04 January 2014

Students as Digital Curators of World Language Resources

On December 5th, 2013, Catherine Ousselin hosted an AATF  Webinar entitled, "La Curation des ressources pédagogiques." The goals of the webinar were to present Web tools for curating and sharing resources with colleagues and students, and how to encourage students to become thoughtful and accurate curators of Web-based information. This post is a follow-up to the webinar and includes the tools that were discussed. 

Photo credit: Facing History
Teachers and librarians curators/organizers

Being a student in the pre-Internet years, I remember the resource carts that our teachers and  librarians organized for the students. As younger students, we did not have the research skills to find appropriate resources. The carts were designed to provide us the pertinent materials for our research and reports and to save us time. As we learned more about available resources, the cart at the library became less of a necessity and more of an ancillary tool. If a student wished to explore other options, the support staff would assist us in finding the resource or in evaluating its usefulness. With experience and guidance, students learned the basics of resource curation and evaluation. 

Do resource carts still exist? They do at my high school, but there are also a wide range of online databases and research Web sites that are available to the students. However helpful and well-organized these online tools may be, if students do not receive proper instruction and guidance on their use, they will resort to a Google search and find themselves afloat in a sea of links, many of which the students are unable to interpret or analyze for accuracy. It is recommended that all students receive a meaningful introduction by a well-trained librarian or staff member to the available tools as well as experience in evaluating them. This instruction could begin as early as fourth grade and should continue through high school.  

Photo credit: Journal du Net
The language component to research, organization, and curation

In perusing the shelves of my school library, I realized that there were no language or culture-specific resources available. If I were to send the students to a university library, they might be able to find what they need in the language, but that is not not an option where I teach. Additionally, the databases and research sites provided by the school library lead to English-language sites. Thus, the language teacher faces a quandary: In order to provide thoughtful and reliable Web-based resources to students in a well-organized fashion and to encourage students to develop their own research skills within the language, the teacher must gather and present the resources. Essentially, the teacher becomes a content curator and database builder (in his or her spare time, of course!). 

Used with Creative Commons permission: mkhmarketing

While the task may seem colossal, teachers should know that others have begun the work and have shared it online for others to use.  By connecting with a PLN (Professional Learning Network) for World Language teachers, it is possible to quickly reduce the amount of research. For language teachers, the Twitter #langchat group (Thursday 5-6 p.m. PST) is an excellent option for beginners. The chats are archived on the #langchat Wikipage. There are also language-specific chats, Facebook groups, and other social media outlets, but starting with Langchat provides a user-friendly introduction. Many of the participants in Langchat have their own prepared resources that might apply to your needs. Connecting with a few teachers may save you countless hours of preparation.  

After you have experimented with digital organization and curation for your students, allow them to explore and discover on "their own." Provide students with some suggestions of resources and remind them of the evaluation process. Visit Kathy Schrock's "Guide to Everything" site to find resources and rubrics on Web evaluation or ask your school librarian to give a short talk on the subject. 

On the site below, Corinne Weisberger states that there is a difference between organizing (bundling) and curating (commenting / augmenting) tools. Most teachers and students begin as organizers and grow to be curators who provide reflection on a given topic or tool. It is wise to start with the basics of collecting tools in order to build a healthy toolbox for the group. After this skill has been developed, explore the curator's role of commenting and expanding on the information.  

Resources on digital curating and research for students
1. 15 Lesson Plans for Making Students Better Online Researchers
2. Langwitches Blog: Students Becoming Curators of Information?
3. Corinne WeisgerberTeaching Students to Become Curators of Ideas: The Curation Project
Choosing the best tool(s) for you

There are many curation tools to choose from, you do not need to use them all. That simple statement is designed to prevent you from being overwhelmed. The number one question at my workshops is, "How do I know which one to choose?". There are a few ways to look at this:

1. Do you need it to be "visually appealing"? 
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If so, choose Pinterest, Pearltrees, or LiveBinder. These sites use images, colors, and interactive buttons to attract interest. If you are looking for a basic, no-frills site: Diigo, Delicious, Scoop.It, or Paper.Li will work very well. In past workshops, more female teachers have expressed interest in Pinterest and more males preferred Pearltrees. Keep in mind your students' preferences as well. 

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2. How easy is it to add resources? 
Adding a resource to a Web curating tool is almost as easy as adding a bookmark to your Web browser. In fact, I suggest that as you add a resource to the cloud, add it to your own bookmarks/favorites as well. In case of "disaster", you wil have a backup.
Pinterest, Diigo, Delicious, and Scoop.It allow you to add a resource directly from a Web site by clicking on an icon at the top of your Web browser. Upon initial registration, most of the sites offer to add an icon for ease of use. I recommend this option. The icon is there to remind you and renders the curation/organization task quick and easy. If you do not want an icon on your browser, simply highlight the URL (in the address bar), open a new tab, navigate to the Web tool site and add the link. If it is a video, choose the "share" option under the video and use that link. There are times when the URL of a video is not a direct link.   

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3. How can I share the site with my students? Sharing a Web tool/site is quite easy. Many of the tools allow users to "follow" the curator. Followers can choose the update notification that best suits them. Others allow you to send out a notice via e-mail, Google+, Twitter, or other social media. It is important to update weekly and to remind students to use the resources as a primary source when beginning a search.  

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4. Does the school district allow access?
 Before starting a curation project, check with your district IT personnel. If a site is blocked, it might mean that your students access it from off-campus or from their mobile devices. However, a discussion with the IT department might change a policy. A well-informed teacher can convince a superintendent to allow a tool. 

5. Personal preference and experimentation. 
If a tool does meet your expectations or if your students express a unified opinion, try another tool.  If you are experiencing difficulties, consult your PLN or tech-knowledgeable friend. Perhaps there is a solution to your issue. Do not give up on the process. If you decide to deactivate an account, be sure to transfer your resources to a new site. Allow the students time to "play" with the tool. Many of their teachers are not providing them with such resources, therefore their reliance on Google is difficult to change. Reinforce the ease of search that you are providing them. 

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Curation/organization tools mentioned in the webinar
These are the tools that I recommend for beginners. If you need a longer list, please visit my technology site for curation tools. Explore the examples to find the tool that interests you most. 

I have organized the tools starting from the easiest and least-visually engaging. Please contact me if you need any guidance. 

Diigo: Social bookmarking site that allows users to annotate, tag, and organize by themes. Students may follow.  
Don Doehla's public list: FLE - Français langue seconde

Delicious - Social bookmarking site with user-chosen and suggested tags for organization. Students may follow.  
AATF Delicious site - Click on "Tags" to see the subject areas.

PearlTrees - Create thematic mind maps with PDF documents, notes, Web sites, links to audio, and videos. Students may follow.  
Don Doehla's Pearltree

Scoop.It - An online thematic magazine that updates daily on its own based on user-chosen themes. Curators may also add links to Web sites,videos, and comments, but may not upload documents directly. Students may follow.  
AATF Scoop.It page

Paper.Li - Very similar to Scoop.It
Paper.Li search for FLE 

Pinterest Create themes and images with links to Web sites or videos. You may upload your own images and add short notes to them, but they must be jpeg, gifs, or pngs. Students may follow.  

LiveBinder - Highly interactive! Upload documents, embed videos or audio, link to Web sites, or create student portfolios or e-textbooks. This tool is suggested for those who have a great deal of content to share, but do not have a Web site, blog, Edmodo, or Blackboard/Moodle. 

French 1 example 

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