Sunday, 10 April 2011

Social bookmarking

The next tool in the investigations of web 2.0 tools and technologies is social bookmarking.

Sites like DeliciousDiigo, Clipmarks, and many more, allow users to collect internet resources and links, apply descriptive tags, and share them with particular groups of people or the public as a whole. Common Craft has a nice 3 minute introduction to social bookmarking in plain English. (Actually they have videos on a big list of internet and technology topics).

A quick run-down of the benefits of social bookmarking include:
  • Ease of use - access from any computer. Bookmarks are not saved in one browser/application
  • Public sharing - allowing you to find bookmarks recommended by others 
  • Resources which are perceived as more useful will be shared more, hence promoting or ranking links
  • Users define their own descriptive tags - no need to learn or be restricted by any imposed classification framework
  • Provides a means of sorting large collections of bookmarks, which can become unmanageable with traditional methods
  • Shared bookmarks may be rated, commented upon, auto-published to blogs and other media, annoted, subscribed to via RSS feeds.
And in the interest of balance, some downsides:
  • Idiosyncratic/non-standard use of keyword tagging - inconsistencies in tagging (e.g singular/plural, capitalisation, spelling errors)
  • Tags may have more than one meaning, or be used in unusual ways by some users
  • Tags do not support the definition of hierarchical relationships
  • Assumption of reduced personal privacy - although some sites allow private tagging
We were asked to consider an educational context in which social bookmarking might be appropriate and useful. Obvious examples include:
  • Allowing students to access a teacher's bookmark list
  • Enabling students to collaborate on a project by sharing the resources they find
  • Curating a social bookmark collection formed from other student-generated content that is produced during a course or project (e.g. wikis, blogs, podcasts, videos, mindmaps, documents, diagrams, etc etc)
  • Allowing teachers to find lesson resources produced by other teachers

I found a very interesting project (supported by the Higher Education Academy's Education Subject Centre) investigating whether it is possible to assess social bookmarking activities. The premise is that, because Diigo supports conversation, it might therefore support higher order cognitive activities. Students are helped to go beyond just ‘remembering’ (creating bookmarks) and move to ‘understanding’ (using tags), ‘evaluating’ (by offering comments) and even ‘creating’ (such as planning essays). Because these higher-level skills are involved, assessment becomes possible, A marking scheme can reflect both the cognitive and social nature of social bookmarking and consider:

  • the number and type of texts that a student bookmarks
  • the quality of commentary given for each bookmark (emphasizing meaning-making and critique above listing and tagging)
  • the level of interaction with peers.

More information on this interesting project in a blogpost. The author also has another blog post giving a useful list of recommendations on helping students make the most of social bookmarking.

Another interesting article (also linked by the author of the above study in face) is on the limitations of Delicious and how these could be used to encourage learner engagement.

Unlike the conversation aspects of Diigo featured in the project above, Delicious is sometimes criticised for not encouraging participation or community. This article argues that that 'weakness' might actually make it the right tool for those learners who struggle with active participation and collaboration. It suggests that collecting and sharing links is a more neutral activity than, say, contributing to a wiki and so might be helpful in reducing  anxiety associated with participating online.

I've not really used social bookmarking much before. I've had fleeting uses of StumbleUpon and Clipmarks, but not maintained use of any. I find that in normal web usage I rarely bookmark now - search is so improved that I can find what I want so easily. However, if you've forgotten something exists, then search might not help, so I am beginning to want to bookmark again, particularly for this course. In my PhD I maintained a TiddlyWiki, in which I saved links in as well as adding commentary and notes on papers I read. This is probably why I didn't need social bookmarking at the time. I'm doing something a little bit similar with this blog, but I think a tool designed more for the purpose of saving links will be useful. The Student learning with Diigo site offered the following two reasons which have persuaded me to try out Diigo at the moment:
  • Diigo allows users to annotate webpages. Other social bookmarking sites let users save a website title, description and to tag the website with relevant keywords. Diigo does this, but also lets users highlight portions of a webpage, or to add a virtual "sticky note" on the website. And the annotations can be made available to the entire network to help other users.
  • Diigo saves a screenshot of webpages. This can help users to remember what the page looked like previously, especially if the page was changed over time.

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