Digital curation, a key skill for the 21st century

Why is digital curation an emerging key skill?

The ability to discover, evaluate and store digital information constitutes a growing part of any job in our so-called ‘knowledge economy’. Although the debate around whether today’s students are ‘digital natives’ continues to rage, if you are privileged to work with new students it is usually evident that they do not have a natural ability to manage digital resources. As educators we have a responsibility to help people learn how to function effectively in a connected world.

Whether you are a student or not, we all spend an increasing amount of our time accessing and reading information online. But how do we keep track of it all? And how to we make it easy to access the information that we need at the time when we need it? There are a number of useful tools that enable online content to be ‘curated’ – in other words stored and organised – so that it can be easily accessed.

While the tools below do not constitute an exhaustive list, they will enable you to develop your own personal approach to storing and curating the useful online resources that you find during your research. When it comes to writing your essays or project proposals, being able to search quickly and locate relevant information will save you a considerable amount of time.

The three principles of digital curation


1. Discover: choose the tools that you want to use to discover news and relevant information. These could be:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Blogs
  • Content aggregators e.g. Feedly

2. Curate: bookmark and annotate the content that you find useful and you think others might find interesting.

3. Share: allocate some time each day / week to share some of hte useful resources you have found with your network, then check your news feeds and curate new information.

1. Discovering new information 


There are a number of tools that you can use to discover new information, the one you choose really depends on your personal preference. Here are some examples of popular ‘news’ tools that you might consider using:


Twitter is a powerful tool for discovering relevant information because it enables you to follow the updates of people who are interesting to you. To use Twitter effectively:

  • create an account and search for professionals and organisations who are operating in your professional area. These could be individuals such as artists and commentators, or organisations such as funding bodies, museums or even job agencies.
  • investigate people who look interesting – check their recent updates and see whether they are sharing valuable insights and reources or just making ‘noise’.
  • follow those people and organisations who look like they will provide you with useful information. Their updates and links will now appear on your Twitter news feed. 

A quick summary of Twitter’s main functions.

    Blog / RSS readers

    As you search on the web you will come across blogs that contain relevant information. It’s a bit of a pain to have to keep checking back on these blogs for new updates, and a solution to this is to use a ‘reader’ or content aggregator. This is a bit like creating your own newspaper whereby all the blogs that you want to follow appear in a single place, thus saving you time in visitng each blog individually. To use a blog reader effectively:

    • search for the blogs that you want to follow and add them to your reader.
    • set your reader to be your browser Home page.

    When you open up your browser you will be presented with all the updates from your favourite blogs, saving you time in having to visit them individually.

    2. Curate, bookmark and annotate relevant content

    Diigo is a social bookmarking tool that stores all of your curated content in the cloud. The advantage of this is that you can access the resources you have curated from any computer, smartphone or tablet. To use Diigo you just need to create an account and install the Diigo ‘bookmarklet’ in your browser. This provides you with access to all of Diigo’s features. Once you have found a resource that you want to bookmark, you can use Diigo’s features to highlight sections of a page and add sticky notes and comments. The next time you visit that page, Diigo will remember and will display any annotations you made.
    Once you click ‘bookmark’, you will be able to add the webpage to your Library. You can add a comment to remind yourself of why the page was useful, and also add tags that will enable you to search for it at a later date.
    You can add items to your Diigo library by copying and pasting the link of the site you wish to store. However, you may also want to install the Diigo toolbar (or ‘Diigolet’) which makes it even quicker to store and highlight web pages. As you add items to your Diigo Library you will be able to search for them by clicking on a tag, and this will pull out all the items with that specific tag. You can also search by keyword, enabling you to browse all the useful sites you have stored.



    Evernote is another popular tool that enables you to store, tag and retrieve information with ease. The main difference between Evernote and Diigo is that with Evernote you can store individual images, documents and files in ‘notebooks’.

    Similar to Diigo, Evernote is a cloud-based tool. This means that when you update a note you can access it on a different device an you will see the updated version so that wherever you are you always have access to your most up-to-date work.

    Again, similar to Diigo you can tag individual notes making it possible to search across all your notes for relevant information.

    3. Share information with your network


    You may have heard the phrase ‘pay it forward’ – the last stage of the Digital Curation process it to share some of the useful resources you have found with your online network. This enables people to discover information that may help them with their projects.

    Twitter is a great tool for sharing information. You can add links, insert images and videos, and use hashtags to make your resources more discoverable. For example, if you have found and curated a web page that might be of use to Fine Artists, you could add the hashtag #fineart into your tweet. Anyone searching for this hashtag will then find the link you have shared. The video below explains how to use hashtags to search for topics and add your tweets to the conversation around a topic.

    Once you begin sharing useful information you will find that people start ‘following’ you on Twitter. Building your professional network is an important aspect of establishing your online presence, which will in turn help raise your visibility to potential employers and customers and help you manage your online reputation.

    Make the most of your time – schedule your content

    Engaging with social media to share content can take time. Using a content scheduling tool enables you to make the most of your time by setting up content to be released at specific times. These tools also make it possible for you to track conversations and manage your social networks. A good example of a content scheduler is Hootsuite – you can add your social media feeds and participate in your networks from a single ‘dashboard’:


    Thank you!

    I would like to thank Sue Waters for sharing her excellent blog post on Digital Curation on which this page is based.

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