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

Hurdling Tips for the Cobbler's Children

Rachel Burnham writes: In a recent Twitter chat hosted by L&D Connect we were invited to share what we took for granted in L&D.  One of the points I contributed (rather tongue in cheek) was that I took for granted that everyone in L&D will want to be learning themselves and developing their practice.   I was immediately reminded that much research shows that this is just not the case.  This has been a feature of the annual benchmarking report produced by Towards Maturity and this year again it reported that ‘This study has shown that whilst L&D teams have the vision and aspiration to deliver a modernised learning and development strategy they lack the skills they need internally to make it a reality.’ (‘Embracing Change’ Towards Maturity Industry Benchmark Report, November 2015 pg 63).

There are a number of areas that repeatedly have been identified as vital for many L&D teams to work on such as: business awareness; the skills of performance consultancy; and a range of digital skills.

I find that that the reasons offered for this gap in development for L&D teams fall mainly under three headings: limited resources available; limited time available; and limited awareness of what is possible.  I think the last one is particularly damaging and hard to break out of.  If you work in Learning & Development in an organisation where the experience of L&D (or probably training) is predominantly face to face, content heavy, powerpoint driven sessions and where there is little exposure to any other approaches to learning then it is hard to envisage the amazing range of possible alternative learning methods and just how effective they can be.  There are other challenges that we face in L&D, around our agility and particularly the way that technology is enabling learners to access learning for themselves bypassing L&D and again if your L&D world is limited to face to face delivery, then you may have limited exposure to these challenges.

So here are some practical suggestions for helping you and your team to overcome these three hurdles of limited resources, limited time and limited awareness.

Limited resources

Here are some suggestions for low cost ways of developing your skills in L&D and in fact all the suggestions in this blog could address this particular hurdle.

  • Skills swaps – Get members of the L&D team swapping skills with each other or with other staff in your organisation.  This can be particularly useful for building confidence in digital skills.
  • MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses can be a great way to access free learning opportunities and there are many ones which are relevant to those in L&D, particularly in the areas of informal learning and e-learning.  Many MOOCs are offered by universities and others by commercial providers.  They often include a mix of reading, video materials, online discussions and activities.  Search online to find ones that may be relevant to you. 
  • Conferences via Twitter – An interesting way to find out what is going on at the many L&D related conferences is read the tweets from attendees.  Most conferences will now identify a hashtag for the event eg this week’s Learning Technologies event has the #LT16uk and if you search for this on Twitter, this will enable you to pick out all the tweets from this event.  Check out the publicity materials to discover what hashtag is being used.  Many events also will have blogs and video recordings produced and the Twitter feed is a good way of identifying these.

Limited Time

Harold Jarche said that ‘Work is learning and learning is the work’ so if limited time for learning is your challenge, then why not a virtue of this and consciously set out to learn from your work?  Here are some suggestions to help you do that:

  • Embrace small experiments – The world of L&D is changing very rapidly, new digital tools (which can be used for curation, collaborative learning and to produce resources such as infographics and videos) are always appearing and the needs of our organisations are changing constantly too, so embrace the idea of running small experiments to try out new tools and new ways of working. Test things out on a small scale and learn from this.  Testing on a small scale reduces risk and enables things to be tried out more rapidly.
  • Working Out Loud – Involves sharing your ‘work in progress’ with others to enable them to learn from it and this may also generate feedback and other ideas that enable you to improve your own work.   Working Out Loud can take many forms eg sharing verbally at a team meeting, a short post on an internal organisational network, a blog, a social media post, a video clip. 
  • Action reviews – This is where a team or a team plus key stakeholders takes time to review how a project worked and what can be learned from the experience to make future projects for effective and efficient.

Limited Awareness

In many ways, I think this is the hardest hurdle to cross. but I also think it is the one with huge potential benefits.  If you can unleash your and your team’s curiosity and find ways to initially feed that curiosity, then all sorts of things will open out and become possible. 

  • Learning Now TV – this is a free online hour long programme that is produced once a month.  It includes a terrific mix of interviews and practical tips sessions all about L&D.   There are also audio programmes available.  You need to subscribe to the service, but it is free and you can either watch it live as it is broadcast or download and catch up with it in your own time.  If you are feeling a bit out of the loop, this is a great and easy place to start to find out what is currently happening in L&D.
  • Networking – Don’t groan too much – it is a great way to find out what is happening outside of your own organisation (and even inside of your own organisation to improve your business awareness).  Networking has had a bad name, but networking with the aim of learning is a much gentler, more mutual, easier prospect than networking to make business contacts.  The emphasis with networking for learning is to build and maintain a ‘Personal Learning Network or PLN’. This network of people can enable you to find new resources, tools and enable you to share practical ideas. This can be done in person or using social media and probably works best using a mix of these two approaches.  There are people I met first on social media and then have gone on to meet face to face - I have found the face to face so much easier  because we had already have begun to know one another.  Don’t feel that you have to network at conferences or big gatherings – my favourite form of networking is meeting up for a cup of tea!
  • Mentor – Having a mentor can be a great way to gain exposure to different ideas and approaches.  A mentor may be able to guide you to useful resources and challenge your thinking.  

You may have noticed that many of these learning methods involved some form of online learning – not the traditional elearning stand alone package - but some form of online learning none-the-less and so these will also give you personal experience of a wide range of modern online learning methods.  So my 10th tip is to try out a wide range of learning methods yourself – even if they are not your favourite learning method, it will all help to stretch you and broaden your exposure to a wider range of learning approaches and build your Personal Learning Network.

I am very aware in writing this blog, that the people it would be most useful for, probably don’t read blogs, so do share this piece and the ideas within it with your colleagues and anyone you think might find it of value.  Spread the word!

Rachel Burnham


(originally posted on LinkedIn)

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