April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Outlining and Note-taking with Diigo | Tech Tidbits from the Guybrarian

Ediigo logoach year, as I work with our teachers and students on research projects, I’m surprised at how few of our students incorporate solid outlining skills. It isn’t like they haven’t been taught the skills; they just don’t use them. I can’t tell you how many times students have come to ask me for help on a project and I’ve found that their initial outlining and research was weak. No wonder they’re struggling to weave all their research together! Many of my students desperately need the organization and structure that an outline would provide; it would stimulate their thinking and help to organize their thoughts.

Due to the fact that our English classes use an online textbook, our students all have access to Chromebooks which makes online reading, research, and studying more interesting. But we are not a 1-to-1 device school (yet!), so I’m always on the lookout for web-based tools they can use. I have used Diigo for some time and often recommend it to my students, and now the tool offers outlining functions to complement its existing features. And best of all, it’s free.

Diigo researchDiigo has traditionally been used as an online bookmarking service, with some really cool functions. Users can download the application and install it, attaching the icon to a browser. From this icon, users can bookmark and save any webpage, online PDF, or image to a set of bookmarks that follow their accounts from machine to machine. There are also highlighting and sticky notes tools which can be stored in as part of the bookmarks. The highlighted text and sticky notes stay with the webpage and can be viewed any time users log into Diigo. Finally, students can take a screenshot of a webpage and then use the application’s drawing and text functions to make annotations and save them in a Diigo library of stored bookmarks. Diigo also has long users to tag and organize links in this library and even organize them via folders.

tour-share-sendThe web-based application recently premiered its Outliner tool and this functionality provides even more support to student researchers. Kids can now log into Diigo, create an outline for their research, and save bookmarked URL/web pages to the outline. After they create and name the outline, they can add URL/web addresses as a header for a topic, and then make a bulleted list for main ideas. If they have already made annotations on a bookmarked web page (with highlights or sticky notes), those travel with the link. Students can convert these previously created notes from the web page and save them right to the outline. When the outline is finished, they can copy and paste their work or even share the URL link of their outline with a teacher or research partner. This visual structure helps students make the leap from finding relevant information to where it fits within their content.

Teaching students solid outlining, writing, and research skills is a difficult task at best. Diigo and the tools it provides can be used to scaffold these skills and help students learn the building blocks of research-based writing. Take a little extra time to explore Diigo; learning to use its many features merits the effort— it might just help you build better writers.

Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO.

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