Social bookmarking tools allow users to store and share bookmarks on the Internet so that they are accessible from any computer connected to the net. There are a number of popular free commercial social bookmarking sites including del.icio.us, Furl, Digg, Stumbleupon, and others. Of course, my emphasis has been upon open source alternatives to these sites so that students are not exposed to inappropriate content, advertising, and analysis of browsing habits. Of the tools that I have covered extensively on this site, Pligg, Elgg, and Posh have social bookmarking capabilities.
Potential Uses for Social Bookmarking in Education
Students and educators can benefit from the use of social bookmarking. Teachers could create a bookmark category for an individual class. Rather than passing out paper with links, students would be referred to the bookmarks residing on the bookmarking site for easy access by clicking links. Taking this concept yet further, a teacher could allow students to submit bookmarks for sites that they find useful and pertinent to the class.
Collaborative groups could share an account, or create a unique tag so that all members could have access to what the others have bookmarked.
Individuals conducting research could simply use social bookmarking to keep track of useful sites. This will allow the individual to access his bookmarks regardless of location or what computer he is using.
Bookmarking with Pligg
Pligg is a free and open source application designed to function similarly to the commercial social bookmarking service DIgg. Unlike many other options, social bookmarking is central to Pligg’s functionality. It is fully functional social bookmarking software with means of submitting bookmarks with descriptions and tags. It also provides ratings in which, depending on the template, users can rate a bookmark Digg-style with a thumbs up or thumbs down, or with a star rating system.
Here’s a step by step look at how bookmarks are submitted in Pligg. Navigating to the site, once users log in they are given the option of submitting a new “story.”
Once the user clicks the tab, they will see a page similar to the one below.
From this point, the user needs to pste the url into the field. Note the guidelines to submitting quality bookmarks.You may alter these messages and indeed add more by going into the the admin interface, selecting Modigy Language and change these fields:
An educator who is grading students’ bookmarks might alter this to provide clear criteria by which they will be evaluated. The next step prompts the user to describe, tag, and categorize the bookmark.
Once this is completed, it enters the administrator’s queue to be approved. Once it appears and depending upon how Pligg is configured, the bookmark can be rated. It also can be commented upon, however admins may want to remove that option as the comments cannot be moderated.
Bookmarking with Elgg
Unlike Pligg, Elgg is not specifically a bookmarking application. Rather it is a social networking platform that can include bookmarking if the extension is installed and enabled. In Elgg, there is a different set of options. You can view your own bookmark collection, those of friends and site bookmarks.
Unlike Pligg, bookmark urls cannot be copied and pasted into a field, rather they are handled via a “bookmarklet.” The bookmarklet icon is dragged to the browser’s link bar.
Once you click the bookmarklet, it grabs the Page title and url and sends you to the Elgg site to complete the bookmarking process.
The bookmark can be described, tagged, and sent to any friends’ bookmark inbox. You can also set the access to public, private, or to logged in users.
Once the bookmark is submitted, other users can comment upon the bookmark.
Bookmarking in Posh
While Posh has bookmarks, their functionality is quite limited.
Click on add a bookmark, and you are give a field for the title, the url, and tags.
Evaluating Student Bookmarks
Teachers may require bookmarks as part of a student’s participation in class. One simple way of doing this would require students to submit a certain number of sites. While this is a reasonable requirement, a good evaluation would consider the quality of the bookmark and the resource it references.The bookmark could be rated in part by the quality of the description according to clear criteria (which can be explicitely stated in the software with Pligg). These might include:
- Evaluation of site’s authority
- Good summary of the site’s content
- Valid and rich use of tags
- Appropriate categorization
- Ratings and comments from peers
Social Bookmarking has clear value in education. While self hosted solutions lack the potential for world-wide collaboration that the big commercial sites have, they certainly allow for collaboration with a group, class, or school. The open source options will protect privacy and avoid inappropriate content, and they are more likely to pass muster with afdministration and community.
Of these tools, Pligg stands out as the best because of it’s rich feature set devoted to social bookmarking. Elgg, on the other hand has privacy settings and sharing functions that Pligg lacks and comes as part of a broader social networking platform. Both are suitable for use in the K12 setting. Posh, while useful, is rather limited; thus, a convenience, yet a less valuable social bookmarking tool.