Broadening The Bookmarking

In my opinion, one of the easiest entry points for teachers into Web 2.0 is to start a social bookmarking account. Getting them to really grasp the power of this tool is more challenging. Most teachers like to collect useful websites even if they’re not web-savvy enthusiasts and the methods employed to keep track of them can range from emailing links back to themselves, creating hotlists in Word to relying on browser Bookmarks or Favorites. These lists usually aren’t very big because they have to be kept manageable.

There are management issues with these methods. How do you search piles of emails (unless it’s GMail!) for that elusive link? Do you start a new document each time for a new hotlist category? What happens when the computer you host your Favorites on crashes and you lose the lot? (And if it’s a Windows machine, it’s a matter of when, not if!) So when I talk about a better way, most teachers are all ears.

I like to recommend del.icio.us. It’s simple, very powerful when harnessed correctly and where the biggest community of users can be found. As I’ve blogged before, there isn’t a whole heap of help guides and resources with an educational bent – what I have found is usually of very high quality. So, getting teachers to sign up, installing the browser buttons and adding a few sites is not too hard. Getting them to understand tagging is harder – people want to try and follow set rules for this. They try to apply subject areas, age levels, strands and they want everyone else to be following the same rules as well. Then I explain how tagging enables you to control subsets of sites through a unique tag and they see how sites can be pre-tagged for easy retrieval for a unit of work, a particular lesson or PD session. For example when I co-presented with Yvonne Murtagh at CEGSA, we used the tag kooltools07 to group all of the sites we wanted to share. By inviting others to contribute, this list continues to grow. (Thanks, Jim Sprialis!) For the school’s Open Night, I used the tag opennight and amazed parents when I could so easily pull up web resources to match curriculum areas. So, it takes a bit before the strengths of folksonomy becomes apparent to the newer user.

Some are still uncomfortable about the open nature of del.icio.us.

“You mean anyone else can see what I’m bookmarking? I’m not sure I like that.”

Once I remind them that it’s only listing websites, not airing dirty laundry or trade secrets, they relax. When I tell them that the openness is vital to gaining some traction and saving some time, they are less apprehensive. I show them how to find other people’s bookmarks, how scanning their tags gives you a feel for their relevancy to what you’re interested in and then save items of interest back to their own account. Adding names to create their own network is a harder sell but having a constant flow of handpicked sites from trusted professionals worldwide is a smart, efficient way to operate. Sometimes, the only way is to demonstrate and even then you run the risk of moving too fast, too soon and being written off as a smart-aleck.

But I’ve seen a real willingness from my staff to get on board with social bookmarking. Some are using it a lot and others have the mindset of “I know I should but I keep forgetting” or “I still like using Favorites.” But there’s almost enough of a groundswell to support the wider sharing of sites and resources suitable for our Interactive Whiteboard program. So when all of our staff have each other listed on their del.icio.us network, whatever gem is discovered by one staff member is discovered for all.

Update: There’s always more than one side to the story and I recommend you check out the comments to this post to get more quality insight into the subversive and innovative use of del.icio.us.

8 Responses to “Broadening The Bookmarking”


  • Hi G,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can mark bookmarks “private” on del.icio.us, can’t you? You can on Diigo (which integrates w/delicious anyway, and affords more muscle with annotations, highlight snippets, sharing to groups, and more).

    Keep on trucking (I really know how to flog a metaphor, I know).

  • You can mark them private. I’ve never done that, though. I remember when I began using del.icio.us I was concerned about having “too many” tags. I tried using the tag bundles for a while to organize what has now grown to over 5,000 tags. (I like del.icio.us). But adding tags to the bundle categories was too much trouble. So I scrapped that idea.

    I’ve used “tag rolls” to build the blogroll on my site. I don’t have it, at the moment, but I could add to it by simply tagging a new site with my special tag, and it would appear on my blog automatically.

    I even got a message from someone through the Links-for-you feature where someone can tag a link with for:username, and send a link to a specific account to be either approved or ignored. One of the people in my little network wrote a personal thank you to me for linking to something, and sent his message with a link, using that feature. That was ingenious, I thought.

    My network page is my start page for my browser. It’s like reading the headlines on the internet. If you include a broad mix of users with a wide variety of interests, you can find links to just about any subject you’re interested in.

  • I use the NOT SHARED option in Delicious to save my username and password to sites that I am likely to forget the password to.

    NOT SHARED means that I have to be logged in to see the passwords and no-one else can see them.

    And then I have a tag which is NOTSHARED so that all passwords and usernames are easy to find. Very cool.

    http://del.icio.us/allanahk

  • Hi Graham – we have been running with a single account for our school in del.icio.us for a while now. This does simplify it a step as you do not need to add links in from your network of individual staff. I have also found adding a star rating very useful. You would clearly hope that staff always add quality web resources but it does just allow you to simply say ***** – this is outstanding! We are priestsic on del.icio.us let me know if you find some useful links there. Sharing the account url with the kids has given them such direction too, they know that the resources have been selected by us and enjoy the variety they can find in one place.
    Sounds like we are in a similar situation as you with IWBs and now a set of wireless laptops in class too.

  • Interesting — last year I was involved with a Web 2.0 project (as a participant) where we learnt about a wide range of tools and del.icio.us was one of the tools. One year down the track your post has made me think that it is worth checking from the list of tools that they were shown/learnt which ones have engaged them and they are now using, and what aren’t they using. What I have found is that these people are at least now coming to ask more questions relating how to do things which is a good sign.

    If you had to prioritizes which tools you taught teachers when you facilitate professional development which would be your top 5 tools that you feel are more likely to engage them with?

  • Thanks, guys, for all of your additional insight. I did know about the “private” setting but I just know some of my teachers will go for that straightaway and then never open themselves to all of the other benefits. I like the for: feature – Alex Hayes sends me links regularly through that process and I was doing likewise when my school’s science teacher was asking where I kept finding good interactive sites and could I email them to her so she could add them to her Favorites. I kept repeating the mantra, “Use your del.cio.us, use your del.icio.us” and when her laptop crashed taking her Favorites with it, she would walk past me and before I could utter a word, the hand would be up and “Graham, I know, this wouldn’t have happened with del.icio.us!”

    Sue, as for your question about top 5 lists (although setting a number is somewhat limiting) here goes – 1. del.icio.us, 2. pageflakes, 3. GMail/Google Reader, 4. wikispaces, and 5. flickrCC. Basically, I just recommend what I use myself constantly for a variety of purposes. Do you need reasons as well?

  • Sorry Graham I only set the limit because I thought you might not answer if I made it longer. But now that you have opened that avenue when you run a series of Web 2.0 is the list of tools that you show them longer than this list and if so what are they?

    I am assuming that your list is prioritised? And no I don’t need any reasons except for the fact I don’t use pageflakes so would love to hear how you use pageflakes.

  • Sue, would you believe that my comment got bounced off my own blog for having too many links! I’ll try again and add the links from within the dashboard later.

    I don’t have a standard list as I tend to pick the relevant app for the person with whom I’m working at the time. For example, when working with my school’s teacher-librarian, we wanted to create image galleries to tie in with a unit of work on Community Workers for some junior primary classes. So I showed her FlickrStorm where she created a gallery webpage on surf life saving that she could easily save to her del.icio.us account.

    The only current training on Web 2.0 tools that I’m doing is a re-run of my iwb 2.0 workshop that packages up apps that interact well with an interactive whiteboard.

    Why didn’t I add edublogs in my list of 5? Well, the more I’ve blogged, the more I realise it’s not for everyone and if it’s introduced as the welcome mat to Web 2.0, then we run the risk of turning educators away when something like del.icio.us is such an easy entry point. And as far as PageFlakes goes, if you dig back here and here, you’ll get some idea of how I use this tool. (Although I need to play around and see what some of the new plugins can do!)

    Maybe I should be offering something Web 2.0ish to my local community – after all, CEGSA are always looking for new workshops and presenters.

Leave a Reply