The Instruction and Outreach Department manages and coordinates library research instruction for students, faculty and staff through course-related workshops, outreach activities, personal consultations, research guides and other instructional materials.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

New Ways to Share Notes

As part of our work with Instruction & Outreach this semester, Julie Adamo and I have been researching a range of emerging technologies and reporting our findings at weekly department meetings. I recently tackled online collaborative annotation tools, which allow users to highlight content on a webpage, add comments, and share their annotations. Going into this, I understood the dictionary meaning of these words strung together, but I was not familiar with any of these tools. And I had no idea there were so many! I investigated a handful of them: Google Sidewiki, MyStickies, Webnotes, DotSpots, and Diigo. I found that each had a slightly different focus, and, of course, different strengths. DotSpots is geared towards commenting on news, creating a public forum that adds different perspectives to stories. MyStickies is a tool for personal annotations, for organizing information on the web for yourself, rather than sharing notes and content. Diigo emerged as the favorite for collaborative work.

Using Diigo (an acronym for "Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff"), you can make your annotations private, public, or shared with a group. You can highlight content on a page, add "sticky notes," archive pages (take a snapshot of the page, instead of bookmarking it), and organize pages with tags or in lists. Having an appreciation for controlled vocabularies, I like the "group tag dictionary" feature, which allows a group administrator to define a set of recommended tags.

Thinking about the use of collaborative annotation tools in a library setting, I was mainly envisioning these as a good thing to know about, a handy card to have in our back pocket to suggest to students and faculty when the right type of project or conundrum presented itself. Online collaborative annotation tools can be useful for a wide range of projects, and they can also be useful for sharing information with colleagues. We are now using Diigo to gather and share materials related to our upcoming Spring Instruction Retreat which will focus on digital literacies.

If you'd like to read more about collaborative annotation tools, I recommend this article from Educause (Oct. 2009) as a starting point.

Do you use any web annotation tools? Is there one you really like? Tell us about it!

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