Sifting Through the Noise

As part of the work required for a literature review, I have been doing a lot of online research about curation. Curation is a hot topic these days. Rohit Bhargava describes content curation as “the act of finding, grouping,organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.” Futurists predict that our children will have to get very good at curation in order to deal with the overload of information that comes our way on a daily basis.

Ironically, in the act of researching content curation, I have begun to feel completely overwhelmed with the amount of information on the topic. This only reinforces the fact that learning how to curate is becoming a critical information literacy skill. Howard Rheingold, in his new book Net Smart How to Thrive Online, calls it “infotention.” He says “Honing the mental ability to employ the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably” (Pp. 97-98).

Yesterday, while wading through hours of online posts, links, videos and presentations (and I had narrowed my topic down to content curation in an educational context), I came across a blog post by Robert Scoble, entitled, The War on Noise. Scoble’s noise is in reference to the thousands of tweets, emails, Facebook posts, and myriad of info lists he receives every day. He says, “The contextual age means we’re going to have to go to war on noise.” Though I am no expert on the topic, what I take from Scoble’s post is that technology will have to help us do some filtering.

In the meantime, educators like myself need to develop our infotention skills. In part, that means shutting out the noise, and finding those quiet treasures that come to us through the established learning networks we create.

“Mentally trained, technologically augmented, socially mediated infotention, is about continuously detecting information that could be valuable specifically to you, whenever and wherever it is useful to you” (Rheingold, p. 98).

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Bhargava, Rohit. March 31, 2011. (Blog). Retrieved from

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Scoble, Robert. November 9, 2012. (Blog). Retrieved from


About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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7 Responses to Sifting Through the Noise

  1. mooseonskis says:

    Completely agree. “Noise” appears in many forms, and is something that needs to be shut out in order to focus on what is really important. However, in some classrooms where I have taught, many students are unable to do this. Everything seems to be a distraction.
    As part of an online course on Sports Psychology that I began some years ago, I recall reading about a part of the brain that shuts out irrelevant information. Even without the new forms of technology that have emerged in recent years, our brains are continually bombarded by superfluous information, yet most of the time we are oblivious to it until something triggers us to notice it. The example that was given went something like this: Tell someone to go into a large parking lot and count the number of cars. When they return, ask them “About how many were red cars?”. The focus was only on counting cars, not noting the color, so although the person might have been aware of red cars at the time, he/she will have no recollection of how many were that particular color; the brain shut out that information in order to focus on what was required to be collected.
    In order to focus on only the information that is pertinent, one must develop an ability to shut out that which is not. Trying to develop the technology to do that for us might result in some important information being missed. Take, for example, spam filters for emails; some junk still gets through, but some genuine email doesn’t.
    If we don’t use technology to do the sifting, we might feel that “more equals better” applies; that is, if something appears many times during a search, it must be relevant to what we are searching for. This, too, isn’t always the case. In the same way that many people gossiping doesn’t make the subject of their gossip true, nor does multiple articles expressing an opinion make that opinion a fact. The key for educators is to teach how to separate opinion from fact, soft evidence from hard evidence, and slight relevance from strong relevance. For the “how to”, stay tuned.

  2. E Hansen says:

    Hi Sandra,

    Love your post! Funny – I have been doing some reading/thinking about the same topic. It is a key skill for educators and students. I love the Rheingold quotations you have included and agree with your summary of intent and take-aways from his thoughts. I was just reading a post that I found through my twitter feed (that, of course, I can’t find again right now to post here, as I did not curate it – ironic, eh?) that described several tech tools to use to help stem the tsunami of information that comes our way and distracts us.

    I have been experimenting with dipping my toe in the water of curation for the purposes of modelling a tool to some colleagues. I’ve been using Scoop.It! as a platform – it is available web-based (I can “scoop” articles from my browser) and as an app for mobile devices. See my beginning start here: . I really like the tool as a way to create a collection of relevant documents for colleagues, or as a new form of a pathfinder for students (though I wish I could find a way to “pin” seminal items nearer to the top with this tool…). I like that others who may share the topic interest can “follow” the topic and that viewers may also suggest to the curator content to be curated – ways for students to contribute to each others’ and group learning. I can see this as a great practice curation tool for teachers and students.

    Love your humorous ending question about it being easy. Oh, how I wish it was! I often fall victim to trying one tool and then quickly moving on to the next latest and greatest and thus scattering things all over. I have a Delicious account, Diigo, etc. I just can’t seem to settle on one and actually know that with the rapid pace of the release of new apps, sites, and technologies this may get harder and harder. I really do like the beginnings of sharing across platforms when we see options to import items or share to other apps or software. Perhaps herein lies a solution? I’d love to hear what tools others are trying and about methods/game plans/strategies for curation.

    • A concern for me about some of the tools like Scoop.It (I must confess I have not used it) and Pinterest is that they become simple repositories of “stuff.” My understanding of curation is that it is not just about creating a collection. It is also about building understanding. I would like more information about how to use online tools as knowledge building tools. I think one of the keys is to make sure there is some collaborative sharing and discourse built in.
      I have planned a small curation project with my grade four students that involves online art galleries and knowledge building related to the science topic Shadows and Light. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
      Thanks for sharing your Scoop.It. I will definintely check it out!

  3. kamal punit says:

    Sandra, interesting post! Curation seems to be a great opportunity from a teacher’s perspective. Teachers can share their resources taking into account the social aspect that curation might offer. A virtual teamwork is not only interesting but in my understanding critical for the collaborative skills that can be modeled for the learners. I love your analysis on developing “infotention skills” that you mention. You point out “…finding those quiet treasures that come to us through the established learning networks we create.” This resonates with the time to reflect, as it is essential for the mind to choose among various options. We create myriad options through the webs of networks. The evaluation, analysis and implementation is rooted somewhere in reflection. Our virtual world is bombarded with “too much” information varying from numerous number of websites to countless points of view on a singular topic, etc. A magazine article stated, “When we curate, we are enhancing a connection in the global neural network we are inadvertently creating.” I value these connections as it appears to make everything coherent. Isn’t this what modern curation should mean for teaching and learning?
    Futurist predictions may prepare our children for curation skills but this cannot be simple!

    Evolver, F. M. (2012, July 5). Curation: how the global brain evolves. Underwire. Retreived from:

    • Kamal,
      Your quote from Wired magazine (thanks for the reference – I have to check that out),connects me to Howard Rheingold’s work. “In the online world, [people] make choices that influence what others pay attention to. That’s what people mean by the word curation in reference to online behaviour.” It becomes even more critical that we teach children how to connect and post thoughtfully in the online world. I agree this is not simple.

      Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

  4. Hi Sandra,

    I found your blog on curation extremely interesting, for I have spent some time developing a Diigo account, as well as an old fashioned list of articles and blogs to “check out” after this course ends. I don’t find I have to time during a course to view all the suggestions given from peers. Although, I like to keep a list of them to view when teaching & educational responsibilities slow down.

    I agree that we need to filter information since the amount of connections made through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. can be overwhelming. I have stopped giving out my personal e-mail, and I now use a Gmail account when signing up for free software applications. This is my attempt at filtering information. Tim made some interesting comments about our brain’s ability to pay attention to information that is relevant to us. Fascinating stuff! It makes educators even more aware of how classroom activities must be relevant to our students.

    Like Erin, I agree that digital tools such as Delicious and Diigo help us build a collection of relevant documents that builds through connectivism. Although, I also worry that we are too connected to others. Maybe we need to start a war on noise as Robert Scoble states. Filtering information and being aware of maintaining privacy are important to me, so I think it is important to establish a virtual persona that is separate from one’s true identity. I use Facebook to only share photos with family members, and I have started to downsize the connections I have made via the Web. It isn’t that I don’t value these connections, but I find I am constantly bombarded with information to the point of exhaustion. I will definitely read Robert Scoble’s book to learn about how to better manage and filter online information. Thanks for the resource.

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