Diigo Groups for Student Collaboration

Diigo is one of the most useful Web 2.0 tools I’ve discovered in the last year.  It’s a virtual filing cabinet where I store all my useful links.  A few months ago, I introduced this valuable tool to my grade 7/8 students.  In a previous post I wrote, “Diigo is an excellent tool that enables students to bookmark, tag, highlight and annotate their online text, which can be accessed anywhere, anytime.  This annotated text can be privately or publically shared with other students or groups, depending on their settings.”

We use Google Chrome as a browser, so we installed the Diigo extension for Chrome on each netbook. For the first few months, students became fluent on how to virtually bookmark, highlight, and rewrite the text in their own words on the sticky note.  This week I introduced them to the benefits of using Diigo Groups as a collaborative research tool.  While we started with a simple in-class group project, the tool will become most valuable when students work with peers outside our classroom walls.

I’d played around with this part of the program briefly, but I wasn’t totally comfortable with it.  I knew however, my students would help me and each other along the way.

Demonstrating on the Smartboard, I first showed my students how to create a group, including privacy settings.  Sitting beside their project partner, one member created the group, and then invited their partner and me into the group.  An important note, especially for small-screen, netbook users, is that students need to move around the screen to find the “Invite People” button.  After some stumbles and about 30 minutes, all groups were set up.

Diigo allows students to start a “topic” discussion within their group.  This is useful for students to communicate questions or next steps. We spent the last part of the class “playing” with this section.

Students then discovered the truly collaborative value of Diigo as they shared annotations on the stickies and text highlights. To begin, students highlight the relevant text in a chosen colour.  Using the sticky note, they re-write that section in their own words. When their group members open the shared link, every group members can see each other’s highlights and sticky note.  They can also see these highlighted notes and stickies in their Diigo library before opening the link.  All group members can add text to the same sticky note as they clarify, question, and extend their thinking.

To demonstrate once again on the Smartboard, I shared and tagged a link with one of the student groups. I highlighted some text and paraphrased it on a sticky note.  After we all clicked on the big blue D in the top right corner of the screen (very important step), and my group members refreshed their page, my text highlights and sticky note appeared on my group members’ screens.  They could add to my sticky note discussion.  I really like this feature as students help each other find the important details in the online text.

Before moving student groups onto their own projects, they had to show me that they could each annotate and highlight text, and it had to appear on both group member’s computers.  Some students complained that they could not see their partner’s highlights or stickies.  It turns out the student had not originally tagged the link or saved it to their group.  That lead into a comparison of how an untagged link is like some of the desk in the classroom – unorganized.

The next step is to use Diigo as a collaborative research tool with students in another school.  I’m glad before doing so, that I took the time to have my students discover the Group settings sitting beside each other, rather than expecting them to do it with someone outside of the classroom.

Before the class ended, I asked the students if they saw any value in the process. The response was clear.  “We’re better organized” and “We can see what each other has already done”. I asked them what the next step in the writing process would be. Students planned to cut and paste their sticky note text into a shared Google doc.

Later in the day as the class students moved onto an independent research project, one of my students asked, “Hey, Mrs. D., can we use Diigo for this too?”  My response was evident by the grin on my face.