101 may bring back fond childhood memories of Walt Disney’s animated classic with the cute Dalmatian puppies and the wonderful Cruella De Vil. For social media devotees, it may also bring to mind the kind of posts we see so often on Twitter or Facebook. The ones that draw our attention to blog posts, or online articles with titles like 7 Ways You’re Missing Opportunities with Millennials or 12 Ways to be a Mediocre and Unsuccessful English Learner. Posts such as these adopt a cataloguing approach and perform the handy function of pulling together resources or tools for us to try out.
This form of ‘aggregation’ is one of the types of content curation that Rohit Bhargava sets out in his blog post The 5 Models Of Content Curation, in which he gives us this helpfully succinct definition of a skill that we have all acquired to a greater or lesser extent in recent times:
Content Curation is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.
The appeal of this idea becomes clearer still when he goes on to explain that
It is such a powerful idea because curation does NOT focus on adding more content/noise to the chaotic information overload of social media, and instead focuses on helping any one of us to make sense of this information by bringing together what is most important.
Google’s ubiquitous search engine has provided us with a powerful means of finding what we need online, and our browsers and social bookmarking websites such as Diigo give us the tools to organize and retrieve the online content we discover.
Applications such as Pocket and the extremely powerful Evernote provide very convenient ways of creating personalized reading lists or ‘notebooks’ of the material we find online, while tools such as Feedly and Flipboard create automated feeds that update whenever new content is created on blogs and websites in which we are particularly interested. And all of these tools have attractive, easy to use mobile apps for those of us who want to read on the move the attractively presented magazine-like content all these tools produce.
There are now also a number of applications that offer an interesting alternative to the search and bookmark model. Subscribers to popular applications like Pinterest and Scoop.it benefit from and contribute to a crowd-sourcing model of curation in which users collect, organize, comment on and share content on topics that are of interest to them. Again, these have well-designed mobile apps that make it both easy and fun to keep track of the topics you follow while on the go.
Bloom’s digital taxonomy
All these tools allow us to exercise some control over the flood of information produced on the web and help us avoid the ‘infowhelm’ many complain about. And it’s not surprising that some in the teaching community have turned to familiar models as a means of imposing order. Bloom’s taxonomy, for example, has been revised to take into account the impact of technology on teaching practices. And it has become popular to use the taxonomy to categorize the profusion of digital tools now available according to how well they can be used to facilitate learning (See Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy for lots more on this).
The SAMR model
A related model that has gained currency recently is SAMR: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. This model was developed by Ruben Puentedura, and in his words, the model ‘links how you use a technology to the outcomes for students’ and it is intended to act as a guide for educators wanting to integrate technology into teaching and learning. As such it lends itself well to the classification of tools we can use for teaching and learning purposes, and this screenshot shows an interactive visualization of the model using the thinglink tool to add hyperlinks to the suggested iPad friendly tools.
Ruben Puentedura makes very clear the difference between the two sets of technologies that he identifies (see video below). On the one hand, there are tools that have either replaced or enhanced existing technologies in carrying out tried and tested learning activities. An example would be the digital flashcard tools that can be used instead of the paper cards traditionally used for vocabulary training. On the other hand, and more interestingly because they can have a more significant impact on student outcomes, there are those technologies that can modify learning activities or make possible previously unimagined tasks. So, tools such as those offered in Google Drive can ‘augment’ work on writing skills by making collaboration and peer review integral to the tasks. Or an app such as Touch Cast, which makes it relatively easy for any learner or teacher with access to a web browser or an iPad to produce media-rich video material, makes possible for today’s learners to produce multimodal work that was simply beyond the scope of past learners.
A multimodal approach
From this short review of approaches to managing the web and keeping track of digital technologies, it’s clear that in general English language teaching, especially with young adults there’s a marked move away from purely textual modes of learning to a more multimodal approach that incorporates images, sound or video. This is a trend that is nicely illustrated by this final screenshot of a collection of tools put together for its teachers by the University of Notre Dame in the USA:
With the restrictions that we often find ourselves working under in the business English context, especially with corporate clients, it may be some time before we can make full use of the wide range of digital technologies classified here and in the other curated collections we’ve touched on. But at the very least, with the support of other aggregators and curators, we can help make more sense, for ourselves and for our fellow professionals, of the profusion of content and technologies that’s out there.
Apps to go
This can be used to organise and share your bookmarked links.
Can be used to create collections of web content that can be stored and read online or on mobile devices.
• Pocket – browser tool with mobile apps for iOS and Android
• Evernote – web tool with mobile apps for iOS and Android
• Feedly – browser tool with mobile apps for iOS and Android
• Flipboard – mobile app for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry
Content curation tools
Can be used to collect, organize, comment on and share content on any topics of your choice.
Ruben Puentedura explains the SAMR model