Education technology has been touted to cure the ails of the classroom from teaching the 3 Rs to classroom management but often times those promises fall short because it doesn’t meet all the expectations that we place upon it. The promise of many apps, devices, and websites can cause frustration with teachers who often just give up on it all. My favorite types of edtech are those that are out of site and out of mind. They do not take away from my time with students but enhance their learning environment in the classroom without my direct intervention.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”- Arthur C Clark’s third law
When I was a first year teacher who has a love of technology myself, I was so eager to utilize my school’s computer lab with first grade students. That first day just logging into the Windows PC, typing in a URL, and helping them log into their user/password lasted over 47 minutes of the hour block helping those littles get access to their digital resources. By the time I was done, the final student had only about 9 minutes of computer time before going home for the day. The next few weeks, I got it down to 40 minutes to 28 minutes to 15 minutes as the students became more and more comfortable with using the computers.
One day I was hanging out in #ntchat on Twitter (woot woot) when I saw a neat resource from Matt Gomez who had embedded National Geographic eBooks into this neat website called called Symbaloo.com. Symbaloo is a web based bookmark service that allows you to created tiled bookmarks that live like icons on a page called a webmix. Being able to aggregate all of your useful web bookmarks into a single page is amazing. Matt had given his Kindergarten students access to a huge array of digital eBooks right at their finger tips.
I had an ephiany moment that this is what I needed for my classroom and school. I immediately got excited and explained Symbaloo to my wife (love you Cassie) who gave me the wifey pat on the head and said that’s neat. I then set to work developing our school webmix by aggregating all of our school’s websites and resources into a one place. After it was set up, I borrowed some 4th and 5th graders and set out to install Chrome and update the Chrome homepage to our school webmix on all computers.
The following week, after some modeling in the classroomto present Symbaloo to my students, we adventured to the computer lab to work with resources and tech skills. I was able to have 100% logged onto computer and online with our first resource in under five minutes (first graders still need some help at the beginning). This was a brilliant accomplishment of education technology which I would declare magical! Now we can get to learning and not logging on. Later on we took our Webmix homepage and out it on 64 new windows laptops as well. This allowed all of our grade levels to access our school Symbaloo links easily and quickly. How many minutes that have been saved in my class over the last 4 years plus all the other classrooms is exponential.
Today CharlesHanosek offered some advice that he embeds his Symbaloo webmix using the HTML code Symbaloo generates on a Google Site which generally prevents any intrusion of ads when your students are using it.
Educational technology will not replace the classroom teacher but can absolutely enhance the classroom experience and take them beyond the four walls of the classroom. Teachers who shy away from tech in the classroom do a misservice to their students for their students will live in a world that tech will be completely embedded into their lives. Even if teachers are not that into technology, finding and modeling tech solutions to daunting problems will give your students an example of persistence, critical thinking, and creativity.
Let me know how you use Symbaloo in your classroom.
Some other Symbaloo resources you can check out
- SymbalooEdu-education focused Symbaloo that teachers can sign up for free. Access to educational focused web mixes and other awesome features.
- SymbalooPro– domain level control, webmixes, and group access
- Symbaloo Lesson Plans– guided lesson plans with a lesson creator and marketplace. Great for HyperDocs and flipped classroom lesson delivery.
And perhaps my favorite little hack for Symbaloo is their official Chrome extension which allows you visit any website and click the extension to add the link to a webmix.