Digg Your Way to Better Critical Thinking with Diigo!

Recently, I wrote a post about social bookmarking in the classroom, and focused on a tool called Diigo.  This post is a followup. 🙂

After seeing the education community embrace Diigo with so much excitement, the good folks that run it decided to create an educator-specific incantation of the popular tool.  They listened to what teachers had to say- what special features they’d like to see in order to better use Diigo with their students- and recently introduced Diigo Educator Accounts.

What are Diigo Educator Accounts?

These are special, FREE premium accounts provided, specifically to K-12 & higher-ed educators. Once your Diigo Educator application is approved, your regular Diigo account will be upgraded to have additional features.  So, you need to create a basic Diigo account first, then upgrade to the free education account after wards.  The upgraded educational features include:

  • You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
  • Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
  • Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.

Here’s a link to the offical Diigo Educator Account FAQ Sheet.  You’ll find loads of valuable information there to help you set up your educator account, get your students registered, and get started digging with Diigo!

Here’s an example of what I plan on doing with my Diigo Educator account (I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂 )

  • Every week, I have one student choose a current event article & pose a question about it.  It started out great, but after a while, everyone just started reading previous posts & trying to mimic them instead of thinking critically on their own.  I am going to shake things up a bit by using a  Diigo Education account for our current event conversations.
  • Every week, I will choose a current event article and begin marking it up in Diigo with a question (bubble annotation).  My students will have to choose segments of the article to annotate themselves.  They must make a statement AND ask a question in their annotation.
  • I’m just fleshing this out now, so any feedback you can provide is GREATLY appreciated!

Students & Internet Resources: 21st Century Cavemen?

While doing some research for this post, I can across an interesting article by Miguel Guhlin that I think does a really great job of explaining the rationale for this post.  In his article, “Spending that Internet Gold”, Guhlin makes a good argument for effective website searching by quoting Dr. Judi Harris:

1. We all begin on the Web by “telegathering” (surfing) and “telehunting” (searching. This we can do pretty well. What we don’t do very well yet is to take educationally sound steps beyond telegathering and telehunting).
2. We need to help our students and ourselves “teleharvest” (sift through, cogitate, comprehend, etc.) the information that we find, and “telepackage” the knowledge that results from active interaction (application, synthesis, evaluation, etc.) with the information.
3. Then, we need to “teleplant” (telepublish, telecollaborate, etc.) these telepackages by sharing them with others…who use them as information in their…
4. …telegathering & telehunting, and the process cycles back around again.
Most of us are at the tele-gathering and hunting stage, finding and collecting web sites that we believe are useful. How many educational web sites do you visit that have a list of lists, collections of fantastic sites on the web? Impossible to keep track of and maintain, these lists are just more information that each of us has to wade through, each time creating our own links. The pack mules can’t carry all the gold that we’ve found out there. Maybe, now that we’ve accumulated the gold, it’s time to do more than look at it. To do that, we have to know what’s valuable, what’s not. According to Jim McNamara (jmcn@tenet.edu), evaluating something means being able to extract the value out of it.

QUESTION: “How do we help out students determine and extract the value of web resources?” or as Guhlin puts it, “pan for internet gold”.  How do we help our students to think critically in such a fast-paced, multi-tasking culture, when they typically have ten internet tabs open at once, an IM’ing window open as well, a Youtube video streaming AND their iPod playing in the background?

ANSWER: The best way to help our students better evaluate internet resources is to get them (students) to interact with them (websites).  That’s what Web 2.0 is all about-Collaboration, Evaluation & Synthesis


TOOL: A great way to harness the power of Web 2.0  and interact with websites is Social Bookmarking

DIIGO.com is my favorite social bookmarking tool because it has AMAZING educational possibilities. The social aspect of learning is important, especially with our increasing focus on conversations that add value to what we are learning! What sets Diigo apart from other social bookmarkers is that Diigo not only lets you bookmark Web sites but also have online conversations about them… on the actual sites themselves!.

As soon as you start playing around with Diigo, you’ll figure out countless applications for your own personal use & communication with colleagues, so I’ve decided instead, just to share a few really great ways to use Diigo with your students:
  • Create a slideshow of clickable web sites grabbed from your bookmarks (A great way to present awesome resources for children, parents and colleagues)
  • Annotate and add comments to a web page via Diigo, and invite your students to do the same.  You will essentially be hosting online, critical thinking & writing excercises about internet content on the actual webpages themselves!  (All of the comments you & your students make will remain on the webpage for you all to see anytime you are signed in on Diigo & visit the site)

  • If you have students posting their own work online (ex. Literary students writing their own blogs), you can use highlighting & sticky notes (annotations) to leave public feedback of their work with invisible ink.  A wonderful modeling tool for your students to learn how to appropriately & meaningfully comment on each others work.

Clay Burell: 3 Uses of Diigo in the Classroom

Innovative teachers all over the world are constantly discovering new ways to use Diigo with their students.  If your interest is peeked,  check out some of the following videos:

As you begin to use Diigo & develop your own educational uses, join the conversation and share your ideas with the rest of us 🙂

Now that you know about Diigo, you can help your students evolve from Internet Cavemen, hunting & gathering information that can sometimes be harmful and can often be useless, into modern Digital Citizens, harvesting information in a safe & sustainable manner, which includes contributing their own thoughts and ideas to online conversations.  Sure that takes more work, and the results may seem slower to realize, but as any responsible farmer will tell you, it’s the only way to ensure that future generations will also be able to reap the benefits of the seeds we plant now…

A Day at Lincoln Center

This post isn’t really about technology in the classroom, but it’s an interesting opportunity that I wouldn’t have known about without my robust personal learning network.  So, at the very least, it’s a great example of the incredible resources and interesting opportunities you can experience by staying connected with your peers online.

I also have to admit that I’m probably even more excited about this “simple” opportunity because I just spent the entire day/night in the New York City yesterday with my family.  We started the day at the Museum of Natural History, then had hot dogs & pretzels on a bench in the park while listening to a jazz trio play about ten feet away.  A quick trip to FAO Shwartz (my son is six and OBSESSED with Legos…), then back to Central Park for some “rock climbing” and bare-foot strolling through the grass.  Next came a birds-eye view of the entire park from the roof-top of the New York Athletic Club (compliments of a good friend 🙂 ).  We capped off the day with a nice, greek dinner at Kefi , then walked it off with a stroll down Columbus Ave. past, you guessed it, Lincoln Center!

Lincoln Center Address

So now we’ve come full-circle.  I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t find out about the following opportunity in NYC from my online network. Coincidentally, I found out via Twitter when I got home last night from NYC! A wonderful example of how your virtual world & your physical worlds can (and should) exist in perfect harmony- a lesson we need to live ourselves in order to help our students do the same.

I hope you can take advantage of the following opportunity!

You are invited to
Art of Learning at Lincoln Center
Educators Resource Fair



Please join representatives from 12 resident art organizations to learn about the wonderful education programs offered by Lincoln Center.  Be one of the first to view the newly renovated, stunningly beautiful Alice Tully Hall.   Wine and light refreshments to be provided.

Thursday, May 7, 2009
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Alice Tully Hall, Broadway at 65th Street

Brought to you by Chase

Click here for a pdf of the invitation.
If the link does not work, please copy and paste the following text in the navigation bar of your browser: http://www.lincolncenter.org/pdfs/Art_of_Learning_Invite.pdf

Net Generation Book Club

In conjunction with the Net Generation Education (NGE) project, the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) will be hosting a weekly book club for Don Tapscott’s work, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World.  The book club will gather together weekly to discuss the ideas within the book and their implications for education. Best of all, the author himself, Don Tapscott, will sit in on the final week to share his thoughts in a candid conversation with everyone who participates in the book club!

There will be both live and web based discussion options for participants. The live component will take place Monday evenings, 2/9 through 3/23 at 7pm EST.

If you are a DEN member and would like to be a part of the book club, please register here. If you are not currently a DEN member and would like to learn more, please contact Steve Dembo (steve_dembo@discovery.com) !

Don’s publisher has been gracious enough to offer the book for only $18.45, a generous discount, to everybody who participates in the Book Club.

There are three ways to order:

  1. Order directly from website http://www.800CEORead.com
  2. Email Aaron at and let him know you are participating in the DEN / Net Gen Book Club Aaron@800ceoread.com
  3. Call Aaron at 1.414.274.6406, ext. 204 and do the same.


Part One: Meet the Net Gen

Chapter 1 & Chapter 2 – 2/9

Chapter 3 & Chapter 4 – 2/16

Part Two: Transforming Institutions

Chapter 5 – 2/23 (chapter on Education)

Chapter 6 & Chapter 7 – 3/2

Chapter 8– 3/9

Part Three: Transforming Society

Chapter 9 & Chapter 10 – 3/16

Chapter 11 – 3/23

A Call to Civil War Action

A fellow teacher, and friend of mine, Jennifer Dorman (Pennsylvania) has asked that I share the following information with NJ teachers who use Discovery Streaming with their students.  So, if you fit the bill, let’s do our best to help her out 🙂

“I received a request for information about how teachers are using DE streaming to make the Civil War come alive for their students.  Who better to ask than the awesome Discovery Educators?

We would very much appreciate your feedback on this Google Form.  I will post the results once we gather some feedback.

PS – Even if you don’t teach the Civil War, but have ideas for how it could be done, we would love to archive ALL ideas.”

You can view the results of this form online at http://bit.ly/dbtT.

Online Professional Development- As Easy as 1.0, 2.0, 3.0…

Over holiday break, many educators around New Jersey could probably be seen on their computers at home, checking emails filled with holiday greetings from friends & family, connecting with those same people on networking sites like Facebook, sharing pictures of their children/grandchildren on sites like Flickr & Picasa, and maybe even watching videos of their nieces/nephews’ annual Holiday Concerts on YouTube (It sure beats having to actually sit through the concert in person, right?).

My Mom, who’s also an educator in Monmouth County, did all of those things over the holiday break. So, the other day, while I was mapping out this article in my mind, I asked her for some help.

“Mom, what do you think Web 2.0 means?”
“Web 2.0?” she said. “I didn’t even know there was a Web 1.0!”

Most of my Mom’s daily activities on the Internet are perfect examples of Web 2.0, which means she has joined millions of others (especially educators) who are changing the Internet without even realizing it.
Depending on whom you ask, Web 2.0 is either a technological revolution or meaningless jargon. But all can agree the concept is transforming the Internet– backed by ideas that bring people together, users who generate content and new, easy-to-use technologies that make it all possible. Web 2.0 is all about the proliferation of connectivity & interactivity via the internet.
Many people have tried to pin down a specific “definition” for Web 2.0, but Tim Berners-Lee says the term “Web 2.0” doesn’t mean anything. Berners-Lee is credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web and currently holds the 3Com Founders Chair at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. “I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means,” he said in a 2006 podcast interview. “If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along. Ten-15 years ago people had identified that the Web would become this, but it’s only recently that the technology exists to allow it to happen.”

Luca Cremonini Source: http://www.railsonwave.it/railsonwave/2007/1/2/web-2-0-map

Definitions aside, what Web 2.0 really means is that you can communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Educationally speaking- what an amazing & powerful concept! For example, you and your students can participate in a LIVE video conference with astronauts on the International Space Station. And when I say participate, I mean participate! Your students can ask questions and get responses in real-time. And, in terms of Professional Development, Web 2.0 means not only that it’s available twenty-four, seven on-demand, but that you can also contribute to other educators’ learning & growth in ways previously unimaginable!

The abundance of information available online is amazing and can often leave users bewildered, unable to determine what is useful. After all, who really has time to shovel through all that information? But if, in that vein, you abandon Web 2.0 applications, you will miss out on what is really at the heart of this surge in technology: the opportunity to provide your feedback and share your stories with fellow educators.

Many New Jersey educators are already using Web 2.0 technology at work. Notably, more than 10 percent of all the workshops offered at the 2008 NJEA Convention included information on incorporating Web 2.0 technology into the classroom. With many newer, younger members joining NJEA, Web 2.0 technology will become even more prevalent in public schools. According to the 2008 NJEA Strategic Member Poll, 35 percent of newer, younger members use a social networking website such as Facebook or Myspace at least once a week. Eleven percent uses them daily.

When NJEA asked members what Web 2.0 tools they would like to see on njea.org, they said they wanted blogs written by members, online chats related to the Association or education-related topics, podcasts, and private social networking sites set up specifically for NJEA members. To that end, here’s a quick break-down of the new Web 2.0 components offered by NJEA:


RSS feeds and podcasts

Social Networking

• facebook.com
According to data compiled by NJEA, there are more than 31,000 teachers in New Jersey on Facebook. In October, NJEA joined many other NEA affiliates by creating an NJEA Facebook page to help communicate with members. Through this page, they are highlighting events such as the NJEA Convention, Read Across America, and American Education Week. The Association will continue to update the page with videos, photos from NJEA events, news, and events. To become a fan, search “New Jersey Education Association.” (You must have a Facebook account to view the page)
There’s no doubt that Web 2.0 communications will continue to become an ever-increasing way for NJEA to communicate with members and provide professional development. To give your feedback and ideas on how NJEA can best meet those needs, I encourage you to post a message on NJEA’s Facebook page.
Don’t let the Professional Development opportunities of Web 2.0 pass you by. Especially when Web 3.0 is right around the corner…

Message from the Future: Collaborate or Get out of the Way!

Ok, Ok, I know that title is a bit harsh, but it got your attention, right 🙂

Responsible 21st Century Teaching requires us to ask ourselves:

Are we preparing our students for their future or our past?

In an earlier post, I discussed the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship and how, as educators, we must help students move toward appropriate, effective use of technology at school and at home, as these elements set the stage for how students will work with each other in a global, digital society.  In the past, we were given information and encouraged to memorize it.  In other words, education of the past focused on Information Acquisition. Education of the future (and remember, the future is NOW), needs to primarily be concerned with Information Management.

With that in mind, I thought it timely to share a video that I just came across on YouTube: “The Networked Student”.  I hope you enjoy the video and that it encourages you to think about the many different ways your students can collaborate online.  Below the video I’ve listed the different tools it mentions so you can explore them further.  In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss each of those tools seperately, as they are each POWERFUL tools for learning.

Collaborative Tools Discussed in the Video:

Thinkfinity & The Smithsonian Unite

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in partnership with Verizon’s thinkfinity_button.gifThinkfinity.org, have recently launched “Smithsonian’s History Explorer.” The museum’s new education Web site offers free, standards-based, innovative resources for teaching and learning American history.

Resources available to teachers, parents, students and others include lessons, activities and ogco_smithsonian_1006.jpginteractive games that can be searched by grade level, keyword and historical era. Learning activities feature objects selected from the more than 3 million artifacts in the museum’s collections and draw on the expertise of the museum’s renowned curatorial staff making “Smithsonian’s History Explorer” a unique educational experience.

Students can sharpen their critical thinking skills by exploring objects such as a Native American buffalo hide painting, taking electronic behind-the-scenes field trips with museum curators to learn how exhibitions are produced, or playing online matching games where they can discover the seven roles of the President or how to build a sod house.

Teachers will find a wealth of standards-based classroom activities, interactives, media clips and museum objects that can easily be integrated into any K-12 curriculum, as well as professional development opportunities that will help them bring history to life for their students.

Smithsonian’s History Explorer was developed under the guidance of a teacher advisory group.  Check it out!


Read Across the Atlantic!

Teachers of 2nd-4th grade students who have access to room-sized videoconferencing are invited to sign up for an international videoconferencing opportunity. The Center for Mathematics, Science & Computer Education at Rutgers University is coordinating with schools in the UK to pair classes for a collaborative reading project. Sign up begins on November 10th and you will be given the name of your partner class in early December. All schools will present their programs during the week of February 9-13. Partner sites are not restricted to only one videoconference. You may want to begin with emailing, getting-to-know you sessions and maybe even a VoiceThread exchange to expand the experience. Only 10 classes will be accepted, so fill out the registration as soon as possible. Click here for more information and a registration form.

Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network

Join the Microsoft Innovative Teachers program to become an active stakeholder in your profession. Network with a community interested in education focused on 21st century learning, and be recognized for your exemplary efforts to prepare students to become productive 21st century citizens.

The U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum rewards learning teams which incorporate the elements of 21st century learning in their professional practice and with their students. Teams have the chance to be recognized, share expertise, and develop relationships with education elites from across the country.

The monthly e-newsletter provides you with free professional development resources and information & supports you as you work with your peers to create 21st century opportunities for students, and a more rewarding career for yourself.