Why We Like Diigo
We all use the web to research information, but until recently this meant saving copies of web pages as files or printing them out as you visit them in order to collect, save, highlight, or annotate each one. A new web browser tool has made it possible to do all of this electronically. I'm now able to mark up web pages as easily as if I were using a yellow highlighter and a red pen. When I return to those web pages my annotations are still there, and I can also choose to see others' annotations. I no longer need to copy and paste between web pages and Word to take notes, and to keep track of what came from where. This process is all digitally facilitated with the Diigo social bookmarking and annotating tool. This tool has shifted the way I read the world wide web to be much more active. Diigo (http://www.diigo.com) keeps track of my annotations and categorizes the sites based on the tags I specify. This ability to interact with websites in the same way I use a paper textbook means that I can highlight passages, "dog-ear" important pages, and scribble in the margins. I can do all of this individually or collaboratively with others.
The world wide web provides an enormous array of content, but until now, I have not had any way to interact with that content in a connected way, as I surf from site to site reading about things that interest me. Now, I'm able to highlight and comment as I go, building a path for myself to return to what is important, and collecting those snippets that I want to remember. My information-processing is heightened because I'm now interacting with the content, not just passively reading it.
Diigo is a social bookmarking site similar to Delicious, but Diigo adds the highlighting & commenting features which take this tool to a greater level of usefulness. My Diigo bookmarks and sticky notes on web pages are not tied to any one computer, they are tied to my Diigo account, so that I can log in and see them from any computer anywhere. Highlighting a piece of text on a web page will automatically bookmark that page for me. I can insert comments on the highlighting and leave private or public sticky notes on the page. I can also do all of this in groups which makes it a powerful collaborative tool. Groups also include message boards and automated email summaries of activity.
Another of Diigo's features is the ability to extract highlighted text from a set of web pages you've visited. So, for example, this week I have been researching progressive education. As I came across useful web pages, I highlighted sections of text that are key points on those pages. When I was ready to collect all of the items, I used the "Extract Annotations" feature and had all of those highlighted passages in one place. This tool is replicating what I used to do on paper with a highlighter, when I'd transfer those highligted passages to note-cards by hand, which would then be sorted and used for my paper's outline. Diigo saves me a lot of this time which allows me to access many more sources of information. Add to this the social component, that I can also see what others have highlighted or commented on a page, and my ability to scan, organize, and absorb multiple sources of information is greatly increased. I'm also finding more relevant sites on the topic because when I search on Diigo the results are based on what my colleagues in the field have identified as important and relevant. Diigo, like Delicious, uses "tags" as an organizing and categorizing feature. When someone bookmarks a site s/he chooses keywords to enter as tags for that site and Diigo also suggests tags based on how others have tagged it. These tags are searchable and provide an organizing structure for one's bookmarked websites. The organization which makes the tags available will often lead me to other relevant tags which I might not have thought of on my own.
Diigo is a tool that fosters collaboration and resource sharing. The groups feature of Diigo means that I can benefit from others' insight by seeing what pages they visit and the notes they leave there. Our faculty committees use Diigo when we’re researching topics, such as ways we can build a more sustainable culture on our campus-- that way, everyone on the committee has access to a growing set of shared links on the topic. I enjoy seeing the highlighting and annotations of my colleagues when I visit an interesting web page. This helps to identify important segments of text or pieces of content that I want to remember for later. I find that the more of an individual’s thoughts they include via the commenting tools, the better. While an overall annotation can be helpful when sharing resources, thoughtful comments tied to specific portions of the text are more illuminating. These localized comments also lead to fruitful conversations more often than do summary comments. I have also joined several different groups unconnected to my school, and they periodically email me new links, and so I discover new tools and content based on the feedback of other group members. You can also create your own groups for any purpose. This can create a personalized learning environment for any topic based on the professional development interests of each teacher.
Recently, I developed another use for Diigo that has been exciting for me and my students. I am a big fan of Harvey and Gouvis' work on the need to teach students specific reading strategies to encourage metacognition (thinking about thinking). Last year, the sixth grade students mentioned in their end of year surveys that we read too much non-fiction for our short texts and they missed reading short stories. Looking over the year, I realized they were right, we read very little short fiction. In an effort to correct this, I decided to incorporate fairy and folk tales into our reading strategy instruction. I found two collections of tales online that suited our purposes. I used the Diigo for educators feature to set all the students up with an account that meets COPPA requirements. When it came time to assess the students' work I had such a fun time, it felt like I was reading the stories along with each of them. Here's the really cool part: The kids used the tools built in to Diigo to demonstrate their use of the reading strategies that we've been practicing with paper text. They showed their thinking throughout the stories by asking questions, reflecting, and analyzing the text by inserting these as comments onto the web pages they were reading. These comments are visible to their classmates via the Diigo group. This is a powerful tool for supporting and scaffolding metacognition. Diigo also supports my own metacognition as I come across web pages that have been annotated by my Diigo network, it deepens my thinking about the content to see how my colleagues have responded to it.
Diigo also stores a "cached" version of each web page you visit, so that if that website goes offline you still have it saved in your Diigo account.
There are many "social bookmarking" tools in the web 2.0 world, but the best tool is one that meets all of our needs all of the time. We believe that Diigo is this tool. Users will find it most useful to add the Diigo toolbar buttons to their browser's toolbar for easy access to bookmark, highlight, and comment on web pages. Diigo can also be set to update other networks such as Delicious, Ning, Twitter, or Facebook with Diigo activity via RSS feeds. Diigo is a powerful tool that is literally changing the way that we look at the web. It has gotten me excited about bookmarking again. I regularly use three or four different computers, and knowing that I can bookmark and access my sites from any of these computers is important to me. Tagging sites by category and being able to easily search my tags means I can retrieve those links when I need them. The highlighting and commenting features replace what I used to do on paper and make the web one infinite book for my electronic highlighter!
Please note: I subscribe to several "groups" on Diigo and asked them to help me write this article as a form of social scholarship. Several people have collaboratively worked on this article, developing and editing it on a wiki page.
Contributors to this article:
Demetri Orlando, Sarah Hanawald, Beth Ritter-Guth, Michèle Drechsler
Jane: Adding a couple use cases might be helpful. Members could describe - "I turn to Diigo when I want to... When I'm on Diigo I usually... I return to my links on Diigo in order to... The most useful aspect of Diigo for me is..."
Links mentioned in the article: