The kitchen sink
Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

I had a conversation the other day with Kelly Hines on Twitter about resources for teachers. There are a number of sites out there (like this one and this one) that collect links to resources for teachers in one place for easy reference. Some people find them useful, and there are undoubtedly some great resources there.

But I tend to find them difficult to use, at best. Though they frequently are categorized by topic, or grade level, or some other system, in practice, it is sort of like handing someone a list of all the book titles in the library. I think these kinds of kitchen sink link buckets have value, and I’m not saying there’s no point in having them or using them. I just personally find their value to be limited. For someone who plans around resources, they are, I’m sure, invaluable. Browse the list, gather a few good sites, and then build your instruction around them.

But I tend to plan in the opposite direction. I’ll select my objectives and projects and develop a general outline of where I want to go, then look for resources that will plug into the outline. Link buckets are not the best way to track down this sort of resource.

Problem is, I’m not sure what really would work. I’m a member of Diigo and Delicious and do search through the socially tagged links there. I do use the link buckets from time to time. But what I think we need is something that’s a blend of a wiki and a social bookmarking site. The problem I see with current social bookmarking is that each person’s links are separate. When I search, I get an uncategorized, unsorted list of links which may well contain duplicates. I can see if multiple people have saved the same link, but a different link on the same domain will show up as a separate item.

Here are a few features (in absolutely no particular order) I’d ideally like to see in the perfect resource site:

  • Search within search results to narrow the focus
  • Grouping and sorting within results
  • If I save a link, I will immediately see who else has saved the same page or domain so I can make an intelligent decision about how to save the link
  • A way to display annotated links (not just titles or summaries) for a particular tag or search term
  • A broad but structured way of identifying links as appropriate for various categories (e.g. K-2, math, geology, etc.)
  • A way of editing the categorization made by others and modifying the structure itself (like a wiki)

There has to be some way of balancing volume (lots of worthwhile links) with findability (limiting links to a few strong candidates so it is more browsable, like this list I put together for a workshop I did recently).

What am I missing? What other features should it have? How would it look in practice? Is this even a possibility? Maybe it already exists and I just don’t know it yet. I’d love to hear what other people have to say.

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