Web 2.0: Deliberating Databases


Background: 

This is a part of a web log for a class I am taking on ‘Computers, Problem Solving, and Cooperative Learning’. This post is one in a series of reflections on Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to engage students in critical thinking as ‘mindtools’.

Other posts from this  web log:

Wikis and Blogs

Digging Deeper into Google Sheets

Concept Maps as Mindtools

Communicating Information

2456237_4bcc48156c_o

flickr photo by a trying youth https://flickr.com/photos/tryingyouth/2456237 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Does anyone still remember old library card catalogs? This system of organizing thousands of books in one space made it simple for people to find and locate books that they needed. The people behind the system obviously had to do a LOT of critical thinking and problem solving to organize all the books into the system.

Databases have been around for a long time and are all around us helping to organize information. When we think about the ways in which we distribute and receive information today, most if not all of this is done online or on a computer. We now have a plethora of tools to save, store, and organize all types of information from music and videos, to photography, links, or articles. These new systems are also no longer limited to specialists but are becoming simple platforms accessible by anyone with an internet connection. As communication evolves and takes on new forms, so will the tools we use to collect information.

A great deal of research on computers and other technologies has shown that technologies are no more effective at teaching students than teachers, but if we think about technologies as learning tools that students learn with, not from, then the nature of student learning will change.

-Howland, Jonassen, and Marra (2012, p.6-7)

Educators often expect students to use the internet to collect data and do research, but we don’t teach them how to make connections or think about the information and data they are finding. With the goal of learning with technology, online databases like YouTube, Flickr, Delicious or Diigo, can be used to help students make sense of the information they find. Furthermore, many of these tools offer the ability to collaborate with others in different locations which forces students to reflect on their ideas and see things from different perspectives. Here I will reflect on some of my own experiences playing around with Flickr, Delicious, and Diigo.

Flickr

Communication today is becoming

flickr photo by Maria Kappatou https://flickr.com/photos/mariakappatou/4908553654 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by Maria Kappatou https://flickr.com/photos/mariakappatou/4908553654 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

increasingly visual, especially as the tools available to capture the world are advancing. It is no surprise then that databases like Flickr or Google Photos have become popular for storing and sharing photography.

My experience with Flickr is mainly as someone who searches for photos to help illustrate and support content I create. As you might have noticed, I used Flickr to find all three photos that are featured in this post! But just like the library card catalogue, Flickr is a great resource for images because people have worked to create a system so that photos can be retrieved and shared.

It was interesting using Flickr as more than just a source for creative commons images. Navigating through the different tools and functions, I learned just how dynamic Flickr actually was. In our class, we were asked to explore Flickr for images around the same theme we have been using all semester ‘Poverty in America’. I quickly learned that to easily mark an image so I could find it again all I had to do was click on the star to add it to my ‘favorites’. However, within my favorites collection there is just a jumble of photos that I liked. Although I had just started adding to my favorites, I knew that over time this area could become overwhelmed with images making it difficult to sift through. So, I thought about how could I further organize photos that I had found. My solution was to put them into Galleries. I actually really liked creating a gallery because I could think about the type of photos I wanted to fill that gallery with, how did they relate or connect under the same theme? Was it obvious visually or did it take deeper inspection to figure out the relationship? Galleries are also limited to 50 photos which force you to curate the images you want within it. They can then be shared with other users or other people through a link or social media. I could see students using Flickr to curate images into galleries around a theme, then having their galleries shared, critiqued by other students and then edited. It would be an interesting exercise in perspective!

Looking at this from a learning perspective, I wanted to know more about how Flickr could be used as a collaboration tool. I would have loved to make galleries collaborative so that photos different people found could be added to the same gallery. I am unsure if this is possible but as far as I saw, it wasn’t. The collaboration tools available seem to be through joining a group or using tags. In both instances, you need to contribute your own photos. This could be a good or a bad thing. On one end, students could be asked to think about what type of photography would be suitable to add to a particular group topic or idea. On the other end however, if we wanted students to search for photos, they wouldn’t be able to help collect these images in one place. Perhaps I’m wrong so please let me know if this is possible!

Interestingly enough, I saw this post today entitled: Time to Give Up on Flickr, Everybody, looks like they’re making their uploadr feature a paid one. Either way, whether Flickr, Google Photos, or Dropbox, creating image databases could be a great mindtool for students.

Delicious and Diigo

Being able to organize your searches allows

flickr photo by Bête à Bon-Dieu https://flickr.com/photos/beteabondieu/369257407 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by Bête à Bon-Dieu https://flickr.com/photos/beteabondieu/369257407 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

individuals to not just retrieve that information easily but can help people make sense of the information that they find (Howland et. al., 2012). Most browsers have built in bookmarking tools which is great for storing links that we visit often. However, having too many bookmarks can actually create clutter and the tool ceases to be useful. I do more and more of my reading online, and let’s face it, having 20+ tabs open isn’t actually efficient. We were tasked with exploring Delicious to see how we could use it as a mindtool. Delicious has a very simple interface where you can save links and add tags to organize them. By adding other users to your ‘Network’ you can begin collaborating on building a database of links around a topic or idea.

Diigo is a very similar tool allowing users to bookmark links and group them by tags as well as outliners. However Diigo has a few more features such as being able to annotate onto any webpage by adding highlights and notes, so when you open up that link again, your notes on the page are still saved within it. I think that this adds another layer of reflection so when students use it they can add their thinking to the page they found and then share this link with their annotations to others. Diigo has a group tool as well where multiple people can collaborate on adding resources around a theme.

Howland et. al. (2012) emphasize that when using tools to collect web pages and links it is equally important to teach students to evaluate the sites they find, not just for credibility, but to look at the information on it with a critical eye, focusing on whether or not it helps the learner reach their intention or goal. I think that the annotation tool in Diigo can really aid in this process. Being able to collect links collaboratively also helps students to become accountable for one another and check each other’s links.

Conclusion

There are many, many more tools out there that can act as databases for different types of information. After my own explorations through different tools, I know that I can now look at these databases with a different perspective from both the learner’s and teacher’s point of view. When used as a mindtool, databases are not just tools for collection but also promote critical thinking and problem solving.

Resources

Howland, J. L., Jonassen, D. H., & Marra, R. M. (2012). Meaningful learning with technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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