Powerful Ideas and Tools for Getting the Most from Tagging in the Classroom



On Wednesday Feb 3, I gave at a distance a lecture and workshop at the NileTESOL AUC Skills Conference that took place face-to-face in Cairo from February 2 to 4, 2010. My workshop was presented to conference delegates on-site at the ITValley, an annual fixture at the NileTESOL conference that focuses on technology in language teaching. My presentation was entitled “Talking about tags, trying them out.” The event was delivered in two parts, (1) lecture/discussion and (2) hands-on workshop/experiments and games. The event was recorded at: http://tinyurl.com/100203itvalley.

Despite the inevitable technical snags with very brave ITValley organizers Ahmed Gabr and Jonah Moos trying out the tools for their first time before a live audience in Cairo, the program went more or less as planned:

    * Session 1 Talking about Tags: How they work, why they’re useful — This was to be the lecture part of the program where I introduced the concept of tags, relating it to what participants already know about tagging photos in Facebook. I talked about how teachers can exploit tags when having their students create content online; for example, how students can find one another anywhere in the world by agreeing on a common tag, like writingmatrix (see http://writingmatrix.wikispaces.com/ for more information). I showed how projects (for example, conferences) can accumulate internet content relating to the project when participants use tags, and how this can be applied to language learning.

    * Session 2 Tag games: Participants in Cairo moved to a lab setting where I guided them through using tags in professional and language development — Here participants went on to some web sites where objects can be tagged and I showed them several free, online Web 2.0 tools to help them find the objects that other participants had tagged. The skills practiced in this workshop can help students with managing collaborative projects and with researching topics through methods utilizing tags, in conjunction with Google.

In preparation for this, I created a slide show at http://www.slideshare.net/vances/tag-games-an-evo-speedgeek and presented it during a “Speed Geek” event during the weekly Webheads in Action live chat on Sunday, January 24, 2010, an event also recorded and archived here: http://tinyurl.com/100124tag-games.  This event became the second part of my NileTESOL presentation. Johah and Ahmed treated this as a rehearsal for their event, met us online in order to learn the tools we would use, and were tasked to take photos at the conference and put them up at Flickr and tag them with our agreed on tag, ITValley10.  Then during the workshop we were able to find their pictures and observe how they interacted with the mashup application Taggalaxy. We looked at several other aggregators, such as Twitter and Delicious, and all the others mentioned in the speed geek presentation.

Now here’s the cool part: after I gave my talk I went through my slides Slideshare and brought each link up in delicious and tagged each with a tag set including ITValley10 and evomlit (the tag for a 6-week course on Mulitiliteracies I’m co-moderating just now as one of the TESOL Electronic Village Online sessions, at http://goodbyegutenberg.com).

As a result you can search any of the tags I used on Delicious and find all the links used in the two presentations, the ones mentioned in the slide show as well as links to the archived presentations themselves.  This link: http://delicious.com/tag/ITValley10 is a good one to use to retrieve the search because it has less ‘noise’ than the other tags; in other words, the tag ITValley10 was used exclusively for this event so links associated with this tag are most likely to pertain to the information you are looking for.

This whole process is meant to illustrate the power of tagging for streaming content strewn over the apparently (but by no means) chaotic Internet and directing it right at learners.

I was asked twice in the workshop to give illustrations of how these concepts could be used with classes of students.  Tagging sites you want students to visit in Delicious (as I’ve done here) is one way to channel knowledge for a group of students or online collaborators, and in this case all of the links so tagged give other examples of tools you can use to do exactly that.  In order to follow the logic you need to think of the audience at NileTESOL as being a class of students and if that logical leap is made, then … did I show them how to use tagging effectively in their classrooms? 



About Vance Stevens

http://vancestevens.com/papers http://adVancEducation.blogspot.com
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One Response to Powerful Ideas and Tools for Getting the Most from Tagging in the Classroom

  1. hanaakhs says:

    Very useful reflections Vance on what we’ve achieved …. Interestingly it tells me a lot about myself as a learner… A concept such as tags hadn’t taken shape in my head except when I started tagging blogs, tweets and photos making them accessible in public view in order to see the power of organizing information and tracking it down with a simple anchor/key word/tag. Before that I heard the term and it didn’t make much sense to me. I couldn’t relate to it in any way or form. The concept took shape only when I saw its practical uses, trying it in action several times and seeing what functions it may serve. I enjoyed the fun part, e.g. making Tag Galaxy constellations of my trip to Menya, creating photostreams and slideshows on Flickr, and slideshows on Ning. I liked the aggregation of my tweets, videos, images, etc on Spezify helping me see relations that I couldn’t see otherwise because they were muddled due to noises coming from all directions in this age of information overload.The concept isn’t new in itself. I guess cataloging, library systems, search engines are essentially based on that idea. What’s new is giving us ‘ordinary folks’ the right to participate in this process of cataloging and sorting out information as much as experts used to do in the past.Why is that important? How is that relevant to our classes? We’ll have to decide trying out one tool at a time and giving it a bit of context. For example, I could use Tag Galaxy in integrated lessons where knowledge of geography and culture is essential for learning. One of the workshop participants suggested creating a virtual tour to places that are hard to visit such as Gaza. Students can aggregate relevant photos with captions. I also like PhotoStory3 desktop application that can make digital storytelling really simple. However, since I only learn by doing, I gotta start creating some mini-projects along these lines. The more I explore, the clearer the ideas become in my head. That’s it for now… I’ll be able to reflect more after i watch the video for a second time. Cheers.

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