Thoughts on teaching tagging and social bookmarking

I came across this tweet the other day, and it got me thinking.

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In my experience so far “tagging” is a hard thing to “teach” in the traditional way because most of our heads are wrapped up in the “folder” or “container” approach to organising information.  I have certainly tried to teach it to my students.  I have showed them videos like Chris Betcher’s great K12 Online presentation “I like Delicious things” and Common Craft’s “Social Bookmarking in Plain English” and I have had them search for tagged information on Diigo. But at the end of the day they can tell me what tagging is but they don’t get how powerful it is.

So my response to the tweet above was that “an understanding of the meaning and usefulness of tagging has to emerge, not sure it can be taught.”  I know that for myself I didn’t start to realise how great tagging was until I had collected a large amount of tagged Delicious bookmarks and had to search the tags for stuff I had bookmarked a while back.  So I think it has to be for anyone getting started, they just need to get their feet wet and even though the immediate usefulness isn’t apparent they need to persevere.  This of course becomes a problem when trying to convince busy teachers to try something new like Diigo (which I tried just the other day).

I got some good push back on my response so I thought I would outline here my ideas for using our new Diigo for Educators account to try and scaffold the teaching of tagging and social bookmarking.  Diigo is an amazingly powerful tool, in some ways it is almost too powerful as a starting point because it can be overwhelming.  Currently our Grade 8 class all have Diigo accounts and will be using them to help research information for a Science project.  My thinking about how this might unfold goes something like this:

  • Teach everyone how to install the Diigo toolbar or button on their browser and how to bookmark and mark-up a webpage they are reading.
  • Create a group for Grade 8 Science and invite all of Grade 8
  • Set up a standard series of tags with the class that cover all the topics being researched
  • In groups have them research their topics and save them to Diigo using the class tags.  I am wondering about a grading rubric that encourages highlighting important information and adding notes about why the webpage is a good reference.
  • Encourage them to bookmark information to Diigo that isn’t on their topic if they come across something.
  • Finally I would show them how to filter our class bookmarks by tags so that they can find just the information saved on their topic.

I still think that this whole process will feel a bit forced and contrived to my students the first time through, but I think that if they are exposed to this process enough they will eventually start to realise that is has value over and above the fact that Mr. Macoun made them do it.

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As luck would have it right after writing this post I came across this interesting blog post:

Social Bookmarking with Diigo

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