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Virginia Journal of Education


Beyond Bookmarking: Making the Switch to Diigo

by Karen Work Richardson

One of the problems with living in what I think of as an “emergent” era of technology is that just about the time you get comfortable using a new tool, it seems out of date. Online bookmarking is a perfect example. When we first started browsing the World Wide Web, we were perfectly content saving our favorites on our own computers.

But, for educators, this was sometimes problematic as they had to find a way to get those bookmarks to school and also to then share them with students who might want to explore them at home. Thus, online bookmarking was born. The idea was simple: instead of saving your favorites on your own computer, you saved them to the Web where they could be accessed from any computer that was connected to the Internet.

Many teachers adopted PortaPortal ( as their online bookmarking tool. It was easy to use, and it didn’t have advertisements. And, even though it counts as “old” in the fast moving Internet age, it is still a great tool.

Then came Web 2.0, with its collaborative nature. PortaPortal was an individual tool: one person found and shared bookmarks. If you wanted to see if they had added new sites, you had to visit that webpage. New tools like Delicious ( made it possible to connect with others and follow along with their bookmarking. While PortaPortal was organized by folders, Delicious was organized through keywords, known as tags, so that bookmarks could appear in multiple lists and users could easily search across everyone’s bookmarks.
Many of us, attracted by these collaborative new features, made a switch. I used Delicious for a long time. When I started hearing about a new tool called Diigo (, I tried to ignore the chatter. I was happy with Delicious, and I didn’t want to change. And, since many of my colleagues did not seem to be moving to Diigo, I felt justified in sticking with Delicious.

Eventually, however, I felt the need to at least check it out, and my research revealed that Diigo had additional features that finally made it worthwhile for me to switch. Diigo allows users to do everything they could do in Delicious. It was easy to not only import my Delicious bookmarks and tags into Diigo, but I was able to link the accounts so that when I add a bookmark to Diigo, it also shows up in Delicious. However, three features--creating lists, organizing with others into groups, and highlighting and annotating webpages--make it more than just a bookmarking tool.
The list feature makes it easy to create webpages. For many of my workshops, the electronic handout is just a list of links to the sites I will be talking about. There are many ways to do this, but since I have many of those sites already bookmarked in Diigo, using it to make the list is very efficient. You can view the list for my social networking workshop at

The group feature is a terrific way to share bookmarks with like-minded Diigo users. I belong to several groups, and I receive a daily e-mail that shows me the items bookmarked and shared by group members. It’s like I have a whole group of smart people helping me locate and organize Web-based resources. I have set up groups for all the classes I teach so my students can more easily work together in finding websites related to our learning in class.

But the real reason I switched was the ability that Diigo gives me and my colleagues to highlight and annotate webpages right on the computer screen. It’s like holding a virtual highlighter and pencil in your hand. In the past, class reading was a very solitary activity. Now, as my students highlight and read articles on the Web, they can share those thoughts with everyone; we can have conversations right on the page. It helps hold students more accountable for the reading since they know I’ll be looking for their highlights and comments, but it also leads to richer discussions both in and out of class. Plus, if it saves them from printing, it’s a little more eco-friendly as well and can help contribute to the new “paperless” classroom!

All these features help make Diigo an all-purpose Web tool, and I encourage you to check it out.

Richardson recently completed her PhD in Curriculum and Educational Technology at the College of William & Mary, where she is also an adjunct instructor. She serves on the board of directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.



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