Thursday, April 28, 2016


When my district went 1:1 a few years ago, a wonderfully tech-savvy colleague showed me a site called Symbaloo.  This is a free site that is a page full of "bookmarks".  It allows you to paste URLs and create icons on your very own matrix that can then be shared out. Gone are the days of bookmarking a million sites!  I create a matrix, share it out once with my students, and they bookmark this ONE page with everything they'll need for my class.

This site has been a time life saver!  So many times sites that I want students to use have ridiculously long URLs or are specific to me as I've made them for a specific year/class.  There are then the inevitable kiddos that type one letter incorrectly and so much time is wasted spent getting everyone on the right page.  While all of this is happening, the students that did manage to navigate to the correct site are "figuring it all out" and now have a whole slew of questions that you;re not ready to answer.  Anyone feeling my pain here?  Technology is WONDERFUL but can be frustrating.

With Symbaloo you no longer have to manage this mess.  Rather than having students try to navigate to the correct site, YOU copy the URL to the site you like and then add a new tile.  Symbaloo already recognizes many URLs and will auto-generate an icon.  You can also find one that you like or that your students will better recognize and use that for your tile's icon.  When you're ready to share your matrix out, you click on the "share" icon at the top of the page (blue "less than" sign pictured below). Once you've shared your matrix with the students, you can add/delete tiles as needed--just be sure to refresh the actual matrix on the page (see the refresh button below next to the aforementioned share icon).

Symbaloo accounts are FREE!  You can use your school email, personal email, or a Google account. Another fun feature is that you can create multiple matrices, so if you have a need for one that's only for "fourth period", then you can title it as that and share it out with those students.  Maybe you want to create a page for your staff or grade level team for easy access...just name that matrix and share it out!  The possibilities are ENDLESS my friends!

Here's a picture of this year's Symbaloo page--yes, it changes slightly each year as some websites I use change for the needs of my students and/or I am trying different things out.  I'll highlight a few of the tiles that are on it:

  • Canvas--Our district's LMS, so there's an icon for that (this is what I used to send out the link for the Symbaloo page on the first day of the year--I just posted it as an announcement).
  • Book wizard--students can easily level their own books
  • Whooo's Reading--keeping our reading logs (read more on it here)
  • Powerschool--students can check their grades
  • XtraMath--math fact practice (daily as a math workstation)
  • Seesaw--a new FAVORITE for anecdotal notes, student reflections, etc. (read more here)
  • PLTW--science curriculum for quick access to discussion boards and procedure pages

This tool is highly recommended for classroom efficiency.  It is easy to use and set up.  I take a little time during one of the first days of school to explain how it works and why we use it which sets us up for smoother sailing throughout the year.  *Note: Students that use their home computers would have to get the link you originally shared and bookmark your matrix on their home computer.*

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