Curating Content with Students: Four Steps

Content Curation is a relatively new term for educators to consider as they flex their Web muscles. After all, many of us are used to content being synonymous with "what's in the textbook." Or from a student perspective, we've hopefully moved past the bibliography cards (shudder) as a way of gathering content. We may not have started out with the idea that information or strategies or tools are available with a search, but now we need to know that the act of gathering them is also a skill. It's time to figure out the best way to get students on board with this crucial 21st century skill.

Mullan (2011) defines content curation as "the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter." Thus, our role as a facilitator of learning is to figure out the general why and how, so we can help students better understand their specific why and how.

1. Start with the end in mind.

Our planning of the use of content curation will be somewhat backwards from our presentation to students because we first need to figure out why we want them to curate content before we jump into having them do it.

                    If you don't have a good reason for kids to curate, then...don't.
Without a clear alignment of this task and the learning, you'll soon find them off-task and/or whining and complaining, no matter the tool. So, we need to first consider:

     What is the end goal of the assignment or project? 
     What do we want students to be able to "do" with it?

These questions come before the "curation" question:

     Why is curating content the BEST thing to help students reach those goals or demonstrate their   

For example, let's say I have a project idea that I want students to complete a research project on one aspect of education for sustainable development. The topic is certainly significant, and I want them to decide on one problem they want to tackle under the umbrella of this topic, and research solutions and ideas for overcoming it. Finally, I want them to present their findings in a comprehensive way for others to learn from. They are expected to choose their intended audience for this compilation of information. My reason for curation is then germane to the learning. They need to find the sources, so having a spot to put them all is a logical, practical exercise.

2. Scaffold the skills.

Then, I'll want to brainstorm some thoughts on what the kids will need to know about content curation before they tackle this project.

What immediately stands out for content curation as a skill is the credibility and/or reliability of what is discovered or gathered, etc. Evaluating sources can be tricky, so students may need some help understanding what is/is not a viable source. Providing them with examples in discussion prior to sending them out on their own would allow them more solid footing. They should be asking questions such as:

     Who is the author of this source, and why is he/she credible?
     Does the source provide references or at least links to information that supports the discussion?
     How will this source help me reach my goal?

3. Distinguish the tools.

Another thing kids will need to know is what kind of tool will work best. There are so many options! Paperli, Pinterest, Symbaloo. Since the use of the tools is probably not going to be too much of an issue (they are very user-friendly and easy to figure out), then, we'll need to do a bit of background on a few. What is it that curation tools can actually DO?

From Webby Thoughts http://www.webbythoughts.com/content-curation-tools-resource/

For example, some curation tools, such as scoopit and paperli lend themselves to actually being the final project whereas Symbaloo, Diigo, and Pinterest are more like warehouses that store information for something else.  Thus before you open up Pandora's box of tools, make sure you know what you want it to do. http://www.webbythoughts.com/content-curation-tools-resource/

A quick comparison of a few--you can find some listed in Moss (2014) "Content Curation Tools"--can aid you in guiding students to the choice that will work best for them. This is actually good spot in the unit/lesson to offer students some choice because you want them to hone the skill. The tool is up to them!

4. Set clear expectations.

Of course, you'll want to make sure your expectations for the final product are clear! Using rubrics and checklists that help students understand how you'll be assessing their skills of curation for the purpose of the final project will offer them a solid foundation for moving forward in the magic of content curation.

Working with the backwards design approach really offers us a powerful way to approach this valuable skill! Students who can curate have a definitive advantage over those who don't know what it is or how to use it.

And they need all the advantages that we can give them.


Moss, J. (2014, March 3). Content curation tools. Retrieved April 14, 2014 http://iteachu.uaf.edu/grow-skills/filelink-management/content-curation-tools/

Mullan, E. (2011, November 30). What is content curation? Retrieved April 14, 2014 from http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Resources/Defining-EContent/What-is-Content-Curation-79167.htm



  1. Albert Einstein said, "Play is the highest form of research.” I believe this accurately describes how students I work with will curate resources. The more the students are given the freedom to go look for resources pertaining to a topic the more variety you will get.

    Right now students have been finding all types of resources to use in their presentations for all areas of study. For these projects, the we give a whole class lesson introducing the topic(s) to research. Then, allow the students to begin curating their resources. As students begin to work, one can see which students need more guidance in their research.

  2. Thanks for commenting! Do you address source evaluation along with the topic, or is it a separate discussion? : >