Social bookmarks, curriculum and resources: A search for a visualisation tool

I have a problem. I’m hoping you can solve it by pointing to an existing tool or collection of tools that might solve it. I’m pretty sure there will be prior work in this area (e.g. social bookmark visualisation, the metadata/library crowd, knowledge management, networks, the visualisation and I suppose even data analytics groups, and maybe the connectivist folk), even if it isn’t explicitly connected to teaching.

The problem

I’m halfway through my pre-service teacher training as an Information Technology/Mathematics teacher. In a couple of weeks I commence my second period of “Embedded Professional Learning” (EPL) where I spend 3 days a week over 8 weeks in a school helping to teach. After that there is a 6 week internship full-time at school teaching.

I’ve done a bit of teaching at the University level, but teaching at high school is new. Especially teaching mathematics. I feel the need to develop my Technological Pedagogical and Content (TPACK) (new look site it appears), especially given the focus on knowing the set curriculum in the pre-service teacher training. I’ve been doing this via twitter, blogs, the literature, and the web more broadly. But I have a problem. It’s not organised.

So far, as I’ve been teaching lessons I’ve been doing Google searches to gather ideas, bookmarking some of them and combining what I think works into a final lesson, usually in the form of an IWB flipchart or some board notes. (Yes I know this smacks of less than stellar practice, but I’m learning). Much of what I looked at is lost. Much of the really great stuff I see online when I’m not teaching is similarly lost. I can retrieve some of it if I remember about it or if my quick searches of my bookmarks reveal what I’m looking for.

I do wonder if I’m being a typical technologists in searching for a tool to solve my problem, rather than developing the appropriate practices. But I do think that the right tool might make a difference for my practice, but might also enable some improvements in sharing.

What might work?

In my head, I think I need an application that allows me to actively construct, visualise and navigate a network of TPACK (or just knowledge in general). Something that combines a mindmaps, social bookmarking app, tag cloud, various other visualisation tools, and much more that I haven’t clearly thought about yet. Something that allows me to

  • Construct some sort of network/mindmap of a curriculum with links to the curriculum documents.
  • Use Diigo or other social bookmarking tools and link them to the curriculum (or vice versa).
  • Support navigation through and visualisation of the network in a variety of ways.
  • Explicitly add, delete and generally rearrange the nodes in a network, including re-using the nodes in another network.
  • Easily share different networks with others and support collaborative development of the network between groups.

When I have to sit down and design a lesson on direct proportion (amongst topics in math I currently question the value of, this is near the top of the list) I can go straight to the application and use the network representing the unit of work to find the resources/tags from the National Curriculum on this topic. From there the collection of resources I (and perhaps others) have tagged are visible and I can start reviewing them and constructing my own network around these resources. A network that will eventually become the lesson plan, which can then be made available via the app as well.

As I wrote down that list of requirements and thought about some others I didn’t, I had this weird sense of deja vu. There has to be something out there. What am I missing? Any ideas?

8 thoughts on “Social bookmarks, curriculum and resources: A search for a visualisation tool

  1. As far as bookmarking goes, I find that diigo works best. It has many more features than, say, delicious or google bookmarks. I think you are on the right path with diigo.

    For note taking, bypass evernote and go with springpad. It’s free and has an extensive list of features and works with iphone and android and has great browser-based desktop version.

    Box.net is a great way to store files and sync with your phone. You can even get an unlimited trial for FREE containing 5GB of space.

    If you don’t mind spending a couple bucks put everything in one package with Acrobat.com. You can even get a FREE account to try out for an unlimited time and that includes Adobe Connect (video chat). The latter requires the other party only to have Flash player on their computer. That’s it! It also has an online text editor as well. Beautiful interface for the whole acrobat.com client.

    Hope this helps –
    @kstagg on Twitter

    1. G’day Kevin,

      Thanks for responding and offering suggestions. I’ve heard of some, the acrobat.com idea is new.

      What I’m thinking of, is something that brings all of these together in terms of constructing networks/mindmaps. Diigo does the bookmarking, but it doesn’t appear to have some of the navigation, visualisation and manipulation functionality that I’m thinking of. Have to go exploring I feel.

      David.

  2. I have been following posts on pre-service teacher training and noted that you have been working really hard to achieve your goals – in becoming a high school teacher. I still remember the time when I prepared lesson plans for every lesson back decades ago (and is still doing that), where the tutor made a simple comment as feedback: “What a lot of work. Focus it more and make it simpler for yourself, for your students. Focus more on students” You would surely need to substantiate lots of evidences to your instructors to convince them that you are highly competent, by writing and reflecting on posts, developing and implementing lesson plans, etc. However, may be the ultimate goal is to ensure that learners achieve the educational and learning goals as set in the curriculum and them, and so all those tools are merely aids to an end. I think your enthusiasm has inspired many of your students, and hope that you would find high school teaching both rewarding and challenging. John

    1. Thanks for your comments John. When I mention lessons plans in the post, they are really just one of the outcomes. The main problem I find myself facing is creating the connections between disparate information sources in ways that are relevant to my learning.

      There is a strong connectivist/network-oriented flavour to this perspective. At this stage, I can see this search taking the back seat while I dive into study and more teaching.

  3. dear David,

    it is a very interesting post, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    We are trying to develop a “culture” of resource sharing among learners and teachers, building communities of interest/learning around a given topic.

    Although it is only a sketch, you can find some of our ideas here:

    Best regards,

    Julià Minguillón
    UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

    1. G’day Julia,

      Thanks for the link, it’s interesting to see that people are struggling with trying to implement these changes. Lot’s of interesting and difficult challenges you have to address.

      I like the attempt to interact with existing tools and services, but as always I wonder about the over-reliance problem. e.g. what happens if del.icio.us shuts down?

      I’ve had some more thoughts about what I suggested above, but they won’t be described anytime soon. Will be interesting to observe where your ideas take you.

      David.

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