I have been following the discussion around rethinking the learning management system (LMS) with interest. The LMS itself is a relict of the web 1.0, and technology together with most of the educators has moved into the social web for quite a while now. One of the key points in the discussion is if there is still value in using LMS technology or if there is a way it can evolve. I’m referring to a panel discussion at CT 2011, and if you’re interested here you can find the complete coverage
To resume the main arguments,
1) LMS had to add more valuable aspects than they do today
2) LMS had to overcome static content and evolve into something like a hub
3) LMS had to be stripped down to the essentials
4) LMS had overcome its web 1.0 origins and enter the web 2.0 age
This was the intellectual starting point to write this article about the importance of upcoming new ways that can help us
a) serve the needs of our students better and
b) foster professional exchange.
What I came up with is called curation. You will all remember it from what classic libraries and museums have always done. Selecting, caretaking and presenting. Curating in a web 2.0 sense in that respect is nothing new. It basically means to apply real world rules and principles in the digital environment. In the real world it is highly unlikely that I would disseminate unverified or unreflected information, notably in a professional context. Why should I in the digital world? It doesn’t make sense.
Now, the tricky or let’s say challenging part is the deluge of information we’re faced with each and every day when we’re online. Two examples: In March there have been 140 million tweets sent per day and every minute 48 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube. Though both are great resources for educators to find relevant links to articles, lesson material or videos not all of the content is relevant to students, it simply can’t be. And that makes it even more difficult to find the few nuggets as there is a plethora of choice in materials for students and also for the exchange with other educators hidden in the white noise of social media.
To break this circle we need to ask ourselves: As an educator how do I make my choice?
On the one hand, we have our websites we trust and visit regularly. We trust them because we found valuable resources or good exchange with colleagues on those sites in the past. Maybe somebody we trust recommended a certain website or blog. As educators are already pretty well connected online and look for contact and exchange with other like-minded professionals we tend to always go to the same trusted resources.
What most educators are missing is the fact that at this very moment in time everything is in movement and that they are looking at the Internet through a magnifier. What they see are the effects in a very specific area, the group of people they follow, the subject they are teaching and so on. They can clearly see that there is change but they don’t know where it comes from as it is outside their focus.
If they put down the magnifier and step back they will see the whole picture. At the moment, the simple rule of thumb is: technology influences society, society influences education. Therefore the starting point for every curation effort needs to be the tech space.
Now you can either choose to start at the source and turn yourself into a top level curator or start your curation at a later stage in the funnel. It really depends on how much effort you can put into this endeavour besides your other duties, obligations or interests. You should also focus on two or three topics at max you want to curate. This way your followers will know what to expect when following you. For example you could curate ESL lesson plans, classroom activities and videos.
The most important rule is: your output is only as good as your input. Follow relevant sources you know you can trust to deliver valuable links and sources. But don’t just automatically re-share every single link. Your job is to evaluate whether the information is relevant to your following. As curator the experts you follow will naturally have a broader approach than you have. Therefore, you need to be selective about the content that you curate, in our example lesson plans, activities and videos. You won’t necessarily share edtech or conferences unless those are closely related to your field.
But there are even easier ways to start with curating content. Coming back to YouTube there are lots of short, well made videos by ESL teachers. The problem is that if a student wants to learn a specific subject those videos are all scattered on the platform. As ESL teacher you could create play lists that cover certain topics and therefore enable students to lean back and watch a series of video lessons instead of wasting time to search for the relevant ones.