I really like things in my life to be organized. This has only become more true with time. As a kid, I was moderately organized. I loved things like trapper-keepers and page dividers and binders, and I was a little obsessed with labeling things. However, my backpack was usually an unmitigated disaster and the desk in my bedroom was a repository for stacks of papers, books, old homework assignments, etc.
As I have gotten older, I have come to detest clutter. With the possible exception of books (which I hoard), I have become more likely to throw out something important than to keep something unimportant. I therefore (predictably) love how most of my work has moved onto digital platforms, because this has eliminated much of the clutter from my life.
Or has it?
While my life is certainly dominated by far fewer stacks of paper, binders, and bills thanks to the remarkable capacities of my digital devices, my world is no less cluttered. The clutter is just harder to see. How many hundreds of websites do I visit every single day? How many logins and passwords do I keep stored in the back of my memory? How many digital tasks await me at any given moment, cluttering up my browser window with more tabs than I can possibly keep under control?
The clutter became even more visible recently, when the number of Google accounts in my life increased from two (one for grad school, one personal account) to three (another for work!). I have always kept my inbox carefully filtered and foldered, and have never let it get out of control. With the addition of the third account, I (temporarily) lost my ability to keep up.
I am on a constant quest to become a more effective digital curator of my online content, and this is more true for me now that I’m a digital learning specialist than it ever has been. While I have enjoyed keeping track of my favorite blogs and websites using feedly and have done well organizing my emails, I only recently figured out a system for archiving and organizing the ever-growing pile of web content that I refer to on a regular basis for both work and personal use.
The Importance of Curation for Connected Educators
In the first #bpsplnchat on Twitter for this year, many of our participants voiced interest in learning more about digital curation (which is good, because my colleague and I are hosting a webinar on the topic tomorrow — feel free to join us!). This is no surprise, because educators are constantly being bombarded by the “next great thing.” The next web app, tool, resource, site, software, device — you name it. Educators are sharing the resources they find in social media, in ed-focused Twitter chats that only continue to grow in number and participant rates. Educators are excited, overwhelmed, and stretched thin by the multitude of resources that fly through their feeds and emails on a daily basis.
The problem? It’s hard to know what to keep, what to let pass you by, what to share, and how to organize that which you want to remember or archive for later. Enter digital curation and the skills and literacies associated with keeping up with, and decluttering, your favorite online content.
One major digital skill for the web 2.0 world is tagging, which enables you to assign labels to articles, links, pictures, videos — any online content you want to keep and access later. You can tag just about anything online these days, from hashtagging on Twitter to tagging photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube. But most people fly right by the tag section as they upload content, not aware of the incredible power of tagging for curating content. Don’t bypass the tags! You never know when they’ll come in handy later!
Another skill is getting all of the stuff you want to read to go to a single place, taking advantage of your favorite sites’ RSS feeds. Maintaining and organizing your favorite feeds is sort of like having your own newspaper — you tell your feed management tool (as I noted, my favorite is Feedly) what content you want it to go grab, and it generates a constantly-updated list of articles from your favorite websites.
Finally, bookmarking is being transformed by web apps that store your bookmarks in the cloud and turn bookmarking into a social activity. Because it wasn’t enough that we now have social media sites for everything from professional networking to personal cat-photo sharing, video sharing, and music sharing — we also need to share our bookmarks sometimes! My favorite tool for this is Diigo, which we’ll talk about in the webinar on Tuesday. However, Delicious has been around for a long time, and new web apps for social bookmarking continue to crop up. This video from Common Craft explains social bookmarking.
The key is to be strategic about how you curate and which tools you use. Having a thousand new accounts to help you keep track of all of your existing online resources and links is only going to make your digital life feel more cluttered — not less. So ask yourself, where does your digital life need a little re-org? And what housekeeping tools will help you turn your digital life into a well-organized, well-oiled machine?