The internet as we know it is a rapidly evolving, complex, multi-faceted organism. Experts on the history of the internet disagree on many things regarding its inception, but all seem to agree on two things. Firstly, It was not invented by Al Gore. Second of all, the internet as it exists today could not be more different than it was at the time of its inception. It has morphed a nearly infinite number of times since then. In fact, in the last minute there have been an estimated 40,277 tweets, 42,000 photos uploaded on Instagram, and 1.7 million content shares on Facebook. In fact, on August 3, 2013 there were 143,199 tweets in one second. You can see how an argument exists that the internet is an insanely different place than it was when you started reading this post. How can anyone make sense of this crazy onslaught of information that can be regarded as either essential or useless, funny or distasteful, beneficial or harmful, all depending on the viewer?
One of my favorite courses in college was a mythology course, focused particularly on the different theogonies (creation of the gods) and cosmogonies (creation of the world) found in ancient religions and myths. Whether we examined the Ancient Near East, Greeks, Egyptians, Hinduism, or Judeo-Christianity, we found that they all contained stories of creation where order replaced chaos. This concept fascinated me, the idea of cosmos trumping chaos, and I think that there is hardly a more apt metaphor for the crossroads that the internet is at right now. How can we bring order to this rapidly metamorphosing network of humans and computer programs from all across the planet? The answer is simple: Content Curation.
Now before you all ask what on earth any of this has to do with education, allow me a moment to backtrack. In my most recent post, I discussed the concept of being a connected educator and its importance in the shifting landscape of education. Hopefully, I shed some light on the advantages that educators can obtain by connecting with their peers through mediums such as Twitter, blogs, forums etc. But I didn’t mention anything about the chaos that the internet can represent for a lot of people, especially people who were not raised on computers as the current adolescents and young adults were. So I’m sure many teachers out there respond to the concept of connected educators by saying, “Well, that’s great. But I just tested out this whole connected educator thing, and there is no way I can make this work for me” or “I’m not even going to bother, technology and I just don’t mix.” I really hope these educators give it another shot, because with a few small tweaks they can become heroes in this fight between chaos and cosmos.
Let’s get back to content curation, and more specifically how important it is for a connected educator. Imagine it’s the early 80’s again and you’re looking for a job, but the newspaper isn’t divided into sections, it has obituaries between comics and op-eds interlaced with real estate, and job postings seem to be spread throughout with reckless abandon. What do you do? Cross the street and ask your neighbors if they know of any available work. But for some reason after you ask about jobs, Jill starts talking about her shopping discounts, Andy is spewing football statistics, and Martha is poking you and talking about local singles and the importance of finding the right match. Sound familiar? If you have a good system for content curation, then probably not. Consider your network of Twitter follows and internet associates to be your roadmap. If you manage it correctly, it will steer you away from all of the nonsense out there and guide you directly to what is worthwhile to you.
All it takes is one
But how can you find all of the right people and none of the wrong ones? I know that seems like a task of Herculean proportions, but in reality it’s very simple. The pioneers of the connected educator world have already paved the way for you. This network already exists for you. Sure you might need to give it a few personalized tweaks, but for the most part your task is simple: find one connected educator who finds valuable content and tap into their network. Connect with the educators that they retweet, follow, and respond to. Odds are if the initial educator shares your interest and finds content that is meaningful, his associates will too.
First is the worst
What I love most about good content curation is the ability to sit back and relax while interesting information flows your way. I don’t need to be the one who digs up every gem on the internet, keep in mind that this content is (for you econ educators) non-rivalrous. Just because someone else finds it first doesn’t mean I get any less value from it. In most scenarios, you will be better off following the early curators of such content than being one of them. This way you get to see everything in an organized fashion without actually having to find it yourself. There seems to be this misconception out there that content curation is a lot of work. The reality is that bad curation creates a lot of work, while good curation streamlines the entire process. Between Twitter, blog subscriptions, and whatever other mediums you deem valuable you can gain access to countless valuable assets with regards to professional development almost instantly with almost no actual time or effort on your end.
Be selective with your network
With regards to Twitter, you don’t have to follow everyone who follows you; quality over quantity. Find the right teachers and edtech blogs, not necessarily the most prolific. Don’t be afraid to unfollow somebody who is posting irrelevant things and don’t be afraid to retweet anything you deem worthy. There is a lot of junk out there; help filter it out. Join the battle and be part of the solution to somebody else’s curation problem by sharing what you find to be valuable. If the right people are following you, they will find value in it too. You have been presented with a truly special opportunity. When thousands of educators with different minds and similar interests connect in this way, it’s pretty spectacular what you can accomplish.