Collecting is Not Curating

“Curation” is the new word du jour in education. You get over 5,000,000 hits when your search “curation+edcuation.” Here’s post saying it will transform education.

Maybe it will. But we will have to guard against letting curation become mere collecting. Education is impatient (and wanting real leadership) and moves hastily to panacea. Take, for example, its run to so-called flipped teaching which now rightly draws criticism for being a thin understanding of a complex idea. Curation implies adding value by pulling together objects so that the whole assembly itself has meaning, as this rather sharp critique, Your Are Not a Curator, You’re Just a Blogger, points out. A list of web resources on a given topic, even a “select list” like this one of tools for creating interactive data visualizations, however useful,  is a collection or an aggregation perhaps but it’s not a curated collection.

If we can get to where our students are indeed curating, then we will have done something. But that’s not easy or quick to teach. It involves very high order thinking and a good deal of experience. The capacity to curate, like the ability to write a good essay, would make a good exit goal for graduates.



  1. Reply
    Tim Scholze October 22, 2012

    How would you discern between just collecting versus curation? I believe that there is great value in having students do either or as long as they are gathering information about a specific topic like the homefront during World War I.

    • Reply
      Braddo October 23, 2012

      Nothing at all is wrong with collecting, nor do I mean to suggest that collections aren’t valuable. But we need to make the distinction between collecting, or merely gathering, and curating, which asks us to interpret and add meaning to the collection itself.

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