Kyle B. Pace

Category: EdTech

Content Curation with PearlTrees

Note: This post is also cross-posted over at the EasyBib blog

I’ve written and spoken before about the essential skill (a literacy according to Howard Rheingold) of students not only being able to collect content from their network(s), but to curate what’s collected. Just like a museum curator pours over artifacts to find the very best to display, we should also do the same not just for our own professional resources, but see it as an obligation to model it for our students.

I came across a new resource recently (I believe the hat tip goes to Alec Couros for this find) called Pearltrees. After you sign up for your account, you can start building your own Pearltrees. Pearltrees are made up of “pearls”, or sites you want to curate into particular the Pearltrees (topics) you’ve created.  Give this 40 second video a watch from the PearlTrees site called “Why Pearltrees?”

Once you’ve signed up for your account, you will already have your “root” Pearltree created for you with your username. You will also see a couple of Pearltrees waiting for you. One is called Getting Started and another is called Pearltree Videos. You can see them in my main Pearltree page here.

You will also see there that I have created a Pearltree called Digital Citizenship. I added “pearls” to the Digital Citizenship Pearltree by using the “Pearler” tool, which is a browser extension that’s available for both Google Chrome and Firefox. When I came to a site I wanted to add to a Pearltree, I clicked the Pearltree extension (I was using Chrome) clicked on the Pearltree I wanted to add it to, and it was instantly there. Easy enough.

As you noticed above you can share links to specific Pearltrees in your account and also embed any Pearltree you’d like on your own website, blog, LMS, etc. It’s also easy to share directly to Twitter and Facebook.

I also like the emphasis on sharing of your Pearltrees. They call themselves a social curation community.  You can even give it a try by importing your Delicious bookmarks (I’m a Diigo user so I did not try this feature). So not only does this site give you an easy way to curate great content, but it also recognizes the importance of being social about it by making Pearltrees easy to share and they can also be built collaboratively.

Here’s a few of the more important features that I believe Pearltrees offers:

1. Easy to use interface

2. The browser extension works nicely for quickly adding content to different Pearltrees

3. They are easy to share

4. Pearltrees can be created collaboratively

5. It’s a web-based application, allowing students to access content from anywhere, including the free iPad app

Think of Pearltrees as a content curation meets concept mapping tool. I had a great time learning how to use it and I think it would be great for students as they curate content they need for various classes. I look forward to watching it improve. Have fun!

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An informed decision

I met with the administrative team earlier this week at one of our middle schools. They wanted to talk iPads. They were thinking about purchasing them for themselves to be more efficient with their administrative duties as they do walk-throughs, formal observations, etc. We met for over an hour talking about the device. What it will do, what it won’t do, and possible workflows for things they wanted to be able to do. They came ready with their questions, which was fantastic. They came into the meeting with an open mind. In fact it was so open of a mind that by the time I left they had decided to not buy iPads for themselves. They didn’t come in with the “gotta have it” mindset. They came in with the “do we need it?” mindset.

These administrators did however, get a much firmer grasp on the possibilities when placed in students’ hands. I didn’t spend a lot of time showing educational apps, but I did show a few of my favorites. I keep folders of apps for several subject areas on my iPad so I have them organized and ready to go if I need to do a little show and tell.

I’ll admit, I had a pretty good feeling going in that the device wasn’t going to be best for them for what they were wanting to do. It’s not going to replace a laptop. Will it get there some day? Possibly. Do I enjoy having an iPad? Absolutely! This Apple fanboy has his hand proudly raised. However, while it is a great device and offers great potential in the hands of students, I also know that it’s not the device for everyone. I wasn’t there to tell them they couldn’t buy iPads. Even if after meeting with me they still wanted them, that was fine. I would still support them in their use. I was there at that moment to help them make an informed decision. The administrative team decided they did not need them, but they did decide that they’d like to begin some sort of implementation in their building to put them in the hands of students. Not as the end-all be-all device, and no huge instant influx of them, but to add to the variety of tools available to teachers and students.

We get so excited about the next big thing. It’s easy to get excited! I get just as excited as the next person. If you were on Twitter around noon CST on Wednesday there was lots of excitement:

I’ve learned, however, to have a bit more of a critical eye to what the device (doesn’t matter what it is) can do for our students. Isn’t that what we should do with everything? Not be so quick to run out and buy, but to ask, “Does this make learning better for our students?” This isn’t a decision that can be made in one hour, or even one day. Careful planning and thoughtful questioning is important. We have homework we need to do too.

I really appreciated these administrators taking the time to make an informed decision rather than just running out and buying because it’s a hot item right now and then after the fact say, “Now what do we do?” I think the willingness to be open, ask questions, and be informed in the long run can sometimes take us farther in the long run.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.

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Looking Back to Move Forward

“I don’t need to see where I’m going…….I just need to know where I’ve been!”

Name the movie. I’ll give you some wait time….if you said Cars good job! More specifically that line came from Mater the tow truck as he demonstrated his mad backwards driving skills to his buddy Lightning.

As I caught a glimpse of the Daytona 500 tonight, this reminded me of the brainstorm I had for this post. My good friend Steven Anderson will be glad to hear I had a Nascar event on the TV. Anyways, let’s get on with it.

We always talk about “moving forward” and “looking to the future” when conversations arise about making school better. You can take it a step more specific by talking about what we’re having students do with technology, design of learning spaces, or anything really that’s related to education. It is important to do that. Long term goal setting and planning is important work.  Dreaming big is really fun too and can really help getting some creative ideas stirred up.  We should always Keep Moving Forward (coincidentally enough I quoted another Disney movie in that post 🙂 ).

While we do need to have somewhat of an idea where we’re headed, don’t forget to look back on what we’ve done.  Don’t forget to celebrate those things. Teachers some times say to me, “But I only tried one new tech tool in my classroom this year. But I planned these four things and I only did two of them.” So what?!? You achieved something! Look back on this and celebrate where you were when you started and pat yourself on the back for where you are now. Talk with your students about it. Get their feedback! That’s growth! You worked to make learning better for your students! Knowing where we’ve been can be equally as important as having a vision of where we want to go.

I’m meeting with some teachers this coming Friday to continue work they’re doing with various (yes they have choices) ways to use technology to make learning better for students. The first thing we’re doing though, is looking back at their “action plans” they began at the beginning of the school year. To look at what they set out to do, what they’ve accomplished, reflect on its impact in their classrooms, refine as needed, and keep plugging along to accomplish more between now and the end of the year.

Making time to look back, can often be the best plan for help with moving forward.

I welcome your comments. Thank you for reading.

photo credit: Avard Woolaver via photopin cc

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