Am I alone in experiencing wonderment at the plethora of platforms available for sharing, organizing, tagging, bookmarking, etc., online content?
When I click on an AddThis or ShareThis button, I don’t recognize even a quarter of the options. And I think to myself: who uses these? Are they popular? Are they more efficient than X? Should I try them out? Then I remind myself: you have no extra time to check out hundreds of potentially useful online tools! (Who does?)
As I prepare my eighth-grade classes for their first full-scale, in-depth, research-based opinion paper, I am seeking an online tool that will assist my students with various aspects of online research (bookmark sources, take online notes, and organizing information).
My current plan is to use Diigo with my students. The pros: as a user myself, I am familiar with the functionality; the protected accounts are a must in my district; it’s free; and students can bookmark good sources, annotate with sticky notes as a precursor to real note-taking, and tag to organize their resources. All good.
But then I remember I am dealing with eighth-grade students who can watch a carefully crafted PowerPoint about the public domain and then raise their hands to ask, “So, what’s the public domain?” Maybe tagging will be too much for them. What if annotation becomes a laborious, unnecessary step in the inquiry process? Whatever tool I use needs to be intuitive.
Further complicating matters, my technology director asked me recently whether we had considered Evernote, since the sophomores are using it on their iPads, and wouldn’t continuity be nice? Why, yes it would. But if I have to use protected accounts, that is not a free feature of Evernote for Schools. Even if that requirement could be waived, and we use the free version of Evernote, I’m still not sure if it will be easy enough for students to use effectively for online research.
I’ve evaluated some other sources, and now topping my list is EasyBib School Edition. I love the visual aspect of the notebook, the use of tags and color to organize notes by source or topic, and the dynamic outline. The cons: money. I know the technology director is willing to spend for a product used across the district, but not for one grade. Like my technology director, I prefer that if we are spending time learning how to use a tool now, they will use it throughout high school.
I don’t know what the answer will be. For now, I am forging ahead with Diigo, and girding myself against the expected onslaught of repetitive questions.