Creating a PLE with SymbalooEDU

It was tough to have to only choose three sessions from all the great ones offered at the DEN 6th Birthday Bash in Philadelphia on June 25. One of the ones I decided to attend was Symbaloo, since I had created an account a while back as part of a DEN special promotion but had never found the time to really experiment with the tool. Daniela Bolzmann and Kimmie Fortelny from team Symbaloo were in from California for ISTE and also to run this session to give an overview of the tool and discuss ways educators are using SymbalooEDU in the classroom.

First there was Symbaloo; then there was SymbalooEDU. The EDU version is barely a year old and came about when the team realized that educators were using Symbaloo in their classrooms and finding it to be a valuable tool. According to Daniela’s post of June 24 on the SymbalooEDU blog, it was a video created by one of Randy Hollinger’s seventh grade students called My PLE explaining all the digital tools used in her personal learning environment that got the team to seek feedback from Randy and other educators and start the ball rolling on the EDU version.
Randy and his wife Amy are presenting at ISTE on Wednesday, June 29, on the topic of PLEs and project based learning.

My wheels are turning for the coming school year just with the idea of setting up a webmix for each grade I teach (third through eighth) with that webmix set as their homepage with all the links we use regularly. Such a timesaver!

Also at our session attendees were urged to become “Symbaloo Certified” and were told that the certification process is beig revamped. There was a long line of educators adding their names to the sign up list! Why might you want to get certified?

  • Badge to put on website/blog/wiki/etc.
  • Heads up before public as to new features
  • Swag to pass out during trainings
  • Listed on our website as an ‘Ambassador’ available to train – Coming Soon
  • Possible Spotlight Educator on our Blog

Even if you are not interested in goring for certification, the certification webmix is a perfect set of tutorials for all the things you need to know about using SymbalooEDU, broken into small chunks. Take a look at the certification webmix.

Over the last few months other DEN bloggers have posted their thoughts on SymbalooEDU, such as:

I still like how I can build a webmix for each content area. The ability to post/link/save multi-media on a webmix is very nice and useful. I like how my students can access this from home, the library, the lab, etc. I know that I have just scratched the surface of what I can do with Symbaloo when it comes to my students. (Eric Strommer April 3)

I like the customizable center widget also, as ESL and bi-lingual students can make connections with the translator too This is a little more user friendly for younger students as you can customize the widget face. There are endless possibilities to what we can do to differentiate using this tool. (Joli Brock)

The students love being able to go to ONE site to get all of the URL’s that they need to complete their computer assignments instead of having to bring a notebook with them to class. (Sarah Thompson May 9)

On February 20 Kelly Hines shared Lisa Thompson’s webmix of “DEN Goodness” and the resources for the DEN birthday bash are even available on a SymbalooEDU webmix created by Cynthia Brown.

Though a basic personal account is free, the teacher pricing plan allows for a teacher account and 50 student accounts. I would have liked to try out that aspect of the site and create student accounts, but my teacher account appears to be broken. Although I received 3 emails from SymbalooEDU regarding my account and how to begin the certification process, when I use that same email to try to log in, it tells me there is no such email. (I was assured it would be looked into). So for now, without any hands on experience myself, I am relying on the information that others have already shared on this tool.

One thing that would be awesome that appears can’t be done yet, is to actually embed the webmix itself into an existing page such as a blog or a wiki. Other pages and documents, and even RSS feeds can be embedded into the tiles of a webmix, and you can even embed a webmix into a tile on a webmix, but right now the only way you can share any webmixes you create seems to be by URL. I can see that in a space such as we have in the DEN blog, the webmix would have to be reduced in size to fit, though, and maybe the visual effectiveness would be lost at a reduced size. The screenshot above is a perfect example of how the webmix could be less than useful at a reduced size.

I am hoping to take advantage of the Symbaloo addon for Firefox and Chrome that will allow you to click a button to immediately add a site to your existing webmix. (So please, Team Symbaloo, fix my broken account!)

Follow Team SymbalooEDU on Twitter: @SymbalooEDU

You may also want to check out:
Doreen Bates – webmix of IWB Resources
Dianne Rees – Serious Games webmix as well as her great step by step for educators creating a PLE with Symbaloo.

We Grow Old Because We Stop Playing

Recently I attended a Classroom2.0 Live session where Barbara Bray was the featured guest. Barbara, a learning strategist from California, spoke on the topic of “Joy in Learning” (session recording here)and the importance of play in the learning process. In her post Full Steam Ahead: The Power of Play, she says:

Schools in the US are designed around the industrial model where the teacher is the all-knowing expert delivering instruction to meet the standards and tests. With this model, students are learning the same thing at the same time. If schools are going to produce a new type of worker who can deliver what people need on-demand where they personalize each situation for each user, they will need a different kind of education system than we are delivering now. Students will be active learners designing their own learning environments based on their needs and finding the most creative learning environments that build on their strengths.

Play and bringing back joy to learning is what schools have to do to prepare our future citizens. When you are involved in playing a game with your friends, how do you feel? Watch children play and interact with other children. They are fully engaged and probably remember those activities for a long time. Ask a child if they remember the worksheet they filled out last week. Was that fun? Do they remember the answers? Schools need to provide engaging activities that turn students into critical thinkers, researchers, and designers.

A few posts later she also mentions Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms” (love those RSAnimate videos!) which addresses the same concerns.

A sad contrast was shared by David Warlick in his October 27 post Confidence Lost. He wrote of conversations with faculty and administration of a local university who were wondering how they could effect change and move schools forward. From their conversations he said he felt that we in education have lost our confidence and our sense of educational entrepreneurship, that sense of freedom and encouragement to “innovate” in order to motivate our students. Especially telling was a comment shared by one of the professors who said that his daughter, coming home from her first day in sixth grade,  said that the principal had told the students that they will not be having fun. They will be learning.

Fun and learning can not be opposites. We need to find ways to engage our students the same way that their out of school activities engage them. Perhaps we can take some lessons from gaming strategies.

Tom Chatfield, in his TED talk of July 2010, says we can learn things about “learning” by studying video game strategies. The seven lessons he sees in video games are:

1. Experience bars that measure progress – Players associate themselves with this progress; they take ownership of it.
2. Multiple long and short term aims – Goals are varied.
3. Rewards just for trying – Failure is not punished.
4. Feedback – rapid, frequent, and clear
5. An element of uncertainty – This “lights up” the brain and the concept is a “neurological gold mine”.
6. Production of dopamine in the brain – Studies of dopamine levels predict how memory and confidence figure into learning.
7. Other people! Collaboration with other gamers, working as a team is a big turn on.

Wanting something + liking the activity = ENGAGEMENT.

Game designer David Perry in 2006 said the average age of gamers was about 30, and 43% of them were women. There are millions of adults involved in World of Warcraft, for example, and they are paying thousands of dollars for virtual property in online games and virtual worlds. He also asserted that 83% of games have no violence or mature content. Another fun and thought-provoking presentation on the power of games was that of Jane McGonigal “Games Can Make a Better World“. According to McGonigal, ” In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment.Sounds like a great description for school.

Perhaps educators would do well to investigate what games their students are playing and why they find them so engaging. I asked some seventh grade students recently about their gaming interests, and the serious “gamers” were about falling out of their chairs to tell me about them, they were so excited to share. On the other hand, one boy said he was not allowed to do any gaming (Also not allowed to blog in school, but that is another story!). I asked a fifth grader when he wanted to title his blog “Spore Guy” if he meant “Sport Guy”. He actually meant Spore, a virtual gaming environment about evolution created by Will Wright, and that he really was good at that game. Needless to say, I had to check out Wright’s explanation of Spore.

Can we find ways to take the ideas of not punishing failure but instead rewarding effort, of scaffolding so that challenges we present are not too difficult but also not too easy for the individual learner, and get students excited about engaging in collaborative activities not only with classmates but with other students around the globe? Maybe by getting involved in some gaming ourselves and trying it out, we can sense the power of these activities and see how we can up the engagement level of our students.

There are many great ideas being shared in the Global Education Conference going on this week (Nov. 15- 19) for ways to have our students collaborate and engage in real world problem solving. ISTE’s Don Knezek had a great  presentation (archive here) on Nov. 15 regarding using  digital learning environments to engage students in authentic projects and solving problems that really matter. One of his “Many Faces of Innovation” – a list of ideas that we can be incorporating into 21st century education –  is “students learning through simulations and serious games”.

Whether it be collaboration and creation in virtual worlds such as Reaction Grid or Quest Atlantis, or something as simple as creating a glog in the classroom, students need to buy into the goal and enjoy doing the activities that help them reach it. I missed the session by Peggy Sheehy and Lucas Gillispie on World of Warcraft in Education yesterday during the Global Education Conference (archive here) but I am hoping to catch the presentation “live”  on ISTE Island in Second Life tonight (Nov. 16) at 5 SLT (8 pm Eastern). I confess to having lost track of time myself when creating things in that virtual world.

Do you play any online games? Participate in virtual worlds? Feel a sense of immersion and a rush when accomplishing a goal or mastering a level in a game? Maybe you get that same sense of accomplishment and exhilaration after a great round of golf or a completing a do-it-yourself project.

My post title is from a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw: We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. Let the games begin!

Tech or Treat 2010:
Out of This World Ideas for Showcasing Student Work with Porter Palmer

DEN Virtual Conference attendees were wowed in session two by Porter Palmer’s Out of This World Ideas for Showcasing Student Work. She directed us to research from Chris Weber’s Publishing with Students: A Comprehensive Guide,  especially his information on web-based publishing for students.  She pointed out that binderresearch shows grading writing discourages students from taking risks, while publishing encourages them to take risks. Porter collected all of her links for the presentation in Live Binders, a great way to keep presentation resources organized neatly. (While looking at LiveBinders I happened across another binder of Technology Integration Resources for library and media specialists by mnpsil. Definitely going back to that one later!)

posterous scrnshotFirst on Porter’s list was Posterous. This tool lets you post video, audio, and image files, as well as text. You can also include documents and even embed Google Maps. You can set up the page yourself or email your files to them and it is turned into a page for you. There is also a handy bookmarklet.  Note: Since Posterous accounts are for ages 13 and older, elementary teachers would need to post students’ work for them.

world66 scrnshotShe also demonstrated how teachers can use wikis such as wikispaces or PBworks for classroom pages and to embed student videos or store documents. Speaking of wikis, Porter also showed how students can actually become serious content creators by contributing to Wikipedia after they research a topic. Another site to which students can contribute is World 66-The Travel Guide, a great resource for information about various travel destinations. Each entry is editable by anyone else. Note: It is not clear what editorial checks occur on these pages, however, and their Terms of Service do not mention age, just provide a link to content filtering tools that parents can use to block harmful content.

schooltube scrnshotNext on the menu was SlideShare, a way for PowerPoint presentations to be shared online. Use the embed code to place into wikis, blog, glogs, anywhere you can embed. You can even turn your slides into a slidecast with audio added to the slides. Note: Terms of Service indicate the site is not to be used by anyone under the age of 13. SchoolTube was also mentioned as a site for sharing student and teacher created videos.

ipadio scrnshotOther sites on Porter’s list included the ever-popular Glogster EDU, which she termed the “new book report site” indicating just one of its many uses in the classroom as a digital poster. For easy voice recording over the phone, she pointed us to ipadio. An example of its use might be students creating a voice recording for a foreign language class. Note: In order for a student to call in and create a “phlog”, they need to register by providing their first and last names, email addresses, and the phone numbers they will use to call in, so this is definitely not for elementary school students. Perhaps a work around could be the teacher being the account holder and using the school number for calling in, allowing younger students to record  voices in that manner. These phlogs are embeddable in blogs, wikis, etc.

storybird scrnshotWith Storybird, students can choose beautiful illustrations from a variety of artists and compose an original story. Teachers can create classes of students and there is an option to collaborate with schools around the world. Storybirds can be set to public or private and an embed code is provided.

toondoo scrnshotToonDoo is a site where users can create comic strips with existing graphics. Note: Terms of Service say “ToonDoo will only provide the Service to “persons and entities who can form legally binding and enforceable contracts under applicable law.” Since there may be objectionable material created by some users of the site, caution is advised. Someone in the chat offered the suggestion of Toondoospaces, which is private and for educational use, but only provides a 15-day free trial before you need to select a payment plan. Xtranormal, a way to turn a typed script into an animated video clip, has two versions. The online version clearly states it is not for under 13 years of age, and in fact anyone who is a “minor” needs parents to register for them. The only option for schools seems to be the downloadable version known as “State”, which is still in Beta and does not yet seem to have a lot of options, but may be worth experimenting with.

All of Porter’s links used in her presentation can be found in her LiveBinder. Be sure to visit the archived webinar when it becomes available on the DEN site. Thanks, Porter, for a jam-packed presentation of ways to showcase our students’ learning!

u04a1 Integrating Social Networking (EDIM514)

I attended the Classroom2.0Live session on Saturday, February 13, where Edmodo was explained by Jeff O’Hara, I planned to simply bookmark the site and come back to it perhaps for consideration next year. There were a number of aspects of the Edmodo platform that would be duplicating what we already had in place as far as teacher and student communication, and I did not see the need to create that type of platform just yet because there was no way I would have time to develop student use of it at this point in the year.

How does one teach students the best practices for participating in social networking? Modeling responsible behavior and allowing students to be guided through a real social network would be ideal, but hardly practical in a K-8 setting. Most sites have age limits of 13 and older for users for their sites. I know some teachers have created a Ning for their own private network with students, but for me to create a Ning to be used with only 8th graders whom I see for 45 minutes per week and already find it difficult to manage the topics I do have, it seemed it would be an extreme effort for little return, at least for this year. From

The Ning Platform is not directed to children younger than 13 and is offered only to users 13 years of age or older. If you are under 13 years old, please do not use the Ning Platform. Any person who provides their personal information through the Ning Platform represents to us that they are 13 years of age or older.

Because of the readings presented in this week’s module for the EDIM514 course, I spent a great deal of time watching the videos for the K-12 online conference that featured the Taking It Global social network. I felt that there were actually a number of ways this network could be used for collaboration in a variety of themes such as culture, environment, and especially technology.  TIG regisI had to first create my own membership in TIG before I could be an educator on the network. In order to create an actual class, however, you had to get past step 3 by paying a class enrollment fee of $29. The K-12 online videos presented an obviously expired code for three months free trial, but search as I might, I could find no current offer for the same. The person who made the presentation after several years at the head of the organization is no longer in that position.

I did not go past step 3 and pay the fee. I am not averse to spending my own money for worthwhile projects, and I often do. But at this point there seemed to be a great learning curve in actually using this site to its potential. I also scoured the fine print for evidence that students under 13 could or could not participate but I only found evidence that it was okay to enroll students under 18 without divulging personal information, and that it was possible to create a completely private classroom environment. Perhaps the fact that it is a Canadian site, they do not consider the same privacy laws regarding children as we do in the US.

Global DreamersThe other site I investigated was one that had been mentioned in a previous Wilkes class: Global Dreamers. This site seemed to offer collaboration and communication in a safe environment, but just like TIG, the information was outdated, and it seems the activity in the network has decreased greatly or even ceased altogether.

But why would we create a completely private classroom environment? If students are too young to interact with others outside the walls of their school, they are too young for social networking. For what purpose would I go to the trouble of creating this private classroom for them to interact among themselves, which they already do? The lessons they need to learn regarding safety in social networking can be presented without creating an entire social network for private use.

During these last few weeks in technology classes we have been discussing Internet Safety. The topic is adjusted based on the grade level (3-8). My goal for this unit of study correlates with ISTE’s NETS:

5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

a. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
d. exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

To meet Standard 5a for Digital Citizenship I used as the starting point a PowerPoint unit created for a previous Wilkes class. Each topic in the unit (Social Networking, Email Scams, Online Shopping, Posting Images Online, Cyberbullying) led to a Discovery Streaming video as a start. From there we are using class discussion and other resources such as YouTube videos or websites to add information to the topic.

In the sub-category of social networking and using caution when relaying information about yourself, I  used  information on the Facebook Privacy Policy as well as the following videos for upper grade students:

Internet Safety   (how children can be misled online)
Internet Safety – A Cautionary Tale (how easily personal info can be found)
Digital Dossier (how much info is available and what you don’t have to fill out on forms)

as well as this informational site: Social Networking Sites – Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens

There is a built in quiz in the PowerPoint slide show, but I plan to also follow up with student blog posts where they write their own tips about safety on the key areas discussed. This would be another form of assessment in addition to the video quiz.

I do feel that with the current tools I am using to develop awareness of social interaction on the Internet (blogging, wikispaces with discussion and wikimail) as well as direct instruction in intellectual property rights and Internet Safety issues, I feel that I am providing enough information on social networking without actually creating and using a specific social networking platform in our school. The above mentioned lessons are currently being used and it is having an impact on students and thankfully some are re-thinking their behavior on social sites. When time permits I may investigate the TIG option or Edmodo platform, but for now, I have enough resources to meet the objectives of standard 5a Digital Citizenship and to help my students to grow in safe, legal, and responsible use of technology.

Off to See the Wizard of ‘OG

My first attempt at a glog! Reflection comments are below.

The purpose of this glog is two-fold. First, I hope to use it as a learning module for fifth grade students. Their prescribed curriculum in social studies calls for a unit on the United States Constitution based on the Diocese of Allentown curriculum guidelines for grade 5:

A. The Articles of Confederation
B. The Constitutional Convention
C. The Constitution
a. The Executive Branch
b. The Legislative Branch
c. The Judicial Branch
d. Know duties and responsibilities of each branch

and I know that the teacher of that subject struggles to just make it through the Revolutionary War by the end of the school year. Hopefully this activity will fill in the gap in the curriculum, and perhaps take off some of the pressure the teacher feels to rush through some topics.

Second, I hope to use it as a model for students to create their own glog. I have set up accounts for each of my technology classes, and hope to have students using their own log in during this school year. I would like to start with seventh grade using Glogster to create a standard project in a whole new way. Each year the students in that grade study Latin America and Canada, and are assigned a country on which to report. We began by making travel brochures, then a few years ago switched to travel videos using PhotoStory. I can see that a glog would be a wonderful vehicle for them to share information about a country in a unique way. Their glogs could then be posted on their individual blog pages and shared with the class.

I struggled a bit with the Discovery Builders. I lost some work and had to re-do when I switched back and forth between tabs making adjustments. I would love to see a SAVE option on the bottom of each page for that reason. I would have preferred having the link I added to the video segments right in the text/instruction area instead of at the bottom of the page. I didn’t see how to make that happen, so I created my own hyperlink to the video within each set of instructions.

Unfortunately the builder site, or perhaps all of Discovery Streaming, had the “wrench” symbol up as I began to write my post and I do plan to make some adjustments on the Quiz Builder included in the project. I was not seeing my response for the correct and incorrect answers when I took the quiz. Also, I need to figure out how to add the video links as review. Even though I pre-selected the video content, it seemed not to be available when I wanted to add the video as a review component and I needed to search for it all over again, with My Content not being available as a search option. It is obvious I need to spend more time honing my Builder skills. I have also noticed that the glog embedded here does not show the background wall as does the one on the Glogster site.

I signed up for a Glogster account quite a while ago, but at that time decided that there were too many potentially inappropriate side paths for students to travel down, and so I put it aside as a tool. With the coming of the EDU version, I have considered it again, and was able to learn more about it through the Digital Media course. One thing I need to explore further, however, is that clicking on a “friend” and then saying “Next” can still bring up something questionable. I will need to investigate this further.

The incorporation of video content as an instructional tool, with the visually stimulating format of a glog, can not only keep a student’s interest, but also allow for the student to begin to think and plan projects of his own. There would be much to discuss with such a project: Including copyright approved images, keeping within a theme, having a cohesive layout (I am still not comfortable with the “clutter” of the glogster page, but I will learn to deal with that!) and of course, quality content overall. I believe the students will be excited to leave their creative mark and jump into such a project eagerly. Little do they know they will be synthesizing information from a variety of sources, while their “creative minds” are flexing their muscles.

Added Saturday morning, 10/3 – I have gone back today to try to see what was wrong with my Quiz Builder activity. I cannot see anywhere that I need to select to have the correct response comment I entered (Good job!) and the incorrect response comment directing them to review the video and have it show up during the quiz. When I took the quiz as a student these comments did not appear. It does say you may not edit questions if anyone has taken the quiz. I also am still frustrated not seeing where to add my pre-selected videos in the appropriate place for each question. Help!