curation vs creation (or translation)

This quarter, I’m teaching a class called Technology Transfer. Though the title doesn’t make it obvious, it’s primarily about innovation, diffusion of innovation, and implementing technological change in organizations.

I’m finding that a great deal of interesting and relevant information for the students is in videos that are available online. Which means I have a couple of choices. I can do the traditional approach of watching the videos (and reading the things they’re based on) and creating lectures using that material to be delivered in class. Or I can assign the videos and have class be a discussion about them (more of a flipped classroom approach). The latter, to me, is preferable–except for one thing. The students often don’t do the readings or watch the videos that I assign, so the “discussion” ends up being a painfully awkward two hours of me asking questions and them staring blankly at me (or, more likely, staring intently at whatever game or social media site they have on their screens, since I teach in a lab). Going with the traditional option isn’t much better–they tune the lecture out nearly completely, since it can’t compete with the lure

So what I’m ending up doing is showing the videos in class. They tend to be high-energy, engaging videos (like Steven Johnson talking about “Where Good Ideas Come From”). Is it ideal to be showing movies in class? Nope. But it seems like the best approach given the constraints. I’m only showing videos that I believe are genuinely interesting and informative, and my hope is that it will result in them taking away something of value from the class, even if it was as a result of my curating their experience rather than creating it.

That’s actually been an ongoing theme for me, professionally–I’ve blogged about it before, at first with frustration, and later with a bit of appreciation.) Now that I’m tenured and a full professor, however, I can recognize and embrace that my talents do lie primarily in effective curation, and that’s a strength rather than a weakness. That makes today’s videos–Kirby Ferguson’s wonderful series on remix culture–seem particularly appropriate. 🙂

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