Module 2: Teaching Content Curation to Empower Students

I have found that most if not all intermediate elementary students really lack the skills to check the credibility of sources derived from the internet. Typically students will type a search term into a search engine, like Google and are then faced with millions of results. Here is a great example of a type of natural disaster my students recently researched for a presentation when getting over 83 million results, it’s not surprising that students may feel overwhelmed. According to Kingsly & Tancock (2013) students “when faced with so many results to their first attempts at searching, can quickly become overwhelmed.” (p. 392) “They simply shut down and pursue whatever information is easiest to retrieve” (Kingsly & Tancock, 2013, p. 392). Of course, search results can be narrowed down in a number of ways, one being instructing students on how to best search for information that will pertain to them and their topic.

Teaching students to evaluate sources and to think critically about the information they retrieve from the internet is often one of those skills that is assumed to be built into a curriculum. However, I’m convinced that it may not receive enough attention from teachers to prepare students to be successful curators of digital information in the information rich environment in which we all now live. So, I started gathering data and researching questions I had around ISTE student standard 3 to begin to explore how to develop some of those skills in my students. ISTE 3 Knowledge Constructor that says, “Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experience for themselves and others” (ISTE 2016). I found that not surprisingly there is a lot of information and there are a lot of tools out there to help us be better content curators. Many of these tools would probably work to allow us to teach the same skill to students as well.

In my research into ISTE student standard 3 I specifically wanted to find out, how could I begin to teach intermediate elementary students to begin to curate information to evaluate the accuracy, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources to help them generate meaningful connections or conclusions? I wondered what would be an a appropriate entry point for this critical skill with students whose understanding of digital literacy, digital citizenship and general competencies with technology are just developing. I did find some helpful ideas and frameworks for beginning to develop the media literacy skills of elementary students. One example is the set of core competencies that Henry Jenkins identifies that “young people should acquire if they are to be full, active, creative and ethical participants in this emerging participatory culture” (Fromm & Mihailidis, 2014, p. 94-95).  The skills that Jenkins includes were probably not as necessary before the proliferation of digital media. It seems to me that developers of curriculum are still trying to figure out how to fit all of these skills into their products. As a teacher I can’t wait, I need to begin teaching these skills to students now. They are necessary to develop digital citizenship. Those skills are sort of like a guide for why curation needs to be taught to students. Fromm & Mihailidis (2014) argue that today’s digital citizens must be,

“well-informed citizens in both understanding information and in their ability to evaluate and analyze what they are seeing (Swiggum, 2008, p. 16), they muse also centralize the user within this experience. Curation does exactly this, requiring with almost every media interaction the application of a broad range of media literacy skills Jenkins outlines” (p. 95-96).

So curation is really a means to develop the digital literacies that students will need in their lives.

Okay so curation is useful for students, now how can I begin to teach it? Luckily the two sources I found helped me to answer that question. First I found that just like good teaching in all subjects, the skills and thinking should be modeled by teachers before students are in put in front of a computer screen in order to help students develop online competencies. I often find myself thinking that students already know how to research. As soon as we begin a research project, they begin asking, can I look this up on the internet? Or they say, there is no information on my topic in the book I have, please let me look on the internet.

I found in my research that modeling would help students to achieve better results in their own research. In Kingsley and Tancock (2013) the author suggest that teacher who is guiding a class in researching about famous Americans, would model asking questions about the famous American before beginning to research. The teacher would be guiding students to “ask question in the categories of “When, where, and how did this person live?” and “Why is this person important?”” (p. 392). After students have gathered information from their questions they can begin to triangulate their data. For my middle elementary age students it seems manageable to teach them to use Wikipedia. “For nearly every topic there will also be a Wikipedia page that students can use to verify basic information” (Kingsley & Tancock, 2013, p. 395). Next it would be useful to show students some basic ways to determine author’s credentials again Kingsley & Tancock (2013) suggest some very manageable ways to do that. First, model how to look for information under a “contact” button, or and “about us” link (p. 395). The last suggestion is to screen for content bias simply based on website suffixes or other data found on the website. The article suggested potential biases for .com websites being commercially motivated or that .gov websites may be maintained to reflect the views of a certain political party. The authors also suggested using a website’s mission, objective or purpose to check for the goal of certain websites. Finally teaching students to evaluate to check for personal opinion as opposed to information linked to references that demonstrate academic or legitimate organizations is the last suggestion for how to screen for content bias. (Kingsley & Tancock, 2013, p. 395-396)

Now that I’ve talked about how students can evaluate the accuracy, credibility and relevance of information I want to talk about some other way students might curate information and why it will be beneficial to them going forward. Fromm & Mihailidis (2014) “offer four key competencies for developing a critical approach to curation in digital culture.” The competencies are critique, contribute, collaborate, and create. (p. 97). I spent time above discussing how students can critique the information they discover online, and discussed how a teacher could assist in teaching that critiquing process. Now I want to look at how to scaffold students to explore the other three competencies. To teach students to contribute we can use social media as a model. To be media literate students have to be taught to “understand that their contributions to public spaces as helping to define narratives, dialog, and topics of interest for a large group (Fromm & Mihailidis, 2014, p.99). As an elementary teacher I’m not quite sure how to incorporate social media into my classroom to help students understand how to contribute. I think there are some tools like SeeSaw that could allow me to begin this teaching, but I would need to be very deliberate in showing how the microcosm of our classroom app based social media account relates to the larger social media networks used outside the classroom. I could also create a class Twitter account and use that to connect with other elementary classrooms, but I think for my age group of students contribution would be more teacher directed. Collaboration is the next competency. Again I feel limited by the age of my students. This seems like the next step to establish the meaningful connections ISTE 3c discusses. In an elementary classroom maybe after completing a research project students get in touch with an expert in that field and share their ideas or suggestions for how to approach a particular problem would be one way to collaborate. Jenkins calls the shift from contribution to an active form of collaboration “the nexus of participation and media culture” (Fromm & Mihailidis, 2014, p. 99). So no doubt this is an important skill, but I’m still left wondering how exactly to provide authentic experiences for collaboration to my students. Finally they should create, “the media literate curator must be able to create context to build a sense of connectedness and place in digital culture” (Fromm & Mihailidis, 2014, p. 99). Again as an elementary educator I think that what my students create may differ from secondary students, but I think the important thing is giving them the opportunity to create and then to add what they have created to the voices online. I think that if I begin to teach students these critical skills they will begin to develop into skilled curators of digital media which will allow them to be “more analytical, participatory, engaged, and interactive youth in both online and offline life (Fromm & Mihailidis, 2014, p. 96).


Fromm, M.E., & Mihailidis, P. (2014). Scaffolding curation: Developing digital competencies in media literacy education. In M. Stocchetti (Ed.), Media and education in the digital age: Concepts, assessments, subversions (pp. 91-101). Frankfurt, DE: Peter Lang.

2016 ISTE Standards for Students, (2016). ISTE International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from

Kingsley, T. & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet inquiry: Fundamental competencies for online comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389–399. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1223

Comments are closed.