Diggin’ Diigo

I was introduced to Diigo during the last year of my master’s program.  We were working around the notion of curating resources to share with our PLN.  We researched social bookmarking sites and chose the one which we felt most comfortable using.  I chose Diigo.

What I like about Diigo is that I can easily bookmark sites for later review.  It works much better than the reading list on Safari (sorry Apple, you know how much I love you)….but with Diigo I had access to all bookmarks, notations, etc. on all of my devices.

The best part?  I was able to add a bookmarklet to my iOS devices so that I could continue bookmarking to my heart’s content.  You know how that is…you go online looking for one particular thing and then two hours later you realize that you fell down a rabbit’s hole.  But I don’t consider the journey a loss…after all, that’s why I really like Diigo…I can bookmark sites, leave notations, and move on.

I’ve introduced Diigo to colleagues in my district.  I started with my department members, thinking that this would be an easy way to share websites.  But it never took off.  Well, it never took off for them.  I still bookmark sites, but whether they look at it or not I don’t know.

Then at my COE we decided to use Diigo as part of our roll-out of technology tools that supports Common Core.  We started a Diigo group and all teachers who came through our workshops enrolled in our Diigo group.  But after all of that work…it didn’t quite take off either.  Bummer.

But I wasn’t about to give up.  The daily updates I receive from Diigo gives me food for thought.  I like that other tech-minded educators are perusing and bookmarking sites.  Do I consider the Diigo community as part of my PLN?  Heck yeah!

So my next step was to introduce Diigo to colleagues in my district.  For the past couple of years, I have been asked to host a variety of technology PD.  Because of the push for Common Core, I made sure that my workshops featured technology tools that support reading, writing, and digital literacy skills.  Enter Diigo.

I pushed Diigo as a means to not only curate resources, but also as a tool where students could annotate sources.  In addition, I pushed Diigo as a way to build a PLN for teachers in my district.  And it kills me to say that even with a workshop focusing on curating and annotating resources that Diigo still didn’t take off.


I don’t know.

Whatever the case, I’m not about to give up on a tool that allows users to curate and collaborate on resources.  I’m.just.not.

Next step.

I created a Diigo group for my 7th graders last semester.  Actually I created the group a couple of years ago, but never got around to using it with my students (I suffer from the too many technology tools not enough time syndrome).

I bookmarked primary and secondary sources for them to use for our Japan Unit.  I told students that they could use those sources when working on their collaborative writing assignments in GoogleDocs.  I had about seven students sign up.  And though that doesn’t sound like a lot.  That was seven more students than before.  I told students that this is a tool that they can use beyond our class.  I told them that this type of tool is going to come in very handy as they move into high school and college when curating resources is very important.

Enter new semester of students.

I decided that this time I would post an invite to our Diigo group in Edmodo and invite students to join our group with the intent that this would help them when it came time to do the Level 4 (analysis) and Level 5 (synthesis/evaluation) writing pieces.  This year, my department (both World and US history teachers) have decided to work on collaborative writing assignments with our students.  We’ve been having them use primary and secondary sources long before the words Common Core were uttered.  However, now that we’re a GAFE district…the power of collaborative learning and writing has opened new doors for us.  Instead of having students write in isolation, we’re having our students write collaboratively.  It not only cuts down on the amount of essays that we have to grade, but it also mimics the type of writing that historians do today.  For who writes in isolation?  Well, I’m sure there are plenty who do so.  But all of the writing that I’ve done for publication has been done collaboratively.  We leave comments for each other, sometimes we’ll open a chat window in GDocs…but more importantly, we’re able to work when it’s most convenient for us.  Because of this experience, I decided that we needed to provide our students with this same type of experience and skill-set.

Where does Diigo fit in?  I’m hoping that I can get this semester’s set of students to use Diigo to not only bookmark relevant resources, but also to collaborate by leaving annotations for each other.  There will definitely be a learning curve for me because I’ve never done this before with my students, but this is something that has definitely been marinating in the back of my mind.  Wish us luck!

A Case for MI

I am a huge proponent of honoring MI.  From my early beginnings in education, I recall my teachers allowing us to experience the learning process in a variety of ways.  I remember being able to draw, sing, write, act…the whole shebang.  Learning was fun for me because it honored the way that I learned best.  And in my own classroom, I am continuing the process.

When I think about what I want my students to “experience” when they walk through the doors of my classroom, I look to the multiple intelligences to guide my lesson planning.  The purpose for this is to make sure that each and every student (at some point in my class) has a chance to shine in an area that interests them most.  I’ve given MI surveys off and of throughout the years and the trend for middle schoolers seems to lean heavily on visual and kinesthetic with a nice mixture between intrapersonal and interpersonal learning.

Yesterday’s lesson focused on visual, kinesthetic, and interpersonal learning experiences.  But it also included higher order thinking along with reading and writing literacy.  While all this might sound impressive…I must begin by giving credit to TCI.  I am lucky in that both middle schools that I have worked for have had a complete set of TCI materials for 7th grade World History.  TCI materials are awesome.  They focus on a range of skills for students to get them engaged in the learning process.  But because I rarely take things “as is”…I had to put a twist on the TCI Skillbuilder: Contributions of the Chinese experiential lesson.

Instead of having the students take a placard and run around the room to find the corresponding placard, I took all of the placards put them in a PPT and uploaded it to our HaikuLMS class.  Students shared iPads to view the PPT which forced them to communicate and collaborate with their peers (interpersonal).  The iPads also allowed students to zoom in (kinesthetic) to the placards so that they could see the most minute details.  In table groups (interpersonal) my students had to use their deductive reasoning skills (higher order thinking) to try to figure out which Chinese achievement was being depicted in the placard (visual).  In the first column of their chart, students had to write 3-5 characteristics (Keys to Questioning/Keys to Learning) that stood out to them.  In the middle column, students had to write what they inferred the Chinese contribution to be and then support their inference with evidence.  Students could have done this one of two ways: they could explain how the 3-5 characteristics led them to that conclusion OR they could go back into the textbook and cite the evidence that supported their inference.

The conversations that I heard throughout the day were amazing.  Students argued about what they were seeing, they questioned their tablemate’s inferences, they referred back to the reading to support their point…I mean, wow.  I wish that I could have recorded their conversations because it was a pretty awesome to witness.  Because students had to support their inference with an explanation or evidence, this activity will carry-over to Monday.

Come Monday, my students will fill out a GoogleForm with their inferences and then will be able to see if they were “seeing” the same things as their peers in other classes.  From there, I will reveal the Chinese achievements to them and they will fill in details/contributions in the third column of their chart.  But the activity doesn’t end there.  In table groups, students will go back to our HaikuLMS class and respond to several prompts about a particular Chinese achievement.  All of the prompts are connected to one of the Keys to Questioning/Keys to Learning.  This is where the reading and writing literacy comes in to play…

Gunpowder Example – WikiProject

Each table will be responsible to post their group’s response for one particular Chinese achievement in the WikiProject.  By the end of the day, students will have seven group responses for each of the nine Chinese achievements.  Do I expect them to read all of the responses?  No.  But the students who plan to do Level 4 for the summative assessment will no doubt benefit from reading what their peer’s have written.

This activity spans three (maybe four days).  And for a course that is allotted only one semester (don’t get me started)…it’s totally worth it.  The amount of skills that students are practicing and the fact that I’m also able to honor several areas of MI make this activity worth it in the end.

In fact, yesterday one of my students who saw the chart immediately smiled and said, “Oh!  I like this activity!”  And that’s, my friends, why I teach.