Friday, January 29, 2016

Using Symbaloo to Share Resources & Differentiate Instruction

This post is shared with you by John Cochrane, 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Grover Middle School

Symbaloo describes itself as a “visual bookmarking tool,” with the accent on visual. So why do you need another bookmarking tool when you already have one? Part of the answer is the visual component and the other major component for me is the shareable nature of Symbaloo. My use of Symbaloo as described here does not take full advantage of Symbaloo’s functionality, but I use it for a very specific purpose that it accomplishes quite nicely. If my brief description arouses interest, go to the Symbaloo website for a more in depth view.

Symbaloo is perhaps the major resource for my sixth grade curriculum. Given the limited usefulness and quality of our textbook and the disappearance of the Calliope database, we need to use outside sources to make the ancient world come alive. Just as importantly, we need a portal to this information that can be easily built, shared and updated. Symbaloo makes all this happen in a simple, efficient and reliable manner. Since most material on the ancient world is written at a level far beyond most sixth graders, Symbaloo also provides a connection to material that hits the students “between-the-eyes.” No more searching for that needle in a haystack.

Symbaloo is also a big contributor to my differentiation methods. There is space to combine a variety of topics, both text and video, while targeting learners at various interest and reading levels. Students can often use the posted websites (i.e. the British Museum) to branch off from the specific topic and go where their curiosity leads them.

The “tile” portals can be colored coded or use the source logos (or a combination of the two) to make the various topics and media immediately recognizable. The students like Symbaloo so much that they often recommend sites they have discovered to be added. I’ve never experienced this phenomenon before, and the Symbaloo’s ease of use makes updating a disseminating a revised version a really quick fix. These collections are especially useful for creating standard and enrichment “matrix” type assignments that students can really enjoy.

Posted below is a recent version of one of my Mesopotamia oriented screens
Symbaloo webmix

If you would like to explore using Symbaloo in your classroom, reach out to the Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology in your building.

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