Tag Archives: elementary databases

Using Symbaloo in the elementary library

First things first: I did not create this brilliant idea.  Shannon McClintock Miller was the one who showed it to me, and it’s changed my library teaching for the better.

Symbaloo. A funky word, a brilliant product.  And when paired with your Destiny library catalog: a game-changer in regard to students and teachers utilizing library resources and accessing information.

Today, a few questions about Symbaloo in the library get answered.

What is Symbaloo?

Symbaloo helps to organize online resources in an intuitive, app-style format.  According to the company, Symbaloo is “a cloud-based application that allows users to organize and categorize web links in the form of buttons”.  It looks like this:

Why should I use Symbaloo in the library?

  1. It’s intuitive.  Students know how to use apps. This looks just like many of their home devices – click on the “app”, and it takes you to the appropriate website.
  2. It’s visual.  Many students in an elementary school are pre-readers.  The standard list of weblinks many libraries provide does not meet their information need.

    The original home screen in Destiny. No visual appeal, too much text, and no student input.

  3. English language learners are able to successfully access and utilize this format of information.

    A grade 2 student uses Symbaloo to access links in the library.

  4. Icons = color.  Humans like colorful things.  This is fun to look at.
  5. It’s relatively easy to set up an initial Symbaloo.  Once it’s done, updating it is simple.
  6. Teachers will actually use it.

How do I make something like that picture up above?

  1. Create a FREE Symbaloo account.
  2. Decide how large you want your Symbaloo grid to be.  Changing the size is easy – under Options, Edit webmix – Resize webmix – then click the arrows to make the grid larger or smaller.
  3. Download images to use as the icon pictures (if you care about such things – I do).
  4. Have links to websites / databases handy.  If you’ve got them, embedding direct links to databases allows students to access resources at school without typing in pesky usernames/passwords!  And if you don’t have direct links: email the company and explain what you need.  So long as you subscribe to the resource, they’ll send the direct link (I’ve done this a few times, and it works).
  5. Bonus: searching Symbaloo for other webmixes can give ideas on links to use within your own grid!

How to I embed Symbaloo into my Destiny catalog?

  1. Read this post from the aforementioned Shannon McClintock Miller at Van Meter Schools.
  2. Do what she says.

So, do I have to update the Symbaloo link in Destiny every time I change the original Symbaloo?

  1. Nope!  That’s the brilliance of Symbaloo.  Because it is web-based, so long as your click the “share” button at the center top of the screen, then “republish webmix”, your Symbaloo will update on any platform that uses the original embed code.  The ‘republish webmix’ button is the small gray circular arrow to the left of the ‘Share this webmix’.  

This seems like a lot of work. Is Symbaloo really that great?

  1. Yes. It is. Don’t believe me?  Believe my students.  In two schools, in two countries.  I gave my grade 4 students the task of redesigning the Destiny library catalog home screen when teaching in London.  Their biggest wants?  More color and pictures.  When given 3 choices of how the redesign could look, students overwhelmingly selected the Symbaloo home screen.  And they used it.

But teachers/students rarely use the library catalog, so why does something like this matter?

  1. Remember this scene from FIELD OF DREAMS?
  2. The baseball slogan was: if you build it, they will come.  The library version with Symbaloo: if you build it, they will use it. Believe in it, and the users will come.
  3. This is a just-in-time resource.  When teachers come scrambling to the library, looking for books about red pandas and narwhals and emperor penguins (my life this year) and the library doesn’t have the exact book they need , pull up the eye-catching Symbaloo on Destiny’s home screen and search within the linked resources.  Having PebbleGo and an encyclopedia database really helps.  Quick, easy, just-in-time.
  4. PRO TIP: When sharing a library Symbaloo for the first time, allow teachers & students to suggest links to incorporate.  Then take their suggestions, add the links to the webmix (don’t forget to share the webmix!), and share it out to the whole school.  My Symbaloo has Google Earth, Typing.com, Newslea, Prodigy math, and Khan Academy based on the recommendation of teachers and students.

I want to learn more.  Any additional resources?

  1. Yes! Again, I direct you to Shannon’s blog: author Symbaloo pages & an intro tutorial.

That’s it. Know that Symbaloo doesn’t give me anything to share this – no badges, no money, no freebies.  I write this because the product has been that good since I started using it in 2016. Questions? Please ask!

Cheers, y’all! –arika