In Teaching, How Much ‘Curation’ Is Too Much?

The following is the most recent installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column. You can pose a query for a future column here.


Dear Bonni,

I’ve heard you suggest that we predict extra about being content material curators, as a substitute of creators. I’m excited in regards to the prospects. Do you’ve gotten a suggestion for a way a lot ought to be curated in on-line courses vs. how a lot ought to be authentic and created by the teacher? In different phrases, is there such a factor as an excessive amount of curation of present content material?

New to on-line educating and considering like a curator


As universities around the globe tried to maneuver in-person courses into the net atmosphere initially of the pandemic, school shortly turned overwhelmed in any respect the duties that wanted to be performed. One mistake all too many make is to assume that we now have to create all of the content material for our on-line programs, when there may be an abundance of fabric already accessible.

Content creation takes appreciable time and sources. While I sometimes submit an off-the-cuff video every week in my courses (recorded the day previous to the beginning of the week), I do an incredible quantity of curation for almost all of the category content material—that means I’m recommending articles, podcasts, movies and websites elsewhere on the web. Here are simply three examples of how professors would possibly curate podcast episodes to make use of in several disciplines.

  1. I educate enterprise courses, and I discover the Planet Money podcast to supply participating episodes that heighten the listener’s curiosity. Episode 216: How Four Drinking Buddies Saved Brazil recounts a foreign money disaster the nation skilled the place the worth of things fluctuated radically each day. The authorities introduced in 4 economists to advise them on find out how to remedy the issue. I normally have college students share how they assume Brazil resolved the insecurity within the nation’s foreign money and get the scholars interested by the challenges concerned.
  2. Podcasts prolong properly past the enterprise realm. The producers of RadioLab state that the present’s mission is to discover an odd world. These masterful storytellers have taught me a lot about science over time, in addition to inspired me to have extra of a childlike curiosity coming into a subject I do know much less about. The episode titled Patient Zero begins with the story of Typhoid Mary and explores different public well being crises, comparable to AIDs. This is only one of lots of RadioLab’s wealthy podcast catalog that will apply in nursing, anthropology, public well being and different packages.
  3. The humanities even have a deep properly to attract from in podcast back-catalogs. NPR’s More Perfect podcast started by exploring attention-grabbing supreme courtroom circumstances and their relevance in the present day. Then, the present launched into an unbelievable undertaking. They partnered with an eclectic set of musicians to supply an album with songs written for the 27 amendments to the U.S. structure. The “liner notes” were the podcast episodes, the place they shared the historical past of every modification’s formation, in addition to music from More Perfect: The Album. Dolly Parton belts out in regards to the 19th modification: “We had to fight for womens’ rights; They said we couldn’t vote.” Flor de Toloache, an all-female mariachi band, sings in English and Spanish in regards to the 2nd modification. The complete podcast sequence and the accompanying album could be wonderful content material in legislation faculties, historical past programs and political science seminars.

You requested if I believed there was such a factor as an excessive amount of content material creation for somebody educating a category, and you might already be predicting my reply: No. The position of a instructor is to facilitate studying, not “deliver” content material. So I like to consider myself as co-designing experiences—a lot of which is able to draw inspiration from sources exterior of my very own inventive capabilities.

The first step to turning into a content material curator is to make use of a digital bookmarking service. I like Pinboard.in, however there are many choices on the market. Once I discover data which will relate to one in every of my courses, I put it aside to my bookmarks and enter tags to assist me retrieve the data afterward. The Planet Money episode I discussed earlier in regards to the Brazilian foreign money disaster acquired tagged with: #economics (matter), #BUSN114 (a category with at the very least one studying final result associated to the subject of the episode), #audio (format), and #planetmoney.

Once you construct up various kinds of content material (movies, articles, podcasts, workouts, actions, case research and so forth), you can begin bringing them into your courses. I wish to ask myself what I would like college students to do with no matter content material I’m bringing into the category. Do I would like them to mirror on what they heard? Differentiate between two issues (maybe the United States’ worth stability versus Brazil’s at the moment)? Use the ideas realized in a distinct context? My position as a instructor turns into one in every of a translator. How do I assist college students take what was shared within the content material and apply it ultimately?

Well earlier than COVID-19 entered the world, I used to be doing intensive curating each day. Some of what I save has nothing to do with educating. Our household simply acquired a bread machine, so there are numerous recipes being saved nowadays. I get pleasure from studying about politics, so there are numerous bookmarks saved on that matter although I don’t immediately educate it. When it involves my educating, nonetheless, I all the time have a set of sources that I can seek for by kind of content material, matter, particular person and sophistication quantity.

There’s no such factor as an excessive amount of content material curation, so far as I’m involved. We simply must take it to the following step and decide find out how to facilitate studying from these fantastic sources we now have collected.

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