This Week’s Road Trip – Social Bookmarking

Ford Focus Commercial

Packing the Car

Why start with a car commercial, you ask? Ever had one of those “Ah hah!” moments of revelation when the layers of your brain finally slid into place, and you found yourself wondering how you could have been so stupid? Would you believe I had one of those moments while I watched this Ford Focus commercial on TV?

It is sad but true – or really neat depending on your perspective – but I finally “got” tagging when I saw this commercial. To me this is the ultimate demonstration of the pull technology that is the Web 2.0 culture: the car buyer pulls all of the options he wasn’t out of the tag cloud surrounding him.

This integration of the concept of tagging gave me the mental set I needed to try out social bookmarking this week. And I love it!

First Stop:

I began by looking for video tutorials about social bookmarking. First of all I watched the Common Craft video, Social Bookmarking in Plain English, which uses  as its example site.  Lee Lefever’s simple three steps, signing up to a service, tagging sites, and “being social” by looking at other people’s bookmarks, gave me the confidence to explore further. After all, I had already used Backflip as a way of storing bookmarks on the Internet. Now I just needed to add the tagging component. I decided to start using

After I added my personal bookmarks I decided to experiment with the social aspect. I searched for tags having to do with crochet, and by adding and deleting tags was able to collect bookmarks dealing with crocheted afghan patterns. Remembering my RSS lessons from last week, I decided to add a feed for this collection to Bloglines.

Next Stop: Diigo

I knew that I also wanted to explore Diigo, so I searched YouTube and TeacherTube and found Emily Barney’s video, “Social Bookmarking: Making the Web Work for You.” This gives a wonderfully clear explanation of how social bookmarking works, and then goes on to explain how to use Diigo.  

If I were working on showing teachers how to do social bookmarking, I would use all three of these videos as part of the training (but of course not all at once).

Pit Stops on the Journey

This past week I

  • Set up accounts for Diigo,, and Furl
  • Installed the toolbar for Furl but had to uninstall it as my computer kept hanging and crashing. I decided to just experiment with the other two applications
  • Imported bookmarks from both my computers to both those accounts
  • Exported the bookmarks from both accounts and imported these into the other
  • Set up Diigo account so that new bookmarks are also automatically added to
  • Added email contacts to Diigo
  • Searched for other users’ bookmarks on crochet afghan patterns by using tags
  • Created a RSS feed for Diigo for crochet afghan patterns
  • Found Will Richardson on Diigo and looked at some of his bookmarks
  • Found Joyce Valenza on Diigo and subscribed to a feed from the Teacher Librarian group she belongs to
  • Investigated educator accounts on Diigo – I can’t join as I don’t have a school email address at the moment
  • Created WebSlides of some of the sites on social bookmarking I collected (see right sidebar).

Deciding Which Route to Take

Each of the sites I investigated has its pros and cons.

  • I found easier to use, as it has a simpler, cleaner interface and it seems more intuitive to me, and easier to navigate.
  • I love the fact that it is as free of ads.
  • The Help pages are easier to navigate than Diigo.


  • All the ads in Diigo definitely slow down search results and navigating pages.
  • Diigo has more features; the highlighting and commenting features are really valuable.
  • I can easily add contacts from my email address book in which I can’t do on – very useful when you want to email colleagues your bookmarks.
  • This is the fully-featured site I’d want to teach students how to use, especially since you can create an educator account.

Some Bumps in the Road

1. Information Literacy – Critical Evaluation

In his “Social Bookmarking” chapter in the book, Coming Of Age: An Introduction To The NEW Worldwide Web, Terry Freedman identifies one critical concern. He says, “There are downsides, [to using social bookmarking] of course. The main one is the flip side of the coin, that is to say, if looking for information is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, what social bookmarking does is to increase the size of the haystack! That is not an argument for not using it, but it is an argument for making sure that students are taught good information-searching skills, including the ability to evaluate the plausibility and accuracy of the information they find.”

2. Issues with Tags  

Freedman also points out an inherent problem with tagging: ‘A good example is “e-learning”: it would be a good idea to use “elearning” too!”‘

Tagging requires the use of only use single words, so you have to join words in phrases, such as socialbookmarking or social_bookmarking. In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Richardson states that “tags that are more than one word usually use an underline to separate the words” (p. 96).

Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case. There is no standardization except what individual users, groups, or communities decide on. One would need to work on this with students or teachers in order to standardize tags. When I was searching for crochet patterns in, for example, I discovered that I could use the tag “patterns” and get results containing the tag “pattern,” but not vice versa.

Spelling counts too. I found plenty of bookmarks with the word “socail” as one of the tags.

3. Issues with Filtered Sites and Downloading of Toolbars

Many school districts restrict the downloading of toolbars and buttons; in my high school students were unable to download anything on to the computers, including bookmarking sites. As part of an initiative for using these resources, teachers would have to work with their administration and technicians to overcome these issues.

4. Privacy Issues

As with all public web sites, the possibility exists that students will encounter some inappropriate content. The Diigo Educator Account provides some safeguards to students. Only teachers and classmates can communicate with students. Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors. Students can only communicate with their friends and teachers, and their profiles aren’t included in the People Search feature.

Reasons To make the Journey

Miguel Guhlin’s article “Diigo the Web for Education – From TeleGatherer to TelePlanter with Diigo” gives an eloquent explanation of why social bookmarking tools are so important for our students. Guhlin says,”New web tools allow you to do MORE than just gather great resources; they allow you to explain why they are great, put virtual post-its on them, and then share that care package of great resource links with your comments with your audience of choice.”

Guhlin goes on to quote Dr. Judi Harris:

  • 1. We all begin on the Web by “telegathering” (surfing) and “telehunting” (searching. This we can do pretty well. What we don’t do very well yet is to take educationally sound steps beyond telegathering and telehunting).
  • 2. We need to help our students and ourselves “teleharvest” (sift through, cogitate, comprehend, etc.) the information that we find, and “telepackage” the knowledge that results from active interaction (application, synthesis, evaluation, etc.) with the information.
  • 3. Then, we need to “teleplant” (telepublish, telecollaborate, etc.) these telepackages by sharing them with others…who use them as information in their…
  • 4. …telegathering & telehunting, and the process cycles back around again.

Are you helping your students make the shift from surfing and searching as telegatherers to becoming teleplanters? [Emphasis is mine]

The End (Not) of My Journey

The mind boggles. I could tear down my whole library web page, the Web 1.0 page, the Read Web page, and start again. Shortly the grade 10 students in my former school will be starting their Shakespeare research project. I am itching to work with a class. Students can use Diigo to collect, highlight, annotate, and tag resources on their topics, which include the Shakespeare controversy, the Elizabethan theatre, the Great Chain of Being, William Shakespeare the man, Elizabeth I, the plague, the Spanish Armada, and more. Instead of the page for this project I created, students can contribute what they have found while their teacher and I provide guidance and support. We can teach evaluation and critical thinking skills, building this in as a stage in the project.

And our students become teleplanters.

Did I mention I LOVED working on social bookmarking this week?

RSS Feeds: Organizing Work and Life

Which Web 2.0 tool could I learn use that would help organize more effectively my work and my life?

When I considered this week’s topic, getting (and staying) organized in an electronic, Web 2.0 environment, I thought about how much I like to be well organized.

I love organizational tools. I love coloured file folders, customizable dividers, and stacking clear plastic boxes.  I love Microsoft Outlook because the calendar reminders function keeps me on time for all my meetings and the rules and folders for mail keep my correspondence arranged by topic and the colour coding for incoming mail meant the fuchsia messages from my principal got instant attention. I loved using Backflip, because I could access my bookmarks from any computer (now I’ve switched to I love my MSN homepage because on one page I’ve got email, important links, daily weather, news headlines, the comic strip For Better or Worse, and more.

But I know I can be much better organized using some of the Web 2.0 tools out there. My inquiry question for this week is this. Which Web 2.0 tool could I learn use that would help organize more effectively my work and my life?

As I began to research this, I knew that it would be tough to pick just one tool. I needed something with applications in several areas, and that would be useful not just as a teacher’s tool but as a personal tool. I thought about the amount of time I spend searching the Internet, and thought that perhaps I could find something that would make this more efficient and less time consuming. That would impact my personal AND professional life.

I skimmed through our text book again looking for ideas and was struck by the title of Chapter 5: “RSS: The New Killer Apps for Educators.” I had looked at this earlier, while setting up my Bloglines account at the beginning of the course. But now I saw all the different ways you can use RSS to get all kinds of content organized and brought to you. Richardson says, “RSS is a technology that will change your life if you let it” (p. 72). The most useful application for me personally that he suggested was the RSS feed for website searches using (p.80).

I decided to investigate using RSS applications as my Web 2.0 tool of choice.

Joanne’s Trailfire on RSS and Blog Aggregates provided some more excellent examples of the effective use of RSS applications. In the article NCTE Inbox Blog: RSS: Bringing What’s New to You I was struck by this succinct explanation.  “But what exactly does RSS do? In the simplest possible explanation, RSS gathers the new information from specific sites that interest you and brings this new information directly to you.” Then the author, Traci Gardner, provides some suggestions as to what RSS can do for you in addition to just keeping up with new blog postings.

Here are a couple of Gardner’s ideas:

1. Want to keep up with new results for a Google News search? Perform the search, then click on the RSS link (lower left of the page) to subscribe. When new results appear, you’ll see them in your aggregator.

2. At you can subscribe to RSS Feeds for Bestsellers, Hot New Releases, and Movers & Shakers.

In Terry Freedman’s book, Coming Of Age: An Introduction To The New World Wide Web, I found more good ideas about RSS in John Evans’ chapter “What Are RSS Feeds and Why Haven’t I Heard About It?(RSS Feeds from an Educator’s Perspective).”  Evans mentions the time-saving aspect of having selected content come to you, and he gives some educational applications too. For example, in social studies teachers and students can subscribe to feeds from around the world on a specific topic or event to compare content, bias, coverage, etc.  He suggests using RSS Compendium – RSS Feeds, which sorts feeds into categories such as Education, Film/Video, Government, etc.

I also read Quentin D’Souza’s Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators A Guide to RSS and More Version 2.0. He gives dozens of ideas for integrating RSS feeds into all kinds of projects and applications, including email, blogging, photo sharing, and video sharing. Need to be reminded about something? Go to ReminderFeed – Your RSS Reminder Service. Want to search while you are off line? Set up a search on MSN, and then subscribe to the RSS feed for it. Want to share a calendar with your family? Go to RSS Calendar, and you’ll get updates automatically in your aggregator! I have set up a calendar to share with my family to help us in planning our family reunion for next year.

It is clear to me that using RSS feeds more extensively will simplify my time online considerably. I’ve already seen how easy it is to keep up with new blog postings on Bloglines. I plan to set aside some time each day to learn how to use RSS more effectively, especially in doing Internet searches.

As a teacher librarian, how would I go about sharing this with my high school teachers? I would select a social studies topic dealing with a current issue, such as global warming, set up some feeds from around the world, and meet with one social studies teacher to share what I’ve collected. I would teach her how to set up a Bloglines account and appropriate feeds. Together we would plan a project where students would look at and use content from around the world using RSS aggregators. One we’ve done this with one class, we would collect feedback from the students, and modify the project.

I’m looking forward to my new learning curve.