Initially students don’t care too much for Diigo when I introduce it in an assignment in Week 2 of the semester. They’re still trying to get used to all the other new technology in the online course, and Diigo is almost the stone that breaks the camel’s back. But not quite. They warm up to it as the course moves on. I’ve questioned whether having students use yet another technology tool is too much for them to deal with, but the advantages of what they learn and experience by using it out weighs any reservations I may have had.
So, what exactly are the advantages of having students use this social bookmarking tool? First, they are in the exploratory phase of their research projects. They’re still trying to figure out what good topics are, so in order to not have them wondering alone in this process, I have them sharing ideas. Diigo allows for students to share bookmarks with each other in a group area. All of the sites saved in the group show up for all to see.
As shown in the image above, I teach students about taxonomy. Taxonomy is a way to group things together using tags. It makes it easier for students to find common topics within the group posts. Students are supposed to use the class theme tag: “personal+freedoms” along with 5 of their own tags based on the subject of the site bookmarked. Diigo then creates a tag list (right below) for the group so students can look at the most popular topics that emerge during the search process. Rights, laws, health and the constitution are all popular with students.
Students also practice their summarization skills, as they are to write 2-3 sentence summaries for each website they save. This way other students looking at the list will see a brief summary before clicking through to the link. If a student likes the saved site, he/she can “Like” it or they can comment on the saved bookmark. Many impromptu discussions come from this.
The Diigo group becomes another place for students to discuss topics with built in discussion forums. Diigo gives you the option to post a bookmark or a topic. The topic is set up just like a discussion forum. You can set up one with a specific question you want for students to discuss. These discussion “topics” are not threaded however.
Of course students figure out quickly that Diigo is a good place to store some of their online research so it’s easily accessible, but I think the greatest skill students learn by doing this assignment is that they can continue to help each other out during the research process. I’ve seen students continue to share different websites in the Diigo group because they know what other students are interested in and this is a place where those interested will see them.
You can read more about the Diigo assignment here: Social Bookmarking in the Freshman Composition Research Class.