Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Diigo Does It

This is the second in a series of guest blogs. This one is by our Religious Studies Department Chairwoman, Ann Lusch. Ann is a key member of my pln. Over the last year we have encouraged each other's tech adventures. Like me, she is willing to try new things, but doesn't simply do "new" for its own sake. If she recommends Diigo, it's because she has given it a vigorous road test!

On a recent day off I had time for some leisurely browsing in my library. I'm not talking about a room in my house, or even the wonderful building crammed with books just a couple of blocks away. I'm speaking of "my library" in Diigo, the social bookmarking site that contains the compendium of website articles, blog posts and other information that I have amassed over the last few months.

The collection (much of it gathered through sharing on Twitter) is mostly about education and technology, but every once in a while there will be the occasional recipe or blog post about the lost tribes of Israel or health care reform in the U.S. That it's a bit of a mixed bag is not a problem; by clicking on tags I have applied to bookmarks along the way, in a flash I can narrow the list to a desired topic.

I will say that I love using Diigo, but I cannot compare it to that other, apparently more famous, bookmarking site that I have never used. Here's what I'm told, though: Delicious lacks two very important features that make Diigo as great as it is: highlighting and sticky notes.

In Diigo I can highlight the sections that are most pertinent to me and reread the highlighted sections (or hide them) right on the list of bookmarks. I might not even need to go back to the original page. Or perhaps I'll have a comment about the site that I can add with a sticky note -- it could be a thought, for example, that will remind me why I even bothered to bookmark the page in the first place!

I still remember the piles of index cards with scrawled notes that I cranked out diligently while doing research in a grad course or two. I'm not sure if finding good information these days is easier or not, but organizing online information most certainly is. Diigo keeps it all together.

So that's what I had in mind when I assigned research using Diigo to students in one of my classes. Pairs were required to collaborate on a paper and presentation about a chosen topic. Through a Diigo Education account I quickly created a group for my class, and on the group homepage we could all view items as they were added during the research period of the assignment. Through a "teacher console" I had access to individual pages to see what each student was contributing. And, importantly, project partners could easily share found information with one another.

It was not entirely smooth sailing. Websites posed no problems, but we did have difficulties with the subscription databases available to us through school. In the future I will know how to direct students to the persistent URL's that will enable them to actually get back to their sources through the bookmarks. Then there were the points where some of the students' highlighting or sticky notes did not appear consistently. But I'm ready to introduce it to a new class next semester. It's a valuable tool for students about to launch their college careers and, I hope, a lifetime of learning.

There are more features than this to Diigo; it's about social bookmarking after all, and there's more on sharing that I haven't shared: groups to join, friends to add. But it's not necessary to know all the ins and outs to get started. Go ahead, take the plunge, install the toolbar at (easy to do) and start highlighting. Chances are, you'll get hooked, too.

"The Library" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Here's Kate

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