Book Review: Ready, Set, Curate

In 2014, I had an opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Ben Betts and Allison Anderson at the American Society for Training & Development conference on using curation to support learning. I was, therefore, pleased to pick up the book called Ready, Set, Curate: 8 Learning Experts Tell You How* edited by Ben Betts and  Allison Anderson because it expanded upon what they presented at the conference. I agree with them that curation is a 21st-century digital literacy skill that everyone should master. With the amount of content that is available and continues to be created, we need a way to discover, filter, organize, add value, and share with others. We need a way to make sense of all this information, and curation is such a method.

I picked up my copy of the book as one of the books offered for my Association for Talent Development (ATD) membership renewal. My book happens to be an ebook. Betts and Anderson laid out their case for curation across nine chapters spread over 120 pages. To do this, they enlisted the help of 6 other authors.

The chapters in the book include:

  • From Content to Curation
  • Creating Your Curation Strategy
  • Case Study: Curating in the Corporation
  • The Knowledge-Curating Company
  • Collaborative Curation
  • Curating Formal Learning
  • Curation, Copyright, and the Creative Commons
  • Case Study: The Accidental Curator
  • The Future of Education

As I indicated, I am a huge fan of curation. I have been curating content for as long as I can rememIber. In most cases, I use a tool like Diigo to curate bookmarks that I have found on various topics. I organize those bookmarks into various categories and used them to support my writing, as well as, use them as a resource list when I need to assist someone.

When I begin a new project, I typically scour the internet for resources. I add these resources to my Diigo or Evernote collections. I then try to make sense of them so that I can share them in a blog post or other product.

There were a number of ideas that I liked from the book. One of the ideas that could be used in a classroom is having learners curate resources around a topic rather than the instructor. In addition to developing a collection of resources, learners also develop as curators. In one of the classes I’m currently teaching, learners have to find resources outside of the classroom and share them in a discussion. We’re going to curate them into a common list that they can take with them after the class is over. This is an exercise that I can continue each time I teach the class. The resource list will continue to grow and all learners past and present will benefit from the growing list.

The authors of the book have pointed out that curation is more than just finding artifacts. It is about combining artifacts in such a manner that a story can be told. Additionally, the curators are responsible for assigning meaning behind the curated artifacts through a narrative. I finding it interesting that different individuals, who look at the same objects, can combine them in different ways to give different meanings. I find this really important in the work that we do.

I think Betts is right when he said that it is a challenge to stay current or create training around topics because things are changing so rapidly. Curation allows for the rapid development of instruction around a topic.

Many of us in the education field have been curators for a long time. If you look at  a classroom, you will notice that it is a curated set of content that an expert guides you through. The same can be said of a textbook. With the development of Creative Commons, it is now easier for experts to create and curate their own content and not to be constrained by a commercial textbook.

“A key part of curation is sharing—only when we work openly can others see and learn from what we do” (Betts & Anderson, 2016, Chapter 1, Section: Embracing a Culture of Curation).

In the chapter creating your curation strategy, Anderson discusses important considerations for becoming a curator. She shared important questions to consider such as why are you doing it and who are you doing it for? As she continued, she also discussed how you could find resources, collect resources, approve resources, if necessary, sharing resource frequency, and sharing resource methods. In the book, there are also considerations for curating as a team or with others, and how you can do collaborate more smoothly.

One of my favorite chapters is the Case Study: The Accidental Curator by David Kelly. The reason I say this is because I learned of David Kelly’s work while attending ATD conferences. A number of us would share resources we found during the conference using Twitter and Kelly would pull these resources together and post them on his blog. It was interesting to read his account of what transpired and how he became a backchannel curator. His experiences certainly resonated with me. Here’s an example of his curation for the 2016 ATD conference.

I think this is a tremendously useful book. Thinking about all the different organizations that I have been a part of, I have found that curation has been essential to my success with all of them. Whether it was in my work with Extension or with the Jamestown Community College, as an instructor for different courses, or as a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol, I have found the need to curate and share content in each of those areas. As I noted before, curation is one of those 21st-century digital literacy skills that individuals wishing to be successful should master. I think Ready, Set, Curate will help towards that mastery. if you want to improve the learning of your organization then I strongly encourage you looking into curation. I have no reservations recommending Ready, Set, Curate. I think many will benefit from this book.


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