The term “social bookmarking” may not be familiar to everybody, but it has emerged as one of the most useful tools of the Web 2.0 movement. The service del.icio.us (now owned by Yahoo!) is the oldest and best example of the power of social bookmarking. Del.icio.us allows users to save their bookmarks online, allowing them to be accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. I have always been reluctant to spend a lot of time organizing my bookmarks in Firefox or Inernet Explorer because I only have access to this bookmark set on that particular computer. Del.icio.us keeps your bookmarks on its servers, eliminating this problem. The service also has a wide variety of organizational features such as tagging, bundling, and adding notes to bookmarks. Visit my del.icio.us page to see how I have used these tools to organize all of my information. When you go to a bookmark you can also see who else has tagged that bookmark and visit their profiles. If you find another person’s bookmarks consistently interesting you can add them to you network. Visit my network for an example of how this works. This is an incredibly useful feature that essentially creates a shared news page for you and your friends. Also, you can subscribe to specific tag and see a fire hose feed of all items being tagged with these words. Visit my tag subscription page for an example of this in practice.
Uses in Education
Once one starts experimenting with the social (sharing and collaborative) aspect of del.icio.us, one sees all sorts of amazing potential for this service in education. If you check out my DePaul and Oakton pages, you can see how I am organizing online information for specific institutions. This is a useful way to organize personal or group information. After some of the bookmarks on this page you will see “saved by 19 other people” or another such figure. You can click on this and see who else has tagged this. By visiting their user page you can discover their bookmarks. Del.icio.us is an information research portal and a way to collaboratively organize Internet resources, and it has helped me immensely. It is also great fun and a way to discover all sorts of new stuff online. Teachers can create a recommended readings page by tagging bookmarks with a specific tag (recommended_CA520, for example). Every bookmark has a specific URL associated with it (del.icio.us/username/recommended_CA520 for this example), and teachers can direct students to this specific URL. Since any new bookmarks tagged with this specific tage will appear on the page it is a constantly evolving page. See below for examples of how to do this collectively as a class.
The system:media:audio tag
Another really interesting aspect of del.icio.us’s organizational system is its ability to recognize certain tagged media types. When you tag http://anotherlameosong.mp3 in del.icio.us, it recognizes that this URL is an audio file and treats it differently than other URLs. It applies a small Flash player to any tagged audio so that you can listen to it directly in del.icio.us. Visit my podcast archive page for an example of this–it is quite useful.
You can also attach whatever tags you would regularly attach to content. Let’s say you are teaching a class. You find many different audio files on the subject you are teaching hosted at other universities, podcasts containing relevant information, or other such content you would like to share with the class. You simply tag these files with “forclass“. On the first day of class, you instruct all class members to bookmark this page: http://del.icio.us/jsh177/system:media:audio+forclass. They can name the bookmark “materials for class” or whatever. Then anything you tag with “forclass” automatically shows up in everyone’s browser.
Also, you can tell them to put http://del.icio.us/jsh177/rss/system:media:audio+forclass into their iTunes (or other such program), and these files will be automatically downloaded to their computer. You can do the same thing with PDF documents! Set up http://del.icio.us/system:media:document plus whatever tags you are looking for, and you will discover documents in much the same process. This is less useful than the system:media:audio search and tag feature, but it is still interesting.
Collaborative Educational Tagging with del.icio.us
Agree on a tag with your collaborators and you can create a set of shared resources. Visit this page: http://del.icio.us/tag/Pine Everything in del.icio.us that has been tagged with “pine” is available on this page, along with any notes people may have added to the link.
Now create a specific tag: NU_CA_100_FALL_2006 (would stand for Northwestern University College of Arts class 100 Fall Quarter 2006)
It looks complicated, but this tag will likely be unique. Tell all class members/collaborators/fellow teachers/TAs to tag all relevant materials with this tag along with any additional relevant notes. Then people only have to visit http://del.icio.us/tag/NU_CA_100_FALL_2006 (they can make a bookmark for it in their browser) and have all the shared resources of the class at their fingertips. Tagging some MP3 files in that batch? Play them from the del.cio.us page or put this URL into iTunes to have the files downloaded automatically to a student’s iPod: http://del.icio.us/jsh177/rss/system:media:audio+NU_CA_100_FALL_2006