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Published November 18, 2012 | English (Language and Literature)

Diigo - A Web Resource for Article Collection in Debate Preparation

The development of education technology has diversified teachers' tasks. This diversity has necessitated additional resources, which can include the creation of web-based activities. In a constant desire to reinvent herself, Mélanie Drouin, accepted this challenge. During Professor Jacques Viens' course in Education at Université de Montréal (PPA-6609), Mélanie transformed the preparatory phase of a final debate into an online hybrid activity.

Activity Objectives

The activity "Ethical Dilemmas", which is a part of my 102 A Block English courses, promotes the development of oral skills. Its main objective is to produce an informative and constructive debate allowing listeners to make an ethical decision about a topic of the students' choosing.

The preparatory phase of the debate took place over a two-week period, and the collaborative nature of the task seemed ideal for the Web as it favoured sharing, discussion and feedback. The choice of online environment was also important, as it had to adapt to this activity, essentially focusing on research and information gathering. I chose Diigo for this task.

What Is Diigo?

Diigo is a bookmarking tool with advanced functionalities. It offers more than the existing bookmarking sites such as Delicious.

The name Diigo is an acronym from "Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff" (Wikipedia). Described in French as a social annotation tool, Diigo retains more than just sources of information. It keeps URLs and the user can annotate these bookmarked pages or even selections on the pages while reading an article or paper.

Like any good bookmark, Diigo allows you to group information by categories through the creation of lists. The user can share items as well as lists and even libraries.

A Guided Tour of the Diigo Site

A Small Step-by-Step Guide

The Role of the Teacher

Meticulous planning will ensure the activity's success. First, after having opened a Diigo account, familiarize yourself with the tool, making several attempts before working with students.

Once the activity has begun, the teacher will provide student support, not only for research content and skills but for Diigo. Providing support for research skills, content, and the Web-based tool Diigo itself, the toolbar begins this activity. The teacher's online support then takes the form of comments and other feedback about selected articles, particularly in terms of their validity and the relevance of the annotations and proposed arguments.

The Role of the Students

Once students are made aware of the criteria concerning the validity of information sources, teams are formed. The teams select a topic using the website proposed in the textbook "Open Road".

In the lab, students create a Diigo account using their cegep email address. No more than five minutes are required to become familiar with the Diigo toolbar, an essential part of the exercise. Student research for articles will give them the necessary practice. Allow an hour for this. The student will become a data processor, sometimes even a problem solver such as when sharing  libraries or lists with colleagues. This is a totally new experience!

Diapositive

An Example of a "Sticky Note" in a Diigo Library

I provide a guide to plan the debate's argumentation. Students upload the sheet "Debate Outlines" that helps them to structure their information in light of the final debate. Class time is used for the collective organization of ideas, then for the development of arguments. Students continue to work at home installing the Diigo toolbar on their personal computers and sharing their libraries with the teacher for feedback. Shortly before the final debate, a rehearsal takes place to finalize argument structures, enunciation and pace.

Educational Benefits for Students AND Teachers!

Diigo fosters active learning. This approach has many practical and motivating aspects:

  1. The tool retains references to all the items in a library.
  2. The platform promotes collaboration.
  3. The teacher can give instant feedback using the "like" button.
  4. The activity creates a hybrid class with an online segment during research using Diigo and a face-to-face segment during the rehearsals and debates.

The fact that the site is only in English is an advantage given my subject, but it wouldn't necessarily be so for others.

Given easy access to the Web, Diigo promotes group work in spite of teammates' different schedules. The many opportunities for feedback provide a more thorough treatment of information resources, argument construction and word pronunciation.

The multifaceted nature of this activity combining reading, writing, oral expression and understanding achieves various learning objectives:

  1. Finding valid and relevant articles related to an ethical subject
  2. Building a solid argumentation
  3. Planning argumentative strategies
  4. Interacting with others to clarify information and validating the choice of sources
  5. Getting to know web tools that serve as a resource in many educational / professional and academic contexts.

Do you use Diigo with your students? How? Do you have other Web-based resources to suggest for such activities?

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