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Digital curation

Sector Snapshot Getting Started Next Steps Talk and Share

What is digital curation?
Digital curation is the act of finding and selecting grouping and contextualising preserving maintaining archiving and sharing digital content.

Where did digital curation come from?
In the 21st century the term ‘curation’ has developed from a description of the activity of a museum gallery or library to one that includes a wide range of online or digital activities. The term is sometimes used to refer to the preservation and archiving of digital materials. For the purposes of this piece the focus is on curation as a creative process; the bringing together of a tapestry of digital artefacts to construct new meaning or provide alternative perspectives.

The practice of digital curation emerged as a response to the dramatic growth of digital content published on the Internet. This digital overload – a result of participatory web 2.0 culture in which the tools to create and publish information are readily available to all – has generated a tidal wave of content (Rosenbaum 2011). This infographic produced by Intel estimates that a staggering 1.57GB of global IP data is transferred on the Internet every minute. 

The value of the digital curator is his/her ability to scour this content and transform aggregated information into something new – constructing and reconstructing information to create new knowledge and promote/support learning. This emerging role is one of increasing value within news media where sifting through social media and validating the reliability of sources is paramount and in other industries – such as public relations and marketing – where this role is used as a tool to manage content.

In higher education the movement towards personalised learning; the increasing popularity of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach; the increasing numbers of students and faculty who are digitally fluent and have their own personal learning networks (PLN); and a drive towards self-directed learning create an environment in which the skills of personal knowledge management and digital curation become increasingly essential 21st-century competencies.

How does digital curation work?
We are all familiar with the amount of uncontextualised data we receive from a straightforward Google search; a multiplicity of videos websites blogs research papers news media tweets etc. with varying degrees of relevancy for our purposes. Within this context the digital curator is someone who can navigate the complexity of this information and find the relevant material for their purposes; who identifies patterns; groups and contextualises information to create new meaning; and who shares this with a wider audience.

The Digital Curation Centre provide a data curation model.

Watch this video which asks ‘what is curation?’ And discusses the subject as a creative practice within a digital context:


Digital curation is a digital literacy and requires a subset of key skills. Among these is social listening; the process of listening to what is being said across multiple channels and who is saying it. In addition the ability to select the most effective digital tools and to use them fluently enables both the listening process and the sharing of information.

Popular tools include Pearltrees and Pintrest. Users collect resources they would recommend to others. A typical comparison of features is available here.

Curation tools often provide features to search on the users behalf in addition to individual recommendations made directly by the curator. A curator would identify key words or phrases and the curation service may make recommendations for approval by filtering RSS feeds of other providers; this speeds up the process of discovery. Curators then add commentary on the curated item to contextualise it in their collection. Curated collections are often followed by other curators or general users who can take advantage of the filtering that has been done on their behalf.

Examples: curations for web articles

Image curations representing various media types

Mixed media type examples based on a topic

Sector Snapshot

Where is digital curation currently being used and how?
Digital curation is an emergent pedagogy and there are pockets of innovative practice within higher education (HE).

A team from Curtin University’s School of Economics and Finance in Australia have used digital curation as pedagogical tool within their blended learning strategy. Formally assessed digital curation activities were integrated into a ‘flipped’ 13-week course where there were working as course facilitators. Digital curation activities enhanced engagement and improved preparation ahead of guest lectures as evidenced by the quality of questions posed to speakers. Information-sharing and social learning were driven by the curation activities and improvements in critical thinking analytical and research skills were noted. The Curtin team is using the data collected from this initial project to expand the reach of digital curation across the University (Ostashewski et al. 2014).

At Emerson College in Boston a team of researchers is exploring digital curation as a core digital literacy. A sample group of 47 students was asked to curate digital essays using the social platform Storify (Storify is a social network for creating stories and timelines from sites such as twitter and Facebook). These were then analysed with initial results indicating an improvement in reflective learning outcomes (Mihailidis and Cohen 2013).

Are you using digital curation in your practice? We would like to hear how you are using it. Share your practice with us at @HEAtoZ #HEAtoZ. 

What are the potential benefits of digital curation?
Curation is not a new academic method – the selection and framing of information has always been a core component of academic practice and student learning (Mihailidas and Cohen 2013). Digital curation the alignment of curation with digital technology and participatory culture is new and innovative and provides opportunity for critical inquiry a platform to demonstrate interpretative and creative abilities and the potential for both faculty and students to develop digital literacies.

Digital curation can be used to teach about information creation; bias and the framing of sources; analysing and evaluating the credibility of sources; social listening; storytelling; appreciating the diversity of online voices and creative expression online.

There is also great benefit in using the curatorial process as a form of personal knowledge management (PKM). Faculty and students might use PKM methodology to make sense of online material and to guide their choice of tools in capturing and sharing it.  

Getting Started

How do I get started with digital curation?
The Seek Sense Share Framework is an accessible way to start thinking about digital curation from the perspective of personal knowledge mastery and for integrating some of the digital tools available.

  • Seek – How do I find information? How can I be a social listener?
    Finding resources is dominated by the major search engines but many users do not know how to get the best from them. Familiarise yourself with the advanced search options or search expressions to isolate your potential curations.
    Utilise ‘feeds’ of information from sites/communities of interest. Google can be used to create ‘alerts’ of specific queries which are then fed into your email or preferred news reader.

If you want to try some social listening why not use Twitter to follow some interesting conversations. Identify where the conversations are happening and who the key players are. If you find it a challenge to follow multiple people and topic conversations at once use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to organise the conversations for you.

  • Sense – How do I make sense of information? How might I contextualise it?

Make sense of the information you have pulled together by reflecting on it. This might be a short comment in the curation tool you have selected or perhaps write a blog as part of this reflective or sense-making process. Use your blog to make new connections between pieces of information and to contextualise your thoughts. Provide links and attribute your sources. Use a tool like Flipboard to aggregate your information annotate and contextualise it. Ensure your curation has a unique viewpoint to attract followers who seek an evaluated and qualified source.

  • Share – How do I share my knowledge ideas and experiences? How might I foster and use personal learning networks for this purpose?

Share your ideas and resources with your personal learning networks and encourage conversation and debate. Publish your curated collection using an appropriate service. Recommend the RSS feed of these articles so others can consume it in the tool of their choice.  (See

(Based on the Seek-Sense-Share model by Harold Jarche.

Have a go use some of the tools and then start to think about how you might use digital pedagogies to inform your learning design. 

What should I expect if I try this approach?
The activity of digital curation complements blended-learning and flipped-learning approaches and works most seamlessly where there is a Bring your own device (BYOD) strategy in place. There will be a range of digital competencies within any classroom and closing this gap that is teaching digital literacies and meeting topic-specific objectives can be a challenge. The benefits of digital curation activities are realised when they are led and structured by faculty who are digitally fluent and confident that they can integrate digital pedagogies (including digital curation) into course design.

Next Steps

Where can I learn more about digital curation?
Browse curated collections from the example providers given earlier.

Sign up with a leading provider and explore the tools for gathering content and allowing you to filter enhance or qualify it.

Listen to and join the conversation by following this hashtag on Twitter:

 #digitalcuration @brainpickings @Swissmiss

You can also find out more about Digital Curation through the Digital Curation centre

What other topics might I find interesting?

Talk and Share

 #digitalcuration @brainpickings @Swissmiss

The materials published on this page were originally created by the Higher Education Academy.