Friday, November 13, 2009

Starting with Diigo

The time has come ... my freshmen and I are venturing onto Diigo next week. I am excited for the sharing of annotations that Diigo allows. Last year's freshmen English teacher used Diigo to great success with the students' poetry studies. Having just focused on annotating The Importance of Being Earnest, I think my students will see pretty quickly the additional layer Diigo adds to their active reading and thinking.

What I am most curious about is how they decide to involve themselves in the sharing. I plan to have them do guided annotations at first where they find connections between our in-class discussions of moral dilemmas and what we have read of Antigone. What I will tell them is that if they get on to Diigo first, they have wide open choices for what to highlight and comment on. As more and more of them highlight, the options for new connections will diminish, so those who come on later will need to respond thoughtfully to an exisiting comment -- adding something of value to the class's accumulating ideas. I think it will be really neat the next day in class to have a compiled set of connections to jump right into. In prior years, we had to spend class time sharing them and marking others' ideas in our own texts -- how nice to be able to skip this step and start right into what we have made together.

Here are some things that have seemed important as I have gotten ready for all of this:
  • I am working with the freshman science and history teachers to get the students on Diigo. The science teacher a few weeks ago got them all to set up their accounts, and they have been sharing bookmarks. The history teacher then had them join her class group (more on that below) and do an annotation together in class this week. Therefore, when my classes go onto Diigo next week, the students should be able to use it right away. As a laptop school, this is the biggest hurdle we have found we need to negotiate -- the time it takes to get students logged onto and acclimated to a new Web tool. By sharing this over three courses, we have accomplished two things: no one of our classes has to bear the whole brunt of time needed to get familiar with the program and the students see right away that this is a tool they will truly use and not an "add on."
  • We have decided not to use the educator's account but instead to set up private Diigo groups. Knowing we want our students to use Diigo on their own ultimately, we did not want to limit what they do now to an ed account. However, we did not want them open to every Diigo user. So, we each have class groups they join, and they are learning to categorize their comments and bookmarks accordingly.
  • Our remaining issue is what to do with separate sections of our courses. We know that having all the students across different sections share their annotations is a wonderful, collaborative thing. However, we also know this sometimes will produce too many annotations for the students to truly use. They will just tune out as a result. Our history teacher came up with a great solution. She has all of her students still in the same history group, but when she wants the annotations limited, she has them annotate different web versions of the document. For example, they are starting with Aristotle's Poetics, so she found two websites that had similar translations for her two classes to annotate. What is really neat about this is that at any time, she can have the one class visit the other's site and see their annotations and compare them.
I will be back on here to let you know how all of this goes in reality!


  1. Susanne, you are teaching in such a rich way! I haven't read your blog for a while - hard to keep up with the whole Google Reader - but I'll be checking in regularly, and I'm particularly interested to see how you and your students go with Diigo annotations. Next year I'll be supporting (as a teacher librarian) a year 12 literature teacher, and was thinking about introducing Diigo. Our boys are studying Hamlet, Frankenstein, Regeneration, amongst other texts/films. I'll be setting up a ning for them, and this is only the second time I've set up one for a class - this year for year 7 English. It's all very experimental at this stage.

    I'm in awe of what you're doing; well done!

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