The Importance of Curation

Over the past several weeks, I have been working on a number of projects. A part of almost everyone of these has included the identification, review and recommendation of select resources for teachers to use in the classroom or for trainers to share with teachers. I have to admit, I love exploring for resources and I truly get lost in the process. I strive to locate the best quality resources and research that will help teachers.

A significant aspect of this that keeps me looking is the realization some time ago that what worked for me wouldn’t always work for other teachers. An incredible technology coach and teacher, Davina Mann, was one of the first to really call me on this. Most of my teaching assignments were in the middle and high school grades. We I began work with the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX), my responsibilities expanded. I had to let go of my preconceptions about how a classroom worked and what would work in a classroom. I always felt like I was doing pretty well until one day I spouted off about how this app or that app could easily be adapted to the lower grades. I really hadn’t given it serious thought, just in my mind I could see several ways to use it in my classroom. I remember glancing over at Davina and she had this look that basically said, “You are full of it!” She never said it, but I remember stumbling through the rest of that sentence and slinking away. Could it really be used with younger kids? Could I have done it? I honestly didn’t know. It was then that I really started looking for ways to fairly and honestly look at every piece of software, every app and every web resource that I would recommend seeking to find all of the good and all of the bad, but doing so from multiple points of view.

That is when I began curating, rather than collecting, resources. I began scouring the web looking for evaluation tools. I was even part of a team, along with Davina Mann coincidentally, that developed an app evaluation tool for the ALEX iPad Professional Development course. I found blog posts from Tony Vincent. I found tools from Kathy Schrock. But it seemed that everyone of us were missing something. Most recently, I have fallen in pedagogical love with Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework. I’ll be sharing even more about my thoughts and upcoming uses of Triple E in future posts, but having a way to evaluate these resources is half of the battle- putting high quality resources into organized collections around various curricular topics is the penultimate goal of any self respecting Ed Tech Specialist.

There are a variety of ways to collect these resources. Over the years, I have effectively used LiveBinders, Diigo, Google Bookmarks and a dozen other tools to collect resources. They all work and each have a place in your Tech Coach Toolbelt. When looking for a tool to place curated resources in front of students so that they can quickly and easily get to where you want them to be, nothing may be better than Symbaloo. The visual nature of the Symbaloo webmix, carefully curated by a teacher results in a huge time saving as 25-30 elementary kids will be able to get to just the resource you want them to visit by simply clicking or tapping in a particular icon.

However, my go to tool for curation resources for teachers is still Participate Collections. With thousands of resources already in the database, finding quality resources and quickly organizing them into collections could not be easier.  But it doesn’t stop there because any resource that has a unique URL can be added to a collection. That means that you can have a collection that features six weblinks, four YouTube videos, three Android or iPhone apps, a Padlet board, a Thinglink interactive picture, a Google doc, and a self paced Kahoot! all side by side in a single collection.

A recent update to the collection tool provides a beautiful card style layout to your collections, making it even easier to navigate and quickly find the particular resource you are looking for. Multiple users can still collaborate on the same collection, providing ample opportunities for team curation. Once your collection is complete, you can share it easily. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense, because your collection will never be complete. But that is no problem. Participate collections can always be edited, adding new resources or removing obsolete ones. If you haven’t done so lately, head over to www.participate.com and take a look at the new collections tool. The, do yourself, and me, a favor and curate a new collection of quality resources. Be sure to share it on Twitter!

Participate Adds eduClipper to Their Collection

Background

As most followers of my work know, I am a huge fan of Participate, the collaborative professional development platform. The many additions and changes that they have introduced over the just the past couple of years have been amazing.  I began using the app curation tool back in 2013, building collections of iOS and Android apps that were easy to share. Gradually, this expanded to allow online videos and websites in collections.

Participate Screenshot

Then they added the incredible Chats feature, revolutionizing educational Twitter Chats. The Chats feature eliminated the two primary obstacles that had kept me from becoming an active participant in chats- remembering to include the hashtag and losing resources because they went past too quickly.

When VIF International Education purchased Participate (and subsequently took the Participate name) they added online courses. The courses, many of which are created by Participate while others are presented through Participate by a variety of partners, have turned Participate into an amazing educational platform. I often describe the platform as covering the three Cs- Collections, Chats and Courses.

I also was an early user of eduClipper, the educational bookmarking tool originally founded by EdTech Rock Star, Adam Bellow. eduClipper was constantly adding features as well and soon integrated social sharing tools, the ability to “clip” anything (pictures, files, even mini-whiteboard sketches), and portfolios.

eduClipper Screenshot from eduClipper.net

Recent Announcements

It is mid-June and that means it is time for a barrage of EdTech related updates and news announcements. As a Participate “insider”, I was aware of some planned updates. On the eve of ISTE, Participate unveiled a planned update of the Participate website, especially the Chats area. They also released Chats as an iOS app. I was asked to beta test the app and while there are a couple of “missing” things that I hope are brought over to the app, overall it is a great experience for mobile participation in Twitter Chats. 
Personally, I thought this was the “big” announcement for Participate for ISTE
’17. Oh, how wrong I was!
Saturday afternoon, the news broke that Participate would be acquiring eduClipper. While no financial details have been released, I’ll first say that I am happy for Adam Bellow. I once had a great conversation with him sitting outside the conference rooms of the Tennessee Educational Technology Conference two years ago. (This conversation actually included Adam, Kathy Schrock, Leslie Fisher and myself- yes, to that point in my EdTech life, I felt I had reached the pinnacle.) Part of that conversation included Adam describing some upcoming updates to eduClipper and talking about how it was getting pretty big. He certainly wasn’t complaining but I had the impression that he was realizing that it was growing to a point that it would require a more substantial team to support its growth.
Adam Bellow, speaking at
Tennessee Educational Technology Conference, 2015.
(Photo by Keith George)

I am also happy for the team at Participate. From my view, this acquisition has great potential.  The press announcement indicated that “will work to enhance the eduClipper offering, while supporting existing users.” I immediately began merging the two platforms in my mind. Now, I have no specific information on any plans that Participate may have on this front. In fact, I hope that the folks at Participate read this and steal some of these ideas (royalties are negotiable!)

1. I have previously used, and promoted, a rebellious adaptation of Participate collections for use as lesson plans. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QgyakV2N2M). It seems like the assignment feature in eduClipper could be easily merged with collections as an optional feature to create a guided lesson for students.

2.  Imagine a smartphone/tablet app interface similar to the current eduClipper app that fed “clips” directly into new or existing Participate collections. Then I could add photos, videos or other resources directly from my phone.  I picture myself at a conference or EdCamp just snapping pictures of presentation screens and student showcases to save in collections. Then I link the app used into the collection. Oh, and they have some student samples, let’s scan those into the collection as well!

3.  There are already several student portfolio apps but those that I have tried don’t really fit the bill for educator portfolios. I envision a special version of a Participate collection that could serve as an ongoing professional portfolio. It should be shareable in a format that is professional enough for my preservice teachers to share with a principal during a job interview but flexible enough to include a variety of products. Adding the products to this portfolio collection should be easy from an app or the browser.

I look forward to what the Participate team has in store for eduClipper and the increased power to collaborate among educators. I see great potential in the combined features of these two wonderful platforms. My imagination continues to envision new uses for this combined educational powerhouse.



A collection of coding apps and resources.

Coding for kids.

Over lunch today, I was pulling together a few resources related to data governance for a different project and was digging through the great resources provided by Common Sense Media Education (on Twitter @CommonSenseEd).  As I search for my original target, I came across this video on ways to get kids coding.  Take a look. . .

While the three tips included are things I had heard, and shared before I still found myself pulled into this quick little video.  I have been working on a broader project working to integrate computational thinking and computer science into the work of our (primarily) Math and Science efforts.  This has resulted in me taking long looks at several coding apps, robotics programs, and other computational thinking related resources.
By far, my current favorite is Tynker.  The app is extremely well done on iOS and the web resources are incredibly rich. We are, however, still in the midst of a funding quagmire. The Tynker app on iOS is free (the school version incomes with a $6 price tag). The training options on the website, the curriculum itself, is outstanding and comes with a pricing model designed for whole school adoption.  Yes, they have “classroom” plan, but that seems to fit a program that has the same 30 students under one teacher for a whole semester (12 lessons with 62 activities falls a bit short of the traditional 90 class days of a semester).  But for many teachers, schools, districts, and in my case, programs, do not work that way.  If I am an innovative 5th-grade science teacher and I want to integrate computer science, and coding, into my course, I may have 60-80 students (if students rotate teachers). I may not need 60+ activities because I may not have the time available or I may elect to use some of the great resources from Code.org to supplement as well.
Before I go any further, this is not a criticism of Tynker.  In fact, they have a great 6 lesson course that would fit perfectly into the scenario that I described and it is offered free. But it is one course. Now it is up to me to piece together Tynker, Code.org, and other resources to build my own curriculum. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is more work for the teacher. Especially when you look at the management of these varied resources.
I want to use resources from Tynker, Code.org, Sphero, Wonder Workshop, CS First, Swift Playgrounds and a half a dozen other apps and programs. But I also want to keep my sanity. Developers, please don’t take this as criticism  I am after all a teacher. Take it as a design challenge.  I am here to teach students.  In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you!”
Well, until those developers contact me directly for my thoughts, here is a Participate Learning collection of my favorite coding resources.

https://www.participate.com/collections/embed/ca499ef0-85eb-47f5-b924-e81b9a6b14c8?type=standard

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