Teaching a lesson using diigo – part 2


The second lesson using diigo gave me an opportunity to consolidate what had worked well the first time I’d used it with a class and also to try and provide more of a framework to make sure students used the features on diigo to give them a challenging learning experience.

Students were to look at three different websites, each containing a different poem by W.H. Auden. On each site they would be required to highlight and explain a different piece of information from the poem. They would then be required to synthesise the three seperate explanations they had given about the poems into a conclusion on the overall message contained in Auden’s poetry, which they would post on the forum on our diigo group’s homepage.

Students had one lesson’s prior experience of using diigo and got on with the initial part of the lesson quickly. I had to remind them to select the ‘share with mr.w’s lit group’ option when writing their post it-notes, otherwise they would have stayed private on the students’ diigo accounts, but this was the only time I had to verbally remind students of something to do with the ‘using diigo’ area.

The quality of annotations

One thing that’s been fantastically exciting about watching my students interact with diigo is the ease at which they engage with writing about the poems I have asked them to look at. The class I teach is not particularly unusual and its certainly not particularly unusual (as other English teachers may well sympathise with), to ask people to have a discussion about a poem they’ve just read, only to be greeted by hesitant silence, until the teacher encourages and starts teasing things out. Why? I guess poetry can be an intensely personal thing, and I think sometimes our kids find it hard to open up about it.

Here are just a few examples of some of the feedback they left:


There is a good combination of analysis here, some from a personal response, others more based on reasoning

Even if I didn’t want to explore other aspects of diigo than just poetry, I’d be very happy with this, because I’m always looking for students to feel more comfortable in sharing their opinions and it seems clear to me that in these responses they have. 

Posting in the forum

The post I created on the forum which gave instructions for how students should complete the final part of the lesson.

The post I created on the forum which gave instructions for how students should complete the final part of the lesson.

 Students then assembled their various annotations and were required to look at them together. They would find me forum post that (hopefully) gave them clear instructions on what they needed to do to synthesise the informations together into a conclusion about Auden’s poetry. Having the forum linked to the main site worked well because students have a ‘base’ that they can keep coming back to (and easily get hold of the annotations they’ve got, without having to go back onto the website). If there’s anything I’d like to see in the future, its an extension of the group home pages, maybe even a wiki-type level of editing possible to the homepage itself – maybe the creation of different students pages, based on the research they’ve done?

Time was the only slight problem here – students did work at different rates, one finishing ten minutes early (but I was able to immediately review his post and suggest other areas of discussion) and a few only just finishing. I’d attribute some of this to getting used to the technology, but I will also monitor this more closely in future lessons and see if there is any kind of pattern to it.

 Key points to take forward:

  1. Would be nice to begin to use the posts that have been generated to encourage discussion  between students – currently they are sharing bookmarks, but not necessarily the feedback and thoughts they are giving on them.
  2. Will need to examine more closely how students are finding the timings I am giving on tasks.
  3. Annotations are encouraging the students to speak their mind more about the poetry – a fantastic plus.

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).


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.



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.