Forums, curation, and mathematics (Module 2, Knowledge constructor)

Module 2 is about investigating ISTE Student Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor – “students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.” Looking at the indicators generated a lot of questions for me about how I can foster these things in a college math class. I want to document all of my questions here for future reference, but I really investigated just two of them (in red text).

In response to indicator 3a, “students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits,” I asked:

In physics education research, there is a need to study how students use their textbooks (Docktor & Mestre, 2014, p. 22) and while there are some research-based textbooks, most courses do not use them (p. 21). So I’m curious if there is research on how math students use their textbooks. Are there any research-based math textbooks? What resources do students use when they have math questions – what do they do when they are stuck – what strategies do they use to get unstuck?

In response to indicator 3c, “students curate [i.e., to gather, select and categorize resources into themes in ways that are coherent and shareable] information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions,” I asked:

Can I find a place where students are sharing resources in a coherent way? (Places to look: Reddit – YouTube – FB groups.) Can my website host a forum for students to share their resources? Can I use Facebook groups as part of the course? Can I require college students to participate in a FB group? (Should I?)

In response to indicator 3d, “students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions,” I asked

I would like to see some examples of students exploring real-world issues in math. Can I find some real-world-related final projects? Or can I find some examples of inquiry-based math?

I decided to look into creating a forum on my website and using Facebook groups in college courses because I wanted to make sure I could offer my students a space for sharing class-related things with each other (and I’m not a huge fan of the LMSs that I’ve used – as a student – when it comes to sharing resources and communicating).

Question: Can my website host a forum for students to share their resources?


WordPress has a variety of plugins for this. I installed “Forum – wpForo” (more information about the plugin can be found on their website, here). I am fairly happy with the forum. It has the main thing I want, which is threaded comments. Implementing the threaded comments theme was a little confusing (directions below), but otherwise installation was very easy. There are a few things I don’t love about the layout/display of the forums. For example, if you choose to “Answer” a post, you will add a normal comment, if you choose to “Add comment” you will reply in a threaded fashion – I wish they were called “comment” and “reply.” But overall, I’m pretty happy with the plugin.

(Version 1.1.1) To implement the threaded comments theme go to: Dashboard side panel > Forums > Forums > (click edit on the blue category) > (in the upper, right-hand box choose the “QA” category layout).

Question: Can I use Facebook groups as part of a college course? Can I require students to participate in a FB group? (But should I?)

Yes. Yes. And…no?

I’m sure it depends on the college, but from the looks of it, generally you can use FB groups in college courses, and it looks like some instructors do require FB participation. I found a great blog by Nisha Malhotra, PhD where she reflects on implementing FB in her course. The comments on the blog are also very insightful and show differing opinions on whether or not you should require FB participation.

Considering this blog was posted four years ago, I would like to find a similar resource but more current. A lot has changed in four years and I have a feeling students’ feelings about FB have changed. Indeed, it was just this last year that I heard for the first time, from a high school student, that FB is for old people! Who knew?! I would bet there are more people consciously abstaining from FB today than there were four years ago. (Not just because it’s “for old people,” but probably because of that too.)

While I really like the idea of a FB group for a class, I don’t think I could bring myself to require FB participation in a course. Based what I think FB can mean in our culture today, I think it is important to respect a student’s choice to not use FB. This is one reason I really wanted to look into putting a forum on my website. Then I could offer both as an option for online participation.

But is this really curation, or is it just collection?

By the end of this module, I decided that what I have really done is found resources that aid in sharing curations, rather than resources for curating. A classmate of mine found a wonderful blog about curating by Saga Briggs. I think Briggs paints a clear picture of what curation looks like and I now imagine curation as being able to say, “Here are some resources that I think are valuable, and here’s why I think they’re valuable together.” A forum or a FB group could be used in that way, but I think it would require prompting if the goal was to have every student curate resources. Additionally, Briggs includes a list of 20 resources for curating.

Possible Curation Assignment for Math

A while back I wrote a possible prompt that is more in line with collection. It needs to be adjusted to align with curation.

Initial prompt: Find a resource that helps you with something related to the course. Maybe identify something you struggle with and find a resource for that. Or maybe find a resource that helped you understand a topic better or helped you with a homework problem. Write a summary explaining what the resource is with the idea that you are helping someone decide if the resource would be valuable to them. Be sure to reflect on why it was helpful to you.

To turn this into a curation project, they could either share multiple resources that helped them with something and include in the summary why the resources are helpful together; or they could find additional resources after the fact to go with their “personally helpful resource.” The goal would be to create a “resource bundle” to help someone else with the same thing/topic/problem they needed help with. They could share this bundle to my forum or in a FB group.

I anticipate needing to help students learn how to find resources, but I also hope that they can learn from each other, and that this assignment could help them do that. O’Connor and Sharkey (2013) and Kingsley and Tancock (2014) both discuss how students struggle to find information when it requires digging, and during much of my undergrad that was definitely true for me. Somewhere in the beginning to middle of undergrad, I realized how unskilled I was at searching for information and using my textbooks. I realized this because I saw how my close friends/peers used their resources. They didn’t actively teach me how to do the same, but I began learning how to use my resources by watching them. I know what it’s like to not know how to search for information, and I know how valuable the skill is when you can.

Moving forward, I would like to check out the resources listed in Briggs’ blog and practice using them to get a better feel for the process of curating (as opposed to collecting).


Briggs, S. (2016). Teaching content curation and 20 resources to help you do it [blog]. Retrieved from

Docktor, J. L., & Mestre, J. P. (2014). Synthesis of discipline-based education research in physics. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 10(2), 020119, 1-58.

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet inquiry. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389-399.

Malhotra, N. (2013). Experimenting with Facebook in the college classroom. Retrieved from

O’Connor, L., & Sharkey, J. (2013). Establishing twenty-first-century information fluency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(1), 33–39.

wpForo. (2016). WordPress forum plugin. Retrieved from