The Role of Curation in Open Education

By Prathima Appaji

The word curation is most commonly used in reference to organizing a museum’s collection or an art exhibition. However, with the rapidly growing amount open educational resources (OER) available on the Internet, the art and science of curation is becoming vital to the field. With popular websites such as Storify, Diigo, Flipboard, Scoopit, Pearltrees, and Pinterest demonstrating the immense value and appeal of curated content, the open education community should take notice to the potential benefits in our own context.

Curation is an essential skill not just for teachers, but a vital tool for students to learn. Curation encourages students to collaborate, synthesis information from different multiple sources, evaluate its relevance and learn by providing examples with social context. Learning becomes more interactive, reflective, and allows for deeper understanding.

Curation focuses our limited attention and directs it towards the highlighted material, making curation powerful because in the process of highlighting certain information other materials can be underrepresented or lost. Another essential feature of curation is that it is not re-publication but is a value-addition process where the curator connects multiple materials together and contextualizes them. All this together creates space for curation to have the potential of being subjective and biased, making it necessary for one to be cautious and observant.

Realizing the need for curation and curators, the Indiana Rockstars of Curation was formed by Indiana Department of Education’s Director of eLearning, Candace Dodson, in the school year 2014-2015. This group consisting of 50 teachers spent hours curating available OER and editing the educational materials adapting them to Indiana’s Academic Standards. Partnering with Amazon’s Inspire, the Rockstars have uploaded over 800 educational materials onto the content repository.

Furthermore, the Department, along with the Rockstars, are set to travel during the school year of 2017-2018, offering workshops to teachers on digital content curation throughout the state. Practical training will be provided to the teachers attending and the Department will reimburse the schools for additional costs incurred in hiring substitute teachers for the days of the workshop.

As with any information in this digital age, educational material accessible as OER will increase and grow. Setting aside dedicated time and resources for curation would assist in synthesizing suitable materials, reviewing them, and organizing them in accordance to the established curriculum. Initiatives like the Indiana Rockstars of Curation by the Indiana Department of Education demonstrate that curation is doable – spreading helpful curation skills while not making them appear daunting.

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