Sunday, 5 October 2008

I'm not Anti-Social, I Swear!

I’m not anti-social. I just want to make this fact clear to everyone. I know I haven’t been sharing much with all of you out there in the WWW (just my inner most ramblings), and I apologize for this. But just because I wasn’t sharing my bookmarks with you doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I just never realized that I was being so selfish and inconsiderate. Well, I’ll have you know that I have recently rectified this horrible situation, and you can now all share in the glory that is me (or at the very least see my bookmarks)!

I decided to join Diigo rather than Delicious (note there are no longer any periods in the name as they have revamped their format). I did this for a couple reasons. Well for one reason actually, Diigo allows you to highlight and add sticky notes as well as bookmark, annotate and share just like Delicious. Will Richardson describes it best in this blog post from January 2007 (but many other “pros” have also recommended Diigo over Delicious as well):

“With Diigo, you can do most of what you can with del.icio.us in terms of saving links with various tags, connecting to other users who have saved the same post or used the same tag, and tracking either users or specific tags (or specific tags of specific users) via RSS. Even more, however, is that like Furl, Diigo captures a copy of the page, so if it disappears from the Web at some point, you can access it in your archive.

But what’s really different is that Diigo allows you to highlight certain sections of any Web page you’re on, and also gives you the ability to attach sticky notes to the site. Those highlights and notes are then visible should you visit that page again. But even better, if you have a Diigo account and I have “forwarded” the page to you, you can see them (and) add your own when you visit the site as well. Think digital feedback on student work.”

So with that kind of endorsement I just had to check it out. I signed up, installed the Diigo toolbar, edited my profile sparsely, and began bookmarking, highlighting, annotating and adding “sticky notes.” I then created two lists, one for this class (EDES 501), and one for my other class (EDES 540). I will eventually create others I’m sure. I also watched these two videos and found them both helpful:

Diigo intro video

Diigo Tutorial: Social Bookmarking: Making the Web Work for You

It was at this point that I sat back in my well-worn computer chair and stared blankly at the computer screen. I could see the potential for this tool in the classroom and professionally, which I will get to later. I had found various references from the “pros” as I like to call them, and so felt I had the required readings in the bag (later I promise . . .). What I wasn’t sure was how I was going to “demonstrate my knowledge” of this new tool (one that I was very quickly falling head-over-heels-never-use-another-book-highlighter-or-actual-sticky-note-again in love with). So I did the usual, I clicked away on my Diigo dashboard and found that I could set up my Diigo account to allow me to send a bookmark, annotation, highlighted section or sticky note directly to my blog (very much like the “blog this:” function that Flickr has). Then I discovered that I could also create a tagroll of all my tags from Diigo as well as a linkroll of my 5 most recently bookmarked sites, with annotations. But it took me a bit to figure out that I had to use the “HTML/Javascript” gadget and then paste the script created by Diigo into this gadget. So I did that as well (see over there -->). I also signed up for a weekly blog post of my Diigo bookmarks and annotations, so every Sunday morning Diigo will automatically post my previous weeks bookmarks. Very cool! I then decided to sign up for some Diigo groups (you know that whole sharing thing . . .) and found quite a few worthwhile ones. To “prove” this I also signed up to an RSS feed of the Literacy in ICT group’s bookmarks and included it on my blog as well (see over there again -->). Whew! After doing all these things I realized it’s probably overkill, but I’ll revamp my blog later. For right now, you get to see all the wonderful things you can do with Diigo! (See I’m sharing :) )

Another perk of Diigo is that they have an Educator Upgrade available to Teachers. All you have to do is apply for it (very easy) and it allows you to:
· Create groups for your classes
· Create accounts for your students that are preset to only allow messages from “friends” on Diigo
· Automatically make all students in the same class friends to allow for class exchanges of bookmarks
· Create accounts for all students in a class using a single function and it automatically creates student user names and passwords (this requires students full name, but even they suggest using a code name)
· Manage, moderate, add to and delete the class’ bookmark collection as well as the ability to delete, ban and reinstate anyone in your group.
Unfortunately, there is currently no way to keep your own things private from what the students in the class groups see. Diigo suggests having two accounts, a private one with personal book marks using a user name your students wouldn’t know and a professional one where the students can see what you’ve bookmarked for them and for yourself that relates to your curriculum.

Implications for the classroom and teaching are numerous, but I will simply mention a few. The first and most obvious to me is that a class can be set up as a group on Diigo and then the class can collectively search for sites applicable to any number of topics or projects related to their classes and subjects. The teacher can then check the sites for authenticity, validity, accuracy, etc. If the teacher finds a site that is inappropriate for any reason, she can delete it. This allows the students (and teacher) to be sure they are using good references in their research and it cuts down on the time needed for researching. This can be done as a project in and of itself or it can be done in preparation for a big project at the end of a unit. It also allows the students to have a multitude of sites to go back to and look at (including their highlights and/or annotations), for studying for tests. Students can also divide their topic into subtopics and collect sites on their subtopics, essentially contributing to the larger groups research. Students can even search what others have found on the same topic through the tags on Diigo.

Another great thing that can be done with Diigo (or any social bookmarking site) is that it can be set up as a Professional Development opportunity for fellow teachers. For example, a group of teachers at your school has become interested in Literacy and Technology integration. Well, simply set up a group, have all the interested teachers join the group and start collecting, annotating, highlighting and bookmarking sites related to the topic of interest. It’s a great way to share resources with colleagues, but it’s also a great place to discuss those resources as discussion can take place right on the Diigo group site.

Okay, let’s get to what the “pros” say.

One of the little expeditions I went on while researching this blog entry was for the answer to the following question: “What the heck is a folksonomy?” In my quest for knowledge and understanding on this topic I found out that the creator of the term “folksonomy” is one Thomas Vander Wal. He explains how the term was coined in this webpage, and defines it as:

“the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one's own retrieval. The tagging is done in a social environment (usually shared and open to others). Folksonomy is created from the act of tagging by the person consuming the information.”
The value in this external tagging is derived from people using their own vocabulary and adding explicit meaning, which may come from inferred understanding of the information/object. People are not so much categorizing, as providing a means to connect items (placing hooks) to provide their meaning in their own understanding.”

Ahh . . . now I see. I also found the original blog post by Gene Smith that brought the term to the attention of the world. In this post the author suggests some pros and cons that he sees with the emerging habit of tagging (or folksonomy). This is worth reading as it was posted in August of 2004 and provides insight into how far (and not so far) the ideas of folksonomy and social bookmarking have come. I particularly like these three points he makes on the “con” side:

· None of the current implementations have synonym control (e.g. "selfportrait" and "me" are distinct Flickr tags, as are "mac" and "macintosh" on Del.icio.us).
· Also, there's a certain lack of precision involved in using simple one-word tags--like which Lance are we talking about? (Though this is great for discovery, e.g. hot or Edmonton)
· And, of course, there's no heirarchy and the content types (bookmarks, photos) are fairly simple.

Smith then suggests, “Maybe one of these services will manage to build a social thesaurus.” Which is an idea I find very intriguing!

On a totally different tangent I also found this reference from July 28 2007, which David Warlick made about social bookmarking sites being like libraries:

“But del.icio.us is far more than just sharing bookmarks. It’s a growing library of web-based resources that are loosely (but effectively) organized around tags that are applied by those who contribute. And here is one of the qualities that I would lump with Web 2.0 applications — that they invite, rely on, and respect the cooperation and contributions of the community. Not only are social bookmarking systems like libraries in how they are collected, but also in that I can check out, so to speak, web resources based on topic/tag and even based on the contributor, and I can train those web links to appear automatically in my own web sites and online handouts. This is new, this ability to organize dynamic documents that reshape themselves based on the contributions of others.”

This makes so much sense to me! It is just like a library, a much more accessible and social library, one that I can see being much more appealing to my students than the actual physical library in their school or community. Not that I would encourage this attitude, but I think this type of thinking can definitely lead to a revolution in how we see libraries and how we use their resources and how we promote them with our students, and even how we structure them and organize them!

On this topic of real library vs. digital I found a great article from the New York Times about the future of books in a digital world. They reference the tagging phenomenon and describe it thus:

“Because tags are user-generated, when they move to the realm of books, they will be assigned faster, range wider and serve better than out-of-date schemes like the Dewey Decimal System, particularly in frontier or fringe areas like nanotechnology or body modification. The link and the tag may be two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years.”

A very interesting comment, but even more interesting is Will Richardson’s response to this article in which he poses the following questions for pondering:

“Should we be thinking about how to prepare our kids for a linked, tagged world? What strategies do we need to develop to read and write in a linked, tagged world? How do we best harness the potential of a world where knowledge is easily connected and, therefore, increasingly overwhelming and, as my wife pointed out, perhaps paralyzing?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Some very important issue to think about as educators, don’t you think?

Enjoy sharing your knowledge . . .

1 comment:

Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, Christine. I enjoyed reading all about diigo--as I mentioned in my comment on Rhonda's blog, I am not familiar with diigo (I use delicious--and boy am I ever glad that they have ditched the periods!) but it looks like something that I should explore further as soon as I get a minute!

Great work!