A Vertical File for the 21st Century

Photo from flickr user vpickering

Photo from flickr user vpickering

At the end of the summer, the On Parenting blog from The Washington Post published an article from a parent contributor about her decision to back off from helping too much with her children’s homework. When the head of the upper school mentioned that her topic for back to school night was encouraging parents to encourage independence in their students, I shared the article with her so that she could share it with parents.

Last week, a column from Psychology Today about college students and resilience (or lack thereof) made the rounds in my social media feed. Since we often discuss how to prepare our students (and parents) for the transition to life after high school, I thought it was worth sharing with my colleagues, as well as with the parents, and sent an email.

Thanks to all of the various forms of electronic communication, it is easy to quickly share the interesting things we find and read with our friends and colleagues. A quick email with the subject line, “Interesting article.” A post to our Facebook wall or a tweet with a link to that great TED Talk we think everyone can benefit from watching.

I can’t speak for all of my friends and colleagues, but often those posts, tweets, and emails grab my attention, but get filed away for “when I have a few extra minutes.” The Psychology Today piece showed up in my Facebook feed three times before I clicked on the link. But how many other articles were missed because I couldn’t remember who posted them when I finally had the time to sit down and read? So, I assume that my wonderfully informative emails sometimes go unread or are forgotten.

When it comes to communicating with parents, I also don’t want to become that librarian who clutters up their inbox with so many unsolicited emails that they delete as soon as they see my name. I struggled with how to share with them the articles that we teachers found helpful and relevant to working with their children. Articles we feel can help them navigate the homework and executive functioning issues and the college application process; information they may very well want, but that doesn’t necessarily appear within their own personal or professional networks.

Back in February, Lauren Barack wrote an article for School Library Journal about schools using Pinterest to curate information on college readiness. The article focused on the appeal of the visual presentation of information and the benefits of meeting students where they are – on social media.

So, why not use this with parents and colleagues? I started building a Pinterest board of articles for teachers and parents, but found it wasn’t working quite as smoothly as I would have liked. (This may have been my own issue. As a person who enjoys knitting and cooking, I have actively avoided Pinterest for fear of falling down rabbit holes from which I will never return.) There was also the issue that Pinterest wouldn’t always work at school since our filter blocks most social media sites (although most sites can be easily unblocked with a simple email to our technology coordinator).

Our technology integration specialist had introduced me to Padlet last year. As I find articles of interest related to success in school and post-secondary transition, I can hit the icon on my Firefox toolbar and add it to a board. As I notice a trend in articles, I can create subject specific boards. My colleagues have been invited to some of the boards as contributors so that they can add articles related to their subjects. Padlet allows password-protected boards, so now when we give parent presentations, we upload our presentations to a parents-only site. Unlike Pinterest, Padlet does not require people to create an account to view the boards, so parents don’t have to follow me, they can simply click the link at the bottom of all of my emails when they want to see what has been posted.

I realized that, in essence, we’ve created a digital version of the old vertical files that used to claim real estate in the library. All of our digital curation efforts are just that: a recreation of those wonderful file folders full of brochures, pamphlets, and newspaper and magazine articles. Except now, instead of having to come to the library and rifle through the files, parents and colleagues can access them form the comfort of their favorite device.

What tools are you using for digital curation? And what unique collections have you created?


Author: Amy Gillespie

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

Tags: , , , ,

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