In a way, curation moved closer to its original meaning. Before the pandemic, most people used “curate” to mean “collect thematically similar resources.” The association dilutes the word. Curation is much more than simple aggregation. The Latin root of curation is based on the idea of “care.”
The world is full of information. Better curation teaches students skills they can use now and in the future. But as many have argued, information is not knowledge. Curating topics for students demonstrates how to organize and synthesize information, then determine its validity. A local teacher in Fairfax, Virginia virtually introduced a new topic to her learners each day through careful curation based on their interests and learning goals. If teachers continue to adopt improved curation techniques, they can start co-creating collections with students. By practicing curation, students will develop skills that will be valuable for the rest of their lives.
Going anywhere from home
Even as we followed stay-at-home orders or limited travel, our worlds opened. Family video chats, watching live streams of theater and musical performances, and playing online games with friends proved our location didn’t have to be a barrier.
For educators in schools and museums, digital tools enabled us to go anywhere from home.
The use of innovative technologies has helped the Smithsonian bring parts of our collections and our renowned content experts to classrooms and kitchen tables across the country. Interactive resources like Secrets of the Sea and Journey Through an Exploded Star have provided ways for educators to engage students in distance learning that both meet the needs of the academic standards they need to teach and pique student interest.
As schools go back to in-person learning on a more consistent basis, let’s keep these digital tools in place. Technology was vital to maintaining a connection with many students. Now it can help close the opportunity gap for students. That means taking what we learned about the power of technology and using it to advocate for:
- Equal access to equipment and high-quality internet connection;
- Improved digital readiness of classrooms, educators, and students; and
- Better technology coaching and professional development for teachers.
Continuing to build on the progress we’ve seen will help close current gaps so that students, no matter where they live, can connect to role models and rich, academic content.
From high touch to high tech
As we listened to educators and caregivers across the country, museum educators responded to the need for a suite of educational resources that spanned “high touch” and “high tech.”
High-touch education resources offer learners hands-on experiences that don’t require a lot of extra materials. These include everything from kits for at-home science experiments and art projects to printed activity booklets to prompts for exploring your natural surroundings on a neighborhood walk. High-tech education resources take full advantage of new and emerging technologies to provide engaging experiences for students. These have included STEM invention prompts via Tinkercad to digital games to augmented and virtual reality experiences.
Along the way, we improved and expanded ways to support student learning. So as we reflect on the past two years and journey on the road ahead, let’s focus on the ways education can emerge stronger than ever before.
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