Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The story of how I failed teaching social bookmarking

The question of the value of using social tools is one I imagine my students asking when I present the lesson. I have no doubts that social bookmarking has a value, but many of my students have never heard of it. So how do I go about teaching -ok, showing- them how to use delicious or diigo?

I tend to think the need for the tool has to precede the adopting it. Identify the need and you get a teachable moment.

Last class I asked a small group of four students whether they saved bookmarks in their browsers. They all did. Some had already designed a complex folder system to organise them. So I asked: is it easy to retrieve a link from your collection? Does it ever get messy? One of them confidently answered:
-No, never.

End of my lesson.

Of course, I will show them what social bookmarking is on another class. The point is that my lesson, as I had planned it, failed.

I'm thinking how to go about it. I started using delicious when the folders were impossible to keep in my browser. Actually, how organised have I been with my own online bookmarks? Not that much. After five years of saving, I'm begining to create some quick access folders in -you guessed it- my browser!

Now, let me be authentic here. I do not easily retrieve bookmarks I remember saving. I may consider myself a very good tagger, yet I am not a good foretune teller. I cannot imagine how or for what project I will associate a long-ago saved bookmark. I generally get frustrated trying to find exactly what I want.

That was the case a week ago. I wanted to use a tool I had hardly explored for a vocabulary lesson. I couldn't remember its name; I just remembered what it did. The tag 'tools' in my delicious has some 300 items. How did I find it? I remembered who I had briefly discussed it with a year ago. I contacted the person and tried to search our chat in Gmail to no avail. She had saved the link in her own delicious. Success.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yet-one-more-pic/5351981824/

So, how do you authentically teach tagging and bookmarking without including a group doing it? What's the value of social bookmarking without a conversation around the findings? How do you go about not simply re-creating the conditions that made you adopt the tool five years ago?

These are the questions my new lesson plan will have to address.

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