Monday, July 29, 2013


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Website Review: Diigo

Diigo: The Researcher’s Best Friend
Website Review

Diigo has taken social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to the next level, offering not only a way to connect with people but a way to compile research and engage in the research done by others. Using the Diigo toolbar, users are able to create a bookmark for any webpage they view. This bookmark is saved to the user’s account so that he or she can easily link to the page from any computer. On the bookmarked page itself, users can highlight text and add sticky notes so that annotations and important passages can be recalled later; these user additions to the webpage are saved along with the site itself so that when the bookmark is pulled up, the highlighting and notes are found too! Users can form or join groups working on similar research topics so that they can all share their sources. As the Diigo site points out, this method of searching for resources is much better than using search engines because the sites saved on Diigo have already been sifted from searches done by the members. After the user compiles some bookmarks of his or her own, the research profile even allows Diigo to suggest some relevant bookmarks. This website could help students achieve a range of the NETS standards, including number 3) Research and Information Fluency: Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. According to indicator b, students must locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources. This standard practically defines the content found on Diigo because it is a digital tool designed to help people find more specific sources, keep track of their analyses of them, view how others rate and evaluate the sources, and link back directly to the original source so that proper citation can be compiled. I rate Diigo’s content and site goal as very high!

Once you get the hang of the Diigo interface, it is relatively easy to use. You have the option of installing the Diigo toolbar which you will then have access to as you surf the web, allowing you to bookmark, highlight, etc. while you research. I have chosen to use the smaller toolbar option, Diigolet, because it allows the same basic functions, but uses less space and is easier to command for new users and casual researchers. On any webpage, the user has only to select one of the options on the toolbar and the command will be completed; for example, when the bookmark tab is pressed on Diigolet, a menu comes out in which the user can title, tag, and summarize the bookmark, which is then saved on the user’s Diigo profile page to be accessed any time. On this page, users can join groups and view the various bookmarks there. If the user wants to share one of his or her personal bookmarks with the group, there is an easy option for this function on the user’s bookmark page. At the top of the page, there is a search bar where people can type in research topics and receive other users’ bookmarks that fulfill the search criteria. Users can even filter these searches to look within the users of a certain group. It takes a little time and some trial and error to get used to the Diigo site and how it functions, but once a person is familiar enough with it, it becomes a very easy and useful tool, giving it a high rating for its interface.

Web Quests have become a very common classroom activity in the past few years. With this learning tool, students are given a research topic or problem and sent onto several suggested websites or search engines to gather some information regarding the issue. At the end of the quest, students usually complete some sort of project that allows them to display what they have learned. I think that the Diigo website would be a great resource within the Web Quest activity because it could make an individual assignment into a classroom-wide investigation. The teacher could open a group in which she bookmarked the sites meant to get the students started on the background research into the topic. Then she could assign students or groups of students a specific aspect of that topic and have them find sites that deal specifically with that area. This division of research would be great in an English classroom when trying to tackle a persuasive research paper. Students could be split into pro/con teams on an issue and in this way have access to more research. It is really great to have both sides of an issue represented in one research forum because often students will focus only on research that corroborates their point of view without looking at the opposition. If the research done by the opposition is easily accessible, then it saves the students time sifting through it themselves and still gives them the time to focus on their own side of the debate. Diigo is a very powerful group researching tool, so I would rate its learning value as very high.

The tech support behind Diigo seems quite strong. On the Help Page there are several video tutorials that range from a brief introduction to the site’s functions to a more detailed explanation of the site’s full capability. There is a menu that breaks down each of the Diigo tools, such as Bookmarks and Highlighting, so that users can go directly to specific topics of interest or personal difficulty. Some of these subheadings even have video tutorials of their own. There are several articles from the users themselves about how to reap the full benefits of Diigo and troubleshoot the common frustrations found in actual experience. Although I did have trouble finding ways to contact the site administrators regarding particular user difficulties, I still give this site’s help functions a high rating for being able to tackle such a large and complicated site in a way that is manageable for users of any tech skill level.

I am so excited that this class introduced me to Diigo. So many times I have gotten home after hours spent researching in the library only to realize that I have to go back and redo all the research on my home pc; it is so frustrating. But, like GoogleDocs (which I have also fallen in love with), I can access my research from anywhere. Not only that, but I can access the research of others who have been facing the same research struggles as I have so that it is easier to find sources that have already been filtered for usefulness, reliability, and interest-level. I would love to use it in the classroom as a way to keep students involved in research communities. With the advent of the web, it has gotten easier for students to have access to a wealth of information, but with this access comes the problem of being able to sort through it all and find pertinent academic-level sources. That is tricky! Diigo is a good practice ground for students to develop these judgment skills. Users have pared down the wealth of research so that it is less overwhelming, and, with the option of sharing their own research with the class, students can help each other evaluate the sources. Rather than have students resort to the old research compilation method of recording sources on note cards, Diigo relies on the same type of logic but in a more sensible and accessible manner, especially in today’s technological world. I strongly recommend that all high school teachers implement Diigo in at least some aspect of their curriculum because it allows students to become part of a learning community beyond their school. I think the interface is a bit much for younger students to handle, but elementary teachers could implement research sharing skills that would prepare them for tools like Diigo. Overall, I cannot say enough about how exciting a program Diigo is; I give it a very high, if not the highest rating of just about any website I have ever used because it is really a meta-site that allows management of the web content as a whole. From my experience, the aspect that I am most excited about is the highlighting/note function. I have always hated reading from a computer screen because there is no way for me to interact with the text by marking and annotating it. Diigo has solved that problem—and so many other web research issues! It was about time for a site like this.

The bookmarks I have shared with the EDUC 422 group:

My best bookmark:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Journal 10

"Splicing Video into the Writing Process" by Tammy Pandina Scot & Diane Harding

This article leads with the idea that students need to learn more than just reading and writing in order to survive in this technology-filled world. To this end, the authors have integrated video into the language arts classroom in a unit designed to help students write and learn about the civil war, or any subject matter. The central tenet here is that making a film follows a similar sequence to writing a paper or story, requiring that students go back and forth between brain-storming to editing. Students are sorted into pairs and each pair is required to script part of the film as well as fill a production role, such as prop managers, actors, or editors. In this way, students get experience with actual writing and with the rhetoric that goes into the "writing" of film. All the students work together on a film that contributes to the understanding of some aspect of the class. In the authors' school, all the fifth grade classes produced a film and showed all of them at a special screening night for the parents. With how the authors have planned this activity, students get a lot of experience with group work, get to practice with the writing process, learn how to produce a film, and learn whatever subject is being studied. I thought that it was a really interesting way to bring technology together with the subject in a meaningful way. It is not just teaching technology for technology's sake, but for understanding how the two enrich one another. I feel that if the whole class works on one film though, this could become a bit too lengthy of a project.

Question 1: How would I integrate this lesson into the high school English classroom?
Almost all high school classes have to complete a research paper. I think that this could be upgraded by adding in a documentary film element, especially since documentaries are becomming such a wide-spread and important medium. If students wrote the paper as well as presented their argument in a short documentary-type film they would get a chance to see how they have to adjust their rhetorical appeals between the two mediums, and, of course, they would get important experience with film editing software. Rather than have each student make their own film, they could be grouped by topic and by their position on that topic (pro/con). Each student would write a paper and then as a group they would then have to negotiate their viewpoints into one film on the issue.

Question 2: What was one important suggestion from the article about projects of this type?
Answer 2: One thing that I would not have considered at first would be that students with unequal abilities should not be paired together. I would have at first assumed that the students who were not experienced with the iMovie software would benefit from being partnered with someone who was, but these authors suggest that this uneveness just produces uneven results. The strong student tends to do the entire project rather than integrate and encourage the skills of the other student. If students are equally matched, then they will be more inclined to work with one another because they will have to negotiate their skills together. I do see a problem with this model in that perhaps the lowest experienced pairs will suffer with their final products not being as refined as those of the experienced students. The teacher will have to be extra vigilant and helpful with these pairs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal 9

"Avoid the Plague: Tips and Tricks for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism" by J. V. Bolkan

Plagiarism is an unfortunate issue facing teachers today. Although it is a crime committed by the students, Bolkan's article offers that the teacher can do several things to discourage plagiarism in the classroom. The first is taking a clear stand against plagiarism and explaining to students not only why it is wrong, but why it is harmful to the students themselves and their learning outcomes. Less directly, teachers must understand that they are responsible for designing assignments and can develop several safeguards against plagiarism into the assignment itself. In creating a specific research question, requiring process work, and expecting students to be able to talk about their projects teachers make it more difficult for students to plagiarize. Lastly, once students have committed plagiarism, it is the responsibility of the teacher to discover it. Sure, services like can aid in this, but teachers should strive to know their students' abilities and writing styles well enough to know what they are and are not capable of producing. I appreciated that this article placed so much responsibility on teachers for changing the current trend toward plagiarism. Sure, students have the ultimate choice on whether or not to plagiarize, but if teachers just blindly expect academic honesty, then they forget their main role: to teach! Teachers have to set students up for success and the way that they design their lessons and develop the learning community in their classroom is vital to student learning outcomes.

Q1: What was my favorite suggestion that this article gave for preventing plagiarism?
A1: I think that emphasizing process work is really important. If students steal the work of others they don't get the chance to develop ideas for themselves. Finished essays nearly never come with rough drafts or topic proposals. Process work, since it is so rough, allows teachers to get familiar with student writing patterns and, at the base, it gives students experience with the writing process! I think that all English teachers need to understand that the finished product is not all there is to learning--the process can be just as instrumental to understanding. If we place all value on the end product, then students might be more inclined to plagiarize because too much rides on getting something perfect. As the article points out too, it's just so much of a hassle to create rough drafts that students may as well complete the final essay. By forcing them through the process then, it not only ensures original work but helps them develop lifelong skills for original thought.

Q2: Often students argue that plagiarism was accidental. How can the method learned in Journal 8 help students prevent their own "accidental" plagiarism?
A2: Well, this article explained that teachers detect plagiarism often by entering the paper into search engines and then checking them against similar web resources. If students kept all of their research on a computer in one coherent spreadsheet, as the research article suggested, then they could complete much the same process as a plagiarism-hunting teacher. If any parts of their own papers feel to them like they may be too derivative of their resources, then they can insert the questionable content into the search function on their research and see what matches they get back. This allows students to take responsibility for themselves!

Journal 8

"Updating the Research Paper" by Werner Liepolt

Liepolt's approach to student research papers is genius. Whereas all prior curriculums have instructed students to take notes and keep citations on notecards, Liepolt updates the process by integrating technology. With spreadsheet software, students can keep citation data, summaries, quotes, and notes all in one place and can therefore clearly label and keep track of where their information came from and what it is for. This method helps them generate a works cited page quite easily, as there would be a column in the spreadsheet for each of the required pieces of information for a proper citation. With the process that Liepolt has developed, students have the option of printing off their notes in notecard form, allowing them the best of both worlds then. As I read this article I was absolutely blown away by Liepolt's approach. In all of my own research papers, I have always been resistant to the notecard method because it just did not make sense to how I operated. To have a separate notecard for every note I wanted to make was tedious and inefficient when it came to sorting through the notes to write the final paper. Plus, I lost a lot of the notecards. Using spreadsheets just makes so much more sense! Instead of a separate notecard, there can just be a separate column, which ensures that students will collect the necessary information and will allow them the opportunity to add information easily as they see fit.

Q1: What would I have to learn in order to teach research practices in this manner?
A1: I am not comfortable with spreadsheets. As Liepolt pointed out, spreadsheets have been removed from research efforts and are now viewed as primarily good only for numerical data entry. My teachers have all fallen prey to this trend and thus my humanities course has not familiarized me with programs like Excel. I would have to become a pro at using Excel in a research setting before I could expect my students to use it facilely. Besides, I would love to integrate this method into my own research practices, so learning Excel would have a great personal benefit as well.

Q2: What are potential problems with this method?
A2: Spreadsheet software can be daunting to learn and difficult to teach. I would be worried that training students on the programs would take too much time away from the curriculum. However, if this approach became widely accepted enough, perhaps more schools would see Excel's value as a research tool and make more of an effort to teach it to students in a computer skills class. Also, I think that this approach would be so helpful in research strategies that I would probably be willing to take the time to teach it; it is a skill that will be necessary for students their whole lives. With keeping notes on the computer there is a worry that students will engage with the material less, and this can lead to plagiarism. When students actually copy notes and quotations onto the notecards, it gives them a chance to internalize the information, which allowed them better understanding and the realization that it was someone else's work. If students are just copy and pasting research from the Internet, the research is a lot more passive and students may not interact with the text as much. I think this worry is outweighed by the benefit of being able to see all the research laid out together. This is an interaction with the text in its own right.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Journal 7

"Electronic Editing: Taking Advantage of Built-in Tools to Improve Student Writing" by Leigh E. Zoitz

When grading and/or reviewing a student's paper, teachers leave suggestions in the margins and make corrections directly onto the paper. This can get messy and is not the most efficient way to do it. Zoitz offers that if students turn in an electronic copy of their papers, then teachers can used the editing tracking features on word processing programs to comment on student papers. This way students can more easily access the teacher's input and the editing exchange can happen faster because papers can be turned back outside of class. I like this idea but not only for the reasons that Zoitz offers. Yes, it would be neater and more expedient, but it would also be easier for students to keep a record of teacher suggestions. If students have corrections of previous assignments saved directly on their computers, I think they will be more inclined to look over those assignment and be better able to notice and avoid patterns of error. If they keep getting the same comment over and over again, students hopefully will take notice and change it. Likewise, the teacher will have this same collective record so that she can keep track of the student's difficulties, and the problem areas of the class as a whole. If she has to keep writing the same comment over and over again, perhaps on seeing this she will realize the need for a reteaching intervention.

Q1: Could these tools be put to use by the students themselves?
A1: Absolutely! I think that if students learned the potential of these tools it would greatly help their writing in two ways. First, the teacher is often not the only one to read student work; peer-review is an integral step in the writing process. If students used the tools on each other's papers, it would allow them to comment easier and to receive criticism in a more effective format. Peer review could take place outside of the classroom, perhaps, leaving classtime to discuss the problem areas instead of setting aside a large chunk for the reading itself. As the students write their own papers, I think that if they tracked their editing on rough drafts it would help them understand the editing process better and give them a record of their changes, which may help them understand later why those choices were made. Since the editing tools don't erase the first version, students get to view the original and the changes together, which lets them see the effect that those changes have on the work as a whole. Also, once the revisions are done, students have the option of reverting to the original if it would be helpful to do so.

Q2: What is an issue with this method?
A2: I often find that when I read off a computer screen for long periods of time, I become disengaged and begin to skim instead of absorb the material. By actually physically writing on the paper, there is more action involved. Also, handwritten comments feel more personal and weightier. So teachers would have develop an attitude for themselves and in their classroom that emphasized the importance of these tools and how to overcome the ennui that can come from a white screen (quick, frequent breaks, perhaps?). There is a paradigm shift that is taking us from a paper culture into the world of technology and we have got to develop the skills to help us meet this change.