Thursday, March 31, 2016

Symbaloo Lesson Plans? Yes, Please!

I have been a SymbalooEDU user for several years now.  My default home page is a personal Symbaloo webmix that contains 140 of my favorite web links.  I became a user about the time that Google phased out the iGoogle tool and I needed something to speed up the process of getting to my commonly used sites.  Wait, I should make sure that I am not getting ahead of myself.  You are familiar with Symbaloo, right?

Symbaloo is an amazing bookmarking tool that allows you to create personalized tabs called webmixes on a custom page that is exclusively yours.  These webmixes can be populated with bookmarks to you favorite sites.  However, these book marks are added in the form of tiles that you can add from the vast Symbaloo library or create your own.

Check out this webmix that I created of various Educational Technology related sites-

As you can see, the webmix is packed with great resources, but even when embedded like this, users can still scroll around the webmix and it is fully functional.

This makes Symbaloo a perfect tool for teachers.  You can collect the resources that you want students to access and share the webmix by embedding it on your blog or class website.  Point the kids to that page and off they go. . . with guidance from you!

But Symbaloo wasn't happy with just that.  During their weekly #symchat on Twitter, I learned about a new feature they are rolling out. (Side note- if you haven't tried the Participate Chat tool from Participate Learning, you need to give it a try.  It makes following Twitter chats so much more rewarding!)

The new feature is a Lesson Planner builder around Symbaloo!  It is amazing.  You can create a lesson that can then be shared with students.  Students start at the beginning and work their way through the lesson that you built.  Want them to watch a video?  Add it to a tile.  Need them to visit a particular document on the National Archives site?  Add it to a tile.  As the students open a tile, the resource is presented to them.  Videos will play. Web articles will display.  You can even add formative assessment questions that students must answer.  A "Continue" button takes students to the next tile, which will launch automatically.  Because you design the path that students will follow, it is much less likely for students to get off track.

Tiles can lead to text that you input, a website, an online video, an online article or another Symbaloo webmix.  You can even add math problems with the built in formula builder or embed content from any other web-based tool that provides the appropriate HTML coding!  This makes the possibilities almost endless! Each of these tile options allows for assessment questions to be added and several question types are available.

Right now, the Lesson Planner is in beta and there are a few things I hope the Symbaloo team can add before the product is officially released.  For instance, it is a planning tool so I might not completely have all of my ducks, err, tiles, in a row when I begin.  I would love to be able to drag and drop completed tiles to reorder them or make room for a step I forgot.  Also, how about branching based on the answer to a question?  Can you say "choose your own adventure" lesson?

There is a nice little calendar icon on the lesson plan builder page.  Clicking on it brings up a message informing me that there are no assignments yet.  What the what?  Assignments?  How do I create them?  Are you teasing a new feature, Symbaloo?  Come on, let us at it!

I am working on putting my first lesson into the planner and so far, I really like how it works.  It does take a little re-thinking because you need to realize that whatever you include is something the kids will definitely see.  There are no hidden tiles (wait, feature request!).

As I continue to perfect my first Symbaloo Lesson Plan, check out this great example from Symbaloo PD Pro Sylvia Buller.

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