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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Digg for Good Stuff: Web Site Lets You Discover What Others Are Reading

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

Digg.com is a free, fun Web 2.0 site I visit frequently, just to find out what the technology community is reading and what the most hotly discussed topics are. Digg itself does not create content; it is simply a place where its users can submit Web sites, content, and news from other sites they feel is newsworthy or of special interest to the community.

As the site's About page reads, "Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users." The more users that "digg" a certain story, the more prominently it is displayed, thus generating even more interest and discussion.

Think of it as social Web promotion, with built-in social bookmarking, discussion, voting, commentary, and group interaction. According to the site, "Once something is submitted, other people see it and Digg what they like best. If your submission rocks and receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of our visitors to see."

What's promoted to the front page typically comes from the science and technology fields. However, more and more political, entertainment, and world-news stories are floating to the top. Some topics that seem common are just fun, technology-related issues. As I write this, a highly "dugg" site is the link to Apple's Macworld conference. If I like this topic, I can vote to digg it. By doing so, I'm suggesting that it stay prominently featured, where it will likely generate more discussion. Eventually, something else will take its place, and it will fall off the front page.

Alternatively, if a site or a link appears to be inappropriate, a duplicate entry, or just some form of spam, I can vote to bury it.

Digg has had its share of controversy. What one user finds digg-worthy might not be something you want to read at all. However, if that topic gets enough recommendations, it will be front-page news and can generate a flurry of comments and sometimes heated discussion. Some people have also criticized the bury feature, which was intended to be a way to get rid of spam.

Some critics say, however, that users can apply it simply to get rid of someone else's site. In the past, there was a problem with digg mobs, large groups of users who would rally to digg a specific story they wanted promoted. The technology has gotten better at overcoming these potential risks, though, and the site is now truly an enjoyable, social way to see what's popular on the Web, discuss stuff, and learn a lot.

Take a tour of the site. Better yet, join it, customize your profile, decide which kinds of news stories you'd like to be informed about, and digg in!

Digg was not specifically intended for use in the classroom, but the technology itself is something educators should become familiar with. I also think it's something we should be thinking about incorporating into the classroom, once we've had a chance to get a handle on its use.

It's a hugely popular Web 2.0 social site that fits so well with the mind-set of digitally savvy students. This kind of technology provides another way for us to teach information and media literacy in the classroom. I ask my students questions about it, such as the following:

  • How do we determine whether a site or a news story that's been dugg is actually accurate?
  • What causes certain stories to be dugg more often than others?
  • What controversies might still exist in how users submit sites?
  • How do I verify the source of these submitted sites?
  • Why are some stories wildly popular?

And, of course, we need to think about the privacy and security issues we always face, such as how much information to share, whether I want others to know what news stories I voted for, and so on.

Digg is fascinating and a little addictive. Is anyone using Digg in the classroom? Do you think it's too risky? Is it blocked? Should it be? Please share your thoughts.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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