Instructional Design Basics


How the Jedi Masters Let Us Down


We live in a world where we as educators are competing with other knowledge sources—here our students are inundated with content and in my last post I talked about some of the problems with this. As our world evolves, our role as educators needs to change to address this competition. Here we need to do a better job marketing our content to ensure that our students get the right information and that they get it whenever they need it. This is especially important after your students have left the classroom.

To illustrate this need let’s look at the prequels for Star Wars—here the Jedi masters didn’t develop their skills to counter competing knowledge sources. So when young Anakin was being drawn to the dark side he didn’t have a nice chunk of content to bring him back to the force. Rather in these movies, when times were challenging, he was left to his own devices.  And since George decided to make Anakin a big baby in the prequels—all Anakin did was cry, rage and act like a wuss—Anakin’s move to the dark side was pretty much assured.

It’s probable that some of you have a young Anakin or two and that you want to avoid similar results—adding curation as part of your role may achieve this goal.

 Curation Tools

Finding, organizing and distributing content is a great way to keep your student on track after your class has ended.  And these activities are exactly what you need to be doing as a curator. Here you can share articles, podcasts, videos and other sources of content that supplement or expand on the topics you have covered in class.

This reinforcement is nice as it can help your students transfer knowledge into their real life experiences. In addition it can provide them with a nice refresher on content that they may not have used for some time.

The following table presents some tools to help you gather, organize and share content—with these tools you should be able to continue to guide your young padawans:


Type Examples Comments
Subscriptions  services Most web 2.0 sites allow for subscription services. Here you can sign up at the forum or topic level to get the latest content.This content is pushed to you through daily or weekly emails. LinkedIn Groups and Yammer are some specific sites that allow for subscriptions. This content is usually limited to one source and as such may present a narrow view of a topic.In addition these services usually require a membership account.  Tracking multiple memberships can be a hassle and may add to the level of spam in your inbox.
RSS Readers Most web 2.0 sites support RSS feeds. Here you can add feeds to your reader to get the latest content from a site or series of sites.Specific examples of RSS Readers are Google Reader, Feedly and Flipboard. Many of these applications are starting to use social networks to connect with trending information and recommendations.  In addition these connections facilitate the sharing process needed for curation.
News Aggregators These sites gather content through user submissions and automatic feeds.  These sites are often organized around topics and can use ranking features to separate good content from bad.Some examples of these types of sites are Digg, Google News and elearninglearning. These site gather content from many sources and they can help you find interesting content that you may have missed with other means.
Topic CurationSites These sites are focused around a specific topic that users create.  Here users can create pages that contain links to articles and resources on a topic.You can use these sites to tell a story or bundle a series of content around a theme. Once created others can access your page to review your content.Some examples of these sites are Storify, Bundlr and Delicious. These sites give you a platform to gather content on specific topics and themes.  Once set up you can easily share this information with your students.
Self Aggregation and Publishing These sites gather content based on feeds and search parameters that you define.  Once setup they publish a daily or weekly online paper that your students can access.Some examples of these are, News360, and Postano. These tools can connect to social sites to gather content relating to trends and recommendations. By doing this they can learn what you like and gather content around those likes.The publish aspect is nice as your students have a dynamic source of content that they can continue to access.
Social Feeds and Live Streams Social networking sites allow you to interact with your connections and networks.  Here you can see recommendations, likes, and trending information in your network.Some examples of sites like this are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Many of the above sites are connecting with these technologies and using them as recommendation mechanisms.These sites make it easy to share information as users in your network see and follow your activities.


As you use these tools you may see some common trends and themes with them. Here these technologies are starting to converge and soon you will see curation tools that contains the following:

  • Content you receive is tied to your social networks—here Likes, Retweets, … in your live streams will be included in your content results.
  • Push mechanisms like publishing and sharing content will be tied to your social networks.
  • These tools will adjust to your behaviors—here what you read, like, share, … will influence your content filters.
  • The user interfaces for these tools will continue to advance and follow a newspaper or magazine layout.

As you can see there are a lot of options available on how to collect and share content with your students.  This is great as we all know how Anakin turns out in the prequels and we don’t want that. Here we want to continue to guide our students after their classroom experience ends—we want to keep them calm, focused and away from the dark side.

And if they turn to the dark side, well then blame just it on George after all he was the one that messed up Star Wars:

I wanted to acknowledge Audrey Woita’s contribution to these curation posts . Through our discussions and interactions, Audrey has helped define and shape the ideas and thoughts presented on this topic. If you ever need information on curation or other training activities she is a great resource.

Audrey’s LinkedIn Profile:


My Buddy and Me

I have a buddy that likes to talk, and when I say that, I mean the guy never shuts up. He will talk and talk until your ears bleed—and not just about one subject.  He’ll go on about his work adventures, how the Blues are doing, to an amazing list of other random topics.

All of this can be overwhelming and I have learned to focus my time with him to certain activities and company.  These limits are my way of setting filters on him to get him to talk about things that are interesting to me.  And this works—we get to hang out, he gets to talk a bunch and I get a new perspective on items of interest.

In an earlier post I talked about how your novice users may lack resources for when they have questions.  Social content sharing and bookmarking sites can help them gain these resources.   However, using these sites or even the common, “Google it” method may provide them with an encounter similar to my buddy and I.

Here they may be overwhelmed with too much information or with items that may not be of interest/use. To help in these situations there are additional tools that can create better filters for your users.

RSS and Readers
Many websites have RSS capabilities that will allow you to set up a subscription. Once setup, any update from that site(s) will populate to a central RSS reader or website. The beauty of this is that you no longer have to check a bunch websites to see their updates. Rather you can periodically check your news reader for updates and then open up any posts that are interesting from there.

Google Reader is currently the most popular reader and has some extra features that add to your ability to accumulate and share content.   Some of these features are:

  • Share—When you find an article or site that is particularly good or useful you can share that content directly to your users.  Google Reader has a network ability that allows you to connect with friends and peers.  With this network you can choose to share items directly or rank them so that your users know what is good content.
  • Organize—You can also add some metadata to useful content to help you find these items later.  Here you can add a Star to a resource to indicate that it is good or you can add a specific tag to it.  These features make it easy to go back and quickly find useful content.
  • Find—Google Reader has several features that make finding new content easy.  If you are new to a topic you can subscribe to a bundle, which has predefined site subscriptions already setup.  As you use the reader more, the software can also recommend sites for you to read as well as filter articles up in your unread list.  Some trending information is gathered as well so that you can read what is popular at the moment.

Filtering Content for Your Users
These readers will allow you to organize and gather a lot of content on specific subjects.  Once you have this data organized with tags or ranked with stars, you can create lists for your users—lists that contain links to the useful content you found.

You can share these lists directly with you users by creating a web page with all of the links on them. Then you can send out the URL to that web page or link to it in a course to create a static page of relevant information for your users.

You can also create a dynamic list by building a blog.  RSS technology is standard with most blogging software, so you can create blog entries that contain links to the useful articles you find. Then you can add a RSS reader to a website or course that is subscribed to your blog.  This would create a dynamic connection for your users—they would see the most relevant and recent information you find.

What About Twitter and Live Data Streams
RSS and Readers have been getting some slack from the Web 2.0 crowd lately. To them this is an old technology and doesn’t keep up with the live data streams you can get with Twitter and some of the other newer technologies.   This is a valid point, as it can take a significant amount of time before you create the resource content with the above system.

This however is a good thing as it forces you to act as the filter for your novice users.  Here you are the expert and it makes sense for you to create the filter. A problem with the live data stream option is that there isn’t this filter, which means that it is only a matter of time until your users meet my buddy.  For instance a stream with Twitter may look something like:

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  Something interesting/useful,

My Buddy:  Something inappropriate,

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  …

My buddy is a good guy and has some interesting thoughts, but do you really want him training your users?