The Joining a Digital Learning Community Quest asks participants to pick a social bookmarking tool and go on a digital walkabout and find sites that are good examples of digital learning communities. The participant then tags and annotates these bookmarks.
Sites like Pinterest, Delicious, Diigo, Google Bookmarks, and Symbaloo help people organize and share links, and they make links accessible on multiple devices.
But, quite honestly, for as much as I read online, I don’t use many social bookmarking tools. For example, here’s my use Google Bookmarks since completing the quest last year:
Then there was my brief experiment with Symbaloo, which I re-purposed into a storytelling tool.
So, what’s my deal?
Social bookmarking solves problems I don’t have. In fact, I’d argue that social bookmarking solves problems that no one who uses Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox has. And really, by now, don’t we all use some sort of cloud-storage and sharing system? Why use another online tool – that you have to register for, create a password for, give up private data for – when you’ve already done so for another more robust tool? And this is one thing that irks me about Symbaloo’s app: it uses its own browser. On my laptop it does something similar:
This means that Symbaloo knows which site I access and when. Why does it need to know that? It doesn’t.
Read below how I free myself of social bookmarking and unwanted data collection on my browsing habits.
Social Bookmarking Solution: It doesn’t matter which device you are on or where you are; you will always be able to access your favorite and most useful websites.
Implied Problem #1: You want all of your links on all of your devices. You desire flexibility. Ease. Access.
Implied Problem #2: We use all of our devices for the same functions and we use links the same way across devices.
Implied Problem #3: We find links on one device, but know that we’ll need to access that link on another device. Example scenario: I’m checking Twitter on my phone and find a link that will help me create a review game for my online students. I need the link on my laptop so I can create the game.
In reality, I’d say many of us don’t use all of the links the same way across devices.
Ultimately, there are only four reasons I bookmark links:
- To share on social media
- To read for research (and to annotate)
- To read for leisure
- To teach
Depending on my purpose, I’ll want a different device, so I only need the links on whichever device matches my purpose.
- I share with my phone, iPad, and computer (yes, I realize that’s multiple devices, but they all have Twitter and email)
- I read for research and annotate only on my iPad because I use iAnnotate (from there, I can email my highlights and notes to my computer or upload them to the cloud).
- I read for leisure on my iPad (Any eye-catching or thought-provoking articles, essays stories go to my Reading List. After reading it, if it’s worth keeping, I’ll email it to myself and mark it up with iAnnotate. If it’s worth sharing, I’ll either email it or send it on Twitter depending on who should read it.)
- I teach on my laptop. Anything, anything even remarkably close to what I might do with students automatically goes to the laptop. 1. The laptop plays well with the LMS; 2. “You got to keep ‘em separated.”
Using between using the iPad’s Reading List, iAnnotate (which saves webpages as .pdfs), and Twitter, there is no reason for me to keep track of a link from a news story months old. If it’s worth remembering, I mark it up or share it.
But what about the social aspect? What if you want people to see what you’ve shared? Social bookmarking helps you curate resources, links, and Web 2.0 tools?
The ability to curate resources is very helpful, but with an increasing number of file-sharing on the web, there is no reason to use a new tool when an old tool will easily replace it.
Hypothetical Problem #1: Another teacher and I want to store links of articles and tools for students to use when working on part of a unit.
Solution #1: Google Docs or Microsoft’s new WordOnline are just as good. Just make a document for resources and save the links there. You can share the document, and better, search it. A spreadsheet would also work just as well.
Hypothetical Problem #2: I want to share with students a list of resources and articles for students to use during a unit. Again, Google Drive, OneDrive/OneNote, or even make a newsletter. Frequently, I curate links, videos, and resources by creating a newsletter. Now, students get variety (images, videos, and text) instead of a group of links (or tiles, thank you, Symbaloo).
What about keeping track of teaching resources?
In my mind, there are only two types of online teaching resources: content and tech. What you teach and what you use to supplement that teaching like articles, videos, and websites are all content. Tech refers to the tools that help us teach online. Like Jeopardy Labs is a great site for creating review games. It’s not the content; it’s the tool I’ll use to create content. Same goes for any Web 2.0 tool: Prezi, Tackk, and Piktochart are all examples of teaching tech.
So, for my own organization, I just use the Chrome Browser bookmarks. If the link helps inform my instruction, I label it Content in my Chrome browser (on my laptop, remember, separation of work and play?). If it’s a tech tool, I label it Tech. Pretty simple.
Finally, What about finding links and sharing links?
Since social bookmarking works on many devices, it’s easier to save links you find on any device, as with the earlier example with Twitter. I find something useful, but I don’t need it now, so how do I keep track of it?
Social bookmarking lets us keep that link for a later time. It also enables us all to become digital pack rats. Something I’d discourage, and only because I’m guilty of it. I constantly have to go through my Chrome bookmarks and delete links that I thought would be useful, but never actually used.
My solution is I email the link to myself.
If the link is so important, then the deliberate action of sending it and then purposefully returning to it later when I’m ready forces me to ask myself, “Do I really need this?”
The Internet is great, and it’s great at duplicating and recycling ideas. In education, this is even truer. “10 ways to give positive feedback,” “5 words to show you care,” “3 STEM resources to use now.” I made those up, but I’m sure a simple Google search will show multiple results. There will even be a historical record: a hit from 2015, 2014, 2013, and so on. So, that really great link to the blog post from Edutopia about Maker Spaces in classrooms… if you lose the link, don’t worry. It will come around again on Twitter or from a colleague. More importantly, you’ll find it when you’re ready for it. We don’t need bookmarking skills, we need better search techniques. Delete old tools and articles and search for the newest from reliable experts.