The Social Side of Social Bookmarking

DiigoIn EDU6323 this week, my students explored social bookmarking.  As one student noted in her weekly reflection – “Holy Moly – How Did I Not Know About This?”  Her observation matched about 90% of my class…which is interesting given that social bookmarking has been around for nearly a decade.  In my mind, this in some ways simply demonstrates that our past educational system was built on the individual, which resulted in people who do not naturally share or collaborate in digital ways.  The changing landscape of the digital world in the past decade has resulted in processes that are open, social and participatory…but that does not mean that those educated in earlier days automatically adopt these practices.  Within our class discussion forum, we had some interesting discussion around digital literacy and skill building.  Many suggested that they were rethinking fundamentals – that skills such as social bookmarking were critical skills that should be integrated in K-12 education rather than waiting until higher education.  Several stated that they were immediately discussing this practice with their students.  Others likewise were sharing the practice with their co-workers.

To help demonstrate the power of social bookmarking, we used Diigo to collaboratively collect articles associated with three myths discussed by Michelle Miller in her third chapter of Minds Online.  Michelle debunked three common myths involving digital technology – that use of technology is rewiring our brains, that kids are digital natives, and that the use of social media is destroying relationships.  Student reflections noted that many of these myths resonated with them, and that they were frankly surprised to find that there was little research substantiating these beliefs.  They collected a nice variety of articles that supported Miller’s view, and in the process illustrated how collectively we can quickly amass an excellent resource.

In thinking deeper about digital literacy, they reflected on how they and their colleagues tended to reject change.  In working with faculty over the past decade, I and others have seen this repeatedly.  However, after initially rejecting change, we have also seen faculty come back, retry something, and ultimately embrace it – whether we are talking about technology or new teaching practices.

In reflecting and discussing the social side of social bookmarking, several students saw potential opportunities for collaboration, but they also worried about collaborative approaches in a world still focused on individuals.  If a group collaboratively built something, how does one grade individual effort?  Others worried that students might violate copyright if they were allowed to freely share content.

Regarding grades, I spent part of the 1980s involved with the quality movement, known then as Total Quality Management.  One of the guiding lights of TQM was Edwards Deming, who passed away in 1993.  Deming was chiefly responsible for the rebirth of Japan following World War II, in which the quality of products (Sony, Toyota, etc) far exceeded USA products – at least until American companies started listening to Deming.

One of Deming’s beliefs was that you could pick the top 5% and bottom 5% of effort in any project, but that it was meaningless to spend time trying to quantify the middle 90%.  As such, he felt that in education, individual grades tended to be meaningless.

That was 30 years ago!  With the new affordances of digital technology – and the opportunities associated with collaborative learning, perhaps a new grading scheme is needed!  Would teachers and faculty be ready for such a radical notion?

As to remixed copyright, I shared Larry Lessig’s TED Talk.  Another radical notion?

I really enjoy our journey through digital technology, which several students describe as “eye-opening”!  Next week, we move into aggregating content.  I hope more radical notions are uncovered!

{Graphics: Marc Campman, Educause}

Paradigm Shifting Again

RIP DeliciousI have waited a couple of days to post about the “relaunching” of Delicious … primarily because I had such a visceral reaction to it… as the image to the left illustrates.

The old Delicious was my gateway drug into Web 2.0.  Through Delicious, I began in 2007 to connect with colleagues (dare I say “friends”) worldwide who shared similar interests to mine, such as Gabriela Grosseck in Romania, Eduardo Peirano in Uruguay, and Michele M. Martin up in Pennsyvania.  Our connections have evolved over time (as has Web 2.0), so that we continue to connect through our blogs, Twitter, Slideshare and Facebook, but Delicious is where I first made the network connections.

I found Delicious personally very useful.  I could get to my web bookmarks on any computer.  I could in effect organize the web, bundling bookmarks around themes.  I could add colleagues (and students) to my network and follow what they were bookmarking.  I could use it as a vetted search engine to find resources that others worldwide had located.  Through class tags, I could share web resources with my students.  At Gabriela’s urging, I experimented with the use of Delicious in my online class, and presented my results at eLearning 2008 and in the online journal edited by Gabriela – “Instructional Uses of Social Bookmarking: Reflections and Questions.” (REVISTA de INFORMATICA SOCIALA, pages 28 – 39).

One of the more useful features of the old Delicious was the ability to set up RSS subscriptions around networks or tags.  I like to know each day what individuals whose tagging practices I value were curating off the web.  By adding people like Jeff Nugent, Jon Becker, Alexandra Pickett, and Gardner Campbell to my network and then subscribing to the My Network feed, I automatically built an amazing intelligence and environmental scanning process.  It piqued my interest to know what they found interesting.  When the term “edupunk” first surfaced, a subscription to the Delicious tag “edupunk” siphoned from the web a very interesting collection of sites.  Every morning, email is the first thing I check…but Google Reader is the second, and Delicious was an important component of my Google Reader aggregation.

Delicious was originally launched in 2003 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005.  I joined in 2007, and by the end of 2008 according to Wikipedia, I and my public links were part of a global network of more than 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked URLs.  The site was sold to AVOS Systems on April 27, 2011 – which was exciting in that Chad Hurley and Steve Chen of YouTube fame were involved.  This week, Delicious was relaunched in a “back to beta” state.

Delicious was one of the first sites explained by Lee Lefever of Common Craft – a great explanation “in plain English” of social bookmarking.  The relaunched Delicious has invalidated much that Lee explains.  With the flip of a switch, Delicious went from a must-have tool in my digital toolbelt to just another web site.

My 5,547 links are still there.  I think ….but am not sure … that my tags are all still there.  My bundles are gone.  My networks have now become friends but what they are doing collectively has disappeared.  RSS functionality is gone, replaced with a Facebook like sharing function.

In other words, the ways in which I have been using Delicious for four years have disappeared.

Granted, you get what you pay for … and Delicious has always been free (though I would gladly pay for the old service).  The new owners warned that they were updating Delicious…I just did not expect basic functionality to disappear.  I am not the only one upset.  Just look at:

One of my favorite recent movies is “Up” … probably because I can identify with the old curmudgeon Carl Fredericksen.  Towards the end of the movie, he is pushing his way through a crowd and he says words to the effect of “Sorry, old man coming through”.  Maybe RSS is dying and friending / sharing are the new norms.  It seems paradigms are shifting once again.  The new owners are probably less interested in the old guys like me that stuck with the old product as they are in launching something hip that connects with the masses.  So be it.  But this old curmudgeon misses his old Delicious and so far has not found the energy to go back and stack what I used to have.

Pile on and let me know what you think.  Am I wrong?

{Up graphic from filmgabber}

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My Presentation at eLearning 2008

These are the slides that I presented at the ITC eLearning 2008 conference Monday.


While you can listen to a narration of the above slides, you might find interesting a neat web application that Barry Dahl used during my presentation to “capture” what was happening.  Check out his blog for a timeline that he captured as the presentation unfolded.  It automatically uploaded to his blog.  Cool!!!!