Sunday, March 30, 2014

Teachers as Curators of Knowledge

Have you ever been in an art museum? You go through hallways of original artworks created by many different creative minds, learning about each one as you walk by. The museum did not paint or create those works of art, but rather, just acquired, checked and managed them so that they have the potential to add value to their place. More often than not, you would need a tour guide to walk you through and facilitate the whole experience. In the absence of a tour guide, you're either on your own, or you chat with other people looking at the same artwork. Sometimes, you get the wrong information or different opinions about the artwork talking with people.

Now let us look at an online scenario. We know that on Facebook, Twitter or any other popular social network you use on a daily basis, the only real original content that are being posted everyday are status updates and personal photos or videos. Most of the time, we see posts pasted or shared from other sources such as news sites, video sharing sites such as YouTube, blogs, or public websites. So what we see everyday on our news feeds are unoriginal content captured from originally created sources. Just like the example we used earlier,  the museum creates the environment to showcase unoriginal works of art coming from different and original painters or sculptors. Online, we see comments and likes of other people, in order to get more information about a certain shared topic. Sometimes, a topic becomes true to someone because some friend said so, a celebrity shared it or it garnered more than a thousand likes. There is no "tour guide" that simulates any type of learning environment or to tell you whether a particular post is right, wrong, true or false. 

These two examples illustrate how the web is now. A large collection of original content made by different people, being accessed by millions around the world. It's so easy to get lost in the vast sea of information.
You are able to process this information by chatting with other people, or reading their comments about certain topics. Who, therefore, can synthesize all this chatter just like how a tour guide?

This is where the teacher comes in. He is the curator and the tour guide rolled into one. An online teacher must know how to select, facilitate and manage all the content that is being posted online, and how to effectively use them for his students. He carefully manages the content and conversations to make sure that something false doesn't become true.  In the absence of content, or the skills needed to create engaging online lessons, the free resource that the web offers becomes a very powerful tool.

In museums worldwide, whether large or small, curators may have the responsibility of acquiring and caring for available artworks and may also have the responsibility of being subject matter specialists, deciding on the potential of particular pieces. The modern day teacher, in a way, becomes a curator of knowledge. Carefully sifting, acquiring and updating content that is already available that fits his instructional design.

It may not be a coincidence that in Scotland, the meaning of curator is guardian of a child.

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