Curating The Fire Hose

Curating information becomes a defining factor if you want to be known and respected in social media networks. The ability to cull through “ok” information and really provide valuable content and information to your PLN or social media followers is quickly becoming a valued and sought after skill. If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, you will quickly begin to feel the fire-hose flood of information that is out there, coming to you through your social channels or through search engines. Methods of seeking, sense-making and sharing are all key elements to a curation plan of attack.

My first attempt at curation of a topic – Visual Thinking and Design for Learning – is here on my new! page:

Based on the criteria/questions that our PLN group developed, I would say that I’ve done an adequate job of curating 25 resources for the topic of Visual Thinking and Design for Learning. I usually have to create something, process it for a bit and then come back to tweak it, so I anticipate I’ll make changes in the next few days to improve what I’ve done so far. I’ll try to respond to the guiding questions our PLN agreed in the rest of this post as I self-assess my curation experience so far.

  1. What is the purpose of your curation?
  2.  Which of the five subgroups of curation, or combination thereof, do you intend to use?

The purpose was to gather relevant content around the two topics of using visual thinking and visual design to enhance learning. I tried to provide background content first to explain each concept and show how they were closely related and where visual thinking and design fit into the work of creating and designing learning today. Of the five subgroups of curation that we identified – aggregation, distillation, evaluation, mashups and chronology – I chose to go with mashups. I think this approach fits my philosophy of being open to the idea that individuals, teams and companies in the areas of business, design, marketing and entrepreneurship (seemingly unrelated to higher education or teaching) are doing some really interesting and innovative things that higher ed could and should pay attention to.

  1. Have you added credible sites to your RSS feeds or Twitterdecks to track information related to the content?
  2. Does your content curation have a variety of source types or is it heavy with one particular medium?

I would say I’ve been “following” these two topics casually for the past three years as I’ve been working as an instructional designer in a community college setting. I have a large variety of RSS feeds that did give me diversity and a rich selection of content to review, and quite a few articles and content on the subjects already “housed” in my Evernote notebooks. I still have many to go through, but I won’t run out of content soon. There are several different medium sources that are included on my! page articles so I think this is fairly balanced.

  1. Have you added your own spin, or voice, to the content you have organized and shared?
  2. Is the reproduction and sharing of the content in your curation tailored to your particular audience?

I did add my own comments about the articles or content and tried to provide context for why I included it in the curation. This process, I found, took the longest time and also caused me to delete a few selections once I couldn’t justify why I was including it. I think the tool! provides the kinds of customization to the presentation of the content that I would want to have and allowed for me to make adjustments to parts of the scooped material that didn’t make sense or needed to be edited. My particular audience would be instructional designers, faculty and staff who would likely find this curation information either through my social media channel or one of the blogs I maintain. Again, the curation tool allows for connecting and sharing through those channels.

  1. Is the material properly linked and attributed?
  2. Is any of the language used vague and unprofessional within the attribution?

Scoop.It does a nice job of creating links and also attributing previous Scoops of the articles to others ( a nice weak connection node for me to investigate further). In some cases, it sort of “over-linked” in my opinion, but I could edit the wording if needed. I did have to change some language that I thought wasn’t quite the message I wanted people to see at first glance.

  1. Is a summary of content complete?
  2. Is the content organized in a logical way?

As I mentioned before, this is a mashup curation, so while the summaries are complete on most of the content, I struggled with making strong connections on all of them. There are quite a few articles on infographics and I tried to make the tie for those in terms of visualization of data and visual thinking. I know there are debates as to whether infographics are useful in a learning context.  I tried to start with articles that explained the concepts and then get more detailed with branches and examples of visual thinking, visual design and visualization, so that logic should be evident. Mashups can fall off the wagon quickly sometimes and I may have to re-think the last few articles to see if I can make a better connection to the topic.

  1. Has the author written many articles in this particular field?
  2. Are they a known leader and shown a proven track record?

I researched the authors in quite a few instances if I did not know their work. I tried to stay with bloggers, writers and researchers that had a connection to higher education if I could. Many of them are well known thought leaders in the areas of visual thinking and design.

  1. Have I researched in detail when the article was written?
  2. Does the age of the article make the information still relevant today?

Some of the content is older, but focuses on visual design principles that have not changed. There are some new angles to the use of visuals based on new knowledge in neuroscience and learning, but I mostly found that the content was still relevant. I tried to stay away from talking about the tools used for creating visuals as the apps and software can quickly change and that would affect the relevance of content.

  1. Has the curated information been shared with multiple social media groups?
  2. Has the curated information sparked new conversations or ideas for readers?

I’ve shared on Twitter and in this blog. If I were going to go the next step, I could integrate my! account with LinkedIn and Facebook. The thing I like about using this tool for curation presentation is that I could track conversations and reader reactions from the dashboard if I wanted to. As I was creating the page, I did Tweet out some of the content and received two new followers and two retweets as a result. So I think the information is relevant and interesting enough to draw in my audience and engage them enough to have them share it out.

  1. Are there filter bubbles affecting the information I’m finding?
  2. Have I taken the time to search unfiltered content? (with customizations turned off in Google for example)

I did try to find opposing views or articles that offered a different spin on the idea of visual learning. The debate over ‘learning styles’ and what that means is one I often come across and I tried to address that in one of the articles I included. I was also careful not to include articles that didn’t speak to the learning aspect of creating visual content.