del.icio.us not Tasty for Everyone

When I encountered del.icio.us about two years ago, it was the first taste of web 2.0 I experienced, and it opened a whole new world. I not only thought it was an amazing way to store my own web links, but to also connect with others that had similar interests who were also saving bookmarks on the web. The idea if social bookmarking was very appealing to me then, and it remains so now. This web-based practice is generally useful and convenient, but it is also a powerful way to discover new resources, build connections among people with similar interests, promote collaboration, and tap into a new way of organizing the web. In many ways, I see it as a bit of a gateway experience to exploring new instructional possibilities and practices…if you get this one, the doors to the participatory web begin to open up.

Clearly everyone doesn’t see it the same way.

In the work I do with faculty to explore meaningful uses of technology to support teaching and learning, social bookmarking – and the concept of tagging in general – is something I try to promote. Some faculty members immediately see the value and become tagging junkies (and encourage their students to do it as well), some have a passing interest and tolerate it for a while and still others see it as bizarre. “Why would I want to share MY bookmarks with people I don’t know?” or “This is a great tool, but I really don’t want to share with anyone…can I keep it private?” or “What do I need a network for?” Comments like these always give me pause for reflection. I try to understand the resistance.

One thing I have been giving more thought to recently is the language and meaning surrounding the ideas of “social” and “bookmarking.” Social brings thoughts of conversation, interaction and public exchange. Bookmarking brings images of one-on-one with a browser, individually saving sites, a private act, and sharing –when it happens – is with an emailed link.

Social = open + public
Bookmarking = personal + private

Like oil and water…these are at odds. Some folks see social bookmarking and say…you must be kidding…mix private and public? The initial contact with the idea seems so foreign that many can’t get past the semantics. They won’t even come to the table. The ideas – appealing to early adopters – are in need of some translation, reconceptualization or repackaging to be more broadly appealing. The practice of social bookmarking needs an emulsifier to mix together seemingly disparate ideas and make a tasty dressing.

I suspect that the language surrounding many of the web 2.0 practices and tools that instructional technologists readily use to communicate with each other, may well leave others scratching their heads, unable to share in the excitement and possibility. I’m feeling a strong need to use different language to talk with faculty members about something like social bookmarking. Sometimes I think that a simple [re]packaging can get the job done. But I’m wondering how social bookmarking can be [re]labeled so that more educators can engage with the notion of building connections through resource sharing? Is this really even necessary? Am I totally missing the boat here? Should I even be concerned?

In a recent post, Will Richardson commented:

We’re in the “Networking as a Second Language” point in teaching, this messy transition phase that is slowly gaining traction where we are beginning to understand what this means but not quite sure yet what to do about it.

I think this notion of “second language learning” gets at a little bit of what I’m struggling with. I think I’m looking for a way to translate, to use concepts in the first language to assist folks in understanding concepts in a new language. I’m feeling a little bit at a loss about how to proceed…

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