A framework for content curation
In conversation at EduTECH earlier this month, Harold Jarche evoked George E. P. Box’s quote that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.
Of course, the purpose of a model is to simplify a complex system so that something purposeful can be done within it. By definition, then, the model can only ever be an approximation of reality; by human error, furthermore, it won’t be as approximate as it could be.
Nevertheless, if we accept the inherent variability in (and fallibility of) the model, we can achieve a much better outcome by using it than by not.
It is with this in mind that I have started thinking about a model – or perhaps more accurately, a framework – for content curation.
I have grown weary of hotchpotch lists of resources that we L&D pro’s tend to cobble together. Sure, they may be thoughtfully filtered and informatively annotated, but a hotchpotch is a hotchpotch. I should know: I’ve used them as a student, I’ve seen my peers create them, and I’ve created them myself.
Surely we can put more design into our curation efforts so that the fruits of our labour are more efficient, meaningful, and effective…?
Consider the trusty instructional design heuristic of Tell Me, Show Me, Let Me, Test Me. As far as heuristics go, I’ve found this to be a good one. It reminds us that transmission is ineffective on its own; learners really need to see the concept in action and give it a go themselves. As the Chinese saying goes, “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” *
* Truisms such as this one are typically met with suspicion from certain quarters of the L&D community, but in this case the research on the comparative efficacies of lectures, worked examples, PBL etc appears to add up.
As a framework for content curation, however, I feel the heuristic doesn’t go far enough. In an age in which learners in the workplace are expected to be more autodidactic than ever before, it needs refurbishment to remain relevant.
So I propose the following dimensions of a new-and-improved framework…
An important piece of content curated for the target audience is one that attracts them to the curation in the first place, and promotes word-of-mouth marketing among their colleagues.
While related to the subject matter, this content need not be “educational” in the traditional sense. Instead, its role is to be funny, fascinating or otherwise engaging enough to pull the learners in.
As learning in the workplace inevitably informalises, the motivation of employees to drive their own development becomes increasingly pivotal to their performance.
Old-school extrinsic motivators (such as attendance rosters and exams) don’t exist in this space, so the curator needs to convince the audience to proceed. Essentially this means putting the topic into context for them, clarifying how it relates to their role, and explaining why they should bother learning it.
This content is new knowledge. I recommend covering only one key concept (or a few at most) to reduce cognitive load. It’s worth remembering that education is not the provision of information; it is sense making.
It’s important for this content to actually teach something. I see far too much curation that waxes lyrical “about” the subject, yet offers nothing practical to be applied on the job. They’re beyond the sales pitch at this stage; give ’em something they can use.
This content demonstrates the “Tell me” content in action, so the employee can see what the right behaviour looks like, and through that make further sense of the concept.
Real-world scenarios are especially powerful.
By putting the content into practice, the learner puts his or her understanding to the test.
Interactive exercises and immersive simulations – with feedback – allow the learner to play, fail and succeed in a safe environment.
This content jumps the knowing-doing gap by helping the learner apply the concepts back on the job.
This is principally achieved via job aids, and perhaps a social forum to facilitate ad hoc Q&A.
This content assists the employee who is keen to learn more by raising their awareness of other learning opportunities. These might explore the concepts in more depth, or introduce other concepts more broadly.
All that extra curation that we would have been tempted to shove under “Tell me” can live here instead.
Everyone is an SME in something, so they have an opportunity to participate in the curation effort. Whether the content they use is self generated or found elsewhere, it is likely to be useful for their colleagues too.
Leverage this opportunity by providing a mechanism by which anyone can contribute better content.
As you have no doubt deduced by now, the overarching theme of my proposed framework is “less is more”. It values quality over quantity.
It may prove useful beyond curation too. For example, it may inform the sequence of an online course. (In such a circumstance, a “Test me” dimension might be inserted after “Let me” to add summative assessment to the formative.)
In any case, it is very much a work in progress. And given it is #wolweek, I ask you… What are your thoughts?