Thursday, July 06, 2006

On The Social Side of Bookmarking...A Delicious Idea for Teachers & Schools

Consider the following issues teachers in our school (and I’m sure elsewhere as well) are dealing with when trying to use resources on the Internet ---

  1. They search for websites appropriate for a particular topic they are teaching. They would like to share these with their students in school, but the links sit bookmarked on their computers at home.

  2. The teachers identify certain useful sites on a computer in school or at home, and bookmark them, but do not have access to the same machine all the time.

  3. Technology teachers and integration specialists working with teachers in school identify certain useful websites for the teachers they’re working with and need a convenient mechanism to share these with them.

  4. Teachers of different grades/subjects would like to be able to know what websites other teachers teaching the same subject have found useful in their teaching. If only there were an accessible “database” of useful web links that their colleagues have used or found potentially useful, (as opposed to some the links some strangers somewhere half-way across the globe found useful.)

For all this and more, to the rescue!

Here’s how it would work---

  • The tech. staff would set up a common account for the school community to maintain a handy, accessible database of useful web links, as well as for facilitating easy sharing among teachers, tech corordinators, students and anyone else in the school community who would benefit from access to this set of links.
    For example, a account with an appropriately friendly username such as “tech_(school-name)” or “weblinks_for_(school-name)” would be set up.

  • The username and password would be shared with the teaching community.

  • Teachers who wish to add a web link to share with students or other teachers, would login and add to the list.

Voila! Teachers now have easy access from anywhere – home, classroom, computer lab, …to this wealth of contextual, school-appropriate set of web links at username has been set up)

Now for the tagging bit (which is basically a form of information organization, where you associate keywords with any web link)---

  • The weblinks added on need to be ‘tagged’ appropriately for search-and-access by the users themselves or even the community-at-large (after all “social tagging” is the big idea!).

  • In the case of a school community, teachers could tag the web link with keywords indicative of grade level(s), subject, or topic… that the web link could be used for.

  • Teachers wanting to share links with their students, could use and tag a set of links s/he may have identified from the existing list, or added to the list. In this case, the tags could be indicative of the topic or something the teachers and students arrive at jointly.

Having a common understanding, and perhaps even shared “rules” (among teachers and students), of the semantics and syntax used for tagging, would, of course, be key, to making this type of sharing a success.

There are other 'folksonomic' tools such as Clipmarks that do much the same thing as (but I have not tried them yet). There is also a another - wider - aspect to this type of "social tagging" - that which deals with your connection to others across the globe who have tagged the same link as you (most likely other teachers or educators with similar interests), but I'll save that for another post.