Using Social Bookmarking in Schools and with your Students- Part Two

Part I of Using Social Bookmarking in Schools and with your Students attempted to point out the skills and  literacies involved and required when using social bookmarking tools to its full potential. I looked at the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy as well as 21st century skills to see where social bookmarking fit in.

Part II takes a 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.

How can we take advantage of Social Bookmarking in our schools?

Once you have decided on a social bookmarking service, it is time to look at the reasons how you could and why you possibly should use social bookmarking in your school and/or in your classroom. Remember that it is NOT about the tools we use with our students, but the skills we are exposing them to and want them to get proficient in.

Alan November in Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (ASCD, 2010) talks about six new roles for developing empowered learners. Social bookmarking allows your students to be researchers, which is one of these six roles. It can be the perfect venue to make students meaningful contributors to their own learning as November advocates.

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

Teachers and Schools can:

  • organize, filter and bookmark resources for their students
  • categorize bookmarks for specific classes, projects, grade levels, units, lessons, areas of interest (Take a look at top five reasons for using social bookmarking by Vicki Davis)
  • use a common group tag or hashtag to share resources of interest to all students in the same level class across sections (Thanks to @lrosen)
  • reinforce lessons on primary vs. secondary sources. Discussion of what makes high quality sources. Periodic (informal) reviews of collected and shared bookmarks by students (Thanks to @kyteacher)
  • use social bookmarking to collect sources & evaluate the information together with students. The goal is to find credible & relevant sources (Thanks to @learnfromcarson)
  • extract and use the same tags as experts in a field. It feeds “Phd” quality links to students (Thanks to @coolcatteacher)
  • create a school account on one of the social bookmarking sites and come up with specific tags for your school, ex.”MJGDS_science”, “MJGDS_language_arts”, “MJGDS_5thtgrade”, “MJGDS_parent_resources”.
  • share these “specially-created-for-your-school” tags with school’s faculty, asking them to start using these tags when their bookmark with their own account.
  • share a “parent_resource” tag with your parent community to subscribe to or embed the RSS feed of the specific tag on your school website.

Students can:

  • need to evaluate and interpret information
  • tag bookmarks (their own and/or the ones collected by their teacher)
  • summarize bookmarks (their own and/or the ones shared by teacher)
  • take advantage of “experts in the field” (by subscribing to their RSS for specific tags)
  • learn to search for relevant information beyond “googling”
  • collaborate with other members of a study group (local or global)

We can’t assume that by simply giving students access to a social bookmarking classroom or school account, they will automatically know how to research, evaluate, tag, categorize or annotate. You can read on Bill Ferriter’s DigitallySpeaking Wiki that:

Many of today’s teachers make a critical mistake when introducing digital tools by assuming that armed with a username and a password, students will automatically find meaningful ways to learn together. The results can be disastrous. Motivation wanes when groups using new services fail to meet reasonable standards of performance.

Continue reading on the wiki and you will find, in Alan November’s fashion, assigned roles to students as they bookmark and annotate. Bill Ferriter does an incredible job in outlining these roles and makes several handouts available for teachers to download:

Shared Bookmarking Roles:

The Original Thinker:

Any group of students working together with social bookmarking applications depends on having a healthy collection of weblinks worth exploring. The Original Thinker’s role in a social bookmarking group is to bring content to the collective table by searching for websites connected to the current topic of study. […]

The Reliability Cop:

The Reliability Cop must know everything that there is to know about sniffing out websites that just can’t be trusted and they must be willing to review every website that your social bookmarking group spotlights as worthy of continued study. When they find sites that are “fishy,” it is your Reliability Cop’s job to delete them from your shared collection. […]

The Connector:

The Connector’s role in a social bookmarking group is to be on the constant lookout for links related to these kinds of secondary themes. Without Connectors, social bookmarking groups will struggle to build the kinds of background knowledge necessary for understanding their primary topics. […]

Johnny Opposite:

Johnny Opposite’s role in a social bookmarking group is to make sure that personal biases don’t taint the quality of a set of links by intentionally searching for sites that represent alternative viewpoints on any hot-button issue that a group is trying to explore. […]

The Mind Reader:

The Mind Reader’s role in a social bookmarking group is to poke through these tag libraries looking for sites that may be valuable. […] Essentially, the Mind Reader is looking into the collective brain of other users of social bookmarking services to tap into materials that their group may have missed. […]

The Cleaning Crew:

Understanding the important role that accurate titles, clean descriptions and common tags play in efficient learning, the Cleaning Crew is constantly reviewing the bookmarks added to a shared collection and polishing incomplete entries.

Bill continues by reminding educators that the final goal of educators is not to teach them the technical “know-how” behind one web tool or another, but to expose them to “powerful learning” techniques that ‘depends on the quality of the conversation that develops around the content being studied together”. He lists yet five more roles for students to take on as they use annotation tools.

Shared Annotation Roles:

Consider introducing the following shared annotation roles to your students before they begin using Diigo for reading together. Doing so will ensure that shared annotation experiences result in the kinds of high-level thinking that you expect:

Captain Cannonball:

[…] With a critical eye and an understanding of a group’s interests and responsibilities, Captain Cannonball should find four or five key points in a shared reading to highlight and craft initial questions for other readers to consider. Captain Cannonball’s choices are important. The success of a shared reading often depends on the quality of the first comments and questions added.

The Provocateur:

[…] The Provocateur’s role in a shared annotation group is to stir things up a bit, challenging the thinking of peers in the conversation. Directly responding to comments made by others, the Provocateur works to remind everyone that there are two sides to every story.

The Middle Man:

[…] The Middle Man’s role in a shared annotation group is to carefully consider the different viewpoints being shared in a conversation looking for connections. Middle Men are often the glue that holds contentious conversations together.

The Author’s Worst Nightmare:

[…] Bringing a healthy dose of skepticism to the conversation, the Author’s Worst Nightmare looks to question statements made and conclusions drawn throughout a shared reading. While groups may eventually decide that an author’s assertions are spot-on, the Author’s Worst Nightmare’s responsibility is to make sure that every point is put through the fires of shared reflection.

The Repo Man:

[…] The Repo Man’s role in a shared annotation group is to carefully monitor conversations, looking for summary points that define exactly what it is that a group learned together during the course of a collective reading. While the Repo Man’s real work begins as a conversation is ending, he or she must stay “in tune” with the thoughts and ideas being shared as a conversation develops in order to identify important “takeaways” that a group can learn from.

Bill’s DigitallySpeaking Wiki contains a wealth of resources and downloadables for you to explore around the topic of social bookmarking with students. I encourage everyone to click their way to the wiki and explore.

How are you using social bookmarking in your school and with your students. Please share.