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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Teachers as Curators of Learning

Suzie Boss

Journalist and PBL advocate

Quick: Name ten excellent Web sites related to the grade level or subject area you teach.

Scott McLeod, coordinator of the educational-administration program at Iowa State University, recently posed that question on his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant. Many of the comments his readers left echo McLeod's assertion that the Internet delivers "a paucity of high-quality online resources for educators."

McLeod and others don't deny the abundance of online resources teachers have at their fingertips. The challenge is sifting through all that stuff to find what you need -- and then knowing how to incorporate the gems into your curriculum.

Teacher Dan Meyer compares the modern educator's quest to mining: He argues that only a small fraction of the country's three million teachers "have come back from those Internet hills with gold, looking haggard from the extra hours they put in beating these disparate resources into some kind of instructional shape."

He should know. Meyer liberally invests his own time to create high-interest visual resources that open learning opportunities for his math students. (See the related Edutopia.org blog post "Teaching with Visuals.") He likens what he does to curating: arranging chosen pieces into an order and structuring a compelling question around them.

That's an interesting way to think about instructional design. When I consider the museum exhibits I remember most vividly, I can see how the curator has directed my attention to particular details, patterns, or nuances. Sometimes it's the story behind the painting that grabs my interest. Or it might be a biographical detail about the artist that stays with me. Good curators work in the background, but their influence is powerful. Like artful teachers, they make critical decisions, raise questions, challenge assumptions, and provoke responses.

Now that I think about it, one of the Web sites on my own top 10 list encourages exactly this role of teacher as curator. Google Lit Trips mashes up the study of great literature with the interactive technology of Google Earth. (To learn more, read, "Google Lit Trips: Bringing Travel Tales to Life" here at Edutopia.org.)

As students read great travel stories -- from the Odyssey to The Grapes of Wrath to Into the Wild -- they trace the protagonist's journey, interacting with visual or historical information their teacher has included in Google Earth placemarks. The award-winning Google Lit Trips site was created by Jerome Burg, a veteran educator. He recently retired, but he's continuing to curate learning -- for students, as well as his colleagues -- by expanding this rich site with new resources.

Which resources do you find most useful for curating your students' learning?

Comments (30)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Michael Griffin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

http://www.musiceducationworld.com is a good site for music teachers. Amongst other things it has lots of free legal choir downloads sung by high quality school choirs. This is great for considering high school repertoire. Lots of other freebies.

Hilary's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

www.pHet.com provides simulations and interactives that are downloadable or streamable for student use. I have added these files to student server folders for easy access and they visit them time and time again. I especially thank Colorado State University for the development of these simulations!:)

Suzie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dr. Ellie,
Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree with you about investing that extra minute to make sure information is accurate and credible. So, are there (reliable) resources you would suggest for evaluating information? Or is the better solution to encourage healthy skepticism and careful fact-checking?
Thanks,
Suzie

Suzie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for this reminder. A helpful librarian should be part of every teacher's professional learning network.
Thanks,
Suzie

MGoodrich's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The comment that I pasted from the main "posting" below I found so exciting. I train teachers to support their students' learning and never thought of it in such a way. I am new to this web site and can't believe what an eye-opener associating learning/teaching to being a curator can be. I thank you for those thoughts and need to develop and reflect on that and be able to contribute more.

"That's an interesting way to think about instructional design. When I consider the museum exhibits I remember most vividly, I can see how the curator has directed my attention to particular details, patterns, or nuances. Sometimes it's the story behind the painting that grabs my interest. Or it might be a biographical detail about the artist that stays with me. Good curators work in the background, but their influence is powerful. Like artful teachers, they make critical decisions, raise questions, challenge assumptions, and provoke responses."

MGoodrich's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree... with the advances in technology it is amazing the networking your school librarian and local librarians have. We need to make sure that we continue to work with them since budgets are being slashed and several libraries in our area have cut patron hours and jobs. If possible find out what is available for your students to access. The local colleges and universities also assist with resources if the school libraries do not have them available. Technology has really increased the resource power in the school library. With Culture Gram and Streamline video, there are tons of ways to acquire info. Now days the library is not the same as it was when we were growing up.

Andrea's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My school district has, in the past two years, adopted the Max Teaching Strategies, and I was hoping to find someone who could help me use a Cubing lesson with research projects. Cubing uses Describe, Apply, Analyze, Argue, Associate, and Compare as the prompts on each side. Thanks in advance!

Dean Groom's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In terms of supporting meaningful learning, teachers should not much aiding students in 'acquiring' facts related to a discipline or being the 'curators' of the knowledge bank, but instead, be are interested in students becoming knowledgably skillful.

To do that, they need to prepare the learning landscape and help them discover learning. This means that they have to be pro-active in discovery themselves - and that seems the hardest part. I can't remember being stumpted for a knowledge resource - but constantly trying to discover better ways to engage learners - in their own learning which is well beyond 'search'. We need to be far less ad-hock about the process of discovery I feel.

Mary's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I use my media center specialist to help plan my activities. Often she knows more about where to find great information to help supplement my instruction than I can find!

I also agree that the more we use these valuable resources (librarians/media specialists), the more their budget will increase, which leads to more resources available in your school!

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