Developing Digital Literacy, Organization, and Communication Through Online Resource Curation
SymbalooEDU: What Is It?
SymbalooEDU is a free, online bookmarking tool which enables educators to collect and share a multitude of tools and resources with their students. A SymbalooEDU account can serve as a teacher’s homepage where resources, lessons plans, or any useful classroom content may be neatly stored, managed, and easily accessed by students.
A Brief Overview & Tutorial
When initially signing up, a SymbalooEDU user will view a home screen resembling a grid containing several different boxes. These boxes, or individual units of stored information, are referred to as “Tiles” while a collection of these units is referred to as “Webmix” (appearing as tab-like bars at the top of the screen). In addition to a built-in search engine in the middle of the grid (Google is the default but can be changed), each Webmix may contain up to 52 Tiles.
Depending on the subject and the age level of the class, the amount of content of Webmixes can be as simple or elaborate as the educator prefers or deems appropriate. The default Education Webmix may already satisfy several of the user’s needs. If not, a user may choose to create a similar layout for their own Webmix and then adjust as needed. Others may delete it and begin from scratch.
The Tiles and Webmixes can be further customized for visual, organizational, and coherency purposes. Also, SymbalooEDU’s own search tools allow users to quickly add pre-existing Tiles to their Webmixes as well as entire pre-existing Webmixes which may have been positively reviewed and shared by other educators.
The ability to customize Tiles and Webmixes present several possibilities for enhancing learning outside of the physical classroom. Let’s take a look at some potential Lesson Plans...
Possible Lesson Plans
With the ability to create and share their own unique Webmixes, teachers can design lesson plans using a variety of educational sources: news articles, journal entries, academic reports, videos, audio samples, images, etc. Or, rather than being focused on subject content with SymbalooEDU Webmixes, educators can also share educational tools such as Google Classroom, Khan Academy, and iTunes U in their Webmixes, establishing a Homepage for their students. Let’s focus on the former use.
Webmixes give rise to the potential of the “flipped classroom”. As opposed to learning during class time, students are able to access the content at home and begin to understand facts, concepts, and ideas without the presence of a teacher. Class time with the teacher and fellow classmates is then dedicated to refining their understanding, asking questions, receiving clarification, having open discussions, and working on assignments or problems.
Above, I selected a few resources to create a Webmix called “Example of History Lesson”. Please note that it has NOT been shared yet. When sharing a Webmix, users have the option of sharing it publicly with all Symbaloo users to search for in the Gallery or privately via a link or embedding the Webmix on to a website.
Because it is my own Webmix, the “Options” feature is available at the top of the screen, opening editing tools on the left of the screen. The Marker feature (“Add a new marker”) can be utilized for effective categorization and visualization. For example, I have marked reputable search tools with red, videos with blue, news sources with beige, and miscellaneous resources with green. Furthermore, with the green group, I selected icons from the Symbaloo collection to indicate the type of source, i.e., eyeglasses for an article and a camera for an image.
Teachers can assign at-home readings and activities with a variety of layouts and combinations of Tiles. While mine is organized by the type of source, a teacher could design a Webmix in historical/chronological order, scientific development process, or logical/mathematical order, to name a few examples. The Tiles could be laid out by level of difficulty as well. The style and format is ultimately up to the educator and how they think their students will benefit the most.
Now, let’s reverse roles: Another potential lesson could involve the student sharing their own Webmix on a particular subject with their teacher and classmates. This can be viewed as both a presentation exercise and creating a “portfolio of knowledge” demonstrating what the student has understood about the topic and what they considered to be most significant. In the process, students can learn about subject content but such an exercise can also help students develop digital and information literacy as they identify and collect websites for their Webmix. Teachers can review with their students which sources are trustworthy, credible, and reliable for gathering information.
A final potential lesson plan comes in the form of SymbalooEDU’s Learning Paths. The default Homepage and the default Education Webmix include the following Tiles:
Learning Paths enhance the Webmix’s concept of a personalized learning environment by enabling teachers to customize a virtual lesson plan for each student based on their needs. Additionally, Learning Paths add a “game” element to the lesson.
Teachers create Tile-by-Tile pathways for a student to navigate from start to finish. Teachers can change the route of the path or add additional Tiles for students with different learning paces or styles. Tiles may consist of a variety of material, including videos, documents, articles, slideshows, questions, and educational games. The inclusion of questions throughout the path allows teachers to understand where their students are struggling with the material and offer explanations when incorrect answers are provided. Correct answers must be provided before a student can advance in the path.
Numerous Learning Paths are available in the Symbaloo Marketplace. The Symbaloo filters also allow educators to search for Learning Paths based on Grade Level, Subject Area, and Common Core State Standards.
As students progress through the Learning Path(s), teachers are provided with real-time statistics and analytics through the built-in grading tools. Such data can then be used by teachers to gain valuable insights and evaluate their students’ learning in order to improve learning outcomes.
ISTE Standards for Students
1b: Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
7a: Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
Common Core State Standards
Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
Pros of SymbalooEDU
Accessibility: With information stored in the cloud, SymbalooEDU is accessible from any computer, smart phone, or tablet
Attractiveness: Given the various colors, themes, images, and icons that can be used, SymbalooEDU is a visually appealing and stimulating web tool
Economic: Maintaining resources online significantly reduces the amount of paperwork that must be distributed in class. In addition, sharing other educators’ approved Webmixes and Learning Paths can save a teacher considerable amounts of time.
Familiarity: Tiles and Webmixes resemble Apps and Groupings utilized on smart phone and tablet technologies, allowing for comfort with creating and manipulating SymbalooEDU’s tools
Gamification: The game-style of Learning Paths keep students engaged, entertained, and having fun while they progress through lessons
Intuitive: Although Symbaloo provides users with several instructional videos, learning Symbaloo’s features comes instinctively and with ease
Versatility: The ability to customize nearly any Tile, Webmix, and Learning Path allows teachers to provide a personalized learning experience for different types of learners
“Cleanliness”: SymbalooEDU provides countless ways to effectively organize and communicate lesson plans with students. However, if all 52 available Tiles are placed in a Webmix and done so haphazardly, then a Webmix could look “busy” or “unclean” and overwhelm students, particularly those that are not visually-oriented learners to begin with
Compatibility: While SymbalooEDU can be accessed via smart phones and tablets on the website or app, reviews suggest that utilizing Symbaloo’s features is more easily accomplished through a laptop or desktop computer. In particular, there appear to be complications with editing and adding to a Webmix when using a device other than a computer
Display: The format of the Webmix tabs at the top of the screen could be improved. For example, Webmixes with longer titles may be cut off. If a user has similar Webmixes opened, the small tab sizes could contribute to navigation confusion. Furthermore, the title for a Webmix is only displayed in small font on the tab. It does not appear anywhere else on the Webmix itself, sometimes leading to lack of clarity on identifying the Webmix
Alternatives to SymbalooEDU
Conway, P. (2013). SymbalooEDU. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/symbalooedu
Harwood, C. (2011, March 27). A review of “SymbalooEDU”, the personal learning environment platform. Retrieved from http://blog.nus.edu.sg/eltwo/2011/03/27/a-review-of-symbalooedu-the-personal-learning-environment-platform-2/
ISTE. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). English Language Arts Standards. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/8/
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). English Language Arts Standards. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/8/
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). English Language Arts Standards. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/SL/8/
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). English Language Arts Standards. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RH/6-8/