Picture from Flickr Creative Commons

“Fast, stripped down and eminently usable…” Mmm…wait….what were you thinking?  The same as my students when I ask them to go to my Delicious site?  I swear every time I ask my students to do this, at least one or two of the boys gives me a funny look like they think I’m into something weird.  But when you get right down to it, this quote from Fred Stutzman (In Stephens, p. 3), a doctoral student and blogging expert on social tools, pretty much sums up my feelings about what a great social bookmarking tool like Delicious really is.  It’s quick and easy to set up, account holders can begin tagging and sharing sites instantly with nary a thought and then find their favourite sites with the click of a mouse.

 

Have you caught the social bookmarking bug yet?  Personally, I can’t imagine anyone who owns or has access to a computer not having at least one social bookmarking site.  In my opinion, having a social bookmarking site is a crucial piece in the puzzle to stay organized in an electronic world and it appears from my reading this week that I am certainly not alone.  One of the numerous testaments I’ve read this week about how important social bookmarking sites have become those who live in a digital world was by Patricia Anderson, a librarian at the Health Sciences Library at the University of Michigan.  In the article, “Tags Help Make Libraries Del.icio.us” she is quoted as saying, “I find del.icious has probably been the single most valuable tool for personal and professional productivity that I have encountered in a long time (p. 26).”  Amen to that!

 

Although “tagging” is not without its critics, particularly those in the library community who feel that it will be difficult to find items in the future because standardized language is not being used to describe online materials, writers such as Mary Ellen Bates believe that an important feature of folksonomies lies in its ability to “enhance exploration” (rather than searching) and helps users to find items of current interest now, when the searcher needs it the most (p. 64).  Besides, writes Bates, does it really matter how someone else tags an item as long as you can find it again?  This, writes Bates, is the real power of tagging since it enables users to manage their own information sources, state why a piece of information is important to them and subsequently “embed that knowledge into the source” for future use (Bates, p. 64). 

 

I was first introduced to social bookmarking and delicious, in particular, by our divisional library consultant who is the guru of anything Web 2.0.  I first began using delicious two years ago as a way of keeping track of my ever-increasing amount of web sites and online articles that I wanted to use for my own professional development and in the classroom.  It did not take long for my delicious site to become a place where I could not only store and find my favourite sites but also I could share my favourite websites with my fellow staff members, teacher-librarians and students.

 

Currently, I have over 1,500 sites listed on my delicious account.  If I wasn’t using a social bookmarking system, I simply wouldn’t be able to keep track of that many sites and find them again easily.  I love it that I can tag an item from any computer I’m on that has the delicious buttons downloaded (which is super easy) and I can retrieve these tags from any computer.  I also use the “search” button extensively to find items in my tags and to find sites that others have tagged on similar subjects.  Being able to view the tags in clouds helps me to see patterns in tagging that I might have missed looking at one of several URLs in a list.

 

I am so sold on the delicious bookmarking system that I convinced my principal to let me teach our entire staff about the benefits of social bookmarking.  I created this PowerPoint presentation social-bookmarking-powerpoint-presentation for my staff in June 2007.  I will be using it again this fall to teach all our grade 9 students how to set up and use their delicious accounts, as well.  Both the staff and students have access to this presentation by going to my library wiki which is attached to our school website so they can refer to it as needed.

 

Picture from Microsoft Clip Art

 

Just when I thought that I knew everything there was to know about social bookmarking, I was brought back to reality this week as I read several articles on the topic and took a closer look at the site, as well.  It seems like this teacher-librarian (a.k.a. “me”) hasn’t been using her Delicious site to its fullest advantage.  It appears that I get the “bookmarking” aspect of Delicious much better than I get the “social” aspect. 

 

I use my Delicious site primarily as an online place to store and retrieve my favourite websites.  From time to time, I have conducted searches and shared my websites with other teachers and students but on the whole, I have not used the sharing potential of Delicious very much.  So I set out this week to change all that.

 

I began by trying to subscribe to a few tags that I was interested in or I could use in the classroom including Web 2.0, Ancient Egypt and Teacher Librarian and I was astounded at the results.  I got over three million hits for Web 2.0, alone.  Wow!  Who knew??  At first I got a little panicky – were all these websites going to end up on my own tags?  I like the control I have over what I have tagged so I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with so many sites.  Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that I would have to “Save” any of the tags that appeared in my subscription so I breathed a sigh of relief. 

 

Next, I tried to set up RSS feeds for these sites.  In Blogs, wikis, and podcasts and other powerful web tools for the classroom, Richardson writes about the advantages of setting up RSS feeds for teaching and learning (p. 99).  Richardson is certainly right when he states that setting up feeds is “almost too simple.”  And the feeds are so accessible either from the Favorites Center on the toolbar (did you know there was a feeds button on this tab?  I didn’t until this week) or they can be sent to your email or attached to your website or blog.  I had no idea it was this easy!!!

What a great tool for the classroom – all the latest tagged websites on any topic you’d like whether you’re working on a school project, building up a classroom online resource base or looking for websites for teaching purposes.   Author Michael Stephens writes in “Tags & social bookmarking” that he uses a tag for each of the classes he teaches and then displays a feed of the sites and articles tagged on the class blogs. 

 

 

I thought this idea had so much potential for learning that I decided to create a new Delicious site just for our school After creating the site, I emailed all the teachers on my staff to see who would be interested in becoming part of our school’s professional learning community using our school’s new Delicious site.  I was thrilled that the first person who responded to my request was our principal who wanted to share some professional development articles.   I’ve since added more names to our network and will hopefully be adding more as I talk one-on-one with my fellow teachers.  I found a good example of how a teacher can use a Delicious site to promote sharing at: http://delicious.com/budtheteacher  Check out “budtheteacher’s” extensive networking file.

 

It took me awhile to figure out how to send tagged sites to other del.icio.us members but I finally succeeded and it’s really very easy once you know how.  I wanted to be able to send some of the tagged sites on my site to the new school site.  I read that you could import your tagged sites from one site to the other but I didn’t want or need to send them all so after a bit of frustration, I figured out that I could bring up the site I wanted to send, click on the “People” tab and send it to whomever I wanted.  Once I got the hang of it, I rather enjoyed the process and began adding tags to our school site according to subject.

 

I think the idea of students contributing to either class delicious sites or their own sites would be a great way for students to become involved in the learning process and make them feel a part of a dynamic learning community.  Richardson talks about this feeling of “working together” toward a common goal in “Taming the beast: Social bookmarking.”  Students, regardless of location or time could be asked to leave comments in the “notes” section to remind them why they chose a particular website and how it might be helpful for themselves, their classmates or their teacher, for that matter. As noted by Bryan Alexander in “Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?” teachers could track a student’s progress by the sites they bookmark and the notes they create about the sites (p. 3).

 

Teachers could use their delicious sites to bookmark only those websites that they would like their students to visit during a particular lesson or assignment much like pathfinders (Rethlefsen, p. 26).  This would cut down the time wasted having students surf the net for their own sites and getting off topic.  Teacher-librarians could also use a delicious site to create their own pathfinders for student and teacher resources.  Check out my Ancient Egypt tags for an example of how a Delicious tag could act as a pathfinder. 

 

Library delicious sites could be used to tag author and books sites that are relevant to their clientele and use RSS feeds to keep this information up to date.  Tags could also be used to highlight books recommended for a specific age group, class or genre.  These are ideas I will certainly look into in the future.

 

The benefits of using social bookmarking sites both within and outside the classroom are enormous.  I’d invite you to become a member of my Delicious site and I’ll become a member of your site.  Then we can start the process of sharing our best sites for educational and professional development purposes.

 

References

 

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: a new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?  Retrieved Oct. 2, 2008, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf

 

Anderson, P. In M.L. Rethlefsen. (Sept. 2007). Tags help make libraries del.icio.us. Library Journal, 132(15), 26.  Retrieved Sept. 30, 2008, from the Proquest Database.

 

Bates, J.E. (Jan./Feb. 2006). Tag-You’re it! Online, 30(1), 64.  Retrieved Sept. 30, 2008, from the Proquest Database.

 

Richarson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  California: Corwin Press.

 

Richardson, W. (2007). Taming the beast: Social Bookmarking. School Library Journal, 3(1). Retrieved Oct. 2, 2008, from http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/199339

 

 

Stutzman, F. In M. Stephens. (Sept./Oct. 2007). Tagging & social bookmarking. Library Technology Reports, 43(5), 58. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2008, from the Proquest Database.

 

 

 

 

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