When reading about 21st century learning I often come across the term “curation”.  Beth Kanter defines content curation as  “the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content that you’ve cherry picked with your network” (be sure to read the whole post).

As more and more information is published on the web, we need tools to help us find, filter and organize that information.  Students need to learn that not all information is created equally and that learning requires us to evaluate and edit information constantly.

I use quite a few tools that help me with these activities:

twitter – a continuous rich stream of links come to me from my PLN through twitter

delicious – a great way to bookmark sites, research papers and other sources of information to refer back to

google alerts – an easy way to automate searches that you perform on a regular basis

rss reader – a “dashboard” for bringing all the blogs, news sources, and other things together in one place for catching up

Increasingly there are tools that bring disparate sources together and present them in a visually appealing way – almost like a magazine – and it is one of these that I’ve been playing around with lately. is a tool that helps you to explore your favourite topic by bringing content (sites, posts, videos, etc) together in an online exhibit. will even crawl the web looking for links that might be of interest to you. You can follow topics and other posters and easily pull links that appeal to you into your own curation page.

I’m just getting started with this project, so far I’ve pulled together some of my all-time favourites and will add new things as I come across them.  I’m hoping this will be an effective way to pull together information to engage people (in particular parents) who aren’t necessarily tuned in to the latest web tools.

Asking people to jump right into twitter or blogging or social bookmarking can be a bit overwhelming. My hope is that by exploring topics of interest through they will see the power of curation tools for their children and might even try it for themselves.

What I’m scooping right now:

Leading and Learning in 21C

Family and Community Engagement in Education

On Consultation and Engagement

I’ve just returned from a day long meeting hosted by the provincial Department of Education regarding a controversial decision made by the Minister in this province. Near the end of the day a comment was made that the round table discussion seemed to move us beyond “consultation” into the realm of “engagement“. It is a comment that distracted me all the way home.

Stakeholders at each “level” (province, district, school) have the authority to make certain decisions, as well as the capacity to involve other stakeholders in decision making. Every few years we endure swings from centralization to decentralization and each time we create confusion, lack of empowerment, and dis-engagement of stakeholders at all levels. Our public education system is very bureaucratic and protective and though it often consults the public, it rarely engages the public in collaborative decision making.

A greater emphasis on collaborative decisions made through public engagement would mean better decisions and likely greater satisfaction with the results. So while the Minister would have the ultimate authority for any major decision, support for decisions made via a collaborative effort would be greater and the political price for the decision easier to absorb.

How do we move from schools as factories to schools as community learning centres? How do we foster collaborative decision making? How do we engage reluctant participants? How do we make sure students are full participants in the decision-making process? Which decisions do we need to work together on, and which decisions should each of us be empowered to make on our own?

I have more questions than answers, but I hope that what I experienced today was the beginning of citizen engagement in public education in NB.

How much is too much?

Recently Cindy Seibel wrote a post asking the question “Can there be too much information for parents?” (you can read her post “Is it ever too much?” here and read the original story in the NY Times “I know what you did in Math Classhere)

As a parent interested in engaging other parents in our education system I wondered if these web service companies would go beyond what a parent would need to assess their own child’s performance – could they be used to increase the involvement of parents in schools, and ultimately to engage parents in school improvement planning? I decided to explore a few of these commercial school data systems and as in everything I found there is a wide variety of services – some simply offer parents access to information on grades, homework, and attendance, while others go much further and provide tools for multi-level communication and collaboration.   

Those of us involved in education governance often discuss the role of communication in increasing parent involvement/engagement, we talk about the processof communication.  Some of us see great potential in using web technology to improve this process – to reach more people where they are, when they want and how they want. Web tools such as blogs, wikis, nings and webcasts provide us with a lot of options for reaching parents (and many of them are free!). So in the absence of an integrated school community management system accessible to parents these tools could be quite useful.

But what kind of information should we be sharing to improve collaboration? What do parents need to know and discuss in order to be engaged in schools?

In my province we are a long way from finding that tipping point from enough information to too much.  A large number of parents I talk to do not feel really connected to what is happening with their child in the classroom, and fewer are aware of what is happening educationally on a school wide basis. They want to have more frequent contact with classroom teachers as well as school administrators. Until parents feel there is adequate communication with teachers and principals can we really expect them to feel comfortable in a open, collaborative school improvement process?

Passion Based Learning

Today I read an old post by Konrad Glogowski on passion based learning (found via Remote Access) that stopped me in my tracks.  The following passage says so much about what we need to be considering:

Today, however, we tend to think that using online tools that appeal to young people will automatically ensure their engagement. Genuine passion cannot be ignited with a podcast or a blog. Instead, we need to give our students the freedom to learn and engage with ideas that they find relevant and important.

My interest in blogging comes from wanting to learn more about engagement of parents and students. Coming into this I knew “it’s not the tools, it’s what you do with them“, but I was thinking in terms of having parents and students take greater interest in education because they were participating in it. Now I hope we can go even further – all the way to schools that ignite passion.   

I think the idea of giving a student the freedom to find his/her passion resonates with me because my son has the opportunity to pick a subject or topic for a project that he can work on independently when he has completed his regular class work, and he will have access to a computer (not sure what that means in terms of web tools yet). 

Problem – our discussion of passion revealed he didn’t really understand what I was getting at. (So I had him look up the meaning of the word online without thinking of how else the word is used – I had to think quickly to get out of that jam). We finally made some progress when we discussed what he was interested in learning about. 

In the absence of knowing ones passions can we substitute interests?  Perhaps as a child explores interests they will become passions over time. So far we have determined his interests are figuring things out, puzzles, mazes, codes and making things.

As he would like to use the computer for this learning we’ve looked for some possible resources, but so far much of what I’ve found would amount to him “playing” online.  He doesn’t really want to do a “history of” research piece – he wants to make something.

So, I’d welcome any suggestions you may have (other than Scratch which he uses a lot at home)…