The Best Curator in the Room

by | May 1, 2017 | Transforming Education | 0 comments

“To select, organize, and present, typically using professional or expert knowledge.” That’s Google’s definition of the word curate–a 14th century term that comes from the Latin word curare, which means to care. And who really does?

Well, teachers do. For centuries, teachers have taken great care to search and select the right materials, organize the information into usable units, and present the information in a captivating way so as to provide students with access. We love the activities we’ve created and the learning experiences we’ve procured for students. We’re the experts, right? We are the professionals. And long ago, we stopped counting the hours we’ve spent outside of school time because no one’s going to sympathize with us anyways. A non-teacher couldn’t possibly understand. We’re quite proud of all the information we know and all the hard work we do no matter what anyone thinks. We’re the best curators in the room…

But it’s not our job



“There’s a very big difference between access to information and school. They used to be the same thing. Information is there online to anyone of the billion people who have access to the Internet.” (Seth Godin)

The ISTE Standards for Students (2016) suggest, among other things, that students need to be builders of their own knowledge. They need to be able to “critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.” In other words, their role in our classrooms needs to be that of constructors, artifact creators, learning experience engineers… curators of the billions of web resources and available artifacts of information strewn throughout cyberspace. All the stuff we used to think we had to do. But we don’t any longer.

In fact, I would argue that in our efforts at self-validation–in our needing to be the expert–we’re doing our students a disservice. Oh, we’re needed, without a doubt–just not for the same things any more. We still need to be experts in our content. We still need to have the discernment to know what materials are good and what are not. But our role has changed.

“A teacher doesn’t need to give answers anymore. Answers are everywhere. A teacher’s job is to lead students to ask the right questions.” (Sugata Mitra)

A teacher’s job is to lead students to be good curators of the wealth of information to which they have access. The teacher’s job is to create conditions, not content. To empower students to be critical, collect, create, cut out, customize… not merely consume.

In many ways, our role has become more difficult. It takes more high level thinking on our part, more dreaming, more examining of possibilities. But it also frees us from some of the more mundane tasks of the classroom and pressure of “finding the right lessons”. It allows us to share in the learning process with kids. It calls us to help steer rather than drag students along. And it releases us from feeling like we have to be the hardest working person in the classroom.

We don’t have to be the best curators in the room. And for the sake of our kids and our society, we’d better not be the only curator in the room.