Using Social Bookmarking in Schools and with Students- Part One

There is too much information available. No doubt… Everyone feels overwhelmed by this information overload. EVERYONE…One of my favorite images to visualize this feeling is the one of a fire hydrant with a quote by Mitchell Kapor

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Will Lion.

How can we expect teachers and their students to not feel overwhelmed too? How can we ask them to find, research, read, evaluate, analyze, cite, organize, categorize and make sense of all the information that they consumed.

What is social bookmarking?

According to Wikipedia

Social Bookmarking is a method for Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren’t shared, merely bookmarks that reference them. Descriptions may be added to these bookmarks in the form of metadata, so users may understand the content of the resource without first needing to download it for themselves. Such descriptions may be free text comments, votes in favour of or against its quality, or tags that collectively or collaboratively become a folksonomy. Folksonomy is also called social tagging, “the process by which many users add metadata in the form of keywords to shared content”

Take a look at Common Craft’s video “Social Bookmarking in Plain English” to get started…

There are a few (free)  social bookmark services available to educators. Leading the list was Delicious. Yahoo announced a few days ago (December 2010) though that it will shut down the services or look for “new home” for it. I have started to save my bookmarks to Diigo with the option that automatically saves the bookmark to my Delicious account too. As with all free services, we must be flexible and have backups and alternatives for our content.

This blog post is not about the alternatives to Delicious though. Part I attempts to point out the skills and  literacies involved and required when using social bookmarking tools to its full potential. I am looking at the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy as well as 21st century skills to see where social bookmarking fits in. Part II looks deeper at the skills involved when using social bookmarking, gives specific examples of how schools, teachers and students can use social bookmarking for learning and reiterates that it’s not about the tools we use but about the skills we try to instill in our students or as Andrew Churches on his Edorigami Wiki points out that

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy isn’t about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate learning. Outcomes on rubrics are measured by competence of use and most importantly the quality of the process or product. For example. Bookmarking a resource is of no value if the resource is inappropriate, invalid, out of date or inaccurate.

Churches puts Social Bookmarking in the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy on the level of:


Social Bookmarking  is an online version of local bookmarking or favourites, it is more advanced because you can draw on others bookmarks and tags. While higher order thinking skills like, collaborating and sharing, can and do make use of these skills, this is its simplest form – a simple list of sites saved to an online format rather than locally to the machine.

and Understanding

Categorising & Tagging – digital classification – organising and classify files, web sites and materials using folders, using Del.ico,us and other similar tools beyond simple bookmarking. This can be organising, structuring and attributing online data, meta-tagging web pages etc. Students need to be able understand the content of the pages to be able to tag it

Take a look at the Edorigami’s  Bookmarking Rubric and a Delicious Starter sheet.

Social bookmarking allows teachers and students to practice essential skills, such as communicating, collaborating, connecting and critical thinking.


  • By saving bookmarks online (in the cloud), we allow others to see our bread crumbs where we have been and we share the road map how we arrived where we are.
  • We are also able to access  (communicate with) our resources from any device with Internet access (home computer, school computer, mobile devices).
  • We can add notes to explain our train of thought, further questions, or future direction our research could take and communicate like this with potential collaborators.
  • Summarizing the site we are bookmarking allows others to quickly read if the site would warrant an extended visit.
  • Adding highlights to the website shows others in a glance what we felt was the most important message.


  • Social bookmarking allows for group based research. With a little organization, groups can divide research areas and pull them together via pre-arranged tags.
  • Folksonomy (“the process by which many users add metadata in the form of keywords to shared content”) allows to take advantage of collaborating on a much larger scale. Other users, including possible experts in the field, share and add resources to your research by simply using a shared tag.


  • By publically sharing you bookmarks in the cloud (instead of in your browser and on your computer alone)  you automatically connect with anyone who finds your userpage or when your bookmarks (using a specific tag ) are added to their search results.
  • By using tags in your own searches you connect automatically to others who chose to share and tag bookmarks with the same tags.
  • Most social bookmarking services allow you to create or join groups or become members of a network that you select. This way you are connected to a specific group of users who share common interest in one way or another.
  • Each user, tag or string of tags has its own RSS feed, which connects you instantly to any update and addition by any user using these tags.

Critical Thinking:

  • It is easy to bookmark any resource. Most social bookmarking services have browser specific buttons, that allow you to easily add the link to your bookmarking library. Once bookmarked, you are prompted to add tags. These tags allow you to categorize and organize your resources. Choosing appropriate tags are of vital importance to connect to resources tagged with the same keywords.
  • Looking at a bookmark shared by other user lends itself to begin analyzing what kind of tags s(he) used to categorize the link. Did they see a connection to another category that you did not? Did they interpret the content of the link differently than you did? Can I use their tags to follow my research towards a new direction?
  • How do we organize thousands and thousands of bookmarks? Some services allow for tag bundles to be created. Some allow your tags to be seen in a word cloud. How can we interpret the collaborative tagging of a single bookmark by potentially thousands of people around the world?

Continue taking a look at Social Bookmarking in your schools and with your students Part II