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Social Bookmarking for Teachers

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

Time to follow through on a little promise I made.

In response to a post by Bedford Bits' Traci Gardner about social bookmarking (in which she makes reference to my bookmarks), I responded that I would discuss my use of this resource in a bit more detail on my own blog. So here it is. In a lot more detail . . . behind the cut.


Traci mentioned that one of the benefits of a site like Delicious is the tagging. I think this bears a bit more explanation.

When you used to save bookmarks in your browser, you used to put each bookmark into a folder, to make it easier to find. Tags are similar, but, unlike using folders, tagging is more versatile, since something can be tagged with more than one label. So you'll notice that under my Hamlet resources (the example cited by Traci), you might also find tags such as "Shakespeare," which lead you to more generic Shakespeare bookmarks I have saved, which in turn will lead you to bookmarks about other Shakespeare plays, and so on.

Notice, too, that when you view any of these tags, you see a list of "related tags" off to the right. So, like the Web itself, a dynamic site like Delicious takes you from one resource to another with ease. Tags can also be bundled if they fall under a larger heading -- so I have an "AP®Lang" bundle that contains tags for anything related to that course.

More than just bookmarks

My Delicious site is actually a bit deeper than what you see at first. Traci mentioned other social bookmarking sites, among them one called Diigo. Often, these sites can work in tandem to provide a richer experience that goes beyond simply keeping track of the sites you want to revisit.

I have an account at Diigo in addition to the Delicious account. Both services provide plug-ins for my browser that allow me to bookmark and tag a site with just a couple of clicks. In addition, I have my Delicious site synched to Diigo. When I bookmark a site, I use my Diigo plug-in -- it then automatically updates my Delicious site with the tags I attach. So the list of bookmarks stored at each site is identical.

Why don't I use just one site? Well, I personally find Delicious cleaner and easier to navigate when I want to find one of my bookmarks quickly, and so it is probably easier for others to navigate when looking for my bookmarks, too; however, Diigo is much richer for those who want more from their social bookmarking experience. Not only can you bookmark and organize by tags, sets, and other groupings, but you can ALSO quickly send Web sites to contacts (on and off the Diigo site), create groups of users, and (the coolest feature), you can mark up (annotate) Web sites with highlighting and "sticky notes" for yourself and to share with others!

I'm sure you can see the potential of such resources in classrooms and between teachers. In the classroom, create a group that includes all your students. Send them links you want used for the course. Have them send one another -- and you -- links they have found as part of an assignment or on their own. Work together to mark up an online text with student observations and commentary. Use sticky notes instead of index cards to keep track of research sources. Save all your annotations and those of the group members to a single Web page or document.

With other teachers, share useful sites, initiate and comment on PD opportunities, and discuss how to use online materials in the classroom. One trick I learned was to post my materials to Google Documents (for which all you need is a free Google account), and then save the URL for the Google Document as an online bookmark, tagged as a GoogleDoc, thus making it available to anyone who knows where to find it. This is incredibly handy for sharing resources with the over 4000 members of the AP® English listserv I belong to.

Public and private bookmarks

While such a thing as a social bookmarking site is obviously incredibly handy for professional purposes, it's just as handy for your own bookmarks that may have nothing to do with your public persona. You might be tempted to create another account for your own bookmarks in order to keep them private, but there is no need. Both Delicious and Diigo offer an option that allows you to keep selected bookmarks private. If you use this option, no one but you will see the private bookmarks. Don't believe me? See how many bookmarks about wedding planning and my plans for my sabbatical you can find at either of my social bookmarking sites!

However, on the other hand, if you want to make your bookmarks even more public, you can get plugins that meld your public bookmarks with other social networking sites like Facebook and Ning, publishing when you add a bookmark so that your various contacts can see what sites have caught your eye. You can also use the built-in features to recommend your bookmarked sites to contacts you have within the social bookmarking network you establish for yourself. (Note: the highlighting and annotation features at Diigo also have public and private options.)

Find out more

These applications are far too rich for me to ever hope to explain them in one blog post. They are the kinds of resources whose features, uses, and possibilities reveal themselves to you through use.

However, to find out enough to get you started, here is a fabulous introductory video from Common Craft on social bookmarking, with a focus on Delicious.

Another Google or YouTube video search on any of the other resources will turn up similar tutorials.

Finally, a colleague and I presented on social bookmarking and similar dynamic online technologies last year at a conference -- you can find our bookmarks for that presentation here.

Summer is the perfect time to play with these tools and become familiar enough with them to introduce them to your classes and colleagues in September. Have fun!

®AP is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.