Taking a Look at Diigo … Again

Since all the drama last month revolving around the (non) closure of delicious I decided to take a second (or third) look at diigo as the place to manage not just my bookmarks but my ability to easily share online resources. I’ve always thought of delicious as so much more than an anytime/anyplace bookmark tool … it is a social network in every single way. I’ve been an active user since the early days and have used it in my teaching for quite some time and have always seen it as part of a larger teaching and learning toolset. Through the years I’ve used it faithfully, but the way Yahoo appears to be treating the service I thought I better see what else is out there to support my needs and interests going forward.

I will say that delicious still feels better to me, but that is more than likely because of familiarity. After importing all my delicious links into diigo and banging around a bit I am very impressed. I love the ability to highlight parts of pages I am reading and easily add comments from within the browser … I also like that when I view my library I not only see my bookmarks, but also the highlighted content I was initially impressed with. I am enjoying the groups and really like that it is helping me keep my eyes on what some important people in my professional life are paying attention to.

Its not so much that I am late to the diigo party, its just that I may have stayed over at del.icio.us’ place a little too long.

The other day I filled out a request to get an educator account at diigo and was rewarded with that a day later. I haven’t yet fully explored what it all means, but at first glance it looks like I can create a very simple social network for storing, managing, and sharing content with groups of students quickly and easily by importing a class list. I would recommend investigating the affordances of the diigo educator account and sharing some thoughts.

Screen shot 2011-01-03 at 10.03.20 PM

I’m still playing with this tool for teaching and learning … I’d like to push beyond the notion of a simple shared space for collecting resources. I am sure that when my friend and colleague, Scott McDonald and I tee up our Disruptive Technology in Teaching and Learning course we’ll be taking advantage of what a tool like this has to offer in some new and interesting ways. I am beginning to wonder how we as an Institution could find a way to partner with the folks at diigo … what would that relationship look like and how could we make it play out in a positive sense in the mid to long term? I’d love to hear about how people are using diigo in their teaching as well in managing their own professional lives.

Lesson Learned

Last week I wrote a mini post called “Gmail Fix” that just pointed to a way to use Gmail to send mail from a different SMTP server. To put it mildly, it has been a massive spam target. Every single day I get a dozen or so comments that ask for various ways to “fix” their gmail problems. Clearly the words “gmail” and “fix” cannot and should not be used in a post title.

Taking a Break

I’ve been quiet here for the last week trying to collect thoughts after writing so much last month. I think I’ll be a little quiet for the next several days as well. I’m not giving up on writing, just need to find my voice again. Before I sign off to enjoy Spring Break, I wanted to mention something … I dropped a friend of the family’s son off at school today for them and walked him to his pre-K classroom. It is the same private school my daughter went to prior to moving on to first grade this year at the public school. As I was walking down the hall I saw the quilt her class made last year as a culminating project. I was stopped in my tracks — I was just in awe of what it means.

It was filled with color, life, and inspiration. I recall hearing her talk about the quilt nearly every day last year and didn’t quite understand why it was such a big deal. Even at her graduation when they showed it off it didn’t quite hit me. Seeing this living example of my daughter’s contribution to the intellectual, emotional, and perhaps spiritual embodiment of her school in the hall today made me both very sad and very happy. It is, in every single way, in stark contrast to the representation of her contribution in the public school system — the “adequate sign.” I can’t tell you how it made me feel to know she made something tangible that the current students point to as a model for how they learn to contribute, share, and participate in the process of learning. Really an amazing thing to see.


And with that, I’ll talk to you when the mood strikes!

Classroom of the Future

Closing out the month of One Post a Day … its been a crazy experience that was even more complicated this time than when I did it back in August. It was well worth it however and I want to acknowledge those who went along for the challenge with me — Allan, Brad, Erin in ETS and several of the students in the Schreyer Honors College as well. All of the PSU One Post a Days can be seen in a tag aggregation at the Blogs at PSU.

With that said, I’d still like to explore an idea …

My colleague Allan Gyorke is leading a group looking at informal learning spaces on campus and they are doing some interesting work exploring spaces that are outside of our classrooms. With that in mind I wanted to ask what our classrooms should look like in higher education to embrace the future. I have a few ideas, but would love to hear more.

One thing I really think we should do is design a classroom that can project two sources to two different screens. This would allow faculty to teach with supporting content as they do now (typically PowerPoint, Keynote, or a web page), but would also engage in bringing the back channel to the front. I’ve done presentations and taught with a Twitter stream of a specific hashtag running behind me and it completely changes the dynamic of the room. For the most part our students have technology at their fingertips, why not work to engage them.

I see it at conferences all the time, why not classrooms? (credit, bjoern)

I see it at conferences all the time, why not classrooms? (credit, bjoern)

I’d have no problem working to socialize a tool like Twitter or the Harvard Live Question tool over the course of the first couple weeks of class. I think by doing that we’d see some really interesting things emerge. Twitter is becoming a powerful platform to do just about anything on, not sure why we aren’t seeing more teaching with it … it seems ideal as a place to engage in lots of good backchannel conversation. I think the students are ready … if you walk past any modern classroom there is technology everywhere.

Why not engage this? (credit, justin)

Why not engage this? (credit, justin)

An additional thing I’ve been thinking about is using a blog as a real time reflective environment. Invite students to comment on a post during class and see how things emerge. When we teach too many times we ask questions and get really very little verbal engagement … would that change if the conversation was seeded by blog comments? I am guessing yes.

To do any of this stuff you need a room to support it. I think a room that can project meaningful teaching materials as well as the backchannel is key to exploring this new way of teaching. What do you think?

The Plunge

Last night I attended my doctoral course in assessment here at Penn State. I was surprised that I was a bit anxious as I walked into the room. I guess it comes back to the fact that I was a student and not the teacher for the first time in quite some time. I’ve been teaching courses at Penn State off and on for the last eight years, so the notion of sitting on the other side of the equation left me feeling a bit vulnerable (I think that is what I was feeling). I’ve been quietly working on my doctorate for the last couple years — slowly plodding along, but exclusively by doing independent studies, taking courses online, or by getting credit for teaching. This is the first time I have been a student in a real classroom in quite some time, so being a bit nervous was a natural feeling. I am lucky enough to be taking the course from my advisor and friend, Dr. Kyle Peck and his wife, Dr. Catherine Augustine. Both of them are easy going and very smart. They put us at ease — all nine of us.

After I got into the flow I found class to be rather relaxing — I was able to leave email and daily demands alone for a good three hours as we talked through some very basic concepts related to assessment. I think my positions at the Institution have afforded me unique views into the issues we’ll explore so I felt as though I was at a bit of an advantage. I have either been a practicing instructional designer or leading instructional design teams for the last 12 years so that has also given me experience in the things we were talking about — made me immediately ready to dive in. I think I will be able to add value to the class on a few levels and am looking forward to exploring it all as it progresses.

With that in mind, I am going to try something a little different as I move through this experience … I am going to use this space and my PSU blog to attempt to open the course up to those not in the room through my thoughts. I am begining to wonder how I can use an open set of tools to invite others into my learning and see how it impacts my own thoughts and outcomes. I’ll be writing weekly reflections, tagging content in delicious with insys522, making new YouTube videos asking questions from the course, creating podcasts, and more. These aren’t assignments … no one is directing me to do this.

My own personal reflection from the experience last night has pushed me to ask some new questions about teaching, learning, and community engagement. I am curious about what more I can learn by almost redesigning things as they happen to me … sort of looking at design as a mind tool. Will I create deeper meaning for myself through this practice and will it have any sort of impact on people in and out of the course are two issues I am eager to explore? Those are just two of the questions I am considering as I walk into a fresh field of snow — no footsteps to follow on this one for me. I’ll do my best to be as transparent through the process and I welcome any and all comments, feedback, encouragement, or whatever else gets thrown my way. So, in a sense I am inviting you to engage in a semester long experiment with me to see what learning and sharing in the open can mean. I hate to say it, but even if you don’t show up I will — but I certainly hope you do! Anyone up to take the plunge with me?