Thursday, 14 April 2016

Curation Skills

This morning, I attended an excellent Learning & Skills Group Webinar, hosted by @donaldhtaylor and presented by @julianstodd,  writer, consultant, founder of Sea Salt Learning and holder of the prestigious Learning & Performance Institute Colin Corder Award for Services to Learning in 2016. The topic was "Scaffolded Social Learning in Action: creating spaces to learn".  As always on these webinars, the chat panel was alive with comment and questions throughout, and I had a short exchange with one of the participants about curation, which led me to drop him an email later. That email crystalised my thinking on the topic, and has inspired me to expand that thinking out into this blog. Your thoughts, comments, amplification and challenges are very welcome.

I started by 'Googling' for a definition of Curation. The first answer which popped up was from Wikipedia
A nice, neat definition. But not actually the answer to the question I posed. I did not ask about DIGITAL Curation. I asked for a definition of curation. Now, I have enough experience to know to dig deeper through Google results pages, but it got me reflecting on a couple of things:  How accurate is Wikipedia? And how many people would look beyond that first result to seek other definitions? Just because it's on the Internet, doesn't mean it's true or accurate!

And that's why I see curation skills as critical to any kind of collective and social learning, from both a facilitator/curator and a learner perspective. The social media and tech is readily available, so the collection and re-presentation of collateral is relatively straightforward, after a short familiarisation with the tool/s selected (e.g. Pocket, Pinterest, Storify, etc).

However, the reflection on and critical analysis of that content is vital, and in my experience, is where things tend to fall down. "GIGO" applies here (Garbage in, garbage out). Is the material accurate, up-to-date, relevant, verified - and by whom? Where's the evidence, the truth test? Does the curator him/herself have the relevant qualifications, skills, experience and/or credibility to provide reassurance of its validity for the stakeholders and learners for whom the material is being collated?

Equally, contextualisation and narrative around that content is important. If a self-directed learner is curating material for themselves, then they probably have their own context already, but learning facilitators and/or subject matter experts who are curating content for others need to provide this - and the recipients need to be confident that it has been 'quality assured' for relevance and accuracy.

In a collective and social learning context, here's an opportunity for participants not only to source content, but for that content to be critically reviewed and evaluated by the collective before being made available as a resource. And in so doing, everyone gets the chance to experience and develop their own critical analysis skills for the future.

Happy to discuss further or to offer any assistance if this would be of interest.  You can find my details on or About.Me, and some of my curation examples on and

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Unfamiliar Paths

Today, Saturday, 9th April 2016, is exactly one year (by day) since I first experienced the chest pain symptoms of what was shortly thereafter diagnosed as Angina, walking to the local shop, and life changed. 
And today, I find myself exploring the byways of Claremont Landscape Garden, a National Trust treasure in Esher, Surrey, in a contemplative mood. It's a small but pretty estate, with a lake and lots of walks in forestry and garden, and I am letting my eyes lead my feet, with no plan other than to occupy myself pleasurably whilst Mandy attends a craft beading show at Sandown Park Racecourse.  As I walk, I'm reflecting how pleasant this is, and how lucky I am to be here to experience it; how fantastic it is to be walking and not experiencing the scary tightening pain in my chest when I do that; how walking has been an integral part of my bypass operation recovery process and how I'm seeing analogies to my situation all around me today.  

I've been taking photos on my phone as I explore. Here are some musings related to those pictures.

Unfamiliar Paths

I have never been here before, so every pathway I follow is unfamiliar to me. But I can follow them reasonably confident that the National Trust won't let me lose my way or lead me off-site and will enable me to get back to the entrance and the inevitable - although very welcome - cafe, safely and unscathed. I'm now an independent L&D and Learning Technologies Consultant, slowly building up a new business in my 'new normal' life. This is new territory for me, unexplored territory, following my instincts, prepared to see where we go and what will emerge. A bit scary, but the Universe has brought me this far and I don't think it'll lead me astray now.


My Angina was caused by one collapsed cardiac artery (my 'heart attack' apparently) and two partially closed arteries, all due to having arteriosclerosis. When I had my corrective surgery in May, my surgeon didn't actually unblock those arteries, he bypassed all three of them (hence 'triple bypass'), with veins harvested from my legs (my scars look like navigable pathways in themselves). Re-plumbing the heart, basically. But he also told me I was good for another 25 years now, so the future has been unblocked to me. It's up to me to make the most of that time and the landscape which is unfolding ahead of me.

Unsteady on my feet

As I walked around the gardens today, I was conscious of having to be careful where I put my feet on these paths. I did stagger a couple of times, something I have noticed that I do when I am in an uncertain or distracted frame of mind and, it reminded me to be present in the moment, to be mindful of the terrain and the surrounding landscape at the same time. Hence the photos. 

No man is an island

The love and support I have had from so many people, family, friends, colleagues, social media and PLN (personal learning network) was, and continues to be, what got me through the last year and will be equally important to me in the years to come. Today, as I contemplate the last 12 months and look forward to the future, I hope I will be able to pay it forward for a long time to come.

Now, I wonder what's around that next corner...