Note: This post is part of an occasional series of entries devoted to my 7th Grade Digital Literacy Course.
Social bookmarking is nothing new; itLists.com started the concept of shared bookmarks way back in 1996. Of the myriad tools developed since that time (remember Backflip, Simpy, and Furl?), a handful have withstood the fickle nature of the Web 2.0 world, including Digg, Delicious (recently acquired by AVOS), and Diigo. While each has its strengths, we are in the process of migrating students from Delicious to Diigo because it offers free education accounts that teachers can manage and monitor. For those unfamiliar with Diigo, this short clip provides a nice overview of its many features and benefits:
Diigo for Education
As noted on the Diigo for Education website, educator accounts are special accounts provided specifically to K-12 and higher-ed faculty. Once your Diigo Educator application is approved, your account will be upgraded to have these additional features:
- You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
- Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
- Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
Student accounts have the following special settings to protect their privacy and safety:
- Classmates in the same class are automatically added as friends with one another to facilitate communication, but students cannot add anyone else as friends except through email.
- Students can only communicate with their friends and teachers. No one except their friends can send message, group invite, or write on their profile wall.
- Student profiles will not be indexed for People Search, nor made available to public search engines.
Accounts can be created quickly and without the need for student email addresses by uploading a simple CSV file. Once the data has been imported into Diigo, groups and users can be managed via the Teacher Console.
Diigolet or Diigo Toolbar
After accounts are created, students will still need to add either the Diigo Toolbar or Diigolet to their browser before they can annotate and save websites. The Diigo Toolbar includes a wide suite of tools, is available for Firefox, IE, and Flock, and is recommended for experienced users:
Although Diigolet is not as feature-rich, it can be set up with a simple drag-and-drop, works for all major browsers, and is well suited to middle school:
Saving bookmarks in Diigo is simple but to be effective requires an understanding of how tags work. Students, and especially younger children, have been conditioned to organize their physical and digital materials into folders. This time-honored system, while appealing to many adults, is severely limiting; content must be pigeonholed into a specific container. With tags, a site can be saved and retreived in numerous ways using whatever tags (keywords) that best describe it. The Social Bookmarking in Plain English video from CommonCraft, though focused on Delicious, can also be applied to Diigo and used as an introduction to the concepts of tagging and folksonomy.
In addition to choosing tags, users can also opt to share a bookmark to a group. By default, our students are organized into groups by graduation year (e.g. Class of 2017). With one click, teachers can share a website to the entire grade or set up groups for their specific courses. Similarly, students can create Diigo groups for tasks such as research projects and easily share materials with other classmates.
The Social Side of Diigo
At the risk of restating the obvious, Diigo is a social tool; students can create groups, develop networks, send messages, and establish an online profile within the confines of their school account. Although these features may not be as appealing as those found in Facebook or Twitter, they do provide a safe, secure environment for introducing concepts related to social networking and netiquette. Whether you choose to address the issue or not, students will find and use these social connectors; I would encourage you to embrace the opportunity and make the most of the learning experience.