Today I had an interesting discussion with a colleague who questioned the value of sharing and curation in education. We were discussing social media tools to be used in a new project and as usual the discussion was a lively comparison of the pros and cons of various tools: discussion in Facebook, curation in Scoopit, link lists in Diigo, Twitter for links and tips, Slideshare for presentations, YouTube for films etc etc. Many of us find this digital diversity perfectly natural but it's always valuable to meet the child who has noticed that the emperor has no clothes on. Are we all so busy sharing that we don't stop to wonder if anyone is listening?
Educators create mountains of learning resources and an increasing number are sharing them as OER but only a tiny amount of this is ever used by anyone else. There seems to be a barrier about using someone else's teaching material, perhaps the inner voice that tells us that we're being in some way "lazy". Often the resource you find is great apart from one small but crucial detail; a culture-specific reference, irrelevant details, wrong style etc. So in the end you need to create your own version and so yet another resource gets stored on a server somewhere. We're all busy filling the world's servers with information yet only a fraction of it is seen by more than a handful of people, if that. Even scientific research disappears quickly into the digital mist as the number of theses and journal articles increases at an alarming rate. As the mountain of titles rises the chances of anyone reading your efforts diminish.
On top of this there is all the time spent sharing these resources via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Scoopit and many, many more. Here we're not creating anything new, simply creating echoes of someone else's content. We curate pages full of interesting links either individually or with colleagues in a team or project. These can be very useful for your group but I wonder how much further they reach, given the sheer volume of similar resources. So everyone is busy curating, compiling, tweeting, retweeting, sharing and tagging but is anyone listening or is all this a gigantic digital echo-chamber? The intentions are admirable but when everyone is sharing they're too busy to see what others are doing. Before you create another channel, resource, news feed or suchlike it might be good to look around to see if someone else is already doing just this and maybe not bother adding more echoes to the already high volume of digital noise.
As an enthusiastic blogger, curator, tweeter etc who believes in the benefits of sharing knowledge and resources, this discussion disturbed me a little at first. Of course all this openness, sharing and transparency is a good thing! But the more I think of it the more I realise that we need to discuss ways of encouraging digital recycling, reducing background noise and maybe choosing not to add new resources unless absolutely necessary. Just as the physical world is producing more products than can be consumed, we're producing more digital content than can be used.