(This is an edited version of the presentation I gave at the TeachMeet held at Overnewton College on 21 June.)
Today I want to take you through the journey of my latest assessment task completed for my masters, in particular I want us to think about the value of an authentic audience and the impact this can have on a student. Those of you who were at the last teachmeet know about the Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) I’ve started, our host Imogen McLennan is another of the cohort but somehow I managed not to know that at the time! Since that teachmeet I’ve completed the second and most significant assessment task for the subject.We were asked to write an essay on a topic of our own choosing, coming from an area of interest from the modules and readings of the subject, and present it digitally, that is published online and taking advantage of the affordances of online tools.
- Choose a topic that allows you to pursue investigation of a topic or field of interest
- Draw from the content of the subject and your extended reading in the subject, as well from the personal and participatory experiences in this subject
- Develop knowledge and insight in your topic of choice to support your personal professional interests or professional workplace inquiries.
- Demonstrate how a connection of a range of media forms can empower reader engagement through more than simple text, in order to engage with a remix of high quality content, knowledge, and media to create a energizing academic essay.
That said, the assessment was to be based on the content – there are no marks for the prettiest website or most exciting whiz bang effects. Choosing a topic was tricky. The word limit was 1800 +/- 10%. This was not going to be a thesis even though my early topic thoughts easily could have run to thousands of words.
And there was my problem – all these topics are so big…I had to drill down to something that was actually manageable within the constraints of the task.
Flicking through the various topics we’d covered I got to curation and had my lightbulb moment!
I realised that as a teacher-librarian I’d been curating information through the informed selection of resources for the collection since pre-digital times, although back then I would have called it “collection development” or simply “selection”. Fast forward to the development of the world wide web and the information explosion of Web 2.0, and in an attempt to continue to use my selection skills to resource the curriculum I have switched my focus to the selection and sharing of online resources through a variety of curation platforms (although I didn’t know it was called curation until I saw Joyce Valenza speak at SLAV in 2012).
I refined the top to “Curation as a tool for teaching and learning”. This was part of my successful proposal:
Moving beyond the library and the role of the teacher-librarian the essay will explore curation as a means of making sense of the information flow and how it is thus an important activity for all learners. It will explore curation in the context of information literacy, digital literacy, information fluency and open, social and participatory media, and examine activities such as peer critiquing, user-generated content, collective aggregation and community formation (Conole). (Read the full proposal here.)
So that was the hard part sorted – choosing a topic.
Then came lots of reading and researching – Evernote truly is my best friend! It quickly became clear that the whole experience was one great big curation exercise:
- Finding the resources
- Sifting and sorting to locate the best and most relevant parts, reading, absorbing, comparing, contrasting. Finding and making sense of various viewpoints.
- Placing them in context and adding value through my interpretation and applying the lense of other concepts and ideas discussed and explored elsewhere in the subject.
- Presenting it as a coherent whole, in the form of an academic, digital essay.
Right from the start I knew I wanted to use a curation platform to present the essay. I dabbled a bit with Scoop.it but quickly realised that Storify served the purpose much better, and even though it forced me to be more linear than I thought I wanted to be, in the end it actually made sense.
The essay came together on Storify really quite easily and I was able to publish it a whole 24 hours before the deadline!
I shared the link on the subject forum and on Twitter with the subject hashtag #inf530. Like other students (I assume) I was keen to see what my classmates had produced and I checked out their essays as they posted links. Later that night Mel Cashen tweeted that a friend of hers (who I have no connection to) had shared my essay on Facebook – interesting! I guessed that person must know another student from the course. By Monday night there were 50 or so views of the essay which seemed perfectly reasonable. What came next was totally unexpected.
Tuesday morning I found this tweet in my notifications:
— Robin Good Italia (@RobinGood_IT) June 2, 2014
Robin Good! – I quoted him in the essay, he’s like the guru of content curation!
And he’s curated me!
It’s a great example of what a good curator does – critique the information. He goes on to make a couple of criticisms and gives me a score of 7/10 – I’ll take that!
As a mature age “over-achiever” I’d given my best and would never be happy to hand up second class work but knowing that a guru is reading it makes you even more aware of what you’ve done. I’ll confess, I went and changed something in response to one of the criticisms (even though the “good “girl” in me thought that might be wrong – classmate Simon reassured me that it was the nature of digital, to be continually evolving! (And actually a bit later I edited it again to add in creative commons licensing.)
But that’s when things went silly. Other people, none of whom I knew, re-tweeted Robin’s tweet or tweeted about my essay themselves. When I checked my essay that morning there had been 500 views, by the evening over 2000. A day or so later 3500. Wow! More views than this blog has had in it’s whole existence. I wrote about “Going viral” on my CSU Reflection blog and had some lovely feedback.
So what does it all mean…
This whole thing was a totally new experience for me and I’m still figuring out what I think, some of the time it just makes me laugh. Less connected friends and family cannot believe it’s possible. My husband is totally amazed – he’s had refereed scientific papers published in print journals that would not have been seen by more than a few dozen people.
Over the following weeks I’ve continued to have interactions with people who’ve read my work, including others who I quoted or referenced. It makes me feel like the hard slog was so worthwhile, that I wasn’t just ticking another box along the way. I go and re-read and think I could have done better, and I want to do better – publishing to a global audience means that I’m not happy with “good enough”. This authentic experience has been incredibly rewarding, validating and motivating and it makes me think that if that is what I make of my experiences, surely the same applies to our students too.
Many of the digital essays written for #INF530 Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age (mine included) have been gathered into a Flipboard by Simon Keily – they make for very interesting and thought-provoking reading.
The essay has now had over 19,000 views and has been assessed at a credit standard. Here it is: