Social bookmarking, as many of you know, basically means being able to easily save the url addresses of specific sites you’re looking at and want to revisit, and then being able to share those with others. Even though I don’t use a social bookmarking site a lot (since I post most sites I find here), when I do use one I use del.icio.us — just like a zillion other people.
For social bookmarking at school with students, though, I have very specific criteria and very specific learning purposes in mind. I thought others might find a “The Best…” list covering this topic useful.
My criteria includes:
* It’s not blocked by my School District’s content filter (which quickly eliminates del.icio.us — even before getting to the other criteria).
* Ideally, it shows snapshots of the actual bookmarked websites and not just the url addresses. This kind of visual support is important for English Language Learners, and I think it’s useful for everybody else, too.
* It allows the bookmarking of images as well as other sites, and, if there’s a way for students to easily access images saved by others then there’s some kind of filter for inappropriate content.
* It allows the user to write notes about the site they’re bookmarking.
* It’s free, and doesn’t require any download.
* Ideally, though this isn’t a “deal-breaker,” it lets others comment on what you’ve bookmarked.
I have two main learning purposes in mind for students when they use a social bookmarking site:
1) English Language Learners can identify their favorite sites from the 8,000 links on my website (games, stories, etc.) and write why they like them. Other students can then access those preferences, try them out, and then comment in writing as well as directly talk to their peers about their choices. This activity can also lead to some friendly competition between students who move to computers nearby each other when they might decide to play the same language-learning game.
2) All students can use these sites as a tool for the higher-order of thinking activity of categorization. This can include, for example, identifying images that fit a specific criteria (for example, this week my ninth graders compiled images of Jamaican music, Jamaican history, and Jamaican nature attractions and then wrote about each one). These can also include students developing websites or images into different categories and then having other students try to identify which ones they had in mind. These are also called Picture Data Sets.
The number of social bookmarking sites that fit most of my criteria and are appropriate for my teaching/learning purposes is pretty small. Most of the applications that are specifically designed for images don’t have a strong enough system to filter out inappropriate images. But there are a few out there that seem to work. Since there are so few, though, I’m not going to rank them in any order.
So here, not in any order of preference, are my picks for The Best Social Bookmarking Applications For English Language Learners And Other Students:
Only2Clicks seems to be a fairly simple application that also meets most of my criteria, though I need to look a little more carefully at it.
oSkope is an excellent bookmarking site for images. Users first search the Web for images. Then you can drag-and-drop the ones you want into a “My Folder.” Next, you can write about them as a group and email the My Folder link to yourself or a teacher to be posted on an online journal or blog. It couldn’t be easier. However, right now you don’t have the ability to write a tag or description under each photo you put in My Folder, but they’re planning on adding that in the very near future.
Now I’m adding another one called Sitemark. It’s not quite as easy to use as Search Me, but is better than Middespot because it lets you display and describe images in addition to websites (Middlespot is planning on adding that ability, but it’s not there yet).
Here’s another one:
Tizmos is a super-easy way for users to save thumbnail images (and links) of their favorite websites on one page. Twice a week I bring my Intermediate English class to the computer lab, and it would be an easy way for each student to identify their favorites from among the 8,000 links on my website. In addition, I can place a link to each student’s Tizmos page on my website so that the whole class can see each other’s choices. The advantage Tizmos has over the sites listed here is that it’s just so darn easy to set-up and use.
Sqworl is an easy way for English Language Learner students to bookmark thumbnail images (and their related links) of sites they’re interested in. I’m very impressed with it. It’s very similar to Tizmos. Sqworl appears to be even a bit easier to use. It’s especially easy to create separate “groups” of sites with tags, which could be handy for research and other tasks. Since it also lets you grab images off the web, it’s possible for students to create categories, for example, of images around a unit of study and write descriptions.
StHrt is a new web application for creating personal home pages and, in many ways, is similar to both Sqworl and Tizmos. Those two tools are tools my students use for easily saving favorite links (either for research their doing or for activities they like from among the 9,000 links on my website) as thumbnail images and sharing them with others. The visual thumbnails and ease of use make all three of these applications particularly accessible to English Language Learners.
Wallwisher lets you, with very, very minimal registration, create a “wall” where you can place virtual sticky-notes. You can allow others to also place notes on the board, or keep it so that only you can do so (which is what I would recommend for students). The sticky-notes can include images you grab off the web, videos, or websites, and you can add text to them (you can also just include text without adding anything else). Each sticky has a 160 character limit for text.
Wallwisher appears to me to be one of the most useful Web 2.0 sites I’ve found in awhile. It can be a great place for students to use higher-order thinking by creating categories of images (and descriptions) or short texts they copy and paste (or write themselves). It can also be used as a site for social bookmarking of websites if you just right-click the website you put inside the sticky-note and then click on “open in a new window.”
I’ve explained in more detail earlier in this post about how a site like Wallwisher can be used by English Language Learners for categorization and website bookmarking applications. The other sites listed there can be used for similar purposes, but Wallwisher appears to be the easiest and most user friendly of the bunch.
Speedtile is a super-easy social bookmarking site that shows thumbnail shots of the websites you want to bookmark, allows you to have a public page to share them, and to tag them into categories.
This last capability is particularly important for the way I use these these kinds of applications with ELL’s to promote higher-order categorization skills with images. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t appear that you can write specific descriptions under each url added to your personal page — only a tag for all the sites you are adding to that broader “tag.”
Bonzo Box is a visual social bookmarking application. Users can save thumbnail images of url addresses they want to save, as well as categorize and tag them. It’s a little tricky to ensure that your bookmarks are public. When you go to “Settings,” make sure “My Dashboard” is set to “The General Public.” Apart from that minor difficulty, it offers similar advantage to other sites on this “The Best…” list.
Toobla is a brand new exceptional tool where users can bookmark and display websites, images, and videos. I like it a lot.
It’s designed as a survey-like tool, where you can ask a question and have people vote by clicking on the number of stars they want to give it. People can also leave comments when they vote. You can create these surveys, and vote in them, without registering. If you pick an item from Amazon, it will show an image of the item and, at least if you list a book, it will also show a description of it. In addition, if you insert the url address of an image from the Web, it will show it. You can post the link to your survey wherever you please. Here are just two ways I will try using it:
* Having students pick their favorite books from Amazon and have other students rate them and leave comment.
* Having students use it for the same activities I listed earlier in this post, like listing their favorite games from my website and having others vote on them. In many ways, Thinkmeter can function as a super-easy bookmarking tool for students. Students can also use a tool like this to create “picture data sets” — a collection of images they can grab off the web that fit into a specific category. On Thinkmeter, once you insert the url address of a photo, the entire photo shows-up on the list, and students can leave a description and justification about why they think it belongs into that particular category.
Imgur is a super-simple photo-sharing site that you can use to upload photos or insert image url addresses. It can come in particularly handy in the classroom because of it’s ease in creating albums where you can title individual photos and write captions — all without registering. Students can categorize photos and describe them. It’s not a social bookmarking site for webpages but, because of its ability to do the same thing with photos, I decided to put it on this list.
Wonderpage seems like a well-designed visual bookmarking service that allows you to save and share links via showing screenshots.
Corkboard Me is sort of Wallwisher-clone that is even simpler to use but has fewer features. You just paste virtual sticky-notes on a virtual bulletin board. One nice feature it has is by pasting the url address of an image link, the image will show up on the sticky note. No registration is necessary.
Popplet is a new web app that is like Wallwisher on steroids. You can make an online “bulletin-board” with virtual “post-its” (called “popplets), just like in Wallwisher. And, except for the fact you have to register to use it, Popplet is just as easy and, in some ways, easier to use with a lot more functionality. With Popplet, you search for images and videos on the Web directly within the “popplet” instead of copying and pasting the url address (as you need to do in Wallwisher). You can draw within the “popplet” and it doesn’t appear to have an limit on the number of characters you can use. You can connect the “popplets.” You can also embed the whole thing. Having to register for it does offer a minor drawback. And you have to be registered in order to participate in collaborating creating the series of popplets. However, for me, at least, I see that as an advantage, since I generally want my students to create something that cannot be changed by others. The other negative, of course, is that you still require an invitation to join Popplet — I receive mine, though, less than twenty-four hours after I requested it. Try it out and let me know what you think.
And, of course, Pinterest is also an option.
It’s always nice to find a web tool that can be used for a number of purposes, and David Kapuler (whom I have previously nominated for an Edublogs Award) has found one with MentorMob. It lets you very easily create a slideshow. Webpages, videos and photos can be grabbed from the web and added, along with notes. It’s easy to use, very intuitively designed so just about anyone can figure it out, and attractive.
Quicklinkr lets you very easily collect websites, images, videos, etc — without requiring registration. They are shown with screenshots, and you can put them into “folders.” It appears you have to register if you want to come back to edit it, or to leave a comment about one of the saved links (registration is quick and easy). Unfortunately, that comment feature appears the only way you can add a text description to any link you save. There might be another way, but I didn’t see it.
Listango is an easy-to-use tool that lets you bookmark webpages in public or private lists. Even though it prompts you to add a bookmarklet to your browser, you can also manually copy and paste web addresses.
Read about eduClipper here.
Qwant is a search engine that offers a unique useful feature: With a click of your mouse, it lets you save, tag, and organize sites into public or private lists. This can be useful for students who are researching information on the Web (I’m particularly thinking of my IB Theory of Knowledge students). It can also be useful for any of my students who are creating “picture data sets.” That’s an inductive learning activity where they have to collect and write about images, which they then organize into categories. Virtual corkboard sites are ideal for that activity, but Qwant could be another option.
You might want to explore The Best Online Virtual “Corkboards” (or “Bulletin Boards”).
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