Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ok Teachers - Post #1 to put you on the road to a more organized tech life

For those of you who already know this - please be patient - when I'm done with this series I will go back to posting useful things for your students. However, I have decided to post some things that will be really useful for teachers (although your students would probably benefit as well).

Bookmarking is a topic that seems to come up frequently in my technology related conversations with teachers. I have seen bookmarking done every which way - some I would consider quite creative, some pretty crazy, and some downright scary, as in, I would rather just not bookmark than do it that way!

We can all agree that bookmarks are EXTREMELY useful in helping us to keep all of this information organized. My problem a year or so ago was that I simply had too many. My Firefox bookmarking capabilities were stretched to the limit and even though I tried to be very organized with my folders, I simply could not find things any more. Also, on the occasions I was on someone else's computer, I felt almost blind without access to my bookmarks - I couldn't do anything!

Social bookmarking was the answer. Social bookmarking doesn't actually have to be "social", although that is a helpful aspect of it that you can always explore later. If you use a social bookmarking service, you simply "tag" a page you want to bookmark. The service will pop up a little window for you to add tags (like cross referencing in the old library card catalog).

There are many social bookmarking services out there, and many offer other services besides just bookmarking, such as newsfeeds, blogs, and social networks. Even if you don't care at all about the social aspect - the web-based bookmarking is just too handy to ignore. Two of the most widely used social bookmarking services are Diigo and Delicious (which I use). I strongly suggest that whatever service you use, download the add-on (either on Safari or Firefox, whichever browser you use) to your browser toolbar. When you are on your own computer, this makes adding, tagging, and searching extremely simple because it adds their buttons right to your toolbar. This is what my Delicious buttons look like installed on my Firefox toolbar;

Let's consider a previous post from this blog - the YouTube video of "Did You Know". When I found that video, I hit the Delicious Tag button in my tool bar, and then this little window popped up. I skipped the description (usually the tags are enough of a description) and entered my tags at the bottom (often there will be suggested tags - just click on them to add them).

Now, I keep my bookmarks in my sidebar view so that I can always find things when I want to. If I can remember the name, I simply search alphabetically through the bookmarks themselves. If I can't remember the name, but can only remember what it was about, I search through my tags and can easily narrow my search that way.

Another nice feature is that when I am on a different computer, I can just go to Delicious, sign into my account, and there they all are.

I now have over 700 bookmarks in Delicious, so you can see how this helps me to keep things organized. Using the Firefox based bookmarking system seems unwieldy now. I could never do it with this many bookmarks!

Here is the important classroom connection - have your students (junior high and high school) get social bookmarking accounts! I cannot stress this enough! How many times have you written looooong URL addresses on the board (several times) only to have students ask you for it again and again when it comes up in class. If your students have Delicious or Diigo accounts, they can access them on any computer at home or at school, and there are no more excuses for forgetting a URL or writing it down incorrectly. My French students all have Delicious accounts and it is a LIFESAVER!

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