I remember getting my first masters degree in the pre-Internet era. Research was done in large buildings called “research libraries” and documents were all “hard-copies” that one found on shelves or via plastic micro-fiche. The “site” of information was on these shelves, or other linear devices.
If you didn’t have a lot of money for xerox copies, you needed to take all of your notes by hand, writing them down in notebooks or on 3″x5″ cards. When I needed to share my research with my professor (when employed as a research assistant), I would show up at her tiny, windowless office when it fit with our schedules. We had to wait for a convenient time.
There, I handed her this handy file case that held all of the 3″ x 5″ note cards I had compiled from researching the questions she’d assigned me. We would talk over what I’d brought, she re-formulate her research in response to my findings, and then she would give me a new set of questions to go find answers to in the research library. I was her browser. I was her search engine. We would repeat this process rmaybe once every two weeks. In comparison to today’s research technologies, the 1980s had very slow and relatively unproductive processes.
Time and space requirements have changed in 2010. Today I would not need to visit that big building. I could stay in my room with a wi-fi equipped laptop and access multiple research libraries, great libraries like Harvard’s or compendia like Virtual LRC that gives instant search faciltiy to multiple research institutions . So the expanse a search covers is dramatically incresased. And using an online bookmarking program like Delicious or Diigo, the communicability of my research is instantaneous and immense. I can create and share my notes without ever wasting a piece of paper or an ounce of ink. Those trips to sit face-to-face with my professor would not be happening, since she would have a constant update of my findings, could communicate directly to me her feedback, and give me reformulated research questions that have been informed-by-real-time results.
The difference in the speed and the scope of my research today vs. that of 1983 is vast. My students deserve to have every tool that is available to them (as I send them off to college and elsewhere) to become the most efficient life-long learners they can be. Social bookmarking promises to give them meaningful assistance.
This is the sort of interactivity their workplaces will require–one in which workers are digitally-linked with their collaborators, who may be present or far, archived or in “real-time.” We hope to discover the extent to which Diigo works as a “digital tether” that holds groups of collaborators together.
Among the initial questions about using diigo:
- how easy will students find another’s bookmarked information?
- how efficiently can students organize the (one supposes) mass of information generated by researching teams?
- how easily can student research team members communicate with each other?
But alas, my 2010 experiment with diigo will have to be postponed. My school’s IT rules will not allow it.
image courtesy creativecommons.org