'Owl Bookmark' photo (c) 2013, Nancy Williams - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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:

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.

Wallwisher (now Padlet) 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).

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.

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.

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”).

Using Diigo as part of your PLN is a good guide by Sue Waters.

Favlinks is a new social bookmarking site. It’s simple to use. However, when you save the links, it doesn’t show a screenshot.

Subdex is a new site to save “bookmarks.”

Guardo lets you save your bookmarks.

Bublup looks like a neat place to store online bookmarks, and it also is a little Padlet-like, though you can’t make your boards public. You can only share them with specific people.

Tixio is for online bookmarking.

Rackoot lets you easily organize links you want to save.

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