No, not that type of visiting scholar who sets up residence at your campus for a short while.  We’ve been visiting campuses who are using Scholar by Blackboard.  Why?  Well, to see how people are using it.  The concept of sharing academic resources using a social bookmarking application may seem obvious to some who stay very current with new tools on the web.  However, we knew from earlier research that even students who use Facebook or play the latest games don’t necessarily have experience using this type of tool or with why they would use it.  There were two things that came out of the conversations that were particularly notable (and maybe surprising to those of you who subscribe to RSS feeds of blogs).

First, it seems that not everyone is using the bookmarklet.  This matters because it’s what makes bookmarking sites so easy.

Not only are some not using the bookmarklet (and making extra work for themselves), sometimes the ed-tech folks aren’t including it in their training.  Clearly we need to make this more obvious!  IT groups can also include the bookmarklet in the images they push out for faculty and lab computers.  If you’re not using the bookmarklet, you’re probably not going to use Scholar a whole lot.  Use the bookmarklet.  Nuff said.

Second, tagging takes practice.  The free-form nature of tagging is what makes it really useful, but for some it’s also what makes it hard to get started.  People ask us, "What tags should I use?"  Or comment that they have changed the way they were tagging after doing it for a while, e.g. they started out with tags that were too general or too specific.  I’d say don’t get too hung up on the tagging.  Try it.  If you need to change it later, no problem.  You can even search and replace tags after you’ve bookmarked in Scholar.  Try it — you’ll get the hang of it.  And it will come in handy as more and more applications support tagging.

Go forth and Scholar.

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