Symbaloo to the Rescue!

Rememer that WVIZ Tech and Learning Conference post I wrote a couple weeks ago? (It was as much/more for myself than it was for you. Every conference I go to, there are way too many things that grab my attention than I can actually deal with in a day!) One of the new-to-me apps has already proven useful. Woo-hoo!

Our district tech committee decided that we wanted to provide an “Apps Warehouse” and training on how to find and evaluate apps. I started it off by creating a document that had apps we were using. Although the document had district specific information, and was organized by UDL categories (Engagement, Representation, Action and Expression), it was simply unappealing–ugly and not user-friendly. Plus, it was taking a lot of time to compile. We knew we needed to change course. We needed something that would be eye-catching, applicable to everyone, and easier to make. I had a vague idea that one of the websites I heard about at WVIZ might work…Symbaloo to the rescue!

Symbaloo allows users to create and share collections of bookmarks in a visually appealing way. Here’s their official Welcome To Symbaloo video.

I went on Symbaloo and found a whole bunch of webmixes, screenshot them, and made this slideshow with links to each.

It looks better and has way more content. It will be easier for teachers to navigate than the document.

In a recent survey at Cardinal Middle School, teachers cited Time as their biggest barrier to using new technology. A majority (77%) said they would use an “Apps Warehouse” to find new apps, and just over half said they would like a rubric or checklist to use when evaluating. So, we are planning on giving them time at an upcoming staff meeting or early release day, a rubric and the slides. I hope that everyone (including you!) finds at least one app that will help their students.

Symbaloo seems like a pretty sweet way to organize your own bookmarks. I haven’t done it yet, but I bet it’s simple. If, like me, you just want to find what other people have already spent time collecting, here’s a video (from Symbaloo) on how to do that.

Evaluating Websites

Digital Citizenship. What does it mean? Well, part of it is being able to navigate the online world with a sense of place, getting out of the seedy spots quickly and being aware of when you’re in the right neighborhood. A week and a half ago, I was helping out at the first meeting of the Ohio Technology Standards Revision Work Group. There, educators from across our great state agreed:  evaluating websites, apps, etc. is a skill that every student will need in order to succeed.

This past year, I helped my middle school students think about the quality and credibility of the websites they wanted to use for research by giving them a list of Yes or No questions to ask themselves about the site. They highlighted in green or red, to get a visual summary of the positive and negative points. Then they added up the Yes’s and wrote a short paragraph explaining why they think the site is good or bad for their research.  Below’s an example image, and a link to the updated, blank Google Doc. Feel free to copy this, and modify it for your own students. It is adapted from Common Sense Media’s lesson on Identifying High Quality Sites.Yes no questions highlighted green or red


Next year, I’d like to share those same questions with students, but allow them to choose more options for providing me with their thoughts. Two options are voice annotation, and screen capture video.

For recording voice in a Google Document, there’s an add-on called Kaizena Mini. I haven’t tested it out with my students yet, but it seems easy enough to use. If you go into the Add-On menu, then click Get add-ons…you can search for it there.Get Add Ons in Add Ons menu

Once your students get it all set up, they select some text, click +New Feedback, and then click the microphone button to start recording. Kaizena Mini interfaceAfter they share their document with you, you can open Kaizena Mini from your Add-Ons menu to listen to what they have to say. For students who choose this option, I will have them also insert screenshots of the website showing what they are talking about in their recordings.

Screen capture videos are the next level of this same idea. While researching screen capture on our Chromebooks, I found that Screencastify doesn’t work due to low internal memory. (I like to use Screencastify for my own recordings, and if you have laptops or computers that can handle it, it’s a nice option). What did work, was TechSmith’s Snagit App and Snagit Extension.

Once your students get Snagit all set up and they are ready to use it to share their screen and their voice, have them click the Snagit icon in the extension bar, and then screen.


They may have to click Allow to let the camera and microphone power on. Then once they finish giving their virtual tour of the website they chose to evaluate, they click stop capture and then have these options to choose from. What’s great about Snagit, is that it is integrated with Google Drive. Videos save there automatically. Students can share them just to you, put them out there into the world on their own YouTube channel, or some intermediate option. Here’s an example I made.

Snagit share options


There is no shortage of information in the world today. I believe we must teach our children to sift through all of that, to critically consider what’s worth paying attention to and what’s not, and to communicate why. We should not expect our students to be thrown into the swirling cacophony of digital voices and not drown in it. Helping them learn to evaluate websites and other digital information gives them the craft to navigate past the dangerously irrelevant rapids and into the source of learning.