As part of our “Working Differently” initiative at NDSU Agriculture Communication, we attempted to define some of the roles we envisioned Extension educators fulfilling in the changing landscape of digital communication. Among the roles we originally defined were “filter” and “context provider”:
With all the information people have access to today, one of the more important roles we can play as educators is that of filter. People want to know where they can find information that is relevant and can be trusted. To play this role, we need to be present in the online spaces people use. We cannot build trust and authority without being present in communities like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc.
We can play a critical role in filtering and providing context for online information. To play this role effectively, we need not only to connect a user with a resource through a link, but also to add value through truly filtering and contextualizing.
As the conversation about cooperative extension and online communication has evolved, those two roles have been collected under the single term “curator.” Now that we have melded the two roles into one, it is imperative that we do not lose sight of the original activities of filtering and providing context. It is those activities that bring the human and educational elements to curation and set it apart from the content aggregation performed by search engines and software.
As Jim Langcuster points out in his blog post, “The Awesome Power of ‘Sophisticated Curation’,” curation is critical to Extension’s future and Extension educators are uniquely prepared to fill the role of curator. Extension educators have long been curators of land-grant university research, filtering the body of research for that which can potentially improve lives and communities, then providing the context necessary to help people apply that research to their lives.
Filtering and providing context are skills that are in great need in the world of digital information. As people try to get their heads around on the massive amount of digital information they are confronted with on a daily basis, they will look to curators to help them decipher what information can be trusted, what information is relevant to a subject and what information can really impact their lives. I only hope that when they look in the direction of cooperative extension, we are there to be found.