The subject of this week’s blog is diigo, a website that I have been getting to grips with in the past week or so. I think it offers a real chance to change practice within the classroom.
Firstly, its features: Diigo is a free service that allows you to trawl the web and bookmark websites in a social sphere. Essentially, if you find a wesbite you like, you bookmark it (similar to adding it to your favourites). The difference is that you can then share that link with others who are part of the site; this is the social element and where the phrase ‘social bookmarking’ seems to originate from.
As good as this is on its own, it doesn’t take into account the functionality of Diigo. There are numerous tools that can allow you to reflect on the website you’re using, which again, can be accessible to other members of the site. For example, you can highlight parts of the webpage and leave ‘post-it’ note style annotation on the highlights, meaning that others can then access your experiences/insights of using the website.
Never mind that this is a useful tool for all the trawling I do with journals for my masters, I quickly began to consider the implications that this website could have for teaching practice. One of the biggest concerns with students using ICT is how effectively they are using the internet. Many are comfortable using search engines; far less get into the regular habit of adding good websites they find to their favourites.
If Diigo was used with students they could quickly begin to see the usefulness of such an approach. If a student found a website they liked, they would simply bookmark it. Because of the social networking part of Diigo, that link would then be passed onto other students in. Furthermore, the student could have left annotations, reflecting on what they consider to be the most salient parts of the website.
A still taken from the test group I have set up. Notice how the ‘notes’ I have left for the website are accessible before having to view the website.
Things don’t necessarily end there either. Having signed up as an educator on the site (an easy, vital part), I have created a test ‘group’ for one of my classes. They then have access to a message board in which they can discuss what they’ve found and a space where all the bookmarks are listed and summarised.
For a long time there has been a feeling in my school that students, particularly those taking the jump from GCSE to sixth form, struggle with processes of research and the independence that comes attached with this sort of study. Given that students are increasingly doing their research on the internet, this seems like a powerful tool for shaping that experience for them in a meaningful, significant way.