In a recent post, I talked about how important bookmarking and annotation features were to students, when evaluating whether to use electronic or printed textbooks.
In this post, I’d like to introduce the concepts of social bookmarking and annotation. Social bookmarking and annotation tools enable a group of people to collectively tag and annotate shared resources, view others’ comments and respond to them. Many faculty have discovered these as research tools, but as teaching tools they can be handy for helping students to collaborate on group projects, for “crowd-sourcing” the reading in a particular course, or simply for jump-starting a discussion before class. They can also be useful in addressing student complaints about free-riders or that their personal efforts are not adequately assessed in a group project. Being required to post and discuss materials for a collaborative project online makes each individual’s efforts more visible to the group, and — if that is not enough to motivate the recalcitrant – more visible to the professor, if he or she is included in the group.
Below are some of my favorite tools for social bookmarking and annotations. All are discipline-independent.
Diigo. Allows you to bookmark and archive web pages, web-based resources, and screenshots, highlight and annotate them, and organize them into collections or using keyword tags. Groups can share individual items or collections, and can receive updates and add comments using a variety of social media (Twitter, e-mail, etc.). Various plugins and bookmarklets are available for all major web browsers, as well as apps for iOS (iPad/iPhone) and Android devices. Uses a “freemium” pricing model so where basic features are free. It offers free premium accounts for educators and a teacher-authored website on educational uses for Diigo.
Classroom Salon. Unlike Diigo, which focus on web resources or screen shots, this service allows an instructor to upload documents (text, PDF, etc. — including student work) and have students collectively tag, highlight and comment on them. It is free for instructors and learners, and provides instructors with tools for analyzing the student learning data it generates. Not really designed to facilitate “peer-to-peer” sharing of documents between students, however. For more information on using it and instructor feedback, see this short video and Ananda Gunawardena’s presentation slides from our May blended learning conference.
VoiceThread. An online service that lets people post documents, images and video, which are displayed in a slide show format, and then highlight them, use a pen to draw on them, and add video, text or voice comments from a variety of devices. The slide shows can be private, public or shared by a groups and group members can be given uploading, editing and deleting as well as commenting privileges. Also offered on a freemium basis, with a fairly feature-rich basic free service. (You do not need to sign up with the service to comment on VoiceThreads, only to create your own slideshows.) They offer education institutions and instructors a range of premium pricing options and provide periodic (and archived) webinars on using VoiceThread in higher education.
Zotero. An free browser-add developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media and History. Although initially designed as a bibliographic tool for individuals, the addition of a Groups feature allows students and instructors to collaboratively collect, organize and annotate bibliographic resources, along with attached documents, screen shots or .pdf files. A bonus is that built-in citation tools allow students to export citations in a number of formats (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.). One key limitation is that it was developed as an add-in for Firefox; it does not work in other browsers or on mobile devices.
Mendeley is a similar browser-independent tool, designed primarily with academic researchers in mind.
Finally, there is BiblioBouts, an online social game developed by the University of Michigan School of Information and the Roy Rosenzweig Center History and New Media, in which students learn how to evaluate scholarly resources and collaboratively construct a usable bibliography, even as they compete against one another.
What other collaborative learning resources have you found useful for college teaching?