In this digital age, a vast array of information is at our fingertips via technology. We can instantaneously find news articles, research, videos, photos on every topic imaginable and beyond. A conundrum exists for these consumers of knowledge…while access to information is empowering, it is also potentially overwhelming, and thus people need to learn how to manage this content. No wonder Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
On a professional level, educators need a plan for managing teaching resources so that information is organized and accessible for themselves and their students. Modern educators acknowledge that information can be looked up at a moment’s notice and as a result, many believe that the rote memorization of facts and figures is becoming less of an important skill in today’s schools. Students need more time and guidance developing essential critical thinking skills, some specifically related to this digital age, including to the ability to search effectively, organize resources, distill this information and synthesize this content to produce new insights and materials. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile; 21st-century schools and teachers are shifting approaches to better meet the needs of their learners. No longer are teachers serving as “sages on stages”, but rather as “guides on the side”, giving students the tools and strategies needed to be successful in a rapidly changing world.
Within the educational technology industry, companies have been grappling with the problem of helping teachers organize and deliver materials to students. Teachers should experiment with a resulting plethora of tools and learning management systems in order to find the best fit for their instructional needs. When dabbling with these tools, teachers should carefully consider features and benefits for themselves and their students.
Some questions to think about:
- What tools and platforms are essential to a modern teacher’s workflow?
- How does a teacher locate, evaluate and keep track of high-quality teaching resources and primary source materials on the internet?
- What’s the best method to organize these materials and maintain an easy to access system?
- How can the process of content curation be made more efficient?
- What tools allow teachers to collaborate with students and/or colleagues?
One website that teachers may want to try out is Participate Learning. Formerly known as Appolearning, this Chicago-based startup recently went through a re-branding process, adding some new and unique features. The Participate Learning platform contains a database of educational content that includes websites, videos, and linkable documents. Much of this content is vetted and tagged by regular contributing education experts; the Participate Learning community at large can also contribute to this database. It is searchable by grade level, subject area, and Common Core standards.
Once teachers find useful content within Participate Learning, these assets can be organized into collections. These collections can be made public to benefit others or be kept private; it is also possible to use and re-purpose the public collections of other Participate Learning users. New to collections is the ability to invite others to a collection to co-curate and privately discuss content. Here’s an overview:
Another new feature within Participate Learning is the ability to bookmark resources while conducting research on the internet. For instance, say you are surfing with the goal of finding primary resources for a lesson related to the Civil Rights Movement, you can use the Participate Learning Bookmarks Chrome extension to save resources directly to your Participate Learning account. Then, you can quickly organize these bookmarked links into collections. Here’s an explanation of how to accomplish this; you must be using Google’s Chrome web browser and the Participate Learning Bookmarks extension.
The last new feature in the Participate Learning makes this a platform that stands out from other social bookmarking options for educators; it is truly unique and useful. Participate Chats for Twitter allows you to select a predetermined Twitter chat hashtag, view and save a transcript from this chat, and curate resources referenced during the course of the Twitter chat. You can also directly participate in a Twitter chat right from the Participate Learning interface. Learn how to leverage Participate Chats here:
This is a much better solution than trying to keep up with fast-paced Twitter chats using clients such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and the Twitter interface itself. And, there is no other tool that lets one grab resources cited in a Twitter chat exactly like this. With Participate Chats, you can save individual resources from a chat or you can harvest all links mentioned during a designated period of time and put it into a collection. Read more about the logic behind Participate Chats in this article by Participate Learning CEO Alan Warms.
No other social bookmarking solution has this Twitter chat integration and this feature makes Participate Learning particularly exciting to use. Prior to the introduction of Participate Learning, there have been few curation options specifically designed for educators. There are other social bookmarking options out there, but these have not necessarily been developed with educators in mind or improved with educators’ input and feedback. Keep an eye on the Participate Learning platform as its community grows and new features are added to further benefit students and teachers.