A Better Bookmarkshelf

2008-04-24_05-30-07-828About three years ago I discovered Spurl and was quickly enamored with the idea of saving bookmarks online. Because the great sites I discovered at school and the great sites I discovered at home could be saved to the same list, my bookmark collection grew to more than 3,000 sites. Spurl uses a hierarchical folder structure and every good site could be added to a particular folder by clicking a button embedded on the Firefox toolbar. Completing the usability circuit, Spurl provides javascript and rss feeds for individual folders so I could share the subfolders for each of the unit folders for AP European History and AP US History. I threw the Spurl rss feeds into Pageflakes and the presentation wasn’t bad at all. But with an hour or so of cut and paste, each unit could have a page in the course website that includes categorized bookmarks of resources related to that unit. Every time I add a Spurl bookmark to a particular folder the web page is updated. This became a crucial element in building a course in which all of the class material, calendars, unit plans, etc. are available online.

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The presentation of the links is important, a quick summary follows each one and there is not a lot space used for tags, buttons and options. This works and it works well, so why fool around with it?

Diigo is why I have to fool around with it. It also offers a account of bookmarks online, complete with an embedded tool in Firefox, it’s just as easy to use as Spurl. But it also provides tools to highlight pages and even leave sticky notes on sites. I discovered Diigo a little more than a year ago and used it mostly to forward sites to other people, which can be done with just a click and an address. Diigo is mostly tag based, and when I imported the Spurl bookmarks into Diigo, it assigned tags based on the folder names. When I come across a good site now, I have to decide whether to add it to Spurl or Diigo. Although there is a Diigo option that will automatically throw a Diigo bookmark into Spurl, it will not land in the correct folder.

Several months back, Diigo added a “list” feature which could be used to create the same sort of unit page of bookmarks provided by Spurl. But the presentation is not the same.

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All that space and you can only see one bookmark, there is no way to quickly scan and review fifty sites. There are no sharing option that provides just the name of the site and a short description. So as much as Diigo excels with some features, it fails in others. Not only that, those tags assigned during the import from Spurl are going to take some time to clean up. Is it worth the time? Should I use Diigo or Spurl?

The Tyranny of Cursive

He tried sitting at the dining room table, he tried at my desk. He even tried while lying down in bed. Yet he failed every time and got more and more discouraged with every fruitless attempt. My third grade son has a bright, curious mind, but last week his homework was wearing it down with frustration.image

For this particular assignment, he had to pick out three syllable words from a list, which he can do easily. However, he must then write the words on a tiny, 1.5 inch line on a worksheet His cursive writing is much better than his print, but he still couldn’t fit his answers on the line. As much as I encouraged him to keep trying, he was erasing what little was left of the line and getting more and more angry. He knew that my feeble argument that he has to complete his work just like I have to do my job didn’t have my heart in it.

Am I wrong in thinking that asking children to write with a pen and pencil on tiny little lines on a piece of paper is about as relevant as teaching them to ride a horse?

They will have to commute one day, and therefore need to get around town and go to the store. Why not teach them to ride a horse? Yes, everyone uses cars now, but we used to use horses, it was an essential skill for the 19th century American. Yes, everyone writes with a keyboard now, but we used to write with pens and pencils so let’s force the kids to do it.

Eventually my son finished his homework, but it wasn’t pretty. His younger brother wasn’t as lucky, he did not finish writing every word on this week’s spelling test five times each. And for such an egregious irresponsibility he will have to sit with Mr. McChoakumchild in lunch detention to finish his homework.

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?