Summer Renewal 4: Mmmm, Del.icio.us

If you’ve been following along so far, you’re starting to accumulate some useful resources. You have some podcasts that you’re listening to. You’re reading some blogs. Maybe you’ve found a few other useful things along the way. At some point, you’re going to want to go back to these pages.

For the first decade of the web, we used bookmarks. When you’re on a web site, you simply add a bookmark for that site. All of your bookmarked sites show up in a list in your browser, and you can return to them any time. If you’re an Internet Explorer user, bookmarks are called “Favorites.” You can even organize your bookmarks into folders, just like you would with your files. Use different folders for different topics, and you have a nicely organized collection of web sites that you can return to with ease at the click of a mouse.

DeliciousThe problem is this: most teachers I know use multiple computers. At the very least, you probably have one at school and one at home. In many cases, teachers share rooms and end up using several different computers at school throughout the course of the day. But the bookmarks are stored on the computer you were using when you created them. That means you can’t get to bookmarks you created on another computer.

I know. This isn’t technically true. I guess if your school is using roaming profiles, your bookmarks go with you from computer to computer. But they don’t go home with you, and not everyone uses roaming profiles. What we really need is bookmark portability.

Delicious (http://del.icio.us) is one service that helps you manage your bookmarks. Start by signing up for a free account. Then, when you’re surfing the web and encounter a site you want to bookmark, use Delicious instead. You can add notes about the site and choose one or more “tags” for it. Tags are one-word descriptors for categorizing your sites. For example, I use the tag “profdev” for sites related to professional development. I use “2blog” for sites that I want to blog about. You can use any tags you like.

Delicious then allows you to access your links from any computer. Simply log in to your account, and you can manage your links. If you want, you can choose to share your links with others, too. Here are all of the items I’ve tagged with “profdev,” for example. And here are all the links tagged with “profdev” by anyone on Delicious.

You can also search Delicious to see which sites other people have tagged in a certain way. The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) is this week. A lot of people have bookmarked sites in Delicious and tagged them with NECC. Unfortunately, tags can be inconsistent, because there are some tagged “necc07” and “necc2007” too. But by sharing your links, you contribute to the global collection of annotated resources related to whatever topics your tags cover.

Scuttle StarDelicious is a really wonderful and useful tool. There’s just one thing that may keep teachers from being able to use it effectively. Sometimes, it’s blocked by Internet filters. In our district, this is the case. So, while you can certainly manage your links in Delicious at home, you won’t be able to access them at school if you work in my district. Since that was the problem we set out to solve, we’re back to square one.

But not really. There’s this program called Scuttle, which does most of the same things Delicious does. The primary difference is that it can be installed on your own server, and you can run your own, internal Delicious. I did that, so teachers (and students) in my district can use our local installation of Scuttle to manage their bookmarks. It’s even tied to our exisiting user accounts, so everyone’s network username and password will work. Because my web server isn’t blocked by the Internet filter, neither is my installation of Scuttle. Alvin actually likes Scuttle better than Delicious, because all of the links are from the same organization, and it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.

Assignment: Either sign up for a Delicious account, or (if you’re a BBH employee) log in to our Scuttle installation. If you’re using Firefox, install the Add-ons (Delicious or Scuttle) that let you easily tag items. If you’re using Internet Explorer, you can use these buttons for Delicious, or add these links to your Links bar for IE. Using one of these tools, tag at least two web sites, so you can retrieve them later.

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Author: John Schinker

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