Overcoming the Paralysis of Overchoice

As an educator, I often find myself at once overwhelmed with the amount of ideas/ resources out there for teachers AND constantly concerned that the resources and ideas I choose to put into practice in the classroom pale in comparison to “what could be.”  On the one hand, we have the idea of “overchoice” (a term coined by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock) where rapid development of options and resources can actually decrease productivity.  On the other hand, we as educators have access to an unprecedented amount of resources that allow us to connect students’ learning with the world around them – and it seems that no matter what we plan, there is always going to be an even better option out there to engage students.

So how do we handle these related, yet opposing pressures?

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When confronted with seemingly endless choice, rather than panic, we can become curators! (I love that word – instead of freezing me with option overload, I suddenly feel like a studious museum scholar!)  John Spencer writes in a blogpiece that “a curator is one who collects and manages information with a passion and love for the subject.” He argues that a curator is passionate about the resources and ideas they accumulate and consider, and finds him or herself joyful again in collecting what is possible.

To be clear, curating is quite different from hoarding. Rather than grabbing zillions of resources and stuffing them in boxes or blowing up our Google Drive accounts, we select resources that are meaningful and well prepared, we organize them, and we add our commentary on their usefulness before displaying them. An important aspect of content curation is the ability to evaluate it. So rather than boxing up several forests worth of ideas (only to look on with terror one year later when we return to the subject), curators end up with a constantly growing, yet purposeful reserve of resources that is organized, personally meaningful, and easily accessed.

This is a digital literacy blog, right? What does curation have to do with digital literacy?

The same struggles we have in the present with meaningfully engaging with the universe of ideas and resources for pedagogy is the same struggles our students deal with – and without offering solutions to the paralysis of overchoice, it will surely only get worse as we continue to develop newer, bigger, faster ways to access choice. So let’s take a look at a few tools that we can not only use ourselves, but hand over to our students as options for curation!

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1.) Flipboard: This tool acts like a digital magazine – with your personalization, it is constantly updating and bringing in resources that fit your preferences, arranging them like a magazine you would flip through.

PEDAGOGICAL POSSIBILITIES: Prior to using Flipboard to find and curate resources for my teaching, I actually used this resource in undergrad to help me stay on top of the latest research in my field! Used properly, teachers and students can tweak their Flipboard so they always have access to the stream of developments in a subject area. (This helps address the nagging worry that new and better resources are out there and you don’t know where to begin finding them.)

CHALLENGES: Flipboard can bring in resources only vaguely pertinent to your subject search, and it can become an enormous tool for distraction if you aren’t using it purposefully.

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2.) Google Drive: Though already widely in use by those in the education field, Google Drive has many secrets that can help boost productivity and streamline curation!

PEDAGOGICAL POSSIBILITIES: With folders, shared documents, spreadsheets, etc., Google Drive can help organize and store resources in both public and private manners, allowing you to access resources from just about anywhere and to share them with just about anyone.

CHALLENGES: Google Drive does not offer up suggestions or help you tap into the stream of developments going on the field of education – its function is to organize and share.

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3.) Padlet – Though I am relatively new to this resource, Padlet has already opened up a host of possibilities for curation! Somewhat akin to a bulletin board, Padlet acts to display resources digitally.

PEDAGOGICAL POSSIBILITIES: I have used Padlet in the classroom to allow students to share and display their ideas and resources in a quick, easy-t0-follow manner. We have then projected their “bulletin board” so all can see their web of ideas and resources they are sharing. As a curator, I am starting to use Padlet to creat boards for each unit/lesson I teach – as I come across new resoures, I quickly pin it up to a bulletin board and offer a quick analysis so I know what I am looking at later.

CHALLENGES: Like Google Drive, Padlet does not bring resources to you. It is, however, rapidly becoming my platform of choice for organizing and displaying resources!

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4.) Pinterest – Many a teacher already knows just by the swirly “P” what this resource for curation is! Pinterest blends suggestions of resources and shared curations with organization and commentary.

PEDAGOGICAL POSSIBILITIES: Pinterest has an absolutely enormous community of users who are busy bringing together ideas and resources into countless boards that can be shared across platforms. It also helps organize what you find and offers you a chance to add your own commentary.

CHALLENGES: Like Flipboard, Pinterest can offer up less-than-useful resources (in my opinion, stumbling upon a great resource is more of an exception) and can be enormously distracting. I find that Padlet’s organization is far more clean and straightforward.

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5.) Symbaloo – Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool that turns your curation of resources into a web of pictures.

PEDAGOGICAL POSSIBILITIES: To me, Symbaloo is far less overwhelming to look at than a document with a ton of different URLs – it organizes in a more streamlined manner.

CHALLENGES: Symbaloo does not suggest resources – it is a platform that organizes and displays.

Happy Curating!

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One thought on “Overcoming the Paralysis of Overchoice

  1. Anna Doyle December 14, 2016 / 5:26 am

    I found this particularly interesting since I recently put together a thematic research binder which focused on a particular idea relevant to teaching in my content area. When I was looking for materials to include in my binder, I found several things that I thought were interesting, but…and that “but” was important. In order to ensure that the things that I did include in my binder were useful, and that I stayed on topic, it was important that I evaluate each item in order to decide whether or not it truly “belonged” in my binder. I also appreciated your honest reviews of a few tools that are available for inspiration and organization. I personally am a fan of Pinterest, but I would have to agree that it is really easy to get off topic, plus many times, I will find something that looks really great – until I click on it, and find out that it’s a dead link or redirects me to a site that has nothing to do with the image and title I clicked on.

    Like

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