In conversation at EduTECH earlier this month, Harold Jarche evoked George E. P. Box’s quote that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.
Of course, the purpose of a model is to simplify a complex system so that something purposeful can be done within it. By definition, then, the model can only ever be an approximation of reality; by human error, furthermore, it won’t be as approximate as it could be.
Nevertheless, if we accept the inherent variability in (and fallibility of) the model, we can achieve a much better outcome by using it than by not.
It is with this in mind that I have started thinking about a model – or perhaps more accurately, a framework – for content curation.
I have grown weary of hotchpotch lists of resources that we L&D pro’s tend to cobble together. Sure, they may be thoughtfully filtered and informatively annotated, but a hotchpotch is a hotchpotch. I should know: I’ve used them as a student, I’ve seen my peers create them, and I’ve created them myself.
Surely we can put more design into our curation efforts so that the fruits of our labour are more efficient, meaningful, and effective…?
Consider the trusty instructional design heuristic of Tell Me, Show Me, Let Me, Test Me. As far as heuristics go, I’ve found this to be a good one. It reminds us that transmission is ineffective on its own; learners really need to see the concept in action and give it a go themselves. As the Chinese saying goes, “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” *
* Truisms such as this one are typically met with suspicion from certain quarters of the L&D community, but in this case the research on the comparative efficacies of lectures, worked examples, PBL etc appears to add up.
As a framework for content curation, however, I feel the heuristic doesn’t go far enough. In an age in which learners in the workplace are expected to be more autodidactic than ever before, it needs refurbishment to remain relevant.
So I propose the following dimensions of a new-and-improved framework…
An important piece of content curated for the target audience is one that attracts them to the curation in the first place, and promotes word-of-mouth marketing among their colleagues.
While related to the subject matter, this content need not be “educational” in the traditional sense. Instead, its role is to be funny, fascinating or otherwise engaging enough to pull the learners in.
As learning in the workplace inevitably informalises, the motivation of employees to drive their own development becomes increasingly pivotal to their performance.
Old-school extrinsic motivators (such as attendance rosters and exams) don’t exist in this space, so the curator needs to convince the audience to proceed. Essentially this means putting the topic into context for them, clarifying how it relates to their role, and explaining why they should bother learning it.
This content is new knowledge. I recommend covering only one key concept (or a few at most) to reduce cognitive load. It’s worth remembering that education is not the provision of information; it is sense making.
It’s important for this content to actually teach something. I see far too much curation that waxes lyrical “about” the subject, yet offers nothing practical to be applied on the job. They’re beyond the sales pitch at this stage; give ’em something they can use.
This content demonstrates the “Tell me” content in action, so the employee can see what the right behaviour looks like, and through that make further sense of the concept.
Real-world scenarios are especially powerful.
By putting the content into practice, the learner puts his or her understanding to the test.
Interactive exercises and immersive simulations – with feedback – allow the learner to play, fail and succeed in a safe environment.
This content jumps the knowing-doing gap by helping the learner apply the concepts back on the job.
This is principally achieved via job aids, and perhaps a social forum to facilitate ad hoc Q&A.
This content assists the employee who is keen to learn more by raising their awareness of other learning opportunities. These might explore the concepts in more depth, or introduce other concepts more broadly.
All that extra curation that we would have been tempted to shove under “Tell me” can live here instead.
Everyone is an SME in something, so they have an opportunity to participate in the curation effort. Whether the content they use is self generated or found elsewhere, it is likely to be useful for their colleagues too.
Leverage this opportunity by providing a mechanism by which anyone can contribute better content.
As you have no doubt deduced by now, the overarching theme of my proposed framework is “less is more”. It values quality over quantity.
It may prove useful beyond curation too. For example, it may inform the sequence of an online course. (In such a circumstance, a “Test me” dimension might be inserted after “Let me” to add summative assessment to the formative.)
In any case, it is very much a work in progress. And given it is #wolweek, I ask you… What are your thoughts?
41 thoughts on “A framework for content curation”
This is a really useful framework Ryan. The simplicity of the framework and the language you’ve used is beautiful.
The framework makes it easy to support a shift from courses to resources and from just-in-case to just-in-time. It also reinforces the different needs of workers – learning something new, exploring further, solving problems, preparing/refreshing/performing tasks and recognises the importance of user generated content.
The input to the framework can be ‘Help Me’, i.e. do my job, solve problems, make sense of my environment, respond to challenges, develop and improve etc. The outcomes and impact of the framework can be represented as ‘Enable Me’ and ‘Empower Me’, to perform, to deliver, to succeed, to create.
Thanks Andrew. I’m glad it resonates with contemporary thought leadership in terms of informal learning and performance support.
Help me, Enable me, Empower me… love it!
It may be the @pkmchat this morning on #sketchnote but I’m wondering if the pyramid is the best way of conceptualising your framework. It seems to me that learners are moving in and out of the elements of your framework in less linear ways and that the progression is not often as neat as we’d like it to be.
Your framework looks perhaps more circular to me, with the learner in the middle, gathering the spokes of the wheel (and more than one wheel at a time) as best they can until they finally have the parts needed for the whole.
I’m cautious too, about throwing everything into the autodidactic basket. I’d like to think we learned something from throwing everything into the eLearning basket – that people learn in a variety of ways, and that the role of the L&D person is to discern what is the best way (holding in creative tension the needs of the business, the learner, the trainer, the content, the environment, the context etc!).
Similarly, I’m not sure that we can bring content curation into one framework (though I’m with you in moving on from the hotchpotch approach) but I do agree that we should be intentionally designing content curation as part of the learning process. However, I don’t want it tied down so tight that, like in the absence of a dictionary on my desk, I don’t stop and read content that looks interesting on the way past and may be part of another wheel that i don’t even know I’m building at the moment. #mashedmetaphors.#wolweek
Ryan, I think the steps in this process are great. Very simple language and understandable steps that could be applied to a range of situations or content types.
As Neil, mentioned I’m not sure about the pyramid – certainly not in it’s current state. Visually for me, I see “attract me” at the top of the pyramid which suggests this is the final and most important piece. Perhaps steps or a ladder?
Thanks for your feedback, Neil and Matthew.
I concede that a pyramid is probably not the best visual to use. I admit I cobbled it together at the last minute so I could publish the post! Steps, ladder, spokes… I’ll put some more thought into it and see what I can muster. And if anyone else would like to have a crack at it, be my guest :)
I am no advocate of throwing everything into the autodidactic basket. I have blogged previously my caution against the learnification of education; I believe this mindset to be well intentioned but misguided. Notwithstanding that, I also believe that the informalisation of workplace learning is marching on, and the role of curator will grow in importance as a consequence.
Regarding a single framework, someone on Twitter remarked that it isn’t a prescription and that’s OK. I was glad to read that, because my intent is indeed to offer guidance rather than enforce some kind of regulation. But point taken, and all I can suggest is that all models are wrong, but some are useful :P
Interesting. I agree the I would place the first step, attract me on the first level, like stairs ( remind me of @RachelHappe post in #WOL also http://www.communityroundtable.com/best-practices/thecrs-working-out-loud-framework/ )
Next I like the choice of verbs and what they relate to in a learning hierarchy. very much in the diea of Learning Experience use cases i advocate in the xAPI workgroup on verbs. May reuse your post for this effect.
Now I’m a bit disconcerted because I don’t see the relation with content curation. I think it’s a common misunderstanding between the general meaning of content curation and the one that exists in the L&D realm. Here I see employees, learners agents being mentionned wich are a very special case of content curation. take @cendrinemedia for example, she’s neither an employee, a learner or L&D person yet she’s a professional curator. My 2 cents.
Thanks for your 2 cents, Bruno!
I read Rachel’s post on LinkedIn this morning, but it didn’t occur to me to appropriate her stairs visual.
Indeed, my definition of content curation is the one that exists in the L&D realm, in the corporate sector to boot. I’m not familiar with Cendrine’s work (I shall change that), but your observation reminded me of Helen Blunden’s meeting with a couple of museum curators; apparently they weren’t too pleased with our idea of curation either.
Reblogged this on Tim Boileau, Ph.D..
Wow! Thanks for this informative resource Tim
Hey Ryan, thanks for sharing this model-in-progress, it’s always interesting to see the emergence of thinking …and how it evolves. One of the benefits of blogging! What I like about this is that it includes a lot (all?) of the elements that should be considered in designing useful and relevant learning resources – and as per your objective- extends the original ‘tell me, show me” etc model.
I think it could actually map quite well to the likes of 70:20:10 too – it might be an interesting exercise to try (maybe I will!).
Like others, especially Neil I see these as elements that could be used more flexibly than the model currently implies – and I think depending on the context and implementation, some of these stages could be consolidated (eg attract & motivate), some excluded or re-ordered ( eg if there is sufficient prior knowledge, you could easily skip the ‘tell’ and ‘show’ pieces and go straight to ‘let me’; alternatively jump to ‘let me’ then have a ‘show me’ positioned as feedback).
The other comment I’d make is that although you have pitched this as a model of ‘content curation’, it may not always be ‘content’ that is ‘curated’ to achieve the objective in and of itself. ‘Attract me’ for example, could be achieved through an activity (eg. A competition, expo, open day, event etc) as part of a campaign.
Thanks for commenting, Tanya.
Yes the framework could be applied to other instructional activities beyond content curation. Another example that springs to mind is a blended application, whereby “Attract me” and “Motivate me” content precedes a workshop that covers a “Tell me” presentation, “Show me” demonstration and “Let me” role play, which in turn are supplemented by “Support me”, “Extend me” and “Value me” content.
Indeed the framework could be sliced and diced in many different ways and used flexibly as you suggest.
Great visual and excellent word choice. I teach developmental mathematics at the university level and have been looking for a hierarchy to explain what we do. This may be it! I will share it with my colleagues….I’m sure it will create a robust discussion. Thank you for sharing your vision!
Cheers, Eric. I’d love to hear back about their feedback.
What a great post brother Ryan. I’m Indonesian who are conducting a research about the integration of technology into education. It is very valuable for me to read. Can I explain your ideas in my seminar proposal for my thesis?
Hey brother. Can I re-write your ideas in bahasa Indonesia? I think that they should be informed for educational practitioners in my country who are attracted to e-Learning as they are very valuable.
Go for it, mhmn. Thanks for asking.
In the parallel between “Telling” and “Extending” — How do you see the relationship changing here between someone who is a complete beginner in a subject vs. someone who has reached a more advanced level of proficiency?
Presumably someone who enters this learning pyramid at a higher level of proficiency will need “extending” content curated with a high level of relevance and specificity, but will not be served by the “telling approach.”
Quite right, Peyton. I believe a novice is best served by an expert outlining the framework of the domain, whereas the advanced learner will already have that bedded down.
Having said that, I wonder if a more advanced learner would benefit from a certain aspect of the subject having light shed on it? Or perhaps a challenge being explained, that the learner can then explore and even solve?
Food for thought… thanks for raising it :)
It’s very true – there is always something new that could be presented, even to an advanced learner. It makes one think of the pyramid diagram presented amidst other pyramid diagrams… either in a recursive fashion, or being connected by any number of horizontal links. To me, imagining it in this way adds more validity to your model. Thanks for the response, Ryan-
As always mate your views are insightful and unique. I like this because you are centering it around the individual and the content to be curated and its applicability. At the heart of this for me sits learner motivation and this is my focus at the moment. How has this changed? Interesting.
Also, I am still not convinced on the research on the so called truisms and you know my feelings on this. We are a terrible profession when it comes to scientific discipline. I can pull four articles from last year along this line of research that really do put the sword to that traditional view set. I have included below but there is so much more now being done to realign us to a good foundation and practice, which results in us doing more research and that can only be a good thing. We need to ensure that the models become debatable and re-workable rather than “biblical”.
Having said this, I don’t include your model as part of this subset as I really believe that this can be and is, curated well, learner centered and driven in a lot of ways and can be used in many dimensions. Great stuff Ryan
Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale’s Cone of Experience. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 6-16.
Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). Previous Attempts to Debunk the Mythical Retention Chart and Corrupted Dale’s Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 17-21.
Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Bibliographic Essay on the Corrupted Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 22-31.
Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). Timeline of the Mythical Retention Chart and Corrupted Dale’s Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 31-24.
Thanks Rob, I always appreciate your feedback.
Indeed there are plenty of truisms out there that are unsubstantiated, and so we need to retain a skeptical mindset and refuse to take them as Gospel.
Cheers too for the papers refuting Dale’s Cone of Experience. Coincidentally, another commentator (rather unfairly IMHO) associated my framework with it! He was obviously blindsided by my pyramid visual, which if he had the courtesy to read in the comments, I’m not married to.
Anyway, I love the way you put it: We need to ensure that the models become debatable and re-workable rather than “biblical”. Amen to that!
Interesting framework-the thing that strike me (like you, a content creator) is that while “attract me” used to be critical in a world where content could be “pushed” now is seems “be discoverable by me” or more pragmatically “be Googlable by me” is more important.
I see many workplaces with great content in Intranet/LMS that is ignored because the learners equate search = learn so tend to access external, uncontrolled info rather than the carefully curated material. No easy solution to that with commercially sensitive content though.. Thanks for the framework!
Wow! This is awesome and love it to bits. It really goes a long way in re-inventing training as a self-discovery journey. Learners must own their learning and it has to be desirable by being “attractive” and being value adding driven by the need to learn and discover more. Leaders, managers and mentors have a huge role to play in “motivating” and guide learners in this journey of self-discovery.
Thanks so much for your comments, David and Gweje.
“Be discoverable by me” is certainly a critical factor in the modern workplace. There is something about intranets that make them curiously difficult to search. (At least I’ve found this to be the case on two different platforms.) Having said that, I suspect that if we buried a key deep in the bowels of the intranet that unlocked a $1000 bonus, everyone would find it!
I agree that leaders, managers and mentors have a big role to play in motivating and guiding learners in their otherwise self-directed journey, while the attractiveness of the content sweetens the carrot.
Ryan, great model but I think parts of it are more fitting for communications pieces rather than training. There seems to be a blur and many think that training is needed when in reality communications is all that’s needed.
What I’m saying is that training doesn’t necessarily need to attract, it simply needs to be useful so it’s sort of like that $1000 key, useful! :-)
I’m tending to think along the lines of David though that attract is the wrong thing for training, it’s not communications, it’s not entertainment, it’s training (inherently boring especially if not necessary which is often the case.
So, it needs to be able to be found when needed by the user at their time of need. This is way more important than attracting me and then also helps cover the motivate me part (I’m motivated because I NEED it and I know I need it). If you make it attractive for the sake of making it attractive but it’s still useless to them then you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
So, cool start to adding to the framework but I think as with most frameworks and trying to simplify complex things it’s virtually useless. I do think the framework it’s based off of is flawed to the point of uselessness (and possibly dangerous) though also :-) I guess I’m not a big fan of frameworks in general because they limit the minds thinking into that framework whereas the world is so much more complex than that and each situation is so unique it’s impossibly to classify every situation with ANY framework. A new framework would be required for every situation and if we did that then think of the additional time added to every project lol
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Nick.
I think that communications and training are intertwined in the workplace, and both are distinct from “learning”. Sometimes only one is required (and often the wrong one is picked!), while at other times a combination is called for. I see curation as a facilitation of learning rather than comms or training, but I suppose it depends on the purpose.
I certainly agree that curated content needs to be findable; if it isn’t then the curation effort is for nought. I also agree that the content needs to be useful; and if the learner needs it, then he or she will be motivated to find it. However I caution against assuming that the learner will always know what they need, or that his or her priorities will align with the organisation’s.
An example that springs to mind is information security. This is likely to be of importance to the organisation which would want its employees to use secure USB drives, avoid DropBox etc. It is also likely that a proportion of those employees couldn’t care less because they don’t see it as a part of their core role, they are oblivious to the threat, or they find regular USB drives and DropBox etc so darn convenient. So the organisation then needs to make everything mandatory (yet more compliance training) or else take a different tack. Under such a circumstance, I think attraction has a role to play. Not the sole role, but part of a broader campaign of changing mindsets and behaviours.
I appreciate your POV on models and frameworks, but I do not share it. I think that they can simplify a complex system to an extent that makes it workable. Bearing in mind that any framework including the one I’ve proposed here is inherently limited – and avoiding the rookie mistake of taking it as a prescription – I believe it provides some scaffolding to those who need it. Those who have perfected the art of content curation are free to ignore it; I’m happy for everyone else to cherry-pick it for their own task at hand.
You’re definitely right about being intertwined, I find myself often just going back to communication pieces because training in the sense L&D thinks of it is too much and not needed. I like separating them from learning, they should be. Just like often people call what they’re doing creating “learning” (really!?) or that they need to create this for the “learners” (really? Learners? How about users because to assume they learn is presumptuous at best).
Often times the users priorities don’t align with the organization, but at the same time it’s a mutual disrespect for the other. My org it’s the nurses trying to do what’s best for the patient while the org is doing what’s best for it so the org needs to figure out what they’re doing wrong, not the nurses. Often when there’s a difference in interest going on then there are deeper issues that training won’t help anyway, sort of like Cathy Moore’s procedure for determine if training’s even needed (often no) to solve the problem. So, whether somebody knows or doesn’t know what they need to know, putting it in front of them isn’t the answer often times. It’s an easy answer (frameworks are great for making things seem easy) but it’s not an answer that will solve the problem. A deeper analysis is needed for the unique situation and frameworks can’t help you there, good old fashioned analysis and thinking and talking to people can never be replaced.
In your example, I know all about security but I don’t care, if the org doesn’t give me the tools to make my job easier and invest the money on that side then they’re going to have a problem. No amount of education or training is going to change that. Again, they didn’t do their due diligence and find the root cause of the problem, they just jerked their knees and created a course on it without figuring out what’s really wrong. In some cases they have and that’s great, but when it costs them more money, they don’t, so I’m going to do what lets me get my work done better.
So, no matter how attractive it is, if it doesn’t help me do my job better, it’s a moot point that many won’t listen to (including me).
That you don’t agree with my PoV on models and frameworks is exactly why we blog and your blog is called the eLearning Provocateur :-) It is a rookie mistake to take it as prescriptive but at the same time, easy often wins over thorough or well thought out even for pros which is the reason I think they have no benefit. I liken them to TED talks in that they sound awesome and great and like they could save the world but then reality sets in and you find out it’s more complex than that (and possibly the framework makes it more complex than it really is).
When I see the tell me, show me, involve me I just think wow, hold up there I’m expected to spend an hour at this to “learn” it? Overkill. Unless I’m a doctor, just give me a job aid that helps me while I’m doing it.
Thinking out loud here now, sorry for the blog post inside your comments, maybe I’ll have to transfer some of these thoughts to a blog post.
You are always welcome to post a comprehensive comment, Nick. I appreciate it.
Reflecting on everything you’ve said, I think we actually agree more than we disagree, with the moral of the story being it depends on the context… as it always does.
I’m also a big fan of Cathy Moore’s Is training really the answer? flowchart. Here’s the link for those who haven’t see it.
We usually do agree more than we disagree and I think what you say is accurate, it does depend on context. But then it’s also not as simple as context, there’s also varying degrees of usefulness of a framework within each context so there’s two sliding scales at work here that make it a very slippery slope at best :-)
I saw this post when I was on a holiday, thought “interesting, must give it some thought” and then got on with being busy. I’ve just ended up back here via a link from Harold Jarche’s PKM in 40 Days Course and realised that NOW I have an opportunity to try out this framework (trying things out is how I best make sense of something and figure out what I think about it and how useful it is). Earlier this year my team ran a guided social learning program called ‘Work, Connect and Learn’ which aimed to develop skills and behaviour for people to participate in internal Communities of Practice. Recently some of the participants have said “Oh! Now I get it…. can you run it again for us so I can apply it this time.” Rather than run the whole program again for previous participants we’re going to curate key content (which includes external online resources as well as content we created specifically for the program). We may even be able to curate it in a way that both first timers and ‘returning’ users could use it. Will let you know how the framework works for us.
Like David I think ‘Discover Me’ is an important addition or adjustment to one of the existing elements. I’ll also play around with the visual presentation of the model once I start applying it and see if there is a different representation that reflects my use of it.
How have you used it Ryan?
That’s wonderful Michelle, I hope the framework proves helpful. Please do keep me posted on your experience with it.
An example of how I’ve used it is in curating resources to help our people develop our six “Organisational Capabilities”. I have developed a collaboration site on the corporate intranet which splits out the capabilities and sets out the following for each:
• An engaging video (Attract me)
• A story told by a real employee explaining how they have implemented the capability on the job (Motivate me)
• A piece of content (Tell me)
• A downloadable job aid related to that content (Support me)
• Links to other resources (Extend me)
• A discussion forum with an explicit invitation to share more resources (Value me)
You’ll notice I have a couple missing – Show me and Let me. I have real-world scenarios in the pipeline for the former, and a desire (but perhaps not yet the likelihood) to create branched simulations for the latter.
In terms of Discover me, I’ve been mindful of tagging the site properly so that it can be found by the intranet’s search facility, and I promote it regularly to keep it top of mind.
Thanks for that example Ryan – it’s useful to see how you’ve applied the framework.
Strange how the same post leads to different ideas after 3 months and many interactions.
From the point of view of the curator I see your different stages like buckets where findings could be placed. Technically (sorry coder in me talking) it could be like 7 buttons to choose for keeping something. Great benefits: it’s fast (no typing, searching in lists), it divides the curation output by 7 enabling a more focus reuse and it adds a “learnabiliy” value, a purpose for the curation. You both curate and say why you do it. See something of value for people interested to dig further? place it in the “extend me” basket. See something well written, covering well a topic put in “tell me”. Much more articulated than just a single stream of findings.
The visual could then be very different from curator point of view and learner point of view. Buckets for the curator, For the learner: An accordion with a memory of the last state sounds good enough. Every time you go back you would have your attention into the next group of curated items.
Love it, Bruno!
In my view, the self-motivation is (should be) the driving force in learning. If it doesn’t exist, everything else is just useless.
Yes, I agree. However I think L&D has a role in pointing out what is important to learn, and cultivating the motivation to learn it.
Hello Ryan, thanks for sharing your insight and ideas. I found them useful and thought-provoking.
I myself did find some resistance to the idea of “Attracting” (pull) students to topics to be learned. In my view it is the student who should be the in the drivers’ seat when it comes to selecting what he wants to learn.
Teachers / educators may support this process by providing multiple showcases, galleries, collections and stories about the many possible discovery roads available for study, if not by altogether engaging the students in enlisting and expanding a directory of them.
P.S.: I humbly invite you to check out this article, as I think we could possibly stimulate and energize each other in further exploring this topic: https://medium.com/content-curation-official-guide/best-way-to-learn-any-subject-curation-7a18dfee6efa#.mxfmnn13d
Thanks for your comment, Robin.
Ah yes, my context for the “Attract me” dimension is the informalisation of workplace learning. Indeed I am an advocate of informalising learning in the workplace, but something we must bear in mind is that it increases our reliance on the motivation of the employee to learn. Hence, I see we L&D folks needing to compete for our colleague’s attention, among everything else they are expected to do.
Given your use of the terms “teacher” and “student”, I am wondering if you are looking at this through the lens of K12 or higher education? In this sense I appreciate the role of the educator as you describe it as opening up the possible discovery roads available for study. On the other side of the coin, if we expect the student to be the in the driver’s seat when it comes to selecting what he or she wants to learn, how confident are we that they know what it is that should be learned? I’m harking back to “The learnification of education” https://goo.gl/NCwa8I
More food for thought, so thank you! And I’ll check out your article :)
‘all models are wrong, but some are useful’ Love it! Thanks for the post, Ryan. I’d be keen to see how your visual has evolved, but the context for each ‘step’ is insightful and indeed useful. As are some comments here.
That quote is a ripper. It has stuck with me ever since Harold shared it.
While my visual has not evolved, I’m pleased to report that I have used the framework extensively since proposing it.