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:
- Get logged onto diigo and favourite the ‘diigolet’ toolbar.
- Read a poem that I’d already annotated using the sticky note feature and then leave their annotations
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.