ICT Update: Using Del.icio.us for Geography teaching
By Martin Pluss
Have you ever lost your bookmarks when you have updated your computer or get frustrated when you don’t know a bookmark and you are on another computer? Well social bookmarking is the means to overcome these issues. Social bookmarking has a personal, research and a social networking perspective. The personal perspective involves yours ability to save your bookmarks online so that you can access them on any computer you may wish to use that has an internet connection.
Usually these bookmarks are publically available, though on some platforms these bookmarks can be stored privately or shared inside certain networks. These bookmarks are sorted chronologically and through the use of categories and tags networking is made possible. This means you can select a tag such as historical geography and see what other bookmarks are available using the same tag in which you and others are interested.
You can follow the link back to its owner and thus potentially become connected to another person with similar interests and at the very least check out their links to see if they lead you into other interesting areas of research. Moreover, you may find you know the person or get to know the person and establish a professional development contact.
The key to successful social bookmarking is the tagging of your entries with key words and then the grouping of these tags into categories. This opens the door to ways of organising information and categorising resources. Not only is there the ability to socially connect and network, there is the chance to see the areas of research which are evolving in interest by examining how many links there are to the same tag.
The significance of social bookmarking is that it flattens the knowledge base and makes it freely available to all who wish to be informed. The informal platform enables people to find one another, create new communities of users of common interest. It is a tool for Communities of Practice to use. Some argue a downside that social bookmarking is done by amateurs, there is no oversight into how the tags and links are organised and potentially this can lead to duplication and poor organisation.
These issues aside, social bookmarking provides a valuable tool for teachers and students to use in the way they collect and organise their information for their subject areas. One popular Web 2.0 Tool to consider using for social bookmarking is Del.icio.us.
Let’s look a Del.icio.us.
Del.icio.us is a free internet social bookmarking system which first appeared in 2003 and is now owned by Yahoo. Other products of a similar nature include FURL, Digg, BlogMarks.net, De.lirio.us, Frassle, Linkroll, My Progs, Newnooze, Reader 2, Reddit, Sources Forge.net, Scuttle, CiteULike, Flipskipper, Jots, Stumble Upon and Yoono to name a few.
Without any publicity the site reached 1 million users by September 2006 and as of June 2007 del.icio.us is in 4th position in the top 25 social bookmarking sites. Recent statistics suggest the most recent users are male, average age 30, high incomes from urban areas or suburbs, tend to have higher education and have been familiar with technology from a young age. Most of the users are bloggers, programmers and educators such as teachers and librarians.
Figure 1 The Del.icio.us Geography page for Australian Geography (screen capture 5 February 2009.
This is the public look for a search which can be improved upon if you sign up and use a few more of the features that are available. If you look closely at Figure 1 you can see there are a number of features of a del.icio.us account which may be of use to you.
Across the top are links to all your bookmarks, your network, subscriptions, special links made available to you based on you interests and the post button. On the top right hand side you can jump out into the world of del.icio.us by clicking popular and recent links and just beneath this is the section where you can establish your personal settings and make use of the help functions of the site.
On the right hand side is what I find the most valuable feature of del.icio.us; namely the tags and their organisation. These tags are organised in what is called a cloud format. The bookmarks are organised into tags and the tags are grouped into categories such as education, networking, personal and others. Depending on the level of detail and interest can create whole sites just for Geography and develop other geographical tags and group them into categories.
Now there are two ways you can use del.icio.us as a teacher.
The first way is to search del.icio.us for all the links in your subject area that other people have collected. The best way to do this is to go to the search box and type in the term you are researching and see what other people have bookmarked for this that topic.
You will see in Figure 2 that the search provides my personal links for geography at the top and beneath this are everyone’s bookmarks and a suggestion of related tags to explore such as maps, reference maps, world travel to name few. In addition there is some geographical related advertising on the right hand side.
Figure 2: Geography Term Search on Del.icio.us
The second way to use del.icio.us as a teacher is to create you own account, collect you own bookmarks and share the information you have found useful. Instead of providing a detailed set of instructions to do this here you can quickly learn how to do this by registering yourself and then look at the numerous instructional YouTube videos on Del.icio.us.
Are you interested? A very good starting point is the Common Craft website which has instructional videos on a whole range of Web 2.0 tools including Delicious. As with most Web 2.0 Tools their use evolves over time and some survive and others do not depending on how they are taken up by web users. Social bookmarking sites are no exception. Del.icio.us has to potential to be a very powerful research tool for all teachers.
Teachers can make use of existing bookmarks or collect their own bookmarks. Head Teachers can set up departmental web links which staff can access and add to at any time. The individual teacher can organise students into groups to collect bookmarks on themes of work they undertake during the year. Moreover, students can be encouraged to start up their own accounts to help them organise their own research skills as they learn about tagging and the development of categories .