Lord of Curation Series: Seth Dixon

Our Lord of Curation series presents to you some of the great curators on Scoop.it. They are here to share their insights and advice with you.

Seth Dixon is a professor at Rhode Island College within the Political Science Department and the Department of Educational Studies.  He also serves as the coordinator for the Rhode Island Geography Education Alliance.  Having earned geography degrees at Pennsylvania State University and Brigham Young University, he has researched the cultural and historical geographies of Mexico City and is currently exploring the educational possibilities of teaching geography through social media within the classroom and the networking potential for educators for gathering resources.  He can be followed and reached via Twitter @APHumanGeog.

-What is curation to you?

I provide digital media curation with social bookmarking primarily for geography educators and students on my site ‘Geography Education.’  Since so many are hazy on what exactly geography is, this allows me to demonstrate that it’s much more than just memorizing state capitals.  By providing what I see as the best examples from the internet, I give online geographic materials with my ‘stamp of approval’ on them.  I also provide my commentary on these sources to explain the importance, value or usefulness of these links and connect them to broader intellectual conversations.

Trying to absorb all that the internet has to offer is like drinking from a fire hose.  All internet users need filters to get quality sources amidst the vast quantity available, guideposts on where to find reliable information, and commentary to start evaluating and critiquing sources.  Filters, guideposts and commentary: That’s what curation is.

-What is your best curating secret?

Creating an audience both within the scoop.it community and one from the outside is critical to my main strategy: converting readers into sources.  Just because you’ve created a great website does not guarantee that the intended audience will find it.  Curators need to find what a slice of their target demographic is saying online and engage these members and acknowledge their intellectual contributions.  Curation can be a collaborative project, and thanking people (on Scoop.it, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email listservs) builds good will within an emergent online community—a community where the curator can be seen as a friendly face.  Just about everyone loves recognition and a nice pat on the back.  I love it when a friend on facebook who generally doesn’t care much about geography sends me a link with a caption, “Hey I thought this was something you would like.”  On those posts I always make sure to credit them for finding the material, and thank them publicly.  The digital ‘thank you’ is not just proper etiquette; it can yield a big return on your investment.

-How has curation enriched your social media experience?

Curation on scoop.it has amplified my ability to reach my target audience far more than any of my published articles in academic journals.  I love getting emails and tweets from teachers sharing their classroom experience that came for materials that they found on my site and expanding a network of like-minded colleagues.  This has helped me connect with others in my profession and gain new exciting opportunities from this exposure.  While I won’t completely abandon traditional publishing, digital curation has allowed me to discuss current issues of the day with a broad audience in a way that traditional publishing can’t match.  As a voice on other social media platforms, curation has now given me more credibility, recognition and opportunities.

-You use Scoop.it to talk about your discipline. How do you imagine implementing curation and Scoop.it with your students? ;)

I have my scoop.it site and other forms of social media as an integral part of my college courses at Rhode Island College such as my History and Social Studies Education course.  This is a way for me to disseminate course materials and I envision a day when it will completely replace the textbook in my classroom.  Not only is my classroom more open to the world, but it also brings the world more fully to my students.  The students take ownership of the class and the course material as they collaboratively PRODUCE part of the course text online (not yet, but that’s the vision for the future).  I am working to ensure that my students have the skills, content and platform to become producers of knowledge, with an audience of their own and will re-scoop some of their best work.  Gone are the days when I assign a project with an intended audience of one.

One of my student teachers produced a fantastic scoop.it site for history students with 6 main links for his middle school class. I observed the lesson in question and I was startled; in that computer lab, virtually ALL the students were on this site or the 6 linked sites the ENTIRE class period.  Scoop.it had them engaged in the material, and they were able to access it at their own level and at their own pace.  Scoop.it curation gives educators both structure and flexibility for the 21st century social media classroom.

Our Lord of Curation Series continues next week. Stay tuned!