Everyone is a curator in a digital world

Curation. When I was growing up this word had a specialised connotation attached to museums, galleries and any other kind of collection. Not any more. I believe that with the explosion of digital resources today everyone needs to be a curator.

As an iPad 1:1 school the conventional school desk is no longer for us the sole repository of learning resources. We are in the middle of a resourcing revolution and it is somewhat incongruous that students have virtual resources which they can access through their iPad whilst they continue to cling to their traditional desk. The extraordinary possibilities offered by iTunes U, iBooks and Apps like ExplainEverything are game changers. The challenge for the student is how to archive the virtual world whilst they are still managing their hard copy notes.

This challenge is a very real one for teachers and students. Gone are the days when exercise books and files provided the archive of notes which underpin academic success. For the conscientious teacher it is no longer enough to assume that the student has an archive of resources in hard copy in one place. And for the conscientious student, no longer do they have the comfort of full files and exercise books which offer balm for the soul because of their gargantuan size.

However, the digital opportunities for learning – virtual resources – are too attractive for teachers to overlook and create very real issues around curation. This is of course an unintended consequence of the impact of digital learning in schools. A recent visit to our junior school where Year 5 pupils were spilling out of the classroom to use ExplainEverything, revealed to me digitally confident learners who are already learning the importance of digital curation. It is striking to listen to a 10 year old talking about where they will be saving their work on Google Drive and understanding why this is important. Equally this pupil understands the importance of organising her hard copy work. What perhaps for an adult can be confusing because of the way we learnt, is absolutely logical to a child who understands that they are working with two platforms – real and virtual.

Curation therefore is an integral skill for learners working in a digital environment. Yet this is a nuanced issue. As a school which spans ages 3-19 we are acutely aware of the contrast in experience between our younger and older learners. Indeed a colleague shared with me a discussion with sixth formers who wished they had the opportunities to engage with the digital world that our younger pupils enjoyed. For sure the whole concept of curation in the sixth form is firmly grounded in hard copy notes.

Which raises the broader question about the pace at which digital learning is transforming normal school conventions. As an innovative school we are also keen to reflect on the consequences of change. It’s about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Certainly digital curation is integral to this future yet what that means for storage across the life of a student in school is as yet not clear. Certainly the personal cluttered desk is in jeopardy. What digital curation means more broadly will be part of our own learning journey. What I do know is that change will happen and we, the adults, need to keep up with our youngest learners.

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