The Curious World of Curation – ISTE Standard #3 “Knowledge Constructor”

This week: a drink from the fire hydrant.


For this module’s question we were assigned to look at ISTE Student Standard #3, “Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.” It was in this context that I was drawn to this idea of “curation” and how it applies to student learning and technology.  As I delved further into the standard, I came across ISTE indicator 3c, which states, “Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.” There it was again: “curate.” Within the standard, the ISTE defines “curate” as, “to gather, collect, and categorize resources into themes in ways that are coherent shareable.” It was in this context that I chose to pursue my line of inquiry along the lines of how we, as teachers, can best help our students learn to curate in the digital world- especially as it relates to demonstrating “meaningful connections or conclusions.”

I see this skill as essential to my secondary social studies students as the primary difficulty they have in doing digital research is not a dearth of information, but rather, far too much of it – and much of it without any context or immediate way to determine it’s validity.  Students are overwhelmed with information and need to learn the skills to manage this deluge of data.  Curation is a critical skill for today’s student.  Indeed, searching the internet for information is much like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant.  How can we help our students get better at this?  How can WE get better at this?

I thought back to last quarter and Howard Rheingold’s chapter on “Crap Detection” in Net Smart.  In it, he outlines not only methods for detecting the aforementioned “crap,” but he also outlines a way to navigate the maelstrom of information on the internet.  He calls this system, “Infotension,” and it, “combines a mind-set with a tool set” (Rheingold p. 96).  From his perspective we must combine brainpowered attention skills (the focus of another section in his book) and computer-centered tools like RSS feeds, dashboards, news radars, and positioning tabs to manage and sift through all of the information on internet.  Rheingold contends that it is our responsibility to manage the information on the internet and determine for ourselves which is the most accurate and most useful. He even goes so far as to cite Shirky’s argument when he writes, “there is no such thing as information overload, there is only filter failure.” (Rheingold p. 105).  Given this contention, teaching our students the process of curation becomes all the more important.

So I got out my wrench, cranked off the cap, opened wide, and began to drink from the onslaught of information on the web about “curation.”  Not surprisingly, there were many links related to “content curation,” (it seems to be a rather large issue for everyone with a web presence), but not necessarily that many related specifically to education.  I came across a promissing blog post by George Fox professor John Spencer  In his post on curation, he deals with the archaic origins of the word “curator” (linked to being a “spirit guide” or “one responsible for the care of souls”) and sees it as a natural connection to what we as teachers do.  He also gives a thumbnail sketch of what curation looks like by describing 5 parts of the curation process: searching content, consuming content, managing content, adding commentary, and displaying the content.  These are all very helpful for understanding the origin and process of curation, but it still left me searching for specific tools to help my students.

After some searching, I ended up at a blog post by Saga Briggs, another resident of the Pacific Northwest who I found via an entry from an Australian Open Colleges resource website, “InformED”:

I figured I was in the right place when I saw the fire hydrant image that I borrowed for the top of this page.  But more importantly, Briggs lays out a fabulous resource for content curation instruction. She begins with the philosophical. As she begins, Briggs discusses the role of curation in PLN’s. I was also pleased to see a reference as to how curation fit in Blooms taxonomy of educational objectives as well as how it also fit within Guilford’s analysis of the primary parameters of creative thinking. I think we often underestimate the creative aspect of curation given that curation is often not a totally original exercise, but in today’s mash-up culture this concept may be gaining more currency.  Creation is also one of the four components of curation (along with purpose, sharing, and contribution) that Briggs highlights in her section on defining the word.  From definition, Briggs launches into a lengthy list of specific techniques and habits we can instill in our students to make them effective curators themselves.  This list is immensely practical and thoughtfully constructed. I see it as a valuable first step in the process of curation education.  Briggs ends with another lengthy list, this one dedicated to specific resources that provide the necessary tools for content curation and sharing.  Some are free, some are nominally free, some are education-centered, others are not, but all are worth a look.  I’ve stared going through the list and I’m compiling a list of specific tools I think will work well with my students.

This blog squarely addresses ISTE 3 – specifically indicator 3c, which was the basis of my question.  This resource is all about curation – the philosophy, the definition, the techniques to teach, and a healthy list of resources to accomplish the task.  It elaborates on the standards and gives tips and tools for actually doing it.  I think the “meaningful connections and conclusions” part come with the process.  It’s not an end goal in-and-of-itself.  Students make the connections and conclusions as they curate.  What ends up in their dashboards or in their feeds has already been filtered by them.  It’s our job now to teach them how to do that so they may be thoughtful, intentional curators of their own digital domain; so they can take a more reasonable drink from the fire hydrant that is the web.


Briggs, Saga (2016, July 27) Teaching Content Curation and 20 Resources to Help You Do It.  Retrieved from:

ISTE (2016). ISTE Standards for Students 2016. Retrieved from

Rheingold, Howard (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Spencer, John (2015, September 2). What is Content Curation?  Why does it Matter to Teachers? Retrieved from: