Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EDTAGS.ORG (NECC-Day 2 Continued)

If you are not already familiar with del.icio.us, the social bookmarking site, you should be. I've totally abandoned using my internet browser's favorites or bookmarks tab for social bookmarking. There are many advantages to using a social bookmarking tool. One, I can access my favorite bookmarks from any internet connection. Two, I can share my bookmarks with friends and other people with similar interests. Three, I can "save" a website under multiple tags or key words. I am not restricted in putting a bookmark in a single folder. And four, I can see the bookmarks of other people who saved the same webpage and can see all the other websites that user saved with the same tag. What this means is that I can do a targeted search for information through my del.icio.us network. And if I find value in what another person is saving, I can add them to my network and everytime they add a new site I can see it my network. Finally, I can "subscribe" using RSS feeds to a specific tag which is a great way to do research.
Once you understand how social bookmarking works, then you will understand the concept of edtags.org. A site like del.icio.us is comprehensive, meaning that any and all types of websites are tagged. Edtags.org is a social bookmarking site for educational related websites. The founders of edtags.org, Adam Seldow and Chris Dede of the Harvard Graduate School of Education describe the site as "academic social tagging to aid learning and assessment."
Seldow and Dede described several enhancements to edtags.org that differentiates it from del.icio.us.
They described how students save and share information reflects a level of learning around the course-specific vocabulary. It is their opinion that Web 2.o tools are creating shifts in knowledge skills, new methods of teaching, and changing the characteristics of learners. One distinction they pointed out in doing research is "What is worth knowing" vs. "What you can find." Doing a general google search on an educational topic will bear different results (what you can find) than the same search term on edtags.org (what's worth knowing).
Information falls into three categories, 1) accurate; 2) biased; and 3) inaccurate. It is important for students to be able to categorize information they consume into one of these categories and when knowledge is generated by a diverse group of people as it is in social bookmarking or wikipedia then information becomes more accurate. Dede explained that "knowledge is when a wikipedia entry discussion settles down."
Edtags.org has social networking features that allow a community of users to gather around a specific tag. This network is becoming a sociosemantic community around language. With tagging, vocabulary has meaning specific to a community of users. For example, "green monster" might not be readily know to the general population but a network of Boston Red Sox fans would know exactly what this tag meant. There are many socio-semantic platforms including edtags.org and del.icio.us and flickr(for photographers), connectbeam(business), connotea(scientist), scuttle(socal bookmarking for a specific group of users), and librarything(book enthusiasts).
Edtags.org has a couple of features that makes it more valuable than searching for educational information on broader platforms like del.icio.us. Their are detailed userfiles to make credibility easier to judge. Dynamic visualizations are available (must be a registered user) to see how certain semantics relationships occur.
Finally, Chris Dede explained that his students tag material for the course. In doing so, students learn the terminology for the course and a shared languaged is developed. Then when students create their tag clouds for information saved, the subject specific vocab should dominate the tag cloud. As a result a mental model of the relationships of terms should equal a formal model of the relationships of the course. Increasing literacy through tagging new information was not a concept I had previously thought about but something I will try to incorporate with my class this year as my students share websites and write blogs entries.


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