Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wiki: A Tool for Collaboration

Photo via flickr by susanvg
A Tool for Collaboration
Collaboration is an important component of 21st Century Learning.  Organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have recognized the role that collaboration plays in the world today.  ALA's Standards for the 21st Century Learner, state, "Learning is enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others. Students need to develop skills in sharing knowledge and learning with others, both in face-to-face situations and through technology. " and ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards include an entire standard on communication and collaboration which includes the goal that, "Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others."

Although many Web 2.0 tools support collaboration, wikis do it in a different way.  When I began pushing myself to learn more about wikis, I came across this helpful site-Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs- that explains the differences between several collaborative web tools.  Ironically, it is a wiki and it includes example of each tool's use.  Although they each support collaboration, wikis seem to be the perfect tool for collaborative project work.

My Personal Learning
Once again, I realized that when it comes to certain Web 2.0 tools, I am much more of a user/consumer than a creator/producer. This is very true of wikis for me.  In the past I have used wikis sporadically.  For the spring library course I took, one of our assignments was to create a group wiki on a particular topic dealing with libraries.  I have read wikis, gathered information from them and played with setting up various wikis. But wikis have not been a tool that I have relied on for anything important.

After watching the Common Craft video entitled Wikis in Plain English, I took the idea of using a wiki to plan a group trip and created one for our family in order to learn first hand how a wiki works. So, my husband and I created  
Our "Attractions" Page

A wiki made sense for this upcoming trip because the group of us that is going on the trip is spread out--my oldest daughter is away at college and her good friend (who is away at another college) is also joining us. I also thought it would be a good way to see everyone's wishes/plans in one place.  We have been to Disney before and we all have favorite things to do. Since this will be a shorter trip than usual, we'll need to plan carefully.  So, the wiki made sense and since its creation, the family is using it well.  Some family members are using it more than others (my 10 year old is very active as you can see!).  I imagine we will all use it differently at different times between now and the trip.  The tool allows us to create in a way that you don't know who added unless you want to.  Anyone who is part of the group can add a page--I added a page of links when I realized I had a link to share and nowhere to put it.  My husband added photos to other people's thoughts.  I imagine as the trip gets closer, we will add a page with more of a schedule--when do we want to do what, what are the reservations/times we have, etc?  I can also envision us using it after the trip to share photos, etc. although a Flickr group might be better for that. 

I do not see using a tool like this often in my personal life but I am glad that this project forced me to take a look at the ways I could use it in my personal life. By creating this wiki, using it myself, and watching my family utilize it, I learned quite a bit: 

*I learned that after a few days, you really couldn't tell who added what. This is an important component of this tool. If we are working toward true collaboration, no individual should "own" any part of a collaborative project. The whole group should feel that it was a joint effort.  This tool allows for that--we could add our names when and if needed but we didn't need to.

*I also learned that the users of a wiki need to be knowledgeable and willing to use a wiki. A wiki is only useful if the entire group is committed to it. Otherwise, the collaboration component is missing.

*The thing I learned that I am enjoying about the wiki is that it can become whatever we want or need it to become.  We can add or change the page based on our needs.  It is merely a place for us--a group of people who don't live in the same place--to collaborate and connect to plan.  It is meant to be changed to meet the changing needs of the group.

*This "History" piece (below) is a nice feature on wikis.  I know several teachers who use wikis because of this feature alone-they can go back and track students' changes in writing pieces. As a personal user, the history pages gave me a quick look at how people were using the wiki. I could see that this would be more important if the group were larger.

The "History" shows when and by whom changes to the page have been made.
*Wikis seem to be best used for short-term projects. I can't imagine using a wiki for a long period of time but it seems the perfect tool for a one-time collaboration. Planning a trip, planning a wedding, sharing ideas, designing a project all seem like great reasons to use a wiki but they are all short-term projects.  The wiki's purpose would be finished once the project was completed.  

My Professional Learning
As I reflect on my professional use of wikis, I tend to again be more of a consumer than a creator.  One of the first wikis that I ever spent much time with was Elementary Library Routines Wiki.   I loved the idea that many people had input into this wiki and that there were so many ideas from so many people around the world. I have always been hesitant to add to the wikis that are "open". I have worried that I am not truly an invited contributor so I just gather information and think about the things I would add if I thought I could.  After learning more about wikis and the reasons people create them, I realize that my fears were unfounded.  One of my goals is to add content to the webs that invite others to contribute.  It seems a bit more responsible now that I understand that wikis are truly designed in order to invite collaboration and contribution from multiple sources.

I also spent some time looking at wikis that went along with professional presentations that I heard over the summer. I had avoided looking at these for a while because I hadn't had time and figured they were only worthwhile if you had missed the sessions.  I was able to hear Kathy Cassidy at BLC10 in July but had never visited the wikis she shared along with her presentation.  I had expected the wikis to be a repeat of the presentation but was surprised to find that they seemed to create more information--or more information than I was able to remember from the presentations.  In Let's Do It:  Planning for Technology in the Primary Classroom, the three presenters collaborated to create a wiki that would support participants following the workshop. I was thrilled to not only see some of the content of the presentation but also links to the many tools that they had discussed.  I had visited their Slideshare of the workshop but the wiki contained the slides and so much more.   On their Reboot the 3 Rs Wiki, the links to tools and the embedded student samples were invaluable.  I realized, long removed from the workshop, how valuable these accompanying sites are as a participant. Going back to such detailed pieces of the presentation now, when I am using the information, was critical for me. The notes I took could not capture the things that were captured on the wiki.

This gave me many ideas for ways to begin to use wikis in my own professional work with teachers. I can see huge value in using a wiki to plan workshops collaboratively with others.  So many times when planning with colleagues, we chat over the phone and in passing and forget half of what we had planned. A Wiki would be a great place to collect and share thoughts in the planning stages and then support participants after the session.

I also see the benefits of a wiki for committee work. Whether working on curriculum planning, event planning, problem solving, book talking or data collecting, a wiki would give committee members a place to collect, share and collaborate. I am planning on suggesting a wiki for a committee I am on that plans an annual conference for teachers.  It would make sense to have a space that the committee can all utilize as both a consumer and contributor.

What Does This Means for Elementary Schools and Libraries?
Finding examples of wikis that share true collaboration was not easy. Wiki tools are being used for a variety of reasons but most seemed to be a collection of individual work for the purpose of sharing. The most common reason that I found for wikis in education was to share information with others.  Initially, I worried about the lack of true collaboration I was seeing on wikis.  However, I quickly realized that even if they wikis were used as  more of a sharing tool, they are incredibly valuable. As William Kist says in his book The Socially Networked Classroom, when discussing the value of literature circles and online sharing, "One of the main comments was that the 24/7 nature of the assignment allowed them to have time to think and craft their responses less quickly rather than try to come up with a meaningful comment in the middle of a hectic classroom period."(p. 86)  After reading this, I realized that the collaboration supported by having a site for 24/7 response invited a deeper kind of response from students. This would be true of many projects that utilize wikis.

One example of a wiki used to share information across spaces was the Global Read Aloud Project Wiki.  I had heard about the Global Read Aloud and had heard that there was a wiki about the project so I took the time to see what the group had been up to.  A wiki made total sense for this project as schools from around the world shared a read aloud book (The Little Prince) and also shared their responses.  The project intrigued me when I heard about it but since I didn't have a group of kids to participate with, I had lost track of it altogether. I took the time this week to see how the project had progressed and to see the types of things groups contributed.  From my exploring, it looked like people were more engaged with the wiki during the beginning of the book. The page in response to the first two chapters was my favorite.  There was such a variety of ways that classes shared their responses that I imagine conversations around each contribution were powerful.  I think the possibilities of a conversation via wiki are clear by looking at this particular page of response.

I also found several wikis that act as websites. I had thought that using a wiki as a website went against the purpose of the tool but then I read Carl Harvey's thoughts in The 21st Century Elementary Library Media Program, "Blogs and wikis might also be a format to consider to use when setting up a library media center website. The ease of use and ability to quickly update them could make the format a great choice as the set-up for a library media center web page." (p. 34)  One of my favorite uses of Wikispaces for a library media website is the Allen Centre's site at the Outram School.  I had used it as a website, learning about all of the great things that happen in the library. But I had never really considered the use of Wikispaces as the tool. After looking at it and understanding the tool a bit better, it makes perfect sense to use it to design a library website.

Kathy Cassidy designs wikis with her first graders. She created a wiki to gather ideas from other primary teachers on their use of Web 2.0 tools. I had heard about this site but had never taken the time to explore it.  This week, I spent time looking at the examples of the ways primary students were using wikis to support their learning. Most were submitted by Kathy Cassidy but there were a few examples from others.  The collection is a good one to see different ways that young students can use wikis in authentic ways.

One example of a wiki from her collection that shows true collaboration is a story that first graders wrote and invited others to contribute to as well. "Our Hockey Story" is a story in which students created one story together.  The other wiki that seemed like a great use of the tool was a wiki about a city called Geelong.  The site is a collaborative project by a group of 3rd and 4th graders to share their learning.

Looking at the student samples helped me to see the possibilities for our students.  

Before taking the time to think about the use of wikis and to look at examples of wikis, I thought I understood all they could do.  However, I am now able to see how many options wikis provide both personally and professionally.  They seem unique in several ways but the most important way is the way that they support true collaboration.  In Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World by Pam Berger and Sally Trexler state, "What sets them apart form other Web-Based tools is the potential they provide for collaboration. Content Is usually created by a number of authors, providing a variety of perspectives on the topic addressed. Wikis focus on authoring content, rather than just downloading existing content on the Web." (p. 96)

 I keep thinking about one of my favorite quotes from Dixie Lee Spiegel in Classroom Discussions--a quote that helped me realize the bigger goals I had for book talks and literature circles.  She says, "If talk is not collaborative, then it is not truly a discussion. It is reporting, with each participant presenting ideas without reference to the idea of others.  Discussion involves sharing ideas, listening to and and taking into consideration the perspectives of others, and working together to build meaning."  (p. 13)

For me, I wonder if wikis can do for online production what Spiegel's allowed me to do with talk.   The tool is built to invite true collaboration, not merely the sharing of content.  The act of creating a wiki together--contributing, revising, and producing content--can teach kids about collaboration in ways that other tools cannot.  If we truly believe that collaboration is an essential 21st Century skill, we cannot ignore this tool.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning to Listen: Podcasting

Flickr by niclindh

I have never been a great listener. I pretend to listen and I always look like I have on my "listening ears" when I should but I usually come in and out of attending.  I like interaction so listening without conversation has always been hard for me.  I have attempted audio books and recording talks to listen to later I seem to lose focus rather quickly.  Needless to say, because of this, I have avoided learning about and utilizing podcasts.  There was nothing about podcasts that appealed to me.

Because of this, learning about podcasts seemed a little bit backwards to me. For most of the other Web 2.0 tools I've been learning about, I had used them as a consumer but not as a producer. But with podcasts it was the other way around. I have done a great deal with creating podcasts but have done very little with actually listening to podcasts.  So, much of my learning about podcasts has been about how they are used. I was really rather shocked with myself when I admitted how little knowledge I had about podcasts in general or how popular they are.

What Kinds of Podcasts Are Out There?
First I had to figure out the basics about podcasts. I was surprised to find out how new the concept of podcasting actually is.  According to Pew Internet article, "Podcasting Catches On" (April 3, 2005), "The term “podcasting” emerged in 2004, as people combined the words 'iPod' and 'broadcasting.'" What was more interesting to me from the Pew article was that more than 6 million American adults have downloaded a podcast. Because podcasts had only really only been around for a year at the time of the article, that number was amazing to me.

Adding Podcasts to My Life

My first challenge was to figure out what made podcasts so popular.   The more I read, the more I realized that podcasts were extremely popular.  I wanted to know what I was missing. How could I use them in my own life? I took Will Richardson's advice when he says, "The best place to start your podcasting indoctrination is to take some time to listen to a few shows.  But be prepared:  This is not the highly polished, professional radio you might be used to. Cracks and pops, obscure music, and 'ums' and 'ahs' are all a part of the podcast genre.  Remember, most podcasters are just average Jills and Joes, with day jobs and kids and responsibilities, and ideas that they want to share." (p. 113, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms).
I was surprised to discover how entertaining many of the podcasts were, even without visuals. They sounded more like talk radio shows and conversations  to me. The casualness appealed to me and many of the podcasters seemed to know what to do to keep listeners attentive. I found several podcast series that I enjoyed and will return to.

Because I am trying to live in a more balanced way (:-), I decided to find a few podcasts that had nothing to do with work, school, or education.  So I spent a great deal of time on the iTunes store site exploring what was available. I was thrilled to discover that not all podcasts were audio alone. Many contained video and photos.  Again, I was surprised at the variety of podcasts available.  I could subscribe to podcasts about comedy, news, parenting, and more.  I ended up subscribing to two podcasts-Etsy and The Cookie Jar.  I can't imagine listening to these from the computer so I will make sure to check my iPhone iTunes account more frequently to try to keep up with these two new subscriptions.

I also found many podcasts related to teaching and learning.  I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the podcast series I found and intend to do spend more time with many of the series I discovered.  My exploration allowed me to see the many different reasons for podcasts:

I had heard about Bob Sprankle's Seedlings Podcasts and spent some time listening to a few.  Bob and two colleagues discuss issues dealing mostly with education. They often interview guests and the shows connect to important topics in education.

Another part of Bob Sprankle's website has a series of podcasts called The Bobby Bucket Show. These podcasts are designed with kids and parents in mind and are intended to promote reading.

Bud the Teacher uses podcasting on his blog to share his thinking and record his thoughts. He often records podcasts in the car as he is reflecting on a meeting or some learning he is involved in.

Clip Podcast (Critical Literacy in Practice) deal with education issues. Along with the podcasts, there are several resources for creating your own podcasts. One of my favorite podcast projects from this site and one I want to spend more time with is the Literary Map which provide podcasts at various points on a map to share community information.

New York Times has a series of podcast shows dealing with books. Many of the podcasts are divided into several segments and packed with great content for book lovers. My favorite was the interview with Mo Willems and Jon Muth about their new book City Dog, Country Frog.

I had not previously realized that Tales 2 Go as a podcast but it is clearly a subscription of great audio stories.  The collection is filled with stories for kids of all ages. The subscription is yearlong and includes all audio files available.

Creating Podcasts
I have been spending the last 4-6 weeks really learning a great deal about creating podcasts.  I spent most of that  time learning about podcasting as a form of professional development. I've conducted several podcasts for Choice Literacy in which I interview literacy leaders about a specific topic related to their work.  An example of one podcast for literacy coaches can be found at Choice Literacy's website.

To create these podcasts I've used This is a great service that allows you to record conference calls and to then download them in mp3 format.  This is a great tool for interview and one that really expands the people who can converse on a podcast. Because more than one person can be part of the call, this is the perfect tool for conversations and interviews.

One of the most difficult parts of creating a podcast for me has been the editing.  The online recording tools make the recording piece easy but I had a lot to learn with GarageBand for editing. Many of my students use GarageBand for recording and creating music but we hadn't really dug into editing.  I have been using the very basic tools on GarageBand as I get comfortable with the whole idea of audio interviews.

One of the things I am beginning to understand is the clear need to be prepared for audio interviews. Editing audio for "ums" and "ahs" is not easy and the recording often sounds choppy if there is too much editing.  I have found that when I am prepared with written notes, I am more smooth in my talk and the editing does not get in the way for the listener.

Last week, I explored Yodio, a podcasting service whose name I love (you + audio, get it?). This service is similar to FreeConferenceCall in that you call a number and it creates a downloadable recording of your voice.  Then, you can add photos to complete the podcast.  I thought that this was an easy way to create quick pieces and it might be fun to talk about new books in this way. It takes some time to figure out how to create a podcast with multiple photos but the tool is easy to create and embed. Podcasts can be tagged and organized.

I also did a little bit of experimenting with a new microphone while working with GarageBand. (The Blue Snowball Condenser USB Microphone) Sometimes with all that is going on in the library, the sound doesn't work as well as we'd like. If I want to really commit to doing podcasts, I think having a few good microphones will be key and I want to find a few that work. For this podcast, I worked with my daughter to experiment with a book review. I would love to have students create these regularly for our library website.  Creating and publishing the podcast with a child was easier than I thought it would be. I am sure that our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders can create these on their own after a few demonstrations.  (Since Blogger doesn't yet allow mp3 embedding, I would have to convert this to an mp4 in iMovie to include it here on blogspot with the photo, but at school, I should be able to include the actual mp3.)
I have also re-explored Voicethread and Animoto tools that I looked at briefly last year.  I am not quite sure whether these are podcasting tools or not. But they do meet many of the same purposes. Animoto is very limiting unless you choose to upgrade and as with many of the Web 2.0 tools, educators can get a free upgraded account.  Without the educator account, Animoto projects are limited to 30 minutes.  Voicethread is a favorite tool of mine in that it allows others to comment so the audio piece (with visual) becomes more collaborative in nature.

What Does This Mean for Schools

I then went on to explore what it was that students were doing with podcasting in schools. Again, I was amazed at the variety of authentic projects I found and how many opportunities there are for podcasting. Before I begin podcasting with students, I have to think about the words of Pam Berger and Sally Trexler in 

when they say, 

"The literacies and skills students develop in using these tools make them valuable additions to your instructional toolbox. As students use them, create a library of student projects for others to view and learn from, "best practices" for students to analyze before they create their own presentation." (p. 128)   I believe strongly that if our kids are to create quality podcasts, they need to see/hear examples of others.

One of the things that I am realizing is that our students don't always have the experience with new media such as podcasts that we think they do.  Many of our students are more like me--students who can create a podcast with GarageBand but who have never really listened to a podcast.   We wouldn't ask our students to write a picture book without having had lots of experience reading and enjoying them. We certainly don't want our students creating podcasts without understanding what a podcast is and why people might listen to them. So, one of my big goals is to begin to build a library of podcasts to share with students. Below are a few of the podcasts I found that have been created by students.

R.A. Mitchell Elementary School Podcast Central has a good variety of podcasts by students. These podcasts provide a realistic view of what students could do once they understand the technology piece of podcasting.

Glenbrook Stars second graders created podcasts reading poetry aloud. These podcasts combine audio with student art.  The teacher states that the work was done to support reading with expression and I think there is so much that can be done with books, poetry and podcasting. For kids to have a large audience for their reading, the motivation would be high to share great stories in interesting ways.

This grade 2 class uses podcasting to reflect on their writing.  Used in this way, students can begin to see that podcasting isn't just about performance but that it can also be about reflection.

I was also thrilled to find Will Richardson's Wiki page --What Can You Do With Podcasts? The wiki page provides a great list of ideas for thinking about purposes for podcasting. I will continue to search the Internet for samples of some of the things Richardson discusses.   This list will give me a way to think outside of my own experiences with podcasting and to imagine more possibilities.

I know I still have a lot to learn when it comes to podcasting. I'd like to read the work of Kristin Fontiachiaro whose book Podcasting at School was mentioned in many of the things I read. I also know that I need to find more great examples of student created podcasts for my students so that they can begin envisioning what podcasts can be.  We have 20+ iPod Touches in our library that have been underutilized for the past year.  

I realized that podcasting is about more than listening.  It is a powerful way to share and gather information and it gives our students a new choice for creating. As Troy Hicks states in The Digital Writing Workshop

"Podcasts create an audio composing space that offers writers unique opportunities for expression." (p. 65) Podcasting provides another format for students to share with authentic audiences and to expand the things in which we ask them to share.  

My exploration of existing podcasts and podcasting tools has helped me see the possibilities I was missing when it comes to podcasting. 

Our students know the basics of using GarageBand as a music making and recording tool. My next challenge in the library will be to help them to see what is possible with podcasting. Now that I understand the power of podcasting, I can see that it can be a powerful tool for learning.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Social Bookmarking

I tried every diet in the book. I tried some that weren’t in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.
 ~ Dolly Parton in My Life and Other Unfinished Business

I am a chronic dieter. I have tried diet after diet after diet. I have had successes and failures. I am always trying to find a better diet, a diet that is a better match than other diets I've tried.  A few years ago, a trainer I was working with told me that "any diet works if you actually follow it."

This is how I felt this week as I examined Social Bookmarking tools.  There are so many social bookmarking tools out there and each promises great results.  Each tool offers something a little different and aside from popular bookmarking tools, there are many less-known tools that have various features.  They each have different bells and whistles and each promises a new kind of organization.  Just like diets, some seem to be quick and easy while others seemed to require more of a commitment. I found articles and organizational charts like the one at "Interactive Inquiry" which highlights features of various tools, but I realized without digging in, I didn't really understand the differences.

Before I really dug in,  I realized I had to get my head around exactly what social bookmarking is.  I thought I understood it as I have been using some of the tools for several months.  But I quickly realized that I have only using the "bookmarking" part of the social bookmarking tools. I have been using Delicious and Evernote for my own personal bookmarking and notetaking and I never really thought about the social piece of these tools.

I found a definition that helped me think through the ways I could grow in my personal use of these tools on the Digitally Speaking Wiki. It states, "Designed as information management tools that allow users to categorize web finds through the use of tags---keywords that allow for easy searching and grouping of content---social bookmarking applications take advantage of the wisdom of millions of users to identify resources worth exploring." 

I thought back on my use of the tools over the last several months and tried to figure out how to get the most out of these tools. I realized that I had been underutilizing the whole idea of social bookmarking and decided to dig deeper.

Delicious: My First Attempt at Social Bookmarking
Delicious was the first social bookmarking tool I tried. I quickly found that the tool was easy to fit into my everyday life. There was not much to think about on a day-to-day basis and once I installed the tools, it allowed me to save articles and links that I wanted to revisit.  For years, I had started word documents with links that I knew I wanted to go back to with no formal way to organize those. With Delicious, I quickly learned that I could save these in a way that was far more convenient and  efficient.  I was thrilled with this ability and for a while Delicious met all of my bookmarking needs.

As I began to rely on Delicious to save important links, I began to have several problems. First of all, I had jumped in without having understood the importance of tagging.  So as my collection grew, it became more and more difficult for me to find the links I was looking for.   I realized that sometimes I would tag something "video" and at other times would use the tag "videos".  This happened so often before I realized it, that it has become almost too big to fix.  I think Delicious is a tool that allows users to jump in and learn as they go but many people I know abandoned Delicious because once they understood the ways that it could work, they had already created a mess of their bookmarks.

Last year for my spring course, I decided I would use Evernote completely for my final paper.  I had seen the benefits of Delicious and was sold on this type of tool in general.  But I needed something with more options in order to really use the tool to research a topic and create a product. I set up an account and decided to do all of my research collection, note-taking, etc. with Evernote.  I was glad I gave myself a job to do with this tool because it let me see how different the process could be than the ways I had worked on research/projects in the past. I had enough experience with Delicious to dig into something bigger and I loved the tool.

The whole layout and organization of Evernote seems to be a great transition for people who like the idea of "note cards".  Evernote allows users to pull out quotes from an online source, create note cards, organize notes into topic-specific notebooks and tag. Each "note card"  includes all of the information necessary and the site is easy to navigate.

For me, one of the best features of Evernote is that I can use it on my iPad.  During BLC10, I took conference notes exclusively on the iPad Evernote app. I was able to jot down things from sessions, bookmark sites that presenters mentioned, and organize it all into a notebook called BLC10.

I used Evernote throughout the summer to organize my online reading as well as conference notes.  For me, Evernote really helped me to see the possibilities for collecting information and the evolution of what notetaking could be in the 21st Century.

Diigo was the social bookmarking tool that I was least familiar with before this course began. I had heard about it but hadn't played with it. I knew that it promised more than the others and my friends who use it have raved about its features.  I spent much of my time during the last few weeks exploring the features of Diigo. I think I went into Diigo with a solid understanding of what social bookmarking can do and I knew the challenges that I had encountered with other tools.

I was interested in what Will Richardson mentions in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, "But Diigo also has some unique features that extend our ability to read and write socially in compelling ways. Not only can we bookmark the pages we find interesting, we can actually annotate and highlight them for ourselves or with others." (p. 92)

The Diigo Toolbar was the thing that sold me to the tool. I loved the idea that I could bookmark, highlight, add a sticky note and more.  For me, Diigo totally changes the way I can read on the web. It allows me to annotate in a variety of ways.

I played with every tool! I learned that I could save a picture from a site (with the source right at my fingertips, of course.) I learned to highlight and to add a bookmark. I loved the fact that I could see these things as I looked at my library --this allows for easy scanning within a tag.  The variety of tools in the Diigo toolbar allows for any kind of note taking, quoting, saving that would be needed in my reading.

I am also ready to begin to understand the social piece of social bookmarking.  I looked for friends and colleagues who had Diigo accounts and followed them. One of the things I quickly realized was that the reason I love Twitter is because I love learning by reading what others I respect in the field are reading.  Instead of waiting to see what is tweeted out by those I follow, Diigo allows me to have access to their public libraries on a regular basis.

Up until this week, I had never understood the point of blog posts like this one that appear regularly in my RSS feed.(  In this post, Dana Huff of shares her weekly Diigo bookmarks with readers.  Up until now, I did not understand why I would care what other people were bookmarking to the Diigo account.

Playing with Diigo this week helped me understand (finally) the words of Will Richardson (p. 99), "...the idea that we can now use social networking to tap into the work of others to support our own learning is an important concept to understand. It's another example of how the collective contributions by the Read/Write Web are changing the way we work and learn."

Although I am not using the tools to this extent yet, I suddenly realized the capabilities of social bookmarking tools when they are used collectively and collaboratively.

Which one is a match for me?

Just as in dieting, no one social bookmarking tool is perfect. As with every diet I've tried, I've learned something new about how best to change my life habits to live in a more healthy way. Each diet has helped me live my life a tiny bit differently and when I put all of the knowledge and experience together, it becomes clear how to eat in a healthier way.  I discovered the same type of thing when examining the variety of social bookmarking tools. Each provides a little bit of something that helps me rethink the way I read, write, research and organize. I have come to the conclusion that for me personally, it is the way in which these tools work together that is powerful.

I realized that I love each of these tools for different reasons and I seem to use each a bit differently. I continue to use Delicious when I just want to make sure I save a site I want to revisit. I have become better at tagging and this is the quickest, most efficient way I have found to keep track of the things I read and want to save.

Evernote is my favorite of the tools when it comes to my own personal organization. I think I will be using it often for specific projects. Evernote allows me to focus in and to gather information from a variety of sources. I see Evernote as being the tool I will use when I am working on a project. It seems to be a great match to the other social bookmarking tools like delicious and Diigo but Evernote allows for a bigger variety in organization of information.

Diigo seems to be the one that invites the most collaboration.  Not only can I see what people are reading, but I can begin to explore the ways in which my thinking can come together with others by collective annotations and more.  The tools that I have learned allow me to see what is possible.  Diigo helped me understand the "social" part of social bookmarking in a way that I hadn't before.

What Does This Mean for Schools and Libraries?
I have worried over the past few years about the ways in which schools are not changing to meet the new demands of the 21st Century. As teachers, we tend to fall back on those things that we have done in the past and I see social bookmarking tools as being something we can't ignore. These tools demand that we, as educators, rethink the things we are asking our students to do when it comes to research. I worry that we continue to do the country reports, animal reports, and biography reports that we did when i was in elementary school. And I worry that we are asking students to go through a research process that is very outdated.

Social Bookmarking tools give us so many more possible ways to make research more authentic for our students. Some questions I am asking myself about my work with students in the library are:

Are we falling back on traditional research projects when there are other possibilities that would better meet student needs?
Are our students still required to write out long web addresses in order to cite work for a project?
How are we supporting note taking in ways that go beyond handwritten notes?
Are we utilizing tools for students to quote experts who have up-to-date information on a topic?
How are we helping our student organize and access notes in new ways?
Are we helping them see the power in collaboration when it comes to research or are they isolate in their work?

I think our libraries can be key in helping teachers rethink what is possible when it comes to research.  Libraries everywhere are trying to include social bookmarking tools to the resources they provide for students. In The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student: Making the Connection (2007) Susan Gibbons states, "Because social bookmarking can in fact be an efficient research tool to help students "keep found things found," academic libraries should do more to promote and support their use. For example, the bookmarklets of popular social bookmarking systems like Delicious should be added to the Internet browser of the library's public computer terminals to make it easier for students to use them.  The University of Pennsylvania Libraries have gone a great deal farther in their support of social bookmarking. Recongnizing the  value of social bookmarking, they created PennTags ..., a local social bookmarking service designed specifically for the university community." (p. 72)

Last year, I followed Buffy Hamilton's reflection about her Media 21 Project in which a group of students worked on long-term projects using Web 2.0 tools.  In a post near the end of last school year, her students shared their reasons for choosing Evernote. Her work with students has been incredible and her sharing has helped me to see what is possible when students are given tools to do authentic learning.

We have several teachers who use Delicious accounts as a way to share links quickly and efficiently with students. My thinking is to create a Delicious account for our library where students can easily access so many of the sites they visit in the library.  I discovered that Shannon Miller has her Diigo links as part of her library website.  This seems like a great way to begin to use social bookmarking.

I am not sure where this fits into an elementary school. I want our students to begin to move toward more authentic reading, writing and researching and social bookmarking tools seem to be a great first step toward that.  A classroom delicious account with the teacher in control of the account,  can help kids understand the process of bookmarking, strategies for tagging, etc. but the individual contributions to the collective learning become lost.

I am interested in learning more about Diigo Educator, a new tool for teachers who want students to begin social bookmarking.  I spent a great deal of time reading about the tool and the safety features for students. I was impressed with all that it offered and it appears to be a great scaffold for students new to social bookmarking. The new upgrade allows educators to create a private group with an account for each student (no email address necessary). The privacy and safety settings seemed to address so many concerns I have with this tool for young children. Finding classroom teachers who wanted to collaborate on this tool would be ideal as it isn't something that can be created on a whole school basis.

Final Reflections
At this point, our students seem to understand the concept of bookmarks as they relate to individual interests. They use their bookmark tools to bookmark sites they want to return to but the bookmarking has not changed the way they read, write or research. For me, the next step in thinking is to really work to help students participate in a more socially constructed research project where social bookmarking is a tool for collaboration as well as information-gathering.

For me, social bookmarking tools have changed the way I've learned and I can see that I am just beginning this journey.  The question for me is how can we utilize these tools to help our students read, write and collaborate in ways that move them to deeper learning.