Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Trojan Bookmark

In my previous post I commented that the way to get more teachers using social networking tools is to keep plugging away and convert the teachers one at a time. Once a teachers is an enthusiastic blogger, it is a fairly small step to become a blogging teacher in the classroom. The trouble is that it takes time to become a confident user of any technology and unless teachers are convinced that it is worth their while, they wont even bother starting.

Anyone who has heard me talking about eLearning has undoubtedly heard me recommend Gilly Salmon and her Five Stage Model. The second stage in her model is Online Socialisation. She describes this stage as follows:
Stage two involves individual participants establishing their online identities and then finding others with whom to interact.
I usually paraphrase this as, "Give people time to play with the technology". {I knew I'd posted an earlier entry on needing time to play with technology, but I couldn't find it. I spent about 20 minutes looking through my own archives, but without any success. ...So I took the dog out for a walk and it came to me - it was the very first post I made in this blog!}

For example, this year I am making more of an effort to use Flickr with our PGDE(S) Computing teachers. We have set up a private group because I want the students to have a space where they are able to interact freely without having to worry about "outsiders" looking in. At the moment we are playing with it. We posted a photo of everyone in the class, including tutors, and then invited everyone to post comments about themselves (e.g. favourite movie, favourite website etc.) and to comment on each others comments. I've added a MarsBarWinner tag and awarded Mars Bars to the best posts and the comments. It's a good way to get to know a class that I see less than once a week and for them to get to know each other. Not everyone has joined in yet, but most have. So far it is going well and is working at a fairly lighthearted level.
originally uploaded by sjohnson.
(I have already been compared to Herman Munster!) I think we are now just about ready to move to the next stage in Gilly's model and as we progress I hope we'll be able to make some of it public. We have given them time to play. Now I hope it is only a small step for them to see the educational value and to considering how they could use it in the classroom. It's a sort of Trojan Horse approach. The hope is that they will get excited by the educational potential because they have enjoyed using the tool themselves. Is that a dishonest approach? Am I selling one thing and delivering another? I hope not. I think I've been up front about what I'm doing, but I've concentrated first on Online Socialisation and on creating passionate users.

That's why I've titled this post The Trojan Bookmark. I think the easiest social networking tool to "sell" to teachers is online bookmark tools such as Furl and Everyone who has used the World Wide Web for more than a couple of hours can almost instantly see the value of an online bookmarking tool. A brief demonstration of tags and categories and teachers have no problem about getting excited as to how they could be used in the classroom. So can social bookmark tools be used as a Trojan Horse to get teachers into other social tools such as wikis and podcasts and blogs (oh my)? {OK, even I'm getting fed up with that "joke" now, but somehow I can stop myself.} My answer is yes - social bookmark tools give a very easy way in.

When I created my Guide to I based it on Jim Wenzloff's Guide to Furl and I almost omitted his section on RSS and Bloglines. Now, I'm really glad I didn't because there, built into the guide, is a Trojan Horse. Teachers get social bookmarking almost straightaway and in the process of following the guide to create one, they also create a Bloglines account. Once they have a Bloglines account, can they be encouraged to start reading blogs? Once they start reading blogs, can they be encouraged to start writing blogs? Once they start writing blogs, will they start using them in the classroom?

I realise that what I need to do is to go back to my guide and expand the Bloglines section so that people following the guide will also subscribe to a couple of educational blogs. Perhaps I need to write a companion guide for Bloglines. (Or Rojo - I've just discovered this aggregator and I'm still at the playing stage. It came to me via a recommendation from Richard MacManus so although I'm not convinced just now, I'm willing to play for a bit longer.)

So what do you think? Social Bookmarking Tools as a Trojan Horse? Will that work better than trying to convert the educational world one teacher at a time?

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Jim said...


I enjoyed reading your post. I agree we need the Trojan Horse. It isn't the technology that is stopping teachers. I think that they don't see the need. As I introduce blogging I try to get teachers to think about how they will use their blog. Is for professional reflection, communication with parents, publishing students writing or something new? If they don't see what they are going to do with the tool, they don't need a reason to use it.

Furl, Delicous and bookmarking tools are a great way to hook teachers into a new tool. Then showing them RSS for tracking others bookmarks brings them to another level. I'll be interested to see how this works for you.


David said...

Thanks for your comments Jim.

You list one of the possible reasons for blogging as "professional reflection". That's probably the main reason I write this blog. Perhaps there's a blog entry in there somewhere...

Thanks also for the encouragement on the Trojan Horse idea. I'll keep you posted.

Theresa said...

Great post David and like your methods for encouraging the use of Flickr. Very good idea (and an example I'll refer to, if it's Ok with you!)

David said...

Hello Theresa

Thanks for your comments. I think I'd lapsed into rant mode instead of conversation mode, so I'm glad you enjoyed the post anyway. :-)

I'd be more than happy for you to talk about what we are trying with Flickr. Hopefully I'll be able to make some of it public before Christmas so that you can judge for yourself how it is going. Please let me know if anyone gets inspired and you hear of them doing something educationally creative with Flickr.