How can teachers use curation to help their students build digital literacy skills and practice higher-order thinking?
Curation Without Higher-Order Thinking = Collection
In a digital age where information is produced, accessed, and shared in abundance, it is essential that our students are equipped with the necessary skills to effectively curate. While exploring ISTE Student Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor, I was left thinking about what it might look like for teachers to use curation to build digital literacy skills and practice higher-order thinking. As I began to explore this question more, I immediately thought about Bloom’s Taxonomy and higher-order thinking, and how often it is discussed in the world of education. I thought about how while as educators our focus is to provide our students with opportunities to think critically and demonstrate higher-order thinking, at times our performance tasks fall short. Curation provides educators a critical opportunity for higher-order thinking to be put into practice. What’s important though is that students are not merely collecting resources, but instead engaging in experiences that ask them to evaluate, analyze, and demonstrate their understanding. As Kiran Jupudi (2018) explains:
“Curation stimulates higher order thinking, by making students dig deeper into the collection of data, finding ways to not just apply it in current scenarios, but also retain and remember it for further application in real life, any time in the future. Collection ends with gathering information, whereas curation begins with it” (n.p.).
So, it is our responsibility as educators to make sure we are providing students with performance tasks that ask more of them than simply collecting resources. This means thinking intentionally about the purpose of a learning objective, and also pushes educators to think about how they can develop learning opportunities for their students to demonstrate their knowledge at higher levels of thinking.
So Where to Begin?
Clearly Define Higher-Order Thinking Levels
In order for our students to be able to effectively demonstrate their knowledge at higher-order thinking levels, it is important that we clearly define these levels for them. By defining higher-order thinking levels, teaching connected vocabulary, and modeling the thinking process at each level, we are able to better support our students in demonstrating their learning. Teaching students what level of higher-order thinking they are working on and demonstrating skills in, especially for our youngest learners, is extremely important. Robyn Collins (2014) emphasizes that, “For example, by using a common language, students can recognise the skill they are exercising and the level of complexity of a question. When they see words like ‘define’, ‘recognise’, ‘recall’, ‘identify’, ‘label’, ‘understand’, ‘examine’, or ‘collect’, they know they are being asked to recall facts and demonstrate their knowledge of content” (n.p.). This clearly defined vocabulary helps students to understand which level of higher-order thinking they are demonstrating knowledge of and holds educators accountable for making sure their students are being assessed at a variety of complexities of understanding. The figure below helps teachers to continue to think about what higher-order thinking looks with digital technology. Not only does this figure have a modified version of Bloom’s original taxonomy, but it also has an extended digital taxonomy which adds on an additional level of sharing information.
Provide Opportunities for Discussion & Questioning
Throughout my research, I continued to think about what the practice of curation through higher-order thinking skills looks like for my students in a primary education classroom. I believe that one of the most important components of this practice is to provide students with a variety of opportunities to engage in discussion and questioning. As students curate resources online, it is essential that they are also discussing and asking questions about these resources with their peers. Debra Peterson (2019) states that, “To elicit higher-order responses, the teachers in this study structured their classroom cultures and environments so that students had multiple opportunities each day to talk and write with peers as they collaboratively constructed meaning about texts” (p. 50). In facilitating curation through higher-order thinking, it is helpful to begin by practicing discussion and questioning in one of the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, like knowledge or comprehension of the content. For students, this could look like gathering a list of resources connected to a content area and sharing out this information with their peers. Through time and practice, this can then be connected to higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, by analyzing and synthesizing multiple digital resources.
When having students practice curation to demonstrate higher-order thinking, especially until students build a solid understanding of what this looks like, it is important to scaffold. In teaching, educators are often pressed to complete a lesson and move on to the next concept. In demonstrating higher-order thinking through curation, it is better to go slow and start scaffolding lower-order thinking skills to help students build confidence and understanding of the curation process. Through continued practice, teachers can scaffold new avenues levels of curation and present them with tasks that require higher-order thinking skills. Katie Harris helps to provide more of a scaffolded approach for using curation in the classroom and how to scale back some of the work initially. Harris (2017) explains that, “Tharp preselected the resources from the Smithsonian Learning Lab — so for this first round of curation, students were not getting bogged down in the search process, but rather focused on selection” (n.p.). While the curation process and scaffolding it over time at each higher-order thinking level can seem tedious, these learning opportunities are vital for our students. Through continued scaffolded curation, students are able to build the digital literacy skills necessary to become autonomous in this process and grow in their ability to think critically.
Be Intentional with Curation Tasks & Tools
When it comes to developing curation activities that promote higher-order thinking, being intentional in this decision-making can make all the difference. Deciding which higher-order thinking skill(s) students should demonstrate will help to determine which curation tasks will be most beneficial. In her blog post on To Boost Higher-Order Thinking, Try Curation, Jennifer Gonzalez outlines some wonderful example curation tasks for teachers to explore. Not only do these curation examples help teachers to think about what curation could look like in their classroom, but they also highlight which level of Bloom’s Taxonomy the task is assessing students. Additionally, Naomi Timperley shares several useful digital curation tools for educators to explore in her blog post Why is Digital Curation so Important for Educators in 2018?. I believe that curation is developed into meaningful learning experiences for students when tasks are intentionally designed for students to engage in them through critical analysis, creativity, and communication. In my own teaching, this intentionality starts for me with having students be a part of the curation process. Too often I am the one pre-curating resource for my students in their research. Promoting higher-order thinking begins with me scaffolding and providing opportunities for my students to curate a list of resources and demonstrate their knowledge and comprehension of how these resources connect with a focus topic. From there I can continue to design curation tasks that require my students to design, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize as part of the curation process. With intentionality, curation is an incredible avenue for promoting higher-order thinking in students.
If you have other ways you can using curation to promote higher-order thinking for your students, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below!
Collins, R. (2014). Skills for the 21st Century: teaching higher-order thinking. Curriculum & Leadership Journal, 12(14). Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/teaching_higher_order_thinking,37431.html?issueID=12910
Harris, K. (2017, May 23). Teach students to curate a project ‘playlist’ with primary-source documents. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/In-the-classroom/Teach-students-to-curate-a-project-‘playlist’-with-primary-source-documents
ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Jupudi, K. (2019, January 25). Higher-Order Thinking Through Curation. Retrieved from https://blog.edsense.in/higher-order-thinking-through-curation/
Peterson, D. S. (2019). Engaging elementary students in higher order talk and writing about text. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 19(1), 34–54. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798417690918
Timperley, N. (2018, August 2). Why is Digital Curation so Important for Educators in 2018? Retrieved from https://www.emergingedtech.com/2018/08/why-is-digital-curation-so-important-for-educators/
To Boost Higher-Order Thinking, Try Curation. (2019, September 8). Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/curation/