Curation and Kindness

Chile v Australia: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Earlier today, an item in Stephen Downes’ OLDaily took me to a Sue Waters post.

In her discussion of the importance of curation, Sue observes:

Curation is a life skill and an important part of being digitally literate.  Educators need to know how to curate information so they can teach students how they can curate content for research, their interests and passion. As part of this process educators need to encourage students to curate information using techniques that address their own personal learning needs.

Her post is a remarkable synthesis of resources. I wondered how much time she had dedicated to researching and writing such a detailed post. It is a very generous, altruistic contribution to communities of practice in education and in other domains.

I was thinking about Sue and Steven when I followed a link to a Huffington Post article about Marc Bresciano. I thought the image from George Sapigidis at the header of this post symbolises their altruism.

I noted Stephen’s response to Sue’s post. He writes:

I reject the term ‘curation’ to describe what I do and what others should do. The term ‘curation’ reflects past practice, as though to legitimize thoroughly contemporary practices by association with the word. Curation suggests that the primary task is selection and filtration, but to me, that’s only a small part of what I do; I’m describing my practice when I recount the works I’ve read. As well, the term ‘curation’ suggests passivity, observation, preservation, and even objectivity. My work is none of these things. I consider myself to be engaging with the authors and works I summarize. This is not the same as curation. It’s something new, something internet.

This left me with a quandary. My concept of curation is defined by engagement and active choice. My practice is fallible, partial, serendipitous and self-consciously subjective.

I do curate resources that resonate with me. Stephen’s work has been a compass for me for over a decade, Sue for slightly less (since 2008). In my “something internet” way this resonance guides my practice. My sense of curation is reflective and dynamic.

It is a Marc Bresciano kind of thing for me.

Photo Credit

World Cup player stops … (article by Ryan Grenoble, image by George Sapigidis)

Connecting 131014

Some days it really pays to scroll down a page.

This morning I was scanning through my daily Conversation alert and saw news of Rob Brooks’ latest post.


Rob started his post thus:

Hasn’t Malcolm Gladwell had a busy fortnight? His latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, shipped on the first of October. And the deluge of reviews washed out a flood of anti-Gladwell bile. He’s an unusually polarising author, Gladwell. And it looks like some of the criticism has stung.

Thereafter he synthesised a number of contributions to the Malcolm Gladwell discussions.

I really enjoyed the way he did this.

I was delighted that he introduced me to Andrew Gelman and his thoughts on over-smoothing. I should have anticipated that the lead contributor to the Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science blog would have a very distinctive take on smoothing and over-smoothing.

I spent much of the morning and two cups of coffee reading through and thinking about some of Andrew’s other posts. How did I miss out on his writing for so long?


His short post about visualisation introduced me to Dean Eckles, Alex Dow, Lada Adamic, and Adrien Friggeri. A post written in September shared how to set up just-in-time teaching assignments. I liked the way Andrew introduced Vince and his approach to setting up on-line just-in-time assignments.

Whilst contemplating the diversity of Andrew’s interests, another morning alert through brought me to Jen Jack Gieseking. By this stage I was primed to read about data visualisation. Jen Jack helped me think about my aspiring interest  in visualisation with her post Opaque is Being Polite: On Algorithms, Violence, & Awesomeness in Data Visualization.

The introductory paragraph in her post is:

Data visualizations are fantastic stuff. Social network analysis, graphic analysis, video, spatial analysis, images, and all other types of #dataviz increasingly capture the imagination and inspire as a way to represent the oft mentioned big data. The failure of many of these new software and analyses in the hand of new, excited scholars and hackers and other excitable folks means that their meaning is often…opaque. Oh, let’s be honest, opaque is being polite. I am sharing these thoughts because while many of you are concerned with the data in big data, I want to turn your attention to the algorithms within and how they mask meanings in many ways.

Jen jack introduced me to Kate Crawford. I would like to join the conversation at the table about algorithms. Andrew and Jen Jack (“data is swell but the algorithms are next and very much up for grabs. However will you join in the conversation to shape them? I look forward to seeing you at the table”) have given me a great lead to do so.

As well as being very late on meeting Andrew, Jen jack and their friends, I appear to be two millennia behind Cicero. I like Tom Standage‘s proposal that “social media does not merely connect us to each other today—it also links us to the past”. Reading about Cicero’s web as one of many historical antecedents of today’s social media reminded me of the remarkable Republic of Letters.


My morning’s reading concluded with George Couros‘s observation:

Being connected does not make you a great teacher, but in the long run, it can sure help.  If you truly believe that “the smartest person in the room, is the room,” doesn’t it make a difference on how big your room is?

And with Sue Waters’ discussion of Digital Curation: Putting the Pieces Together.

We are living in an era of content abundance. It’s now about finding and putting content into a context, in a meaningful and organised way, around specific topics.

I am awe struck by the sharing that goes on daily. After a day like today, I am hopeful that my big room has a large table to join the conversations Andrew, Jen Jack, George and Sue are having.

Photo Credits

Table, Hampstead Heath ( Nico Hogg, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Dinner conversation (-Ant, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

ET al

2910259262_117e5f260f_bI am fascinated by collective nouns.

I like the idea of: a congregation of alligators; a shrewdness of apes; a blush of boys; a rabble of butterflies; a fling of dunlins;  and a convocation of eagles. I do get confused about these nouns, however. Goldfinches charm, hippopotamuses bloat and jays scold. There is a fluther of jellyfish and an exaltation of larks. I am delighted that owls meet in a parliament.

I have been wondering whether there is a collective noun for massive open online courses. At present, given the diversity and availability of these courses, perhaps there is a flourishing of MOOCs or a pandemonium, or a murmation.

Whatever the noun might be, there are some wonderful resources emerging. #ETMOOC is in the midst of Topic 1 at the moment. I liked Alec’s summary. He gave me a lead to a lot of resources including Sue Waters’ discussion of staying connected. I think Sue writes with a delightful synoptic vision and whenever I read her work I do think of the power of connectivism.

Elsewhere, I am mindful that Stephen Downes is guiding me daily through this flourishing of MOOCs. I enjoyed his link to a post by Mike Caulfield, MOOCs and Textbooks Will End Up Courseware. Mike observes “the best way to think of a MOOC isn’t really as a class brought to your doorstep — it’s more a textbook with ambitions”. (He is referring particular to xMOOCs, I believe.) He notes that this shift “marks a shift from the class seen as an event to the class seen as a designed (and somewhat replicable) learning environment”.

He adds that this shift:

subverts traditional divisions of labor, and has the potential to radically change what we mean by education.  It will force us to understand the physical classroom as a learning environment as well (albeit a different one) much as the emergence of recorded music created the conception of live music.

2930524407_775fe499dd_oI followed up on an earlier post by Mike as a result of Stephen’s link. In that post Mike discusses a centralised course with distributed sections. I liked Alan Levine’s comment on this post and Mike’s reply.  I noticed that Bon Stewart had commented too. The post and the comments resonate with work underway in Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.

Sue’s views on connecting within and between communities prompted me to think about backchannels and assessment (constructive alignment). I had been thinking about Silvia’s a modern classroom and Greg Miller‘s discussion of a 21st-century-skills-report-card. By good fortune, Richard Byrne has been writing about Classroom Backchannels and Informal Assessment Tools. He shares an excellent 32 page PDF of ideas and directions (available from the blog post). Richard is another person whose energy and openness I admire. I am always pleased when one of his tweets appears in Paper.Li. I am going to follow up on his links to Today’s Meet and Socrative.

I am mindful too that I need to develop the community skills that Jane Hart is sharing in her Online Communities workshop this month. I had better add gamification to my list too following Tina Barseghian’s post.

My reading today ended with an Evernote from David Thornburg shared by web20classroom via Twitter. David recalls Marshall McLuhan’s observation that “It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame”. He adds that according to Marshall McLuhan  each new technology does four things:

  • Creates something new
  • Obsoletes something old
  • Rekindles something from the past
  • Flips into something new (and sets the stage for its own destruction)
Given what is going on at the moment and with my appetite for exploring these opportunities perhaps the collective noun for MOOCs I am seeking is a busyness of MOOCs.
Photo Credits
Dunlins (Sergey Yeliseev, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)