For the past month or so I’ve been participating in this small scale action research project using the scoop.it! curation tool. I’ve been writing some reflections on the process on the project wiki and thought I’d add them here too.
Reflection – 19th February 2012
When I first signed up for scoop.it (before this project) I had a cursory glance at it and didn’t see much advantage over other bookmarking sites. Having begun to make a bit of an effort at curating some topics of interest, I’m beginning to see how it works and to get some idea of the potential it could offer. The visual attractiveness of the pages compared with a list of links probably shouldn’t be underestimated, but perhaps could also be a problem in that it may lead to links that happen to have an attractive image gaining undue prominence.
So far, my ‘curation’ has been on a pretty ad-hoc basis, with the topics chosen purely on the basis of a combination of what happens to be at the forefront of my mind at the moment, and ideas that have cropped up incidentally: a couple of the topics have been created specifically as a result of spotting something I wanted to keep (typically from a link on twitter).
Adding the scoop.it bookmarklet to my iphone has been very useful as I do a lot of my checking of Google-reader 7 Twitter etc in snatched moments on the fly.
A small niggle has been that the bookmarklet (whether mobile or on PC) does not allow you to directly add pdf pages. Either you need to add the page that the pdf you want is linked from, or add the URL of the PDF manually.
Issues I need to address further:
- Tagging: I’m not sure my topic tags have been much good: certainly nearly all the suggested items have not been particularly relevant to the topics I had in mind. It seems to be that sources are suggested based on any tag term rather than being strongly weighted towards containing several of the terms. So, for example, my ‘Internet Access’ topic includes the tag ‘blocking’ and I found sources suggested from sports sites about blocking in American football. I could do with knowing more about how the tagging system works, and how sources are suggested from that.
- I need to give some thought to the collaborative potential. I haven’t yet invited anyone to co-curate a topic, and I’d also like to get students involved in curating topics.
- Titles and descriptions of topics could also probably do with a little more thought than I’ve given them. I’ve also noticed that you can set the URL of the topic. I guess it’s fairly important to get this stuff as right as possible at an early stage, otherwise there is the danger that links to and searches on the topic could be ‘broken’ if too much tinkering is done with the parameters of a topic once it’s set up.
Most of my topics have grown steadily over the past week or so as I’ve added material I’ve come across. The issues I mentioned previously will doubtless be ongoing ones, so I’ll refer to them again:
- I’ve read a little more about tagging, but still haven’t done much about it. I read a help forum topic that suggested using tags to organise sub-categories of material within a topic. I’ve also refined to some extent the parameters for suggested sources, mainly by removing suggestions for a single tag term. However, I’m still finding that the overwhelming majority of suggested links are not appropriate. Most of the links I add have come from google searchesl or twitter/blogs.
- I’ve invited a couple of co-curators who’ve shown an interest in my topics, but they haven’t added anything yet. I think a more pro-active approach will be needed to get others involved, and it will only happen if there is a genuine shared use for the information. In the next week or two I’m going to set up a specific co-curation exercise with one or more of my sixth-form classes to explore the potential of the scoop.it education account more explicitly.
- I think the titles of the topics I’ve got so far are not bad. However, looking ahead at the possibility of scoop.it becoming a key teaching and learning resource I would perhaps want to connect some of them more explicitly to particular courses, as I have done with the FM2 Film Studies topics I’ve created. This does however bring me to some of the concerns I have about scoop.it, which I will mention next.
- Capacity. The increase for education accounts in the number of topics that can be created to 20 is obviously welcome, and at the moment I only have 7 topics. However, if I wanted to use this as a systematic resource curation tool to be used on an ongoing basis I could easily exceed that number very quickly. On an English Literature course I might want at least a separate topic for each book studied (and perhaps multiple topics, eg. one on the author, one on critical responses, one on social & historical context etc). For English Language, I might want topics on different theories of language acquisition, Some kind of ‘nesting’ of topics and sub-topics, and the ability to easily share resources across multiple topics simultaneously would be useful here. As noted above, tagging could be part of that solution, but only part, I think.
- Cost. The offer of an extended free trial for this project is also welcome, and $6.99 may not seem a huge amount to continue the subscription. However, I would almost certainly have to pay that out of my own pocket: my school is not set up to allow credit card payments. The cost of online services and apps etc is an interesting area. I think people (and I include myself) tend to balk at the idea of paying relatively trivial sums that we wouldn’t think twice about paying for physical goods such as text books, or services directly from people. Nevertheless, something is a lot more nothing and the added value of a service like scoop.it needs to be clear and significant compared with free alternatives.
- Longevity. Having got an email last week about the closure of amplify.com, and having seen other tools come and go, the question of whether scoop.it will survive long term is an inevitable one, and if not, what happens to the time and effort that has gone into curating the topics hosted there?
- Portability. Even assuming that it is viable long-term, I wouldn’t want the resources I’d curated to be available only in a single place (whether that be scoop.it or anywhere else). I had thought I’d found a solution in using the RSS feed for each topic, which can then be imported into a Google spreadsheet, thus. However, the URL given is to the scoop.it post, not the original source.
- The ‘social’ aspect of scoop.it are already proving their worth as I beginning to discover other worthwhile topics to follow from other users and to re-scoop their sources. I’ve also found that a number of my sources have been re-scooped, and shared when I have autoposted on Twitter. I noticed that Dr Jane Setter, Senior Lecturer in Phonetics at Reading University had retweeted a couple of my sources so I invited her to be a co-curator of my ‘Researching Language’ topic. She has signed up to be my first (and so far only!) co-curator, though she has yet to scoop any sources. A few days ago a teacher in South West England tweeted: “@**AntHeald** I have just got my media students to bookmark your scoop it page!”, and it is obviously satisfying to find that something I’m spending a little time is having value beyond my own immediate context.
- The process of using scoop.it as part of this action research project is prompting careful reflection that I might not otherwise make time for, and also causing me to consider other practices. But for this I wouldn’t have learned how to use the ‘importfeed’ function in Google spreadsheets, and it’s also caused me to return to Diigo to look again at the annotation and collaboration tools available there which I knew something about but have never got round to exploring thoroughly.
- I have been able to use the topics on e-safety & internet in schools in the course of a meeting with our school systems manager as we discussed ways of moving forward with more extensive and innovative uses of learning technology. I found the ‘magazine’ style layout particularly useful when giving an overview of my thinking on the subject and , and it was then easy to share the resources with him after the meeting in the form of a couple of single links.