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teaching

Stop curating content for students

There’s no point in spending any time curating content for students. Think of all the time you spend searching for, filtering, aggregating, and collating content for students. Then the time you need to spend keeping that list updated. Every year there’ll be new resources available, which means you need to start comparing what you have with what is new and pruning the list accordingly. All of this is done with the best of intentions; helping students spend less time on “admin” and more time on learning. But, what if the admin is actually a really important part of the learning?

As far as I can tell, there are two main approaches to curating content for students:

  • You can aggregate information from other people, which is easier and quicker but it means 1) you have to keep up to date with what everyone else is doing, and 2) the information is unlikely to be exactly what your students need.
  • You can create your own content using a variety of other sources, which is arguably better for your students (e.g. it’s context-specific) but it has a significant workload implication.

In both of the above cases, you are responsible for keeping the resources up to date for the foreseeable future. What is the long-term sustainability of this? In 5 years time will you still be aggregating content for your students? This approach – whether you’re finding other people’s content or creating your own –  is only reasonable in a context of information scarcity. When it’s hard to find the appropriate content then it makes sense to point students in the right direction by curating a list. But we’re not in a context of information scarcity anymore and collecting words no longer has the same value as it used to.

I think it’s far more useful to teach students how to find the information they need at the time that it’s needed. This is how you prepare them for the future. This is how they learn what to do when there’s no-one there telling them what to do. It’s the difference between you telling students what is important and teaching them how to make their own choices about what is important. The first (curating content) creates a context where students are dependent, obedient, and under control. The second helps them learn how to be independent and personally empowered. So maybe we should stop finding and presenting the information that (we think) students need, and instead teach them how to find what they need, when they need it.