriculum, has found that inquiry skills and information literacy are embedded in the Australian Curriculum in the subject areas Science, History, Geography, Economics and Business, Civics and Citizenship, Digital Technologies and in the general capabilities Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) . A huge part of being an effective learner and being able to research critically is being able to determine what is quality information, and where to source it from; after all,

See more on Know Your Meme

Click here to access the next post which explores Alan November’s ‘REAL’ strategy, and provides tools and strategies to apply in order to verify information discovered online. The third and final post, on critical literacy and social media is available here.