Thursday, January 24, 2008 - A Can of Worms?

This past summer I created an account with After exploring it for just a few minutes I decided this tool deserved far more of my time and attention than I had at that moment and vowed to return to it at a later time when I could devote myself to learning and understanding this versatile tool.

I finally have had some time this week to revisit and give it the attention it deserves. This was partly fueled by the fact that I have had few teachers asking me about and partly due to my frustration of not having access to links that are stored on my home computer while I am at work.

Now, I own two of my own laptops and have one laptop provided to me by my employer. On each of these machines I have links stored as bookmarks in Firefox and as favorites in Explorer. That means that if I want to find something that I remember bookmarking or adding to my favorites I sometimes have to look six different places. All the more reason to take a closer look at

The first thing I did was import my links from each of these six locations. This amounted to a whopping 800 links that I then had to sort, tag, decide if I want to share, delete, bundle, etc. It quickly became clear that my approach to using opened a digital can of worms. After doing this I recommend to anyone setting up an account not to take the route I did. Be selective with which links you upload. Many of these links were dead. Many of the links were ones my family added. It would have been much cleaner had I been judicious about which links I imported.

After I set up my account I decided to see what fish I could catch with this can of worms. Within very little time I was able to locate accounts of other education technology people whom I know and respect. This proved to be a huge eye opener. At the same time, I was preparing for a brief training session on RSS. For my staff training sessions I almost always set up a wiki with instructional content such as embedded videos and related links. I had my own four links I was going to share but thought it would be much better if this wiki contained more stuff for those staff members who want to learn more on their own. Using my new network of users, as well as everyone else who uses I was able to quickly find an additional five links that I thought were valuable enough to share with the staff. Had I performed this search on Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, or any other search engine I probably would not have found as many quality links directly related to the topic I was interested in. Now that I have my account set up I am sure it is going to become part of my daily routine.

Some educational application thoughts: I recently set up Bloglines accounts for all the teachers in our school district and subscribed teachers to blogs and news sites related to their content areas. I did this partly to prepare teachers for what lies ahead with the evolution of web 2.0 and web 3.0 applications and what will be needed to process student information and keep up to date with professional development. So far I am not sure how many teachers have been actively using their accounts but I know some are. What if we set up accounts for each teacher to share links? With you can also burn an RSS feed of your recent links. Since each teacher already has a Bloglines account, I could subscribe them to a feed of my account. When I find links I want to share with them all I would have to do is tag them on my account and they would be sent to them in their aggregator.

Ideas for use with students: A teacher could set up a account for their class. They could require all students create accounts too. The teacher and students could place each other in their personal network. Then, teachers could require students to tag resources they find with the class name or class number. Teachers could also use this as a way of disseminating curriculum to students. Teachers could place links to all curriculum aligned websites and web resources on their accounts and tag them with the course name and the unit number. Students would have to browse the teacher's account to locate information. This would make curriculum very fluid. Students creating and publishing web content could tag it with a unique tag. Collaborations could be formed with students from other schools who could tag information the same way. A search on for this unique search term would return results from all collaborators.

I am curious if there are educators out there who have found any unique or valuable uses of this tool. If so pleas post your comment and share your experiences.

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