Tag - You’re Delicious!
Some of you may have already noticed in the right column of this blog a little box that says DEL.ICIO.US LINKS. A couple people have already emailed me saying how cool this is, but I would guess that for every one teacher who thinks this, there are probably another 50 or 100 teachers scratching their heads, having no idea what we’re talking about. So let’s take a look at the wonderful world of del.icio.us.
First, though, I want you to take a look at your Web browser. Chances are, at the top of your browser window, there’s probably a menu titled “Bookmarks” or “Links” that you use for saving all of your favorite websites. The latest research suggests that there are approximately one gazillion websites out there (source: Wikipedia), and four out of five doctors will tell you that no one in their right minds should ever try to memorize the Web addresses for even one-tenth of that amount. So that’s why the Web demigods invented bookmarking: it’s a nice, simple way to keep a list of your favorite websites handy for whenever you use your computer.
But bookmarking with your Web browser has its limitations. For one thing, you’re saving your bookmarks only on your computer. If you’re using a desktop PC in your classroom, that means you can’t bring your bookmark collection with you when you go home or elsewhere; it also means you can’t share your favorite bookmarks with your colleagues very easily. Meanwhile, categorizing bookmarks has its limitations. Sure, you can organize them into neat little folders for each class you teach, but it’s not like you can tag them with relevant keywords or jot down some notes about each website very easily.
That’s where del.icio.us comes in. del.icio.us (yes, it’s pronounced “delicious,” and written in lower case) is a community bookmarking tool. By “community,” I mean the entire online community - everyone with Internet access. del.icio.us allows you to share your bookmarks with the entire world, accessible from any online computer. This means that you could get on an airplane today, travel 36 hours to some small cybercafe in rural Indonesia (or perhaps more realistically, the computer lab down the hall), and access your list of favorite websites instantly. Portable bookmarks. If that’s all del.icio.us was, I’d give its creator a medal. But it gets better.
Once you’ve signed up for a free del.icio.us account, they’ll supply you with what’s called a “bookmarklet” - it’s a kind of Web link you install in the toolbar of your Web browser. (And if you use the open source Firefox browser, this bookmarklet is already embedded in the Web browser’s toolbar.) This allows you to add new websites to your del.icio.us collection. You just go about your business on the Web until you find a website you want to visit again, then click the bookmarklet on your Web browser. del.icio.us will then automatically open a window that lets you write any notes you want to save about the website, as well as “tag” it with keywords.
Tagging is perhaps the greatest strength of del.icio.us. When you tag a website, you identify it with certain words of your choosing. For example, if you wanted to tag my blog (hint hint), you might tag it with keywords like andycarvin, blogging, education, or americanhistory. (Note how tags will incorporate multiple words together as if you were writing in German - that’s just the way taggers do it.) These tags allow you to categorize your bookmarked websites in whatever way you want. There’s no official taxonomy required, Dewey Decimal or otherwise. In fact, it’s so unofficial, it’s often referred to as a >folksonomy. The idea behind a folksonomy is to encourage a community of users to tag websites with words that have meaning to them and their peers. This is important because del.icio.us lets other Internet users access your collection of bookmarks and tags.
Let’s say you’ve tagged my blog with the word “edtech,” because it has to do with education technology. The most basic thing del.icio.us will let you do is review a list of all of your bookmarked websites using that particular term. For example, here’s a list of all of my bookmarks tagged edtech on my learning.now del.icio.us account. Additionally, del.icio.us will let you explore all other websites tagged by other del.icio.us users with the same keyword, and display them by order of recent popularity. This is a really powerful tool if you think about it, because it lets you find new websites that are considered most relevant and current by other del.icio.us users.
So that’s what I mean by a community bookmarking tool. Rather than keeping your collection of bookmarks to yourself, you get to share them with peers, and gain access to their bookmarks as well. In terms of this particular blog, what I’ve done is set up a learning.now del.icio.us account for myself. This allows me to create a collection of links related to the subject matter discussed on the blog and share those links with all of you. The latest links will always be listed on the right side of each blog entry, while the full collection of links can be found here.
Meanwhile, you can get in on the action, too. Go to del.icio.us and set up a free account. Then, whenever you see a website that you think would be of interest to readers of learning.now, tag that website using the keyword learningnow. Doing this will automatically add the website to an archive of all websites tagged with learningnow. They’ll also be displayed in the del.icio.us box on the blog, which gets updated automatically each day. Of course, allowing people to do this requires an implicit level of trust: I’m hoping all of you will use this feature responsibility. Unfortunately, if people start to use the tag to spam the blog or post content that’s just not appropriate, we’ll be forced to remove the listing from the blog. I truly hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s why they call this Web 2.0 - we’ve entered a new world in which anyone can contribute their ideas to the online community. But as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. So I hope all you superheroes out there use this power responsibily - and have some fun with it as well.
Coming soon, I’ll post more about del.icio.us and how it’s being used in the classroom, interviewing educators who have successfully jumped on the del.icio.us bandwagon. -andy
Filed under : Cool Tools