Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm Digging Diigo; Are You?

Over the last year, I've become a huge fan of Diigo.  Diigo is a social bookmarking site and tool that allows you to access your saved links on any computer.   But of course, it's much more than that or we wouldn't be talking about it here.  You can get a fuller sense of its capabilities by checking out our Youtube Playlist on Diigo.  But for now, let's identify some of its best qualities.
  1. Free (and more free with Educator's license).  Sign up with an .EDU account and get access to more resources.
  2. Links are accessible on any computer by logging in.
  3. Users can join and create groups of common interest or purpose and keep community links.
  4. Users can easily share links with other friends on the network or other groups.
  5. In addition to creating Lists (categories), users can also tag each link for easier classification and search.
  6. Users can annotate (including multi-colored highlighting) the site they bookmark and share both the site and the annotations with others.
  7. Users can subscribe to other users and groups public links via RSS Feed.  (For more about RSS Feed, check out our blog entry on using it for education).
  8. Users can track the number of views a link has received.
So that's a great range of tools that instructors can utilize for learning and student engagement. With that in mind, here are some of the ideas that you could use this program for:

Course Readings:  You could use Diigo to collect and organize your class readings.  With the Group feature, you could invite the class into Diigo, and break up the readings into different lists:  Week 1, Week 2, etc.  One reason this might be useful is that the instructor can annotate each link, adding comments, emphasis, and raising questions.  For instance, in the image below, I've highlighted different text and the numbers within the document indicate different comments I've raised with the reading.   What's great is that students too and can directly respond by commenting which means you can have a conversation around a text.  

Class Created Notebook:  In this sense, instructors can make students create a course notebook; requiring them to go out and harvest relevant materials for each week's reading.  Again, the instructor can require students to comment on each others' links or go in and comment on the students' links and require their response.  Here is a set of guidelines that require students to use Diigo to collection resources for a course.

Group Dissection:  For this one, the instructor can assign specific online readings and require a group using the annotative tools, to have a conversation around a text, by asking and answering questions, connecting it to other material, etc.  The beauty is that it's all within the document/reading itself.  

Research Resources:  Faculty can also use Diigo to create a range of resources for students with regard to a research project.  One List could be on methods, another on recent research or acceptable resources to use for a project, while another could be on citing and editing.  

Research Collection:  Diigo could also be used as a resource collection created by one or more students where all their research can be found and organized for a project.  

What other ways do you foresee Diigo being useful to you?  Have you tried Diigo?  What do you think about it?  What concerns or questions do you still have about it?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Information Redirection: RSS Feeds

"Where did you find out about that?"  I get asked this question a lot about the various links, information, and ideas that I share with colleagues and friends.  My usual and most likely answer (when it's not Facebook or Twitter) is my newsfeed.  

The understatement of the century is that there is a lot of information on the Internet and more and more gigabytes being added every minute.  Finding information is hard and sometimes, it feels like the proverbial needle in the haystack.  I’ve talked before about ways in which you can channel information to you, using Google Alerts, and today’s discussion of RSS feeds is another invaluable tool for someone who needs to stay abreast of information or wants to use the latest information to help inform and shape their students’ experience.  

This video help explains just what RSS feeds are and provide a good start to the conversation.  An alternative to the video is this site, which has a good clean description of what RSS does and how it does it.

One of the most ideal places to create a feed reader is of course Google Reader.  However, we cannot use Google Reader since it isn’t part of the Google tools allotted to us with our school Gmail accounts.  But if you have your own Google Account, it tends to be the best place.  Here’s a good place to find other recommendations on RSS Feeders.  One feature in an RSS reader that I find essential is the ability to create folders to put similar feeds into.  For instance, I might group RSS feeds on “gaming and education” into one folder while I might put feeds relating to community college education into another one.  

Once you know what kind of reader you’ll be using, you’ll then want to assemble the different sources to pile into it and organize your information.  If you are looking for ideas about what to follow and why, this site offers 100 different uses of RSS feeds.  

So What can using RSS do for your classroom?
  • You can require students to subscribe to a host of sites much like some instructors require students to subscribe to newspapers.  These feeds could be a different materials they need to consider before coming to class or sources they must consider in constructing a project. 
  • If you have students create blogs, you can use an RSS reader to feed all of their blogs into it, so you don't have to go to each individual one.
  • You can create a collection of RSS feeds within Angel (under Resources) and require students to draw upon those articles for class discussions, homework, or other class-relevant material.
For more information, you might also want to check out:
Have you used RSS Feeds?  What do you like/dislike about them?  Have you used them (or considered using them) in class?  What other ways do you foresee this being useful for teaching and instruction?

Friday, July 13, 2012

ANGEL Tip #2: Rearranging Items in ANGEL

Many of our faculty “refresh” their courses every semester.  They find new  examples or new ways of introducing content and materials.  Our students today might not find it as interesting as, say 20 years ago, to just read lecture  notes.  They are used to an environment that is technologically stimulating.

As you begin to prepare your ANGEL course for the new semester you might want to consider adding new ideas or new ways to focus on your course content.

ANGEL tip #2:
In ANGEL, by default,  all new items that you add will appear at the bottom of the page. Organization is essential in an effective ANGEL course and your students will find it helpful, as they navigate their course, to find content arranged in a way that makes sense and where they can access it quickly.

You can rearrange the order of your content items under the "Lessons" tab and within each folder (maybe a list of weeks, assignments, samples, etc.).

If you want to move the newest items to the top (or in another area on the page, you can do the following:

1.  If you wish to rearrange items in a folder or on a page you must first
be in the folder or in the page.

2.  Click the Rearrange link at the top of the Lessons area.

3.  Drag and drop folders to the appropriate location.

4.  Click the Save button to finalize changes.

I hope you enjoy this tip and if you have any you would like to share or request, please feel free to comment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Steps in Using A SmartBoard

Many of us have heard about interactive white boards or "Smart Boards" but haven't yet had a chance to use them.   One suggestion before starting use the Smart Board is to download the Smart Notebook software.  This is the software that gets used on your Smart Board to create materials--text, image, videos, animations, games, etc.  The Smart Notebook 11 software can be downloaded directly to your laptop or your PC.  30 day trials are available.  Product codes are also available for North Shore Community College full and part time faculty, if you'd like to use for more than 30 days.  Please email and I'll send you the link to a product code.

There are also some great short videos that will help get you started:

Downloading Smart Notebook 11

Smart Board Tutorial

Smart Notebook 11:  The Activity Builder

Smart Notebook 11

Of course, your Academic Technology department is here to help.  Please contact me, Dave Houle, at and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Enjoy your Smart Board and Smart Notebook exploration.