As I wrote in one of the early ProfHacker blog posts, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. This truth was brought home to me this semester in my teaching.
As part of their work for the course, the students have been using Twitter since the semester began. As a homework assignment, students were given the task of analyzing (and presenting) their Twitter activity.
Unfortunately, on the day the Storify assignment was due, some students (and apparently many Storify users) lost their work due to a mistake made by Storify with their database. This mishap became an object lesson in never trusting blindly in the stability and security of the cloud. As a class, we decided not to use Storify until they come up with a way of allowing users to make our own backups of our stories. (Storify says they’re working on this, but they haven’t given me a date by which they expect to have such a feature enabled.)
In order to fulfill the task of analyzing and presenting their Twitter activity, students would need to use an alternative to Storify. Unfortunately, I did not have a backup plan (i.e. a selection of other curation tools for them to use.) So we took this list of 40 curation tools, divided it up among the students in the class (each student tackled 2 of the items on the list), and quickly evaluated each one to see if it would fit our needs. If you’d like to take a look at the results of this evaluation, you can view the GoogleDocs spreadsheet that resulted from my students’ work.
In the end, most of my students decided to go back to Storify and hope that the mistake that knocked their work offline won’t be repeated. (Storify has assured us that they are doing a better job of backing up their data themselves, even if they haven’t yet provided users with a way to download backups of user-created work.) A few, however, are trying out different options. Flexibility and resourcefulness are always good characteristics to cultivate in a digital environment.
How about you? What are your favorite online curation tools? Alternately, when has one of your classes encountered an unexpected obstacle, and how did you maneuver around it? Please share in the comments.