First thoughts on using diigo in class….

 

 

Yesterday I used diigo for the first time with students in my class. I’d previously had to consider the always prevalent issue of e-safety when getting ready to use this website with my students. Diigo makes this problem relatively easy to solve, because student accounts that you can create are much more restricted than a typical diigo account – essentially they can interact with the sites you create for them, but other users can’t add them. I also created a student account for my head of department, so she could see what I was doing (something we’re always asked to do so as to protect ourselves from accusations of inappropriateness). I’m curious as to how other teachers feel restricted in this sense, if its the same in other countries in terms of reticence about students using the internet?

So anyway, onto the lesson. I had 8 sixth form students and they were just beginning to study the poetry of W.H. Auden for A Level. I split my hour long lesson into three parts, hoping to achieve 3, relatively straightforward objectives by the end of the lesson. These were:

  1. Get logged onto diigo and favourite the ‘diigolet’ toolbar.
  2. Read a poem that I’d already annotated using the sticky note feature and then leave their annotations
  3. Find and bookmark some appropriate websites for W.H. Auden.

Broadly speaking, we’d achieved all three by the end of the hour, with a bit of time to spare, which was pleasing. Here’s some reflection on how the 3 different things went:

1. Starting up Diigo.

I was worried – the internet had been very slow in the morning and crashing a fair bit. Thankfully by the time we started it seemed to be back to normal. In fact the only problem was that students barely wanted to keep up with me; as soon as they got the piece of paper they were into the site and doing the things they should be! Within five minutes or so we were ready to go. The age of these students is 17 so I suppose you could argue they’re technically more proficient than younger student would be: I hope to be able to try it with younger students if this ends up being a sucess.

2. Annotation.

Perhaps the first tricky bit. Students found the page alright and loaded up the diigolet toolbar. They had to pick a line from W.H. Auden’s ‘Stop the Clocks’ poem and explain why they thought it was the most important in the poem.

They were very focused during this task, much more so than when they had to find bookmarks (more on why I think this is later). While not all of them quite got that when you can highlight you can leave a sticky note (and so just left a random sticky note bubble near the line), they all completed the task to a good standard, which you can see in the page’s current state, and some of their responses, which are also below.

Why were they most engaged here? Well I suppose it comes back to that age old dilemma about new technologies in classrooms; if they’re not clearly scaffolded with outcomes then even the best intentioned students can start to wonder. Out of all the activities I did with them, this was the one where the outcomes were probably the clearest.

The view from the now student annotated page. More than one of them picked the same line, hence the fact that only two or three are highlighted.

The view from the now student annotated page. More than one of them picked the same line, hence the fact that only two or three are highlighted.

 

Here are some of the comments left by the students. They have successfully highlighted the lines (which show up in green), with their 'sticky note' comments in yellow. I was impressed with the level of depth in their annotations.

Here are some of the comments left by the students. They have successfully highlighted the lines (which show up in green), with their 'sticky note' comments in yellow. I was impressed with the level of depth in their annotations.

3. Bookmarking.Case in point with this. Students had to find at least 2 bookmarks for W.H. Auden. They all did this and they did it well, but when I tried to encourage them to use highlighting and sticky notes to give students some feedback (the bookmark as it appears on a diigo page also lets you look at highlights/notes without having to access the site itself), none of them seemed to do it. Perhaps they were relucant to ‘deface’ the websites with notes, but I had thought that the opportunity to do it first under my direction, would have gotten past that. They still got the bookmarks done though, and found some good websites (and I like how on our group’s homepage it has a box of top contributors, to encourage a healthy bit of competition).

Conclusions:

Students completed all the objectives I’ve set. They yet again showed a ‘savvy-ness’ with technology, wanting to steam ahead with the tutorial process, meaning we actually ended up having more time than I thought we would. Students were most engaged when completing a directed task from the teacher; annotating a poem I had bookmarked and leaving feedback on the website. They completed the bookmarking task, but lacked a certain independence in wanting to feedback the contents of the website they’ve found.

Future plans:

Much closer planning of activities using Diigo. I don’t want to restrict the sense of freedom it gives students, but I feel that they need to better understand the usefulness of the highlighting and sticky notes feature. Future lessons will try and adress this.

 

Plans afoot with diigo and skype

Over the next few weeks in school I’m beginning to push out in some new areas with regards to using technology in the classroom. I’m beginning to feel relatively comfortable and proficient with podcasting, through the use of audacity. I hope in the future to start the process of getting other teachers in my school involved in doing this – currently I seem to be the only one.

This is only one of the elements I want to focus on playing with in my school. I remain incredibly excited about the possibilities of using SKYPE in the classroom, video-conferencing with other students around the world. I’ve noticed that a lot of the schools taking part seem to be American or Australian. Can anyone help me locate some UK schools that are doing this? It would be useful because I’m already worried about the opposition my school might have about using a webcam in school. That’s not intended as a criticism of my school either, I just feel that in British education there’s such a mistrust of these kinds of technologies. Nevertheless, I shall begin the process of delicately asking people there thoughts on whether I could be allowed to do it in my school!

Onto something I will definitely be using with one of my classes next week, Diigo. I have waxed lyrical about this website on here before; I think its wonderful and solves a lot of the problems that we associate with students researching things on the internet. So next week I’m going to get students logged on with their usernames and accounts. My page for my Year 12 English Literature Group currently looks something like this:

y12

 The group page on Diigo for my Year 12 group.

The idea is that tomorrow I will give them two challenges (once we’ve got past the logging in and installing the diigolet feature). Firstly they are all going to have to look at one specific page I have bookmarked for them on W.H. Auden. I will have already highlighted key points on the webpage using Diigolet. They must also leave annotations, using the ‘post-it note’ feature, which we then review later. Hopefully this will introduce them to the annotating features on diigo and encourage to use them on other websites they find. They then need to find a few other websites on Auden and bookmark those too, which the rest of the group will then be able to see.

I shall report back on how it goes; am really excited about it!

 

 Other things I’ve been using this week and discovering that I like them:

  • TinyUrl – ok, so I’m like *well* behind here (and slipping into the voice of one of my students), but I’ve discovered that this is a great time saver. Remember when you write a link on the whiteboard and it can take ages? Especially if you have a HTML extension on it, or lots of dots and slashes. Well TinyURL solves this problem very easily, by condensing the link into something much smaller and much easier to share with your kids. Good stuff!
  • Twitter. Having signed up and been fiddling a few weeks (ahem), jury’s still out on this one for me. Can it genuinley be used for educational innovation? This article would seem to suggest so. I can’t help but get the feeling of it being a little bit ‘cool toy’, but not much else at the moment. That said, a lot of teachers seem to be doing interesting things with it, particularly the really enthusiastic article I just pointed you in the direction of. My username on twitter is ‘andywhiteway’ if you want to add me.