Using del.icio.us for Social Bookmarking and Tagging as Support in a Research Paper

For students of 7th to undergraduate grade.

Background:
In preparation for a research paper assignment, the class discusses the process for starting a research paper. Over several class periods, students address the beginning steps of identifying the differences between a research paper and a report, identifying and narrowing an appropriate topic, and defining sources for various types of information. They compare the resources available in the library to those on the Internet. They discuss the caveats to using Wikipedia and begin to evaluate web sites for authenticity. At this point, the students are ready to choose a topic of interest to use as a vehicle to explore on their own the steps they have addressed to this point. Once the students identify and narrow their topics sufficiently, they  begin looking at sources of information to support their topic. 

Goal:
For their Internet research, each student will use a del.icio.us account to bookmark and describe every link they find applicable. This list will be the start of their bibliography. The description the student writes for each bookmark will remind him/her of the importance and unique aspect of the source and will help the student better differentiate one link from another. Tagging will help organize the bookmarks into subgroups to help the students identify their sources they need for each aspect of their paper.

Preparation and Background Knowledge:
One class period is devoted to the students' introduction to del.icio.us and how it works. After a general review of social bookmarks and tagging, each student registers for a del.icio.us account. The teacher may choose to have students create an account under a predetermined name using a school email address if the students aren't yet ready to have their own personal del.icio.us account. Students follow a projector-generated model of the teacher performing the same task on the computer. The students search on a variety of topics to experience the structure, function and features of the del.icio.us site. They practice saving bookmarks and creating tags initially following the teacher's direction. All students place a particular code tag for every bookmark so the teacher can find it later. The teacher reviews each student's bookmark and description and provides feedback to the student as needed.

Objectives:
1. Using previously discussed Internet search strategies, students will search web resources on their topics both outside and inside del.icio.us.
2. Students will develop a set of at least ten bookmarks writing specific descriptions related to why they saved each bookmark.
3. Students will tag each bookmark with at least three tags that apply to the aspect of the research the information at that bookmark supports.

Setting and Materials:
This class should be held in a computer lab or other setting where each student, or pair of students, has access to a computer and Internet access.
A list of user names and passwords from the previous class in case students forget their log in information.
List of agreed upon topics for each student.
A navigation information sheet for students who need assistance recalling the structures of del.icio.us. (optional)

Anticipatory Set:
Now that each student has a topic to research, they are ready to see what web resources are available. Just let them on the computers and off they go.

Guided tasks for students:
   Do a regular web search on their topic using a search engine of their choice. 
   Review the top ten responses and evaluate briefly the likelihood of each to provide quality information on the topic. 
   Click into any reasonable site and review material presented there. 
   Identify any particular qualities of the site or the information offered there to use in the description for the del.icio.us bookmark and to use as identifying tags. 
   Add the bookmark to their del.icio.us bookmarks and complete the description and the tags. 
   Review more search results in an effort to find at least five valid sites to bookmark as described above.
   Check your del.icio.us bookmarks list. Identify any of the bookmarks you added that indicate others in del.icio.us have already found and listed that same bookmark there.
   On the del.icio.us site, do a similar search through the del.icio.us bookmarks on your topic.
   Follow the procedure listed above to locate del.icio.us bookmarks of sites that support the research topic. Bookmarks them with appropriate descriptions and tags
   Return to the student's bookmark page to view the tag cloud created there. 
   Describe orally or in writing why it looks the way it does in regard to size and darkness of the words listed.

Students will ask for help as needed and will share with the teacher and each other as they discover new features of the del.icio.us site. 

Evaluation:
The teacher will review each student's bookmarks in del.icio.us searching with the special code tag to evaluate:
     how the bookmark relates to the topic, 
     how descriptive the description entry is and 
     how applicable each tag set appears.

Extension:
Students will add to and use this list of bookmarks as the basis of their bibliography for the research paper.