Saturday, October 3, 2009 Learning about Social Bookmarking Learning about Social Bookmarking by nwtbajan

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As mentioned in my animation, bookmarking seemed so bland that I never even thought people would try to improve it. Too be honest, it wasn't until I played with that I realized how arrogant and dated I was in this area. I take pride in my brain's ability to remember countless numbers, useless facts, and the like BUT this has been stressed to the max since I moved North and have had to teach classes from grade 3 to 12 and sometimes 17 different classes per year. Combine that with managing our network and university brain is outmatched. In fact, playing with delicious brought back memories of times in class that I desperately needed a specific website, couldn't recall the URL, and had to accept a lower quality lesson because I didn't have things at my finger tips. I can't believe I am going to say this but think social bookmarking ROCKS!!!

Personal Learning:

This tool is going to make it hard to separate the professional from the personal applications...but here we go.

As a purely online student I am facing new challenges this semester. I am being "forced" (willingly and happily I might add...please keep reading) to collaborate with others online. Back in my day collaboration was called group work. I used to hate group work. I just want to get things done and move on. In all three of my courses this semester I have noticed that my professors are focusing on having discussions with my classmates rather than just responding to posts. This has been a huge challenge for me and combined with other tools such as this blog are making this easier. Each of us have different schedules and live in totally different time zones even. Instead of having to coordinate Skype times to share our research progress and professional readings we can access that research whenever we want through the inbox function, connecting directly to each other's user accounts, or generating a common tag language unique to us and only us. This would take some of the inconvenience out of the picture. Some have tried this approach and they have found it far more efficient than long email streams but still doesn't know if it is improving things:

"The ability to tag resources instead of e-mailing them to each other is incredibly collaborative and time-saving," says Kunnen. "While we can't yet determine that it's improving our professional development, it certainly is making the exchange of information easier among those who take the classes." (Villano, 2009, p. 4)

I would argue that anything that is time saving for me is likely improving my life. I would agree that more research needs to be done to evaluate the true effectiveness of this tool.

As a life long learner with an 8 year old, social bookmarking also is attractive. Social bookmarking would allow me to:
-improve my cooking by accessing countless recipes and the best messy drawer full of recipe cards. Cheesy creamed corn anyone?
-explore others findings around reading, writing, and behavioural interventions for my son who doesn't love school (intervention central)
-track down highly rated online classes for guitar
-do advance research around topics my son loves but I honestly don't have a clue about and the list goes on.

The advantage is that I don't have unsolicited or out of control amounts of email coming into my box and my RSS feeds stay mangageable. The added bonus is that is easy enough for me to teach my son and my mother-in-law which means it is something the three of us can do together no matter what our interests are.

Social Bookmarking and Professional Applications:

This is where I am glad we are pushed to dig a little deeper into the technology we face.

Richardson (2009)suggested as a more powerful tool for teachers. One of his suggestions really struck my interest:

"...when you bookmark a page with your Diigolet tools, you're not just capturing a link; you are making a copy of the whole page for use later on." (p. 93)

This feature means I can count on my information being there when I need it regardless of URL changes or blogs disappearing. This functionality also means that I can highlight and comment right on my bookmarked pages! Not only can I add little notes and tags like I can with, but I can actually interact with the content like I would my hardcopies.

Due to time constraints I haven't had a chance to play with Diigo but the site tutorial ( showed that instead of my colleagues just reading my bookmarked material, they can see my highlights, they can see my notes and we can discuss the page...right on the page. Talk about possibilities:
1) Our internet in the North can be very suspect so having full bookmarks available offline (Richardson, 2009) takes a little more fear out of my lessons.

2) With increased focus on differentiated instruction I could generate groups for my students to subscribe to. As I add content students would be notified so they could parouse the latest offerings (Richardson, 2009). I could have separate groupings for different types of students. Some with prehighlighted material and minimal notes to guide students who need the extra direction. Other groups could just include inquiry questions from me that would spur self directed learners into searches of their own.

3) In my courses professors post discussion questions separate from the material to initiate discussions. Diigo would open the door for discussions literally on the material. Multicolor highlights and sticky notes would mean we could discuss the material easily within its context. Check out the video below that inspired this idea.....

4) I am not a librarian but...what if a trained librarian could generate a group for small schools like mine who often lack dedicated or fully trained librarians? The highly skilled librarian could gather the latest and most effective materials. In order to lower the intimidation factor the librarian could include highlights and basic notes to fill in some gaps. This material could be available for an infinite number of schools without requiring infinite resources.

5) You can use social bookmarking tools to develop professional learning communities across infinite space. I was the only high school science teacher in a fly in community. I desperately wanted to collaborate with others in the same postion. Combine blogs, RSS feeds, and Diigo...bam! Distance doesn't matter.

I do have a couple concerns.

1) Can I adjust to my students doing things in new ways? Fully incorporating a social model combined with a growing pressure to deliver strong results has required many managers in business to redefine their roles. They are no longer the top of a hierarchy as many of their responsibilities are spread out across many individuals. This has meant that managers have had to adjust and accept new roles as facilitators and supporters of success ( Schermerhorn, Hunt, Osborn, Currie, 2005). In schools this means that I will have to find new ways to teach as I am no longer the possessor of all knowledge and the focus of all discussions. Students will be regularly exposed to data well beyond my expertise. They will have the opportunity to have more control over their own learning. How will I have to change in order to still guide, protect, and correct them when necessary? Am I willing to change my definition of professional to allow students to become more like colleagues in learning?

Similar to above...

2) How do I tell the difference between collaborating and cheating? Jakes (2009) presented scenarios in which students could use social bookmarking for shortcuts. They could let their peers do all the hard work and then just bookmark other people's bookmarks and call it a day.

"Many would consider this cheating and would equate the process to a situation in which one student photocopied several resarch articles, left them on a table, and then another student came along and took them. Yet anyone with a account knows that calling the actions of the above student inappropriate is absolut nonsense and that the ability to reach into another account to see resources is part of the game." (Jakes, 2009, p. 50)

I am very aware that students sharing to the point that one learns and the other doesn't drives me crazy. I don't have any answers as of yet as I haven't experienced these tools in action but I do know that I am going to have to let go in some ways and find new ways to assess learning.

As cool as these tools are, they do symbolize that the business of education will no longer go on as usual which means some long but exciting days ahead (Hargardon, 2007). I will close this posting with a quote:

"We still have a long wat to go before we understand, and negotiate systemically, what these collaborative sharing environments mean to student learning. No wonder these tools, and the environments they create, are labeled disruptive." (Jakes, 2009, p. 50)

Nonlinked Resources:

Hargardon, S. (2007). A little help from my friends: Classroom 2.0 educators share their experiences. School Library Journal, 53(10), 44-48.

Jakes, D. (2009)Cheater or collaborator? Tech and Learning, 29(12), 50. It can be found at this link as well

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Villano, M. Wikis, blogs, & more, oh my! Campus Technology, 21(8), 42-44.