Curation as Evidence of the Learning Process

For many, the term “authentic assessment” means showing off a completed project or detailing the steps taken to complete the project. But authentic assessment isn’t just for products; knowledge management can tell you a lot about where a person is in her learning journey. New learners identify, save, and present useful material differently than intermediate learners, who curate differently than advanced learners, who curate differently than experts.

Newbies, afraid of missing something important, collect everything and make efforts to show everything. They don’t understand the material well enough yet to sort out the truly useful information. They’re the ones most in danger of drowning in information overload, losing track of sources of actually useful information, and becoming a repeater rather than a curator.

As the newbies continue learning, though, they start to learn how to pick out the more useful information and how to organize it so it can be retrieved later. While they may still share irrelevant information they find personally interesting, they’re getting better at picking out relevant information to share as well. They’re able to start explaining why they find that piece of information interesting on a personal level, with a general tie-in to the topic they’re actually interested in.

But the more they work with their information, the better able they become to sift out information streams and bits that are both relevant and interesting, to organize it within information scent patterns, and to share it in ways more relevant to their target audience. At this level of curation, it’s easy to get overly focused as the learner becomes specialized in their topic, shutting out potential streams and inspirations.

When the learner has truly mastered curating their topical knowledge, they know where to draw information from and where to draw inspiration from as they look for patterns and connections that will help them deepen their understanding and develop insights that will strengthen their own body of work. They organize their information with almost subconscious, tightly interwoven information scent, making it easier for learners at earlier curation levels to find it and make sense of it easily. It’s important to note that while the expert is able to explain what they’re saving and sharing and why it’s relevant and interesting, they may not be able to help others develop their own curation style in a similar way.

And this all happens within the normal activities of the PLE. Reviewing a learner’s PLE, or how they structure a PLE for a new topic or project, demonstrates a lot about where the learner is in their own development and can show you where they are headed. It also reminds us how important it is for us to actively consume our respective fields, to log our observations and reactions, and to comment on other voices in our field as part of our personal development.


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