CoFindeR - bringing the collective intelligence of social bookmarking to the classroom

I just finished the submission of the CoFindeR mockups for the Mozilla Jetpack for Learning challenge. I developed this concept with the great help and feedback of Marion Gruber and Jeroen Storm - and the stimulating and inspiring input of Jon Dron and Roland Klemke from Humance.


CoFindeR brings the collective intelligence of social bookmarking services to the classroom by supporting learners to identify web-pages that can be relevant and useful for their courses, while the learners browse the web.

In this sense, a web-page can be a HTML document or any other resource that is displayed inline in the browser. In the following I use the term web-page for HTML and other inline content (such as PDF files or images).

The Problem

CoFindeR addresses three problems that are related to applications of social bookmarking in classrooms.

  1. Modern virtual learning environments (VLEs) allow teachers to assign keywords to their courses, activities, assignments, and resources. These keywords are currently unused for enriching the personal learning experiences of the learners. Given to the lack of educational benefit, this information is frequently omitted by teachers.
  2. Applications of social bookmarking in online courses depend much on the engagement of the learners. Thus, social bookmarking in education often suffers from cold-start problems, because the learners are not necessarily acquainted with the concepts related to social bookmarking. However, the larger collective intelligence offered by the social bookmarking services remains mostly unused in education. As a consequence, it is expected that the learners identify relevant resources for their classes on their own and to label it appropriately, rather then to support the learners for this task.
  3. The second problem implies a third, currently unreflected problem: the active social bookmarking has to be an integrative activity of the instruction. If this is not an explicit course activity, learners are unlikely to identify web-resources that can be relevant for their courses outside of the course context.

The Solution

CoFindeR supports learners to identify if a visited web-page is relevant to one (or more) of their courses and to share related web-pages with their peers.

When a learner visits any page on the worldwide-web, CoFindeR uses the keywords that are assigned to a learner's courses and the tags that were assigned to the web-page in social bookmarking systems in order to identify if the web-page might be relevant for one of the learner's courses.

If CoFindeR detects an overlap of the learner's course keywords and the web-page's social tags, then CoFindeR shows the learner the overlapping keywords and the related course. For related web-pages, a learner can decide if the web-page is useful and share it with the related course. Furthermore, a learner may annotate the page. Sharing and annotating of web-pages are as simple as one mouse click.

Shared resources are directly posted to the appropriate course. This helps the learners to keep track of course related web-pages. Additionally, peer learners in the same course can visit and comment the web-page.

CoFindeR immediately shows to a learner if the web-page is already shared by other learners in the same courses. In this case the learner can vote the resource up (by resharing), and gain access to all annotations and comments that are available in the course. This way the learner can directly contribute to the discussion about the content of the web-page without leaving it.

Because CoFinder also stores the tags from social bookmarking systems with the shared web-pages, the teacher and the learners will receive an extended keyword map for the course. This helps the learners to develop a deeper understanding about the course's topics. Moreover, through sharing of web-pages the learners jointly build an extended information pool for the course.

The main advantage of CoFindeR is that the learners can directly benefit from social bookmarking and avoid course related cold-start problems. Moreover, the learners are not required to have an active account with a social bookmarking service if they are working with CoFindeR.

CoFindeR's Technical Concept

There are two non-functional requirements for CoFindeR.

  • Non-functional requirement: The learners are not expected to use social bookmarking themselves.
  • Non-functional requirement: CoFindeR provides no recommendations about other potentially useful resources.

The CoFindeR concept will implement the following requirements and processes as a Firefox Plug-in.

CoFindeR synchronises with the VLE the keywords of all courses, in which the learner is currently enrolled. These keywords are internally stored associated to the course. Therefore, the courses can be identified that are related to a keyword.

When a web-page is visited, CoFindeR checks the web-page's keyword meta-data and fetches the tags that are assigned to the web-page in social bookmarking services.

CoFindeR calculates the overlap between the learner's course keywords and the web-page meta-data (local keywords and social tags).

If the web-page meta-data partly matches the course keywords of the learner, then the CoFindeR status bar is displayed. The CoFindeR status bar provides primarily two types of information.

  1. the matching keywords,
  2. the related courses.

Additionally, the CoFindeR status bar has two interactive parts.

The first part is a sharing button. This button allows the learner to share a web-page with the peers in the related course/courses.

  • If a learner decides to share a web-page, one click on the share button will store the reference to the current web-page into the bookmarking module of the related course in the VLE. Other learners can then access the web-page through the course in the VLE.
  • If a resource is already shared by others, then CoFindeR indicates how many peers found the resource useful (and shared it).

The second interactive part of the CoFindeR status bar is page annotation. The learner can annotate text notes to the web-page.

  • If the web-page is not shared then the annotations are stored locally with the browser. A learner can access these annotations when revisiting the page.
  • If a web-page is shared, then the annotations will be submitted to a link discussion forum of the related course in the VLE.
  • If peer learners participate to a web-page related discussion through CoFindeR or the VLE, these discussion is automatically included into the list of annotations for the currently visited web-page.

Towards a first prototype

For a first prototype we will implement the CoFindeR concept for Delicious and Moodle. How this first prototype may look like is shown in our CoFindeR mockups.

There are already some plugins that provide some functions of the CoFinder concept, namely the "Reframe It", "Interclue" and "Amplify" firefox plugins. CoFindeR does not intend to replicate their functionality, and we hope to find a way how to integrate these plugins into CoFindeR.