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The Human Curator of Learning

I’ve written a fair amount about the concept of curation. Interest in it seems to be reviving lately, perhaps sparked by the rise of fake news and the growing realization that we all can be are being manipulated by any number of automated algorithms that channel content through our lives.

I’m hardly a luddite: I think machine learning and artificial intelligence can be powerful and positive tools in our lives. Still, I think the role of human curators of learning is more important than ever. You can read more about what  I mean by “curator” here, but basically it’s someone who cares enough and is willing to take the time to help us make sense of the flood of information that washes over us each day.

Usually a curator specializes in a particular topic, skill, interest, or set of ideas. We follow her work because we trust what she presents to us is good and true and will help us learn about something we care about.

I think a truly excellent curator of learning has:

  • Highly refined skills for locating relevant content
  • A demonstrated ability to judge the quality of content and its suitability for meeting learning goals and objectives. (This implies a certain level of subject matter knowledge, but doesn’t necessarily require the curator to be a seasoned expert.)
  • The ability to categorize, organize, and connect content in effective and meaningful ways
  • The ability to augment and re-purpose content or author original content, as needed, to draw connections and fill gaps
  • An understanding of the social Web and how communication and learning happen in and across networks, including factors like bias, diversity, and influence
  • An ability to build trust and relationships within a community of learning and help learners develop personal learning and knowledge management skills
  • Hands-on, practical knowledge of major technologies of the social Web and rapid authoring tools
  • An ability to do all of the above with an eye towards achieving the strategic goals of the organization, the network, the loose coalition, the individual learner, or whatever the appropriate beneficiary (ies) of the learning experience is
  • An ability to effectively evaluate learning experiences and demonstrate effectiveness or ineffectiveness

As you can probably tell from this list, these are not easy people to find. If you do find one, encourage her. Point other people to her.

Don’t ever take for granted the effort that genuinely worthwhile curation takes or the tremendous value it creates.

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