Sunday, February 21, 2016

Contrasting Curation Tools

Rachel Burnham writes: I am currently participating in the Curatr year-long MOOC ‘ELearning Beyond the Next Button’ and as part of our ‘homework’ we were set the challenge of exploring a digital tool we hadn’t used before and sharing our thoughts on it. I decided to try out Flipboard and used it to create some support materials for some work with a client.  As I have used a number of other curation tools before, I thought it would be useful to contrast Flipboard with them.

The four tools I am comparing are Scoop.It!, Listly, Pinterest and Flipboard – I have decided to compare them using some common headings.  All of them can be used to create digital collections of materials – articles, blogs, video clips, images. So here is my homework – in time honoured fashion a little late!


  1. Ease of use – this was the first of the tools I used and I have found it to be incredibly straight-forward and intuitive to use. 
  2. Appearance – As the name of the tool suggests, the pages produced look like newspaper pages.  Allows you to create online magazine pages on different topics.  Can also be used to create newsletters – though this isn’t a feature I have explored yet.
  3. Features – You can include articles, blogs, video clips, etc and they appear with a visual.  It is easy to add your commentary explaining why you have included each item and this helps your readers to make sense of the material you have included.  You can find items to add to your Scoop.It! pages through a search feature included in the tool or add your own finds.  My experience is that in-built search tool brings back a very wide range of items in some way linked to the theme of your page, but that you can waste a lot of time searching through this, so I have on the whole not used this feature.  A downside, is that the materials you include on the page appear in the order to include them, so that your latest additions are at the top and most visible – which may not be the order you would prefer.
  4. Cost You can now create only one Scoop.It! for  free but beyond this you have to pay a monthly subscription.  This has gradually become more restrictive – when I started using it you could have five free pages.
  5. Examples I have used this to create collections of additional support materials for programmes that I deliver eg ‘GettingStarted in L&D’ and also have used it as an alternative to a face to face session eg ‘Social Media – Using Twitter for Professional Development’.
  6. Overall – If you are not very confident in using digital technology and need to put something together quickly, Scoop.It! is a great tool to start with.  The main downside is that after one Scoop.It!s you need to start paying.


  1. Ease of use – I found Listly relatively easy to use and was able to create my ‘list’ quite quickly.  I haven’t used this tool as much as the others, mainly because I don’t like ranking material hierarchically, which is kind of the point with this tool!  But it was easy to use.
  2. Appearance – The key characteristic of Listly is that it allows you to create a ranked list of materials and you then have several options of how to display this list.   It is very easy to change how you want to display the list – however, it is always in the form of a numbered list.
  3. Features – One of the many plus points about Listly is that it is easy to reorder the materials included. You can also add your own commentary.
  4. Cost – Free plus premium options.
  5. Examples – I have used Listly to produce a resources list in answer to a question from an individual about facilitation skills.
  6. Overall – Writing this review, makes me realise that I really must explore Listly some more, as it has some great features eg being able to reorder the materials easily and I need to get over my prejudice about lists!


  1. Ease of use – I think Pinterest is very easy to use to display collections of images – after all that is what it is designed to do!  It is also really great for curating video clips – I use it personally to curate music from YouTube and have a great selection of jazz music tracks as a result.  It is also possible to use Pinterest to great effect to curate articles, but this can sometimes be a little tricky, if they don’t have an image included.
  2. Appearance – Pinterest allows you to curate a series of digital pinboards.  Each pinboard has a ‘title’ visual and then when opened a series of images, along with commentary.  If you click on the image you can access the video or article.
  3. Features – One of the advantages of Pinterest is that it is familiar to many people – however, one of its disadvantages is that it is well known as a place for wedding planning, home decoration tips and such like, so that it can be difficult to persuade people that it can be used for other types of topics too.  Each item needs to have a visual, so one of the downsides of using Pinterest is when an article doesn’t have a related image – however, I have discovered that you can still pin it, providing you find another image to pair it with – it’s a bit fiddly, but perfectly doable.  You can ‘pin’ items either using a ‘Pin it’ app or directly using the url address – which is very flexible. A useful feature is that you can set up private or public boards and this means that you can work on a board in private and only make it public when you are ready.  However, you can’t take a public board and make it private, which is a shame.  You can also co-create boards with other people by inviting them to ‘pin with you’ and this can be done in private, so that you could have a closed board for a group of people.
  4. Cost – It is free and there are no limits on the number of boards you can have.
  5. Examples – I have used Pinterest in many different ways.  Here is an example of a board I created for use in an activity to express feelings for an online group.  I also curate a board on the topic of Productivity in the UK, which I regularly share via social media  – which is about as far away from wedding planning as you can get!
  6. Overall – Pinterest took me ages to learn how to use, but it was worth persisting with and is now one of my favourite tools. 


  1. Ease of Use – Whilst I didn’t find Flipboard as easy to use as Scoop.It!, it is pretty straightforward.  The key for me was understanding that the first thing you see once you have started using Flipboard is a collection of articles, from whatever magazines you have opted to follow (it is a bit like the timeline in Twitter) – this is known as ‘Cover Stories’, but you can then also set up individual  ‘magazines’ on different topics.
  2. Appearance – One of the aspects I like best about Flipboard is that it has a lovely clean modern design for the magazines – it presents the visuals from the articles and video clips beautifully.
  3. Features – You can curate items from the Cover Stories into your magazines or select items directly from other sources using a ‘Flip it’ app.   I had a little difficultly using this app with my Edge browser, so that I have gone back to using Internet Explorer to add pieces to my magazines.  Again there is a private or public option, which you can reverse and options to co-curate with other people.  It is possible to do some re-ordering of the pieces within a magazine, but it seems to be limited to moving a piece to the front of the magazine.
  4. Cost – Free, with no limits on the number of magazines.
  5. Example – Here is the collection of resources I produced to support a wider programme around performance management.
  6. Overall – I quite like Flipboard and definitely plan to explore using it further.

So, that is my review of four curation tools.  Along the way I have learnt a key lesson, which is not to add too many pieces to any one piece of curation, otherwise you lose the benefits and ‘readers’ won’t be able to see the wood for the trees.  It pays to be picky and only select for inclusion the most relevant items for the topic and the needs of your intended audience.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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