Unit 5: Tagging

The concept

Schools everywhere encourage their students and staff to create and share online. It is not uncommon for whole classes to be writing blog posts and working on shared documents, producing video clips, slide presentations, mind-maps, annotated diagrams and much more for assessment and reflection. The point of it all is to deepen learning experiences by engaging with a wider audience in real world conversations.

Of course, billions of other people are also publishing blogs and wikis, producing documents, dreaming up cool resources, and interacting on social media. With so much content being produced, the question becomes how to make items “find-able” in the crowd.

The glue that sticks the web together is a layer of invisible bits of data attached to web pages, images, videos – everything. It sits behind the words or pictures that you see when you look at a web page. When you search online or in a library catalogue, the search tool is scanning all that data and connecting it to the words you’ve entered in your search query.

This invisible layer is called metadata, and you can make it work for you, both when you search and to help people find your own stuff.

Tags are words or short phrases attached to items posted online. New media explorer and consultant, Robin Good explains them simply as:

… short keywords that define what your online digital content is all about.

Tags are created by the content creator (and sometimes the viewers).  The beauty of tagging lies in its ability to go beyond formal categories of information and make content even more accessible.

Tagging is also different from organising things into categories or folders. With tagging, it’s not necessary to remember exactly where an item is on a site or how it is categorised, you only need to remember some aspect of it in order to search.

Tagging items on Web 2.0 sites is primarily to improve searching and browsing, but it can also be used as a way to:

  • Organise
  • Classify
  • Apply identity or ownership.

The idea behind tagging isn’t all that new. Libraries have been classifying books with descriptive subject headings for hundreds of years. But tags are non-hierarchical – the lay person’s informal choice of keywords -while libraries use a hierarchical system of terms and classifications (eg the Dewey system, used by most libraries).

Searching for library resources can be a bit tricky, but once you’re familiar with how a library catalogue works, the systematic hierarchy of subject headings can be an efficient way of finding things.

On the other hand, searching for resources from a non-hierarchical system can often be a hit and miss process, because one person’s interpretation can be different from another person’s interpretation.

On sites such as Diigo, Delicious and Tumblr, tagging is a collaborative activity; the more users tag items, the more useful the site becomes. In many cases, tags are visible on pages as active links that will give you access to other items with the same tags.

Smart tagging

Tagging is an informal system and often a personal one, so if you’ve never tagged an item before, here are a few tips:

  • Choose tags that are descriptive
  • Choose tags that are specific
  • Be comprehensive (most sites allow you to tag generously)
  • Think like your  potential audience, choose tags effective for their searches
  • Tag with singular and plural forms of a word if relevant
  • Use suggested tags if relevant (many sites have tools that offer suggestions)
  • Do a little scouting on the site you are using (eg Flickr) to see what tags others are using to describe items similar to yours
  • Do some scouting with a Google search to see what comes up (Tip: watch Google’s auto-suggestions as you type in search terms).

Many of the tools you’ve been introduced to in this PLN (Edmodo, Evernote, Diigo, Pocket, Twitter and all the blogging sites) rely on tags and tag searching to make searching easier.

So now you know about the power of tags, you can tag your blog posts, your Evernote notes and your links in Diigo. You can even edit your previous blog posts and add tags to them.

Here’s a tutorial video showing you how to add tags to the blog posts that you’ve already written. Have a go at going back and tagging all of your existing posts with relevant tags.

You can also add a tag cloud to your blog – here’s how.


The tasks: unit 5 summary

To recap, your blog post for this week should include your reflections on these areas:

1. Search

  • Choose a  relatively popular term that students might be searching for at your school (such as Ancient Egypt) and compare the results offered by Google and some of the other search engines.
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of these search engines?

2. Evaluating resources

  • Find and post a trusted web resource
  • How do you know it’s reliable?
  • Record your findings in your blog post, but also tell us about your thought process – how did you go about evaluating this resource?

We’d also love to hear how you found the process of tagging your blog posts or Evernote records. Send us the link to your new blog post in Edmodo.

Now, if you’re ready, go to the Extension task – some really cool places to find and collect resources.


Go back to unit overview.