Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sixth graders using Diigo

This story was shared in the educators group in Diigo and the summary of the group posts just arrived in my inbox. This sixth grade teacher has set up a class in Diigo for her sixth graders to use as they locate and read blog entries (Yes, they can read blogs, too!) that deal with some of the scientific ideas that they are studying. When they read a blog post that they find ot be especially relevant to what they're studying, they use the Diigo Highlighting tool to highlight important parts of the posts. But, they go the important step further and they comment to each other about those parts. Imagine! Sixth graders reading the blogs of geologists and highlighting and comment to each other about what they're reading. What's not to LOVE about that?

Here is the part of this story that was highlighted by the person in the educator group.
"But I have to tell you that despite all the pain in my neck this has been, I'm LOVING Diigo.  We are annotating the blogs as we read them and then dissecting what they mean.  Now imagine my little kids (6th graders you know) trying to understand that the geochemistry of this sediment can tell scientist about the cycling of sea levels...and this cycling is important to the coastal cities survival throughout the world.  We're just at the most basic places, but they are digging through...asking me questions and pulling out info they think is relevant.

I have them write summaries and email those summaries from Diigo to me each weekend.  OK...not all are great.  But most of these kids "get it" and are pretty interested in the science being conducted.  I think they are also grooving on the conversation we get from highlighting important things from the blogs and then chatting (via the annotation commenting feature) about why it's important and what are the next things we should look for."

Now, there are some logistical concerns with Diigo that I think warrant some thought before you dig into something like this. Those students are 6th graders. They are likely in a middle school where they will have two more years where they might be using Diigo. The problem is (possibly) that their accounts were set up by their 6th grade teacher who won't want to be receiving those emails from them for the next two years.  They belong to the sixth grade group and their accounts were made by that teacher. Following me?

I've talked with Maggie Tsai (from Diigo) and other bloggers and Digo users about this. I tried to get a group to talk about it at last year's NECC, but we never reached this level of discussion about the tool. Here's my position. I think that the librarian, or computer teacher, maybe?, should upload all the students in a given grade. Then, as teachers wish to have students pulled into a group, that librarian would create the groups and put the students into them.

Why? Because, if I create the student accounts, they're not visible to other teachers. So, each teacher would have to upload their own list of students, causing them to have multiple accounts and causing their bookmarks to be scattered across those multiple accounts. A student should have the same account the entire time they're in that building, beit middle or high school.

Having one person in charge of setting up the accounts is a lot of work for that person. But, I can't think of a better way to do it. Can you? Maybe I'm missing something in Diigo that would better facilitate these accounts and groups, etc. If I am, please comment below to inform us all.

Bottom line - the sixth graders in this article are using a tool that is blocked in other schools. These sixth graders are using a tool that they can use for a VERY long time to help them gather and manage and share their online resources, and to enrich their understanding of those resources, and to discuss them with their classmates. If your school blocks Diigo, then someone at your school has decided that your students should not see and use it for those purposes. What do they use instead? ARGH! Don't get me started. :-)


takefive said...

Hi Jim,
Thanks for reading about my classroom's struggle to incorporate Diigo. I completely agree with your idea that it would have been much better to have the librarian or computer teacher set this up for all students for the reasons you outline.

Here's the problem at my school. No one is willing to invest the time to do it. They all don't want to even consider the possibility. The reason I had to do it all was because I was the only person that was willing to do the work, endure the headaches of getting it to work (I'm speaking technologically and entering into a protracted IT conversation to get our network to allow it to work.

Diigo hasn't been much help in resolving the problems and now I'm stuck in a place where each side is saying it's the other side's issue. My folks say that it's a Diigo problem...that only the first and original downloader of the diigo toolbar can access groups and/or lists. The Diigo people think it's our network persmissions. What is a teacher to do?

I'm 100% supportive of the idea you proposed and wonder if the high school where all these kids will eventually end up shouldn't create the accounts that way they can trickle up from elementary and middle school.

I'm going to pass your idea along and thanks for reading my post. I'm glad that someone out there is reading what I write!!!!

Jim Gates said...

It's so frustrating that I should read your story about using Diigo with your 6th graders in the AM, and then in the PM talk to someone for whom diigo is blocked.

Congratulations for taking the step to do something powerful for your students. Keep up the good fight

Ty Yost said...


I was going to be the person at my last school who did this, and you are right, the best way is to create all the accounts and manage groups by a central staff member. We were going to use diigo with our 9th grade info literacy course and branch out from there.

As for blocking, I would like to do a BOF at PETE&C and see if we can brainstorm some ideas on how to open some doors across the state.

Ty Yost
LIU 18