Social bookmarking tools                                             



What is social bookmarking?

Most Internet users will be familiar with the “favourites” or “Bookmarks” facility found in web browser software. When you encounter a useful website the web address can be easily stored on your computer so that it can be found again when needed. The browser software usually allows you to create folders for these bookmarks so that they can be organised into useful categories.  Whilst useful, this facility has a number of limitations. Firstly, the bookmarks are generally stored on the local computer and are not therefore available if you use a different computer (e.g. at a library or Internet cafe). Secondly the folder approach to organisation does not work very well when storing hundreds of web links. This is because individual sites may fall into two or more folder classifications, so links must either be repeated in several folders, or multiple folders need to be checked when searching for a poorly remembered web link. Thirdly it is difficult to share your bookmarks (and especially updates) with friends and colleagues.

For more information, watch this short video about social bookmarking:



Further reading:

Seven things you should know about social bookmarking:

Social Bookmarking – Its Applications in Education:

Using delicious in education:

Morphing public spaces into learning spaces with social bookmarks:

A Learners Guide to Social Bookmarking:

A Tutors Guide to Social Bookmarking:


What are “tags” and how do you choose them?

The problem of having to categorise bookmarks into single folder in web browsers is solved in social bookmarking by allowing each web address to be given “tags” or “keywords” of your choice.  Filtering on tags provides a much more flexible way of locating relevant web links – in effect, dynamic folders. The most powerful feature however, is that once online, your bookmarks can be readily shared with others, and you can more easily find the sites that they have found worth bookmarking.  Some bookmarking services also allow users to add comments and effectively discuss the content of the web sites – increasing the social dimension of the service.

Unlike most formal classification systems, there are no strict rules for tagging. You can use specialised tags that are only meaningful to you and close colleagues (such as course codes), or relatively general tags that will help to make the site more visible to others.  This does mean that many potentially useful resources can be missed when searching on tag keywords as people may be using different tags for the same topic or concept (the reason for fairly strict classification taxonomies in conventional bibliographic cataloguing). In practice this is only a problem for sites that are bookmarked by just a few people. As the number of people bookmarking a site increases, the number of tags used rises and the likelihood that someone will have used the same keyword that you are searching for will also increase. 


Further reading:

The complex dynamics of collaborative tagging (Research article):

FaceTag: a working prototype of a semantic collaborative tagging tool conceived for bookmarking information architecture resources:


Why use social bookmarking?

Using the Internet is now an integral part of research and learning, but keeping track of so many useful online sites and documents can be a challenge. Search engines are invaluable, but social bookmarking provides an alternative means of finding resources recommended by others. Firstly sites that have been bookmarked by many people can be a useful indication of the esteem and value for other users. Secondly, if you identify people with similar interests to yourself, their bookmarks may well lead you to valuable resources that might not come up in simple keyword searches.

Teachers can use social bookmarking sites to maintain a list of useful links relevant to a specific course or module for sharing with students. Rather than include a long list of web links in teaching materials, a single link can be provided to give students access to the most up-to-date version of the list. Or indeed, the link can be an invitation to a more collaborative experience, where web links can be provided by both teacher and students.

Some services, the best known of which is Diigo, take this collaboration a stage further by allowing annotations on web sites. Students can not only share web links, but can also share their comments on the content of the sites or pages. Such tools may be used to meet a variety of learning objectives including the development of analytical skills (e,g, discerning quality or underlying assumptions and bias) , building capacity in reasoning and discussion, or simply fostering collaborative working practices.

Most social bookmarking services are designed for general web sites and pages. However teachers and learners may also wish to share links to technical references such as journal articles. For these, a more specialist breed of social bookmarking services (e.g. CiteULike,  Mandeley and Connotea ) have been developed that help capture the full reference and often other useful details such as citations.


Example social bookmarking sites:


How do I get started?  Delicious

One of the most popular social bookmarking services is Delicious ( As with all services, it is necessary to register to start storing bookmarks. However, you can explore other people’s public bookmarks to get an impression of the existing content.

Once registered, adding a weblink requires filling in a simple form to confirm the title of the site and to add any description and the keyword tags to use. Weblinks can be either public (shared with everyone) or private (for your own use only).

Delicious and other similar services also provide plug-ins for popular browsers that provide additional buttons that make the process of adding a link even easier.

To create a reading list, or ad-hoc group you can use a unique keyword tag (e.g. a course code). Any search on that keyword will then show all the items with that tag (i.e. your reading list, or bookmarks posted by your group). For instance the link shows all the publically saved bookmarks that have been tagged with the keyword “aquatnet”. 

A web-page reading list posed by teachers on a virtual learning environment (or learning management system) reflects a relatively static top-down model. In contrast, a social network based reading list can be dynamic and collaborative as students can add links themselves.

The usefulness of this can be further extended using several other delicious tools. For example “subscriptions” enable you to define keyword tags of interest (e.g. aquatnet) and quickly view new links from other users that use those tags arranged by date.

Watch this short informative video on getting started with Delicious:



Social bookmarking sites for education - diigo 

One of the most popular social bookmarking sites for education is now diigo ( This adds more powerful annotation features and the ability to create groups (membership communities).  




The page annotation tools in Diigo allow text to be highlighted and “sticky note” comments to be attached to bookmarked pages. The annotated page can then be shared with other diigo users (public or restricted to groups) or by generating a special annotated link web address to pass on. This can be particularly useful for encouraging students to critically assess and discuss the content of web pages.

Diigo has a similar network facility to Delicious, but also has “groups” which make it easier for members with similar interests to share new web links. A large number of groups covering many subject areas already exist, or you can establish your own. 



Groups can be public (such as Classroom 2.0 illustrated above) or private, with various levels of access and posting rights defined. Groups can therefore be established for individual classes if appropriate.

You can learn more about diigo here:




Further reading:

Social bookmarking using diigo:

Review of diigo:

Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning: Using diigo:

Purdue University guide to diigo: