EduTip: Content Curation with Pearltrees
by Linnea Sudduth Ward
Content curation tools—or tools designed to collect, store, and share ideas on a particular topic—are great tools for allowing your students to delve more deeply into a given concept. Perhaps the most well-known content curation platform is Pinterest, which boasts 1.36 unique visitors a day. A less popular tool, though perhaps a more useful tool for education, is Pearltrees. Indeed, Pearltrees is such a useful platform that the Department of Academic Innovation & eLearning created an entire project (the Instructional Design Core Toolset) with this platform.
Like Pinterest, Pearltrees users create a “collection” (i.e., “board”) around a given topic and add pearls (such as relevant websites or photos) to it. And, like Pinterest, Pearltrees is a social platform that allows users to view other Pearltrees users’ pearls and collections and add them to their own collections. Since the original author of the pearl and collection are clearly identified, copyright concerns are mitigated.
Yet, Pearltrees’ capabilities exceed that of Pinterest’s. In addition to websites or photos, Pearltrees users may add self-written notes or external files (e.g., .pdf files) pearls. For instructors, this feature may be particularly useful. For instance, an instructor could upload diverse course resources onto their Pearltrees account. Although Blackboard and other educational technologies have similar capabilities, Pearltrees’ highly visual presentation of this information may be appealing to students, especially within more visual contexts.
Perhaps the most useful feature that separates Pearltrees from Pinterest is its advanced organizational capabilities. Pearltrees allows users to categorize the pearls by creating section headings within a collection. And, Pearltrees users may embed collections within collections, which allows users to visually indicate how information is related to other information. Within the classroom, these features allow students to visually investigate and depict the relationships among information. And, because Pearltrees is a social platform, students are able to view their classmates’ collections and collaborate with others on a collection.
The Instructional Design Core Toolset collection is a good example of Pearltrees’ capabilities. Staff members wanted to create an easily accessible database of resources related to how to use different educational technologies, troubleshoot them, and use them in pedagogically appropriate ways. And, ideally, staff wanted to capitalize on the already extensive amount of information already written on this topic.
Pearltrees served as the perfect platform for this project. Pearltrees’ hierarchical capabilities enabled the collections to be organized around their general function (e.g., Learning Management System, Productivity Tools, etc.). Its categorical ability enabled all the pearls to be organized according to their purpose (“Tool Mastery,” “Troubleshooting,” “Best Practices,” and “Exemplars”). And, its social capabilities allowed staff to capitalize on preexisting collections and pearls created by other Pearltrees users and ethically integrate them into our own collection (see the Evernote page for an example here).
Pearltrees is a “freemium” service, meaning that its basic features are free but more advanced capabilities require a nominal monthly fee. And, unfortunately, its free service does not allow for private collections (unlike Pinterest’s free “private boards”). Understanding these disadvantages, take some time to view the Instructional Design Core Toolset collection and give us your thoughts. How can you see yourself using Pearltrees in your classroom?
Pearltrees as an Educational Technology Video: