Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bookmarking Better

Bookmarking the Old Way

I have been an internet user for as long as I can remember, and this only increased when I purchased my first laptop the summer before beginning college. During the years since, I've become a fan of many websites, which I return to day after day to find new content or use the tools they give me. Since I can't remember everything, I learned how to bookmark sites very early on, and would use them to return to my favorite internet places. It didn't take too long to build a long list of bookmarks, ranging from sites I go to multiple times a day (like my email or news websites), sites I check on daily for new content (such as some internet comics), and sites I bookmark because I thought it might come in handy some day for a lesson or something around my home.

The list was completely unmanageable this way. I'd spend forever scrolling up and down it, looking for that one site I wanted to go to, losing things I had bookmarked only to find them a month after I was done with the lesson, or never find it at all. Things became moderately better, once I switched to Google Chrome and was able to use the folders that browser allowed users to create and organize their bookmarks. Still, quite a bit of time would be spent by me, clicking each site individually to figure out if my favorite sites had updated themselves since the last time I had seen them. Little did I know there was a better way.

Bookmarking the Smart Way---RSS Feeds and Google Reader

Thanks to an assignment from my grad course, I learned about RSS feeds (really simple syndication feeds) and it has revolutionized how I use the internet. Using the Google Reader app, I can subscribe to all of my favorite sites using the RSS feed urls provided on their sites. This app then keeps track of what new content is posted by the websites I subscribed to and show me the newest content on one page.

Google Reader also allows you to make folders of your feeds, letting you group the feeds together any way you like. A few of the folders I use are professional development (where I keep the blogs and websties of professional organizations or educators who talk about how to improve my teaching), news (where I follow current events in NY, the rest of the country and the world), and funny stuff (where I keep all the webcomics, YouTube channels, and other things that I spend too much time looking at).

Because of this app and RSS feeds, checking the internet is a completely different experience. Now I can look for updates on my favorite sites by simply looking at my folders of subscriptions and clicking only on the things that interest me, as opposed to having to click each and every favorite on my list. Now new information is organized, quickly found and read and I can get back to working on other projects.

However, information is only good if you can share it with others, and my bookmarks and subscriptions to really great websites are only on my computer. How can I easily share them with others?

Social Bookmarking

This dilemma is solved by another tool I learned about from my class, social bookmarking. Social bookmarking  involves using a website, such as Diigo, where the users transfer, organize and post new bookmarks of things they have found on the internet.  Other users then can follow you or join your group, and see your organized links, and use them. You can also attach tag or labels to this links to help others find them when searching for helpful links.

On Diigo, whole schools can set up accounts where each teacher can post his or her links in a common account, allowing all the other teachers access to the resources that one person had. Individual classes can also have groups, where the teacher is able to organize all of the links to cool websites and materials that may be used in lessons, so students have access to these tools instead of having to type in all of the urls themselves.

Social bookmarking allows you to access the good sites that others have found after spending time sifting through the many bad sites available, saving you all the work of having to do that yourself. And you can help share your secret stash of resources with others in return, allowing you to help other teachers improve their teaching.

RSS Feeds and Social Bookmarking

Together these two tools help teachers by making information easier to find and even easier to share with others. This not only helps the individual teacher by increasing their professional knowledge or own tool chest of resources, but entire grade levels, schools and district by being able to share these resources so more and better tools are available for every educator. More importantly, all of this helps the students by giving them better teachers with better resources to teach them with.

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