06 November 2011

Diigo for research in Spanish & English classes

Spanish III used Diigo to take notes on the lives of prominent Spanish and Mexican artists (plus 1 cubano and 1 uruguayo). English I will use it to take notes on agricultural practices that could be used in Nigeria.

The advantages to using Diigo note-taking in general for me:

  1. No paper mess for me or students to keep track of/lose/forget to bring to class or take home!
  2. Students can submit a link to their notes list for the assignment through Edmodo, which means both I and my students can get back to the notes any time! (provided, of course, we have secured computer and internet access--much easier with our "open" WiFi network for student computers plus 10 laptops on a cart plus 3--THREE!--desktops that now reside in my classroom)
  3. I have links not only to the original texts for quick validity verification, but also to the material students plan to quote--and then, of course, give credit to--so, potentially less googling of suspicious phrases
  4. We have no library or media center at my tiny school, and the public library does not open until English class is 2/3 over, so electronic sources are pretty much the way to go for our class.
  5. Oh yeah, save some trees 'n' stuff.

For a Spanish class, there are still more advantages:

  1. Students are locating and accessing authentic texts in the TL!
  2. The very selection of notes appropriate to the assignment is an interpretive task, whether they are going by key words like nació or using cognates to decipher basic information about the artist's influences and education or actually piecing together whole chunks of someone's life story!

  3. Using the sticky note option to paraphrase is a valuable strategy to practice for communication and provides a stepping stone for creating something more presentational at the end

Before beginning, students will need to create a Diigo account and add Diigolet to their favorites or bookmarks (depending on the browser). If your district is like mine and has Deep Freeze to wipe the hard drive every time computers shut off, they may have to add Diigolet many, many times, depending on how long they will have to work on the assignment.

For optimal assignment submission, here is what I suggest students do once their accounts and apps are set up:

  1. Have students "Create a new list" (bottom of left-hand column). Ideally, you will assign the title, something like "Laura's Nigerian Sources" that not only tells you who submitted them, but which assignment it was for immediately
  2. Make sure the list is public and in the Schools & Education category. Assigning keywords like your name, your school's name, and specific topics students will get into could potentially be helpful.
  3. Brainstorm possible key terms for searching with students before setting them loose--especially in Spanish, because if they're searching with English terms, they'll get English results, but if they search with Spanish terms...let's just say some students learned the hard way that searching "biography" made it seem impossible to find Spanish sites, but "biografia" made it really easy.
  4. When students have found a viable source, they should begin highlighting information relevant to their assignment, but for everything they highlight, they should add a sticky note paraphrasing in their own words OR a sticky note that asks a question about what they're highlighting or that suggests a connection to the topic of research. It all takes me back to my methods of teaching English classes and "having a dialogue with the text."
  5. After students have highlighted and noted up an article, they should return to their Diigo library and edit the article entry. (There may be a quicker way to do this, but it's not coming to me). As they edit, they should do two things: put an MLA (or whatever style suits your subject) citation for the article in the description. I've been a fan of citationmachine.net for a long time, but I've been tinkering with Word's bibliography function, and then @MrsAlander had to go and rock my world and send me something that might just replace both Diigo AND Citationmachine for me! The second thing they should do as they edit is add that article to the assignment list.
  6. When the requisite number of articles (I told Spanish III three--not a very in-depth bio required--and English I will need 5) has been reached, students will need to open their assignment lists in Diigo, click on the Permalink button, and copy that permalink.
  7. From there, we go to the assignment you have given them on Edmodo (or perhaps Engrade?), and they paste the link in the Turn-in box and submit! Voila! You can access their notes from any computer, give 'em a grade, and comment on what they still need and/or what they can do xt!
Diigo has served me well in my graduate classes (except for PDF's...grr) and also in planning the aforementioned English unit. I practiced citing and annotating with Diigo to help decide which direction to take with  the agriculture project and come up with topics for students to add to on an Engrade wiki.

Electronic note-taking is a valuable 21st century skill, a way to help organize our students and ourselves, and a worthwhile assignment

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