As educators, we often talk about the changing skill set for todays learners, the 21st Century skills, essential for our children to adequately prepared for adult life in the digital world. One thing I think we can overlook however, is the changing skill set required by 21st century educators. Today, I’d like to look at one aspect of this: Teachers as digital curators and distributors.
The ability to inquire and research are critical to a student’s success in education. While in days gone by the first port of call would be the school or local library, for most students today, the first step is to type their research question into google…
Now obviously, it is our job as teachers to help students improve their searching technique, and to draw their attention back to more traditional research methods when appropriate, but there is also a need for teachers to collate suitable resources online to share with their students, to scaffold the research process.
Now, there are hundreds of online tools available for these purposes, all with their pros and cons. Instead of trying to review them all I’m going to focus on two that I use. For a more exhaustive list, you can check out some of these blog posts: elearningindustry or educators techology.
In order to do this easily and efficiently, I mainly use two tools. I use these for both my professional learning as well as curating content for my students.
Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool which allows you to ‘pin’ collections of images from around the web. It is most used for craft ideas, recipes and of course wedding planning! The reason it has proven to be so successful is the discovery element. Any pin you add to your own board, shows related boards which feature similar pins. This makes it very simple to quickly gather a lot of similar information. I first started using Pinterest for teaching last year. I created some boards for ‘Changing Sounds’ a QCA science unit. I found it a great way to gather links that I knew would come in handy throughout the unit. As it is cloud based, you can access it from any device adding new pins or viewing your board.
For units of inquiry, I really encourage teachers to use Pinterest. There is no need to re-invent the wheel for every learning experience. As soon as you have added a few ideas, provocations or activities to your board, you can start exploring related boards and quickly build up a great bank of resources.
Pinterest could certainly be used to share resources you’ve collected with students, but I find that this doesn’t work particularly well. It isn’t what the platform is designed for. So I tend to just use Pinterest as a starting point when planning and as a receptacle for storing and organising my bookmarks.
I came across Symbaloo for the first time at the 21st Century Learning conference a few years ago. The Canadian International School in Hong Kong used it in order to organise and distribute workshop materials, I immediately wanted to find out more and use it with my students! Symbaloo (or Symbaloo EDU) allows you to set up ‘webmixes’ which are collections of tiles which link to websites, documents, videos or images. These can be easily organised, grouped, colour coded and customized with icons. This is the best way I have found to share online resources with students.
It is extremely simple to set up, and students simply need to click on tiles to view content. There are additional features available, such as setting up lesson plans and embedding RSS feeds, but I have mainly used it for the purposes described above.
Here is an example we have used for our recent rights of the child unit of inquiry in grade 5. As I said, it is really simple to set these up and a great way to organise all of your resources for your students to access!
If you have any other suggestions for starting your students off on an online research project, let me know in the comments.
Credit for Icon: books by Keith from the Noun Project