Curiosity and Wonder

Curating and Inquiry: Based on Stripling Model of Inquiry

When was the last time you felt an intense need to learn or understand something – something that went beyond a Google or You Tube search to learn how to change a headlight on your car, or performing the required research to get a good grade on a school project? Can you remember that feeling of wonder and intensity, and how that “need to know” had the ability to move up to the top of your priority list? You probably found yourself fully engaged in the pursuit of information, knowledge, and understanding, blocking out most everything else around you.
Many things can trigger a desire for deeper understanding or knowledge, but this level of ownership in learning suggests a deep and personal connection. This sense of wonder leads to questions, and seeking answers. It is the beginning of transforming from student to learner.
During my formal schooling, I was more of a student than a learner. I was good at school, and always made good grades, yet I spent a good part of my early adult life not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I felt disconnected from what was being taught. The classes I most looked forward to were music classes, and so eventually, when I had to declare a major in college, I chose music for lack of any other idea at what I might do. I suspect that a lot of our youth find themselves in similar situations. School is not really set up to help students find their passions, nor give them the time to explore them deeply – at least within the confines of the “school day.”
But in this age of information, with access to the Internet and its 1.24 billion and growing number of websites, learning can happen anytime, anywhere. The hard part is developing the desire, and the passion for learning. Curiosity is something that is abundant in small children. Parents grow weary from the daily barrage of questions. Many times, the questions our children ask are impossible to answer. As they grow up, somewhere along the way, the questions begin to disappear. Why? What happens to that sense of curiosity? As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

I propose that “curating” information can be a process to help us regain our sense of curiosity and wonder. Curating information is not unlike the work of a museum curator who collects artifacts based upon a specific topic and theme, and then creates a meaningful display for the purpose of increasing the knowledge of the visitors. In many ways, a curator is a storyteller, who artfully finds a way to help those who view the display to make a personal connection. If the curator is very good, then the visitors to the display will re-discover their sense of wonder. The display will inspire questions as well as answers. When we curate information, we are pursuing answers to our questions and intense information needs –our passions to know and understand. Questions and curiosity drive curation. Along the way, we learn.

Understanding Content Curation – A Refresh

curating refreshedIn the summer of 2012, I began an exploration of the concept of Content Curation, and what this meant for teachers and students. Little did I know at the time that my journey would involve curating…about curating.  Given the task of providing professional development for teachers to curate resources for backwards-designed units, I started researching to better understand why the word “curate” was being used – so I set out to define what curation meant in the field of education, and realized early on in my research that student curation is where our focus should be. My original post, where I shared my discoveries and understandings, has generated more traffic than any other post on my blog, with hundreds of cross-postings on sites in the fields of education, marketing and libraries.

For the past 5 years I have continued to curate information about curating, using the same Scoop It site I started in 2012. I investigated the skill sets that are practiced with content curation, and how this aligns with skills needed for the workforce. I collaborated with teachers to design learning that included content curation, and saw the powerful learning that this produced.  As more projects were completed with students, I began to see the elements that were essential to really produce the passion for learning that was so evident in the first project I had done with 8th grade social studies students.  As a result, I have adjusted my original infographic to reflect these elements.

Revised Curating Infographic

There are three important additions to the infographic: personal connection, an increased emphasis on sharing with opportunity for comments and discussion, and the element of storytelling.

personal connectionPersonal Connection

Students who are given choice in selecting a topic for curating are far more likely to engage in deeper learning, in my experience. Providing some parameters to keep the project aligned with content and standards is still possible, provided you offer a broad range of topics and give students the flexibility to take the curation project in a direction that they can personally connect with. This begins to resemble passion-based learning and genius hour.  For more on these topics, I highly recommend the work of Angela Maiers.

sharingSharing, Audience – Comments & Discussion

A curator’s need for an audience and authentic feedback became apparent when I launched two nearly identical projects with two different classes of middle school students.  The process for topic selection was the same -using a gallery walk of images related to the content and standards being addressed and Question Formulation Technique for students to select a topic that generated the most interest for them, and then having the students use a blog to share their curation work. One project was hugely successful in generating high interest, deep learning, and passion for the topics beyond the life of the project.  The other was much less so.  The primary difference between the two? The teacher in the highly successful curation project made a concerted effort to provide feedback and comments daily on the student blogs through the life of the project – enlisting the help of dozens of teacher friends to assure that students knew their voice was being heard. The other teacher had concerns about sharing student work publicly, and so students did not receive any outside visitors other than classmates who were required to comment on a handful of blogs as part of their grade. In my own curation work, I have found the need to share and seek feedback on the new directions of my thinking grow along with my passion for curating. The act of sharing and discussing a curation project adds more depth to my understanding and helps me make new connections. In effect, it is creating a community of learners who share your passion to understand the concept or topic at a deeper level.

storytelling2Storytelling

This element first became apparent to me as I looked at curating through the lens of a museum curator. Beth Kanter used the phrase “cherry pick” to describe the process of curating, and this always made me wonder why this was such an important part of the definition of curation that sets it apart from “collecting.” I began to understand it better when I investigated what a museum curator goes through to select the artifacts that will make their way into a museum display.  There are many items that are left in the archives. Why? Besides the fact that there would not be room to display all the collected artifacts, not all the items are needed to tell the story that the museum curator wants to tell. In content curation, it is the same. When we curate, we “cherry pick” the items that best tell the story that is forming in our minds. We arrange the content in such a way to tell that story, and we feel compelled to share the story as it develops. I believe this is one reason that a blog, or a curation tool that provides the ability to arrange, write, and reflect on the curated content is essential.

 

As I reflect at the 5-year anniversary of my curation journey, I am very happy to know that the education community now recognizes the value of students as curators.  In the new ISTE Standards for Students, introduced at last year’s ISTE conference, the third standard is “Knowledge Constructor.”

“Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.”

I look forward to continuing my work with teachers and students to help develop content curation skills, and in so doing, help them find their passion for learning!

Inquiry, Choice, Curating and Relevance

I continue to work towards connecting the dots between the deep inquiry process that student curation brings, and making learning personal for each student.

Recently, Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey, authors of Make Learning Personal and the most knowledgeable people I know on the topic of personalized learning published a brilliant infographic, illustrated by the amazing Sylvia Duckworth, on “The Continuum of Choice.”

This reminded me immediately of another graphic that depicts the evolution of inquiry – moving control of the learning –or inquiry –from the teacher, to the student, created by Robert BonnstetterIn an earlier blog post, I speculated that the column furthest to the right demonstrates student curation.  I started wondering, where does student choice fall in this process?

By Ronald J. Bonnstetter: Available http://wolfweb.unr.edu/homepage/jcannon/ejse/bonnstetter.html
By Ronald J. Bonnstetter: Available http://wolfweb.unr.edu/homepage/jcannon/ejse/bonnstetter.html
I created the chart below to show my thinking on the connections and alignment between Inquiry, Choice, Curation & Relevance:

inquiry choice curation and relevance

While student curation is an important part of transferring ownership of learning to the student, and allows for them to think deeply and make connections as learners, I can see by looking at the “Continuum of Student Choice” that curation is not the final step.  We need to provide time and support for our learners to take the next step, and apply the learning and understandings they have reached through the process of  curating to solving real world problems, or to create something new.

Because, it’s about the transfer. If we want students to have enduring understanding, and be able to use their learning in practical ways, to solve real world, messy, unstructured problems.  We need to provide the opportunity for them to practice this kind of learning transfer in a safe and supported environment. 

Student Curators: Powerful Learning

During the past 2 weeks, I had the pleasure of working with longtime friend and 8th grade social studies teacher extraordinaire, Terri Inloes, to transform her students into curators of information as they learned about the Social Reform movements of the late 19th century in the U.S.  My head is still spinning from the many successes and highlights from this unit – and the powerful learning that occurred!  Here are some of the highlights, examples of student work, and some amazing feedback from the students. I am convinced that this is a strategy that not only helps to develop 21st century skills and address Common Core research standards; it also is a strategy that leads to personalized learning and motivates students to learn.

 

Day 1:  The QFTQFT

By the time students get to middle school, it is rare to hear them ask questions – other than to get clarification on what needs to be done for the assignment.  The good news is there is a great strategy to help get them back in touch with their own sense of wonder and curiosity –the Question Formulation Technique –or the QFT, which was designed by  The Right Question Institute. Terri prepared pairs of photographs representing each of the reform movements, one picture dating back to the late 19th century, and another representing where that social reform movement stands in today’s society.  After checking out all of the photos, students settled on the pair of pictures that most caught their interest. They brainstormed and refined questions, and then shared their thinking with the class.  This was how they selected the topic which they would curate.

Day 2: Defining Curation; Creating a Research Plan

PoemEverything happens for a reason, right?  Originally, students were scheduled to be in the computer lab and begin setting up their curation tool –Wordpress blogs–  on day 2.  As it happened, a snow day in the previous week caused the lab to be double-booked, and so we had to come up with a plan B.  In retrospect, not going straight to the computers that day ended up being one of the best things that could have happened. We spent this class period helping students to truly understand the difference between “collecting” and “curating” through a beautiful poem, The Curator, by Miller Williams.  You could have heard a pin drop as Terri read this to her students.  You will see the big ideas they gained from this poem show up again and again in their reflections and responses to the survey we had them fill out after the project. The other good thing we accomplished this day was insisting the students plan their research strategies.  We copied 5 different graphic organizers from the book Q Tasks, by Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan, and students were allowed to choose the one that they thought would help them the most in planning their keyword search strategies.

Day 3:  Setting up a WordPress BlogBlog creation

Our school district has our own domain and server set up for WordPress blogs, and this is integrated with Active Directory, so every single teacher and student in the district already has an account set up there. This made “D20 Blogs” the best choice for the tool to be used for the student curation projects.    With about 57 minutes per class period, we were able to show students the basics of WordPress, and encouraged them to work on more sophisticated design features (if they wanted to) from home.  Most  of the kids worked in collaborative groups. By the end of the day, 130 students had created 70 different blogs and published their first post describing why they chose their topic for this project. The technology worked beautifully!

CuratingDays 4- 8 Curating

I was not able to spend as much time during the curating days with the students, but I kept up with reading their curation blogs as best I could.  Terri is the real hero here – commenting on every student’s blog every single night!!  She also kept me up –to-date on all of the cool stuff happening during her classes.

From Terri:

 

Things are really crystallizing for kids.  As I’m making comments to kids I’m noticing them commenting to one another with new questions! Kids are totally engaged, you can hear a pin drop in the computer lab.

 

This is my favorite story:

 

The class is completely quiet.  Riley says, “Mrs. Inloes, I’m also doing research on mental health care because it is in a lot of my research on prison reform.”

 

Jacob replies, “That’s what’s happening to me, I’m doing prohibition and I’m finding the women’s rights movement.”

 

“Well, I’m doing women’s rights and now I’m doing almost all the reform movements,” says Paige.

 

Pretty soon the whole class is piping up with the connections they are making.  I didn’t say a word!

Reflection and FeedbackCurating2

Terri and I were ecstatic reading the reflections and comments from the kids at the end of the project  These kids did an amazing job, and the learning went deep.  Here are some of my favorite student quotes –reflections on the project, as well as what their understanding is of a curator.

 

paintStudents Describe their Understanding of Curating:

“A curator paints with words. They describe what they are talking about so well that it doesn’t even have to be there for you to see it.”

“With curating, you are using heart. You use emotion and find passion to do that certain job or write about that certain topic.”

“A curator is someone who puts back the history into something and tries to find the story or background from where or what it is truly from.”

“A curator is someone who goes into the details of something to find its back story.”

“With curating, you become engrossed in your topic. You know anything and everything about it. You can talk about it with personality and passion.”

“The difference between curating and collecting research to me is that when you curate research, you have the passion to learn.”

Students Reflect on the Curation Project:

“Curating this project really got me thinking and allowed me to give my own opinion while staying on topic and informing others.”

“It taught me to take research, analyze, and organize it. I liked it because I had to collaborate and come to an agreement on what to post.”

I liked learning new things that I had no idea about before. I liked showing off my talent and curating what I knew.”

“The only thing I would have liked to do differently would be given more time to learn even more about the topics.”

“A project doesn’t have to be stale and boring. It can be fun. You can really care about what you are writing.”

“This project has given me a new respect for bloggers who curate their research because it is hard.”

“My thinking on learning has changed a bit. I suddenly feel like learning isn’t a chore, it’s an opportunity that can open so many doors!”

One of the questions we asked the students is how many would continue their research. Over 1/3 of them said that they would!   Want to see more?  Here are three student curation blogs:

Equality and Inequality Rights; Then & Now
Mental Health Treatments Past to Present
Prohibition Acts Project