Correction: Jeffrey Heil, not Alec Cuoros, led the #etmooc session on social curation.
During a recent workshop on using Instructure’s Canvas, we were discussing the web services that you can integrate with your account – things like Google Docs, Twitter, Delicious and Diigo. In looking at the list of possible integrations, one attendee asked, “What’s Delicious?” to which I replied, “It’s a lot like Pinterest.” And she knew exactly what I meant.
In ed tech it often feels like we are touting technologies our users have never heard of and aren’t interested in using, sometimes because they can’t see how it applies to their needs, but more often because they already have something that is good enough. The new technology (though Delicious is hardly new) may have better features, a cleaner interface, and the usual slew of advantages. But the old one meets their needs, so why change for the sake of changing?
With regard to “social” technologies, there is also the issue of rebuilding existing networks. I just finished watching the recording of Jeffrey Heil’s Introduction to Social Curation for #etmooc in which participants were singing the praises of Diigo and other social bookmarking tools. I am in theory a fan of social bookmarking. But in practice, not so much.
The problem stems from the lack of community in those tools. Yes, they are social. But no one I know actually uses them. I took a graduate course in which we used Diigo, and it was the first time I had ever heard of the tool. It was a fantastic tool, and a great resource for that course initially. I even went so far as to install the Diigo toolbar in my browser and the app on my phone. But over the course of the semester, I posted articles and websites less and less frequently, and I haven’t logged into that account since the course ended in May 2012.
I have no network on the site. When it comes to sharing information and articles, my friends use Facebook and Google+, and my colleagues use Twitter and Google+. Because these meet our basic needs for sharing. And because these are sites that we visit on a daily basis.
Even within the course that used Diigo, once I was involved in a group project we used our course wiki and discussion forums to share links to articles. It allowed for the commentary of “curation” while using a space we were already invested in.
And that is the key to the problem. We have a social website overload. I can’t even stay on top of the three social sites I use daily, and I’ve recently taken up Pinterest as well. I don’t need a fifth or sixth or tenth site to visit on top of those, and neither do our users.
Yes, there is the argument that curated bookmark collections are specialized, so someone wouldn’t need to visit them on a daily basis. They just need to go there when they are doing specific research. But you can do that in Facebook Groups through Files, in Google+ Communities through the specific topics, by having a special hashtag on Twitter. So why not use those services instead? Why not bring the social bookmarks to my social networks, rather than try to direct people to a website they’ve never heard of?
This isn’t a radical idea. I’ve known faculty who use Facebook Groups as their LMS and it has worked quite well. Some of the Groups and Communities that I participate in already have annotated resource lists. For a while Canvas sent me a Twitter dm every time someone sent me a message via the LMS, and it also has the option to send messages and notifications via Facebook. You can even use these tools to create educational content. The concept of using social networking sites for educational purposes is out there, and it has amazing potential.
Pinterest is the one genuinely popular social bookmarking/curation tool that I am aware of. And it is fantastic. I get so many crafting ideas from it. And it has a great deal of potential because you can do highly specialized boards, as Jeffrey mentioned. But even though I use it, most of the people I know don’t. At most they browse through it for recipes and project ideas, but they don’t post things. So even there, I could broadcast out resources I think are interesting and relevant to LMSs, to innovative teaching, to designing Prezis. But there would be no reciprocation. I would much rather forgo the nifty features and reach my audience where they are.