Looking Forward 2> FREE Digital Curation Tools

Looking Forward 2> FREE Digital Curation ToolsFor more than 20 years, the School Librarian has been regarded as a “tech guru” in education. We quickly brought digital devices into our libraries (computers, iPods, iPads, Kindles), we promptly implemented online information services (library catalogs, databases, e-books), and early on we were organizing Internet/WWW resources (Librarians Internet Index, a Gopher site, migrated to the Web in 1994; Internet Public Library opened in 1995; my own DeweyLinks premiered in 1998)

Teachers are now more digitally proficient, yet the School Librarian remains the person others come to when they need guidance with hardware, software, or cloud computing. We must continue to master new technologies and tools if we are to remain indispensable.

Future Ready Schools, an initiative resulting from ESSA legislation, launched Future Ready Librarians to promote school librarians “as leaders in the digital transformation of learning.” (6/24/16 press release) The Future Ready Librarians Factsheet describes one professional practice for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment as: the FRL curates (selects, integrates, organizes, shares) digital resources and tools and develops that digital curation skill in others.

The challenge for school librarians, with our budget constraints, is to find FREE web tools to serve our curation needs, but over the past several years so many online curation tools have appeared that we now need to curate the curation tools! In a 2012 online infographic, Joyce Valenza, classified 24 tools into 3 groups. (right)

A 2012 online article by Nikki Robertson grouped 9 tools a bit differently:
“Curation tools can include online social-bookmarking services like Diigo, Delicious, Digg, Reddit, and more visually oriented bookmarking services like Pinterest and Symbaloo. Then there are hybrid curation tools that not only allow bookmarking but also enable creating stories (Storify), and customized magazines or newspapers (Scoop.it and Paper.li).” (p.E1)

My personal—and highly recommended—”curated” resource for more than 150 educational technology tools is the digital Teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy. (It’s not free, but it’s well worth the reasonable cost!) Under “Content Curation” she groups 14 curation tools into 4 easy-to-understand categories. (snippet below from pp. 79-80 of updated 2017 catalog)

Thanks to this guide I use Feedly twice a week to keep up with 104 librarian and teacher blogs, and it’s a vast improvement over what I used to use. Now that I understand Pinterest better I’m building up a nice little reference area for myself and other teachers and librarians.

DeweyLinks is my collection of curriculum-related websites for Grades 6-12 students and teachers, organized by the Dewey Decimal System. It’s been offline since I retired, and I want to put it on a more visual platform. Symbaloo seems to be what I need—it packs numerous visual links into the smallest space possible and can provide separate tabs for each of the 10 Dewey Classes.

One thing I learned from the TGtT is to take advantage of a site’s video tutorials. Using a Symbaloo tutorial I was able to import each DeweyLink HTML page into it’s own webmix, as well as import all the loose links intended for DeweyLinks that I’d bookmarked in my browser. Now I just have to do a bit of reorganization and the job will be done. Symbaloo even provides a way to group several “tiles” on the same topic into a smaller space, which will be ideal for something like folklore or environmental issues or history, which have so many websites. I’d expected the transition to a new platform to take much longer, but even FREE online services like Symbaloo are making it so much easier for us!

As a school librarian I’ve created a number of Resource Lists for classroom projects (some librarians call them Pathfinders). Since the number of links is far fewer than what I have for DeweyLinks I want a more visual application that shows a bit more of the site page. Right now I’m leaning toward Listly or Wakelet or Padlet or Scoop.it, but there are others to consider.

The big decision I just cannot seem to make is which, of the 24 different free tools I have bookmarked in my browser, will I use for curating my dozens of other browser bookmarks. Diigo, favored by all 3 ladies mentioned, is a strong contender, but I also like Draggo and Elink and …and …oh, my, I just don’t think I can handle so many decisions in one day!

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