Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Social Bookmarking Assignment

I am writing this as I fly from New Brunswick to Ontario to visit my family for 3 days. The sun is setting above a spectacular layer of puffy clouds that stretches as far as the eye can see. There are millions of them out there, merging with and layering on top of each other ….Suddenly, all I can picture in my head are words floating around in the clouds like the tag clouds that have been in my sights all this week while learning about and experimenting with social book marking in an attempt to organize and make sense of the hundreds of websites I navigate every week.

Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
Although there are many different types of social bookmarking sites out there to try, I decided to use Del.icio.us this week for several reasons. First, it was the site that pioneered tagging and coined the term ‘social bookmarking’. Second, since social bookmarking, like any other social networking web tool relies on the size of its community and participation for its success, I chose to go with the largest one out there. Setting up a page on Del.licio.us was remarkably easy. I didn’t even need to use an email address to register. I followed the clear and easy to read prompts and was able to import my 191 bookmarks within a few minutes. What I was a bit disgruntled with at first (but now love since I’ve seen how easy and quick it is to use) is that it changed the look and settings of my firefox toolbar to include the Delicious tag buttons. I was happy that all my imported bookmarks were saved as private by default, even though it took me a bit of time to sort through and change the settings of approximately half of them to public. Admittedly, it probably would have gone quicker if I had discovered the ‘bulk edit’ button sooner! Now that I have used the quick tag buttons, I have discovered that these are saved as public by default. What I am still not very happy about is that there is no option to only share a bookmark with specific people in my network, but I can see how this could be circumnavigated by using a very unusual ‘tag’ word. The biggest thing that I learned this week is that the most important part of using this method of organization is all in the tag. “Finding and connecting to relevant information is not done through the search; it’s done through the tag” (Richardson p. 96). This is taking me a little bit of getting used to. The first day I tried it, I gave up in frustration, feeling like a grumpy little Eeyore with a black cloud about my head (yes, with tags words swirling in it). I have become so accustomed to my own antiquated method of using folders and sub-folders; I really have to adjust to this new way of thinking and searching. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about and try in Delicious, and I am interested to see how I will feel about this tool later on in the semester after I’d had a better opportunity to build my network of people to share with.

Social bookmarking as a tool for my own personal learning
As I started to ‘tag away’ I found it really interesting to see just how eclectic my tastes and interests are. I had never given much thought to the variety of sites that I visit everyday and the tangents that I go off on when browsing the internet. This tool has certainly made me much more aware of this aspect. When I look at my ‘tag cloud’ that is posted on this blog, I can see a drawback to this tag-based system. As hard as I tried to use similar keywords, I still pluralized some of them accidentally and made a few spelling errors. Since there is no standard set of keywords, social bookmarking relies on a folksonomy, which is not a controlled vocabulary (Wikipedia). Besides making spelling errors, users could potentially use tags that have more than one meaning and further add a confusing element.

Despite this particular drawback and my own personal struggle with using a new system of organization, I am looking forward to building up my network to connect to others that share similar interests and hobbies. Rock climbing has long been one of my passions, and it will be fun to find others with which to share new route information and newly discovered areas to explore in. I also love to cook and bake, and am eager to find others to share recipes and helpful websites with.

It may be a coincidence that this tool was introduced to our class in the same week that we were asked to reflect on how we’re managing to stay organized in the Web 2.0 environment – but I doubt it! While reflecting on that question, and experimenting with social bookmarking, I started to wonder how this is changing the way we interact and communicate with others. I can also see that it may be changing the way we store and find information in general. By tagging information, resources, photos, videos etc., it “may become less important to know and remember where information was found and more important to know how to retrieve it”. (Educause Learning Initiative). This has lead me to question this week ‘Do my students not only communicate differently than I do, but actually think differently too?’ If this is the case, will I be able to change, adapt and evolve my own thinking too over time? Perhaps communicating in an online format is like any other skill – it needs to be practiced and developed to become inherent and effective. I am hoping that I become more comfortable with social bookmarking and the ‘tagging’ system over time.

Social bookmarking as a tool for teaching and learning

What intrigues me the most about social bookmarking sites are the possibilities that they hold to improve collaboration with colleagues, sharing of resources, and enhancing my teaching practice. As Richardson comments in School Library Journal it better “enables us to share our treasure with others”. I have often team taught my science classes with other teachers and we have always had to store our information, notes and presentations on a central laptop which we then wheeled on a cart from room to room as needed. I am happy that I now have a quicker, more efficient method of sharing valuable websites and information with colleagues. I am also excited that my bookmarks can now be utilized from any computer or workstation in the school or when traveling. I also feel more secure knowing that I can download and save all of my bookmarks for security, or easily transfer from one service to another if I find it better suits my needs later on (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).

I am also excited about the possibilities that social bookmarking has to help students organize themselves and work collaboratively with their peers and a bigger community.
Many of the teenagers that I teach in junior high really struggle with the transition of having several courses with different teachers and organizing themselves in general. Teaching students to use social bookmarking can provide them with an overall system or framework in which to organize themselves, but still allows them the flexibility to personalize their sites and form their own networks. Where I see bookmarking becoming invaluable to students is the collaboration and sharing of websites when researching for projects. If the time is taken to properly teach students how to critically evaluate websites when researching it could also mean that they will be more diligent about utilizing and sharing sites of higher quality. (DesRoches) It also has the potential for helping students find links to current events by subscribing to news feeds on a particular subject of interest (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).

In the library, there are several possible applications for social bookmarking that will dramatically change how we research and communicate. Using tailor made social bookmarks for a specific class research project can simplify the distribution of reference lists, bibliographies and resources between students or collaborative groups (Educause Learning Initiative). Teachers and students could also tag interesting reviews to recommend books and DVDs that be purchased for the library, or possibly used in book clubs (DesRoches). Some community libraries, like the Thunder Bay Public Library and the Nashville Public Library now have tag clouds rolled onto their websites so patrons can find information on any number of topics just by clicking on a tag. Researchers have noted that this has been better for patrons than traditional pathfinders and subject guides because it “lowers [the] barriers for participation”. (Rethlefsen)

After getting a ‘taste’ of Del.icio.us social bookmarking this week and seeing the benefits that it will offer both my students and myself personally and professionally, I am definitely going to go back for a second helping.


Educause Learning Initiative. (May 2005) 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7001.pdf

Desroches, Donna. (January 2007) All Together Now. School Library Journal from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6403269.html

McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Social Bookmarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from http://teachingtoday.glencoe.com/hoetoarticles/social-bookmarking.

Rethlefsen, Melissa. (June 2007). Tags help make Libraries Del.icio.us. Library Journal from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/pqdweb?did=1335174171&sid=4&Fmt=3&clientId=12301&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Social Boomarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from http://wikipedia.org/wiki/social_bookmarking


Pam said...

Hi Jackie,
I enjoyed reading your blogs. I too, often think about the question " do students think differently than we do?" I have read some research in the past about this but didn't tag it - so I wouldn't know where to find it. Loved your slide show, you must have a very adventurous life! Enjoy!

Kathy said...

I agree that I will use social bookmarking in my personal and professional life. In my professional life it will be a way to collaborate with colleagues and a skill set to teach my students. In my personal life to help keep my web life organized.

Bagman said...

I agree with you that the collaborative possibilities are very interesting. I've yet to explore this aspect of it other than to click on other people's links, but it definitely something I'd like to try with my staff.