Tag Archives: Symbaloo

10 Search Strategies


I have always struggled with using search engines with my kiddos.  I am always nervous about results being appropriate, at their reading level and authentic.  So this “thing” was right up my alley!  I was thrilled to learn about the existence of MeL, Michigan eLibrary.  This is a free research tool that links you to valid and reliable sources such as eFull text magazines and newspapers and primary source documents.  So much more reliable than a google search.  I was shocked about some of the misleading sites google pulled up during the demo video about MeL.  I am going to add MeL to my symbaloo immediately!

Searching with MeL

MeL has over 40 databases you can use to search.  Two that are geared towards elementary students are: e-Library Elementary and Kids InfoBits.  I tested out both of these databases.  Since Michigan History is a big focus in 3rd grade, I searched for “Michigan fur trade” and “Michigan History” on both databases.  I started by using e-Library Elementary.  At first, I was really excited because I saw that you can choose what kind of resources you want: newspapers, magazines, books, maps, pictures, audio/video, and transcripts.  However, when I searched Michigan fur trade it mostly found books and magazines (no pictures or maps).  Also, the third link on the list was to a transcript of an interview with Kid Rock that had NOTHING to do with fur trade in Michigan. e-Library Elementary did have a number representing the reading level of the text, but I wasn’t sure what is corresponded to so I was unable to use it.   So that was a little disappointing.  I had more success with Kids InfoBits.  I found the results to be more user friendly.  Not much was located for Michigan fur trade, but I had more success with searching for Michigan History.  After scrolling through the results, I was able to locate some texts that would be great for my 3rd graders.

Infographic comparing the 2 databases using Piktochart

Infographic comparing the 2 databases using Piktochart

There are so many amazing databases available through MeL besides the ones I mentioned above.  For a complete list of ones I think my kiddos would find most useful, click here (just scroll down past my symbaloo)

Evaluating Web Resources

Unfortunately, there are people out there with too much time on their hands creating hoax websites for their own entertainment.  It is important as educators that we learn to spot these hoax websites and also teach our students how to recognize one. The Joyce Valenza Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources has given us a way to evaluate web sources to be sure they are a valid source of information.  I practiced using the Elementary(basic) version that I would have my kids use, in order to evaluate 2 sites from a list of bogus sites.

The first site I visited is: http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.

Content = Easy to read and understand, but great for a good laugh because it is completely outlandish!  🙂  There were several working links on the site, some actually linked you to valid resources about octopuses that actually exist.  However, other links were to WikiPedia pages (which we know are not dependable because they can be edited by the public) and another link was actually to a page about sasquatch (red flag!). The dates were fairly current.  There were octopus related news links posted in April 2014.  There was great attention paid to detail.  If the idea of a tree octopus wasn’t completely absurd, the site has many things in place to make it look and feel legit.

Authority/Credibility = I truncated the URL to zapatopi.net and could immediately see that this was a site designed for a good laugh.  The header reads “Your Source For Conspiracies & Other Diversions.”  It also seems to be set up more like a personal blog.  When I google the author, a variety of links pop up about his information being “fake” (duh). 🙂

Bias/Purpose = This site is clearly a parody.  I believe the author’s purpose is to teach us all that we can’t believe everything we read on the internet.

Usability/design = stellar!  This site is so easy to navigate, the links work and it is very organized.  It is clean, uncluttered and I noticed no spelling or grammar errors. Obviously, we can’t just rely on usability and design to let us know if the information is valid.

The next site I evaluated is: http://www.google.com/technology/pigeonrank.html

Content = The content is organized and easy to read and understand.  However, just like the site above, the content is very far-fetched.  Upon searching for a publication date, I found this at the bottom of the site, “Note: This page was posted for April Fool’s Day – 2002.”  Not only is it dated, but since it actually states that this is an April Fool’s joke…it makes it a LITTLE easier to spot it as a hoax. 🙂

Authority/Credibility = The truncated URL actually takes you back to Google, obviously a very trusted site.  So that does not help me identify this as unreliable.

Bias/Purpose = While linked to the Google Technology page (which is completely legit), this site was created for parody/a joke.  The author’s purpose was to have a little fun on April Fool’s Day (and maybe even get a few more people on Google than usual)

Usability/design = Pretty easy to navigate, but a couple of the links no  longer worked.  I did not notice any spelling or grammar errors.

Citation makers

Next we dive into the world of free citation makers (where were these when I was in High School???).  I was astounded by how easy these sites make it to cite an article or website.  It even lets you choose the format your professor or teacher prefers.  Some free citation makers include: Citation Machine, bibme and EasyBib.  I attempted to use Google Scholar to locate an educational topic.  I searched for “common core standards” and received a wide range of results.  My frustration was that many of the journals/articles it located could not be read unless you signed up and paid for that journal.  An abstract was all that was provided.  I input several URLs I located from my search into Citation Machine and EasyBib, but every time I tried it was unable to locate crucial information on it’s own, such as the author of the article. After several failed attempts, I came up with the citation below (and this was created after I had to input some of the information manually).

Hiebert, E., & Mesmer, H. A. (2012, June 29). Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from http://edr.sagepub.com/content/42/1/44.short

I may have been doing something wrong, but it was not as easy as I anticipated it to be.  I see this as a useful tool for high school and college students, as well as for myself as I further my education.

CITW and ISTE Standards

Thing 10 supports the ISTE Standard: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity because using the databases from Mel allows students to access an amazing amount of information that will inspire learning and creativity.  I can also use Mel to Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences. By teaching students how to cite their resources correctly by using a citation maker, we are Promoting and Modeling Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. When students use these searching strategies, they will be able to test hypotheses they have generated and draw conclusions from the information.


7 Productivity


We live in a world today where teachers are expected to do more with less.  The amount of things we are expected to accomplish is increasing, but the amount of time we have with our students is not.  It is essential that we as educators find ways to be as productive as possible.  Thankfully, today’s advancements in technology give us many ways to maximize our time and be more efficient.

Conversion Tools

Conversion tools are used to convert files from one type to another.  I had no idea these existed and am grateful this class has introduced them to me.  I find I often need to convert files from word docs to .pdfs.  Zamzar is such a quick and handy tool to do just that!  It emails you the converted document in seconds!  Another thing that excites me about Zamzar is it’s ability to convert word documents into .mp3s!! HOW COOL!!! For my auditory learners or my kiddos who need reading support, I can create audio files for them to listen to.  So excited to try this out in the fall!  I practiced using Zamzar by taking a .pdf that was a long informative text about sharks and converted it into an .mp3.  It was so simple!  I wish I could post it here to share with you, but .mp3s can not be uploaded to wordpress.

A screenshot after I downloaded the .mp3 version of my .pdf from Zamzar

A screenshot after I downloaded the .mp3 version of my .pdf from Zamzar

Google Calendar

Google calendar makes it easy to keep yourself organized and on top of deadlines.  However, I utilized Google Calendar this past school year by embedded it into my classroom webpage to keep families apprised of what was going on at our school and in our classroom.  I love how I can make easy updates to the calendar through my gmail account and it would automatically sync with my webpage.  In the past, I have used Microsoft Outlook to keep myself organized with my obligations and deadlines at work.  Next year, my entire district will have gmail and chrome books, so switching over to using Google Calendar for everything might be the best option.  I can have a work, personal and classroom calendar all in one place.  Click here to see my Google Calendar embedded in my classroom webpage.

URL Shorteners

URL Shorteners are a handy tool to obviously shorten a URL. 🙂  I can’t even think of how many times this would have been useful in my classroom!  I have struggled on countless occasions to get my kiddos to enter in a lengthy url to go to particular webpage.  Between URL Shortners and Smybaloo (from Cloud Initiation) I will NEVER have that problem again!  We learned about three different URL shorteners: tinyurl.com, goo.gl and bitly.com .  I practiced taking a long url and shortening it using tinyurl.

Here is the original URL to one of my documents on Google Drive:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MKTRHcqCDJwD42noaXaOWORjZTuofzkyuiDSxIUOIl0/edit?usp=sharing   WOW!!! It is long!!!

Here is the new link now that I have used tinyurl: http://tinyurl.com/oeop5yl  What a difference!!!


evernoteEvernote is a great tool for keeping track of EVERYTHING you need to remember from lessons you want to try, pictures of special events in the classroom, to behavior management ideas and notes about individual kiddo needs.  You can take a quick picture, write a small note or even record audio.  The best thing about Evernote is how it organizes your files.  You can easily search through your notes to find what you are looking for.  It can even recognize text in pictures!  I am one of those people who has held out on getting a smart phone…however, this tool makes me want one.  What a simple and quick way to note something when you are out and about or in the middle of something with your kiddos.  Once you have made a note, you can access it from anywhere. Say goodbye to endless sticky notes!   Click here to check out my first attempt at creating a note on Evernote.


LiveBinders is a marvelous tool for organizing all your online resources.  It basically makes a virtual binder.  Say goodbye to all those 3-ring binders in your cupboards!  I see myself using this to organize electronic resources for units of study.  It will help me find what I need so much faster.  I also like that you can search through other’s binders.  I found an awesome binder with 3rd grade math resources for parents.  Instead of posting the link to my webpage, I actually added it to my symbaloo which is already embedded on my classroom webpage.  Click here to check out my Symbaloo with my LiveBinder link.

CITW and ISTE Standards

I feel that thing 7, Productivity, really hits on the ISTE Standard: Model Digital Age Work and Learning.  By using these tools to keep myself organized and as productive as possible I am modeling digital age work and learning for my students and their parents.  As far as CITW best practices go, I feel like Evernote can easily be implemented with students to support Summarizing and Note taking.  Google Calendar can serve as a reminder to students and parents about  homework and other assignments.  LiveBinders can also be used to provide resources to support students and their families with homework and practice.


4 Cloud Initiation


Today I ventured into “The Cloud.”  This epic place where all your data can be stored.  I experimented with Diigo and Symbaloo.  I ultimately decided on Symbaloo because I feel like it is very kid friendly.  I wanted to create a page so my students would be able to easily access sites we will use on a regular basis next year when they have their chrome books.  Click here to see my Symbaloo Webmix for my students to use.

Too funny! :)

Too funny! 🙂

I also created a new dropbox account for school.  I already had one for personal use.  Our district is really pushing us to use Google Drive as our “cloud.”  So I am not sure how much I will use dropbox, but I am glad I have it as an option.

Here are links to 3 of my documents I uploaded to dropbox:

Our Promise to Each Other

Estimation Word Problems

Graphic Organizer

This “Thing” has reminded me that “The Cloud” is a great tool for collaboration.  Using dropbox or google drive, I can share endless documents and files with my co-workers.  My team and I spent a lot of time this past year collaborating on the creation of math units.  Going through this module made me realize that we really should have used this technology.  It would have been of great benefit to us and our students.  I believe utilizing “The Cloud” this fall will make collaborating and unit creation much easier.  I am also over the moon excited to use Symbaloo with my students!  Having them type in URLs to locate specific websites can be such a hassle.  I am posting my Webmix on my classroom webpage so my students can easily access all the sites we use on a regular basis.  Using this technology will greatly increase our class’ efficiency when completing tasks online.

Cloud Initiation involves many of the CITW9 strategies.  However, the one that really sticks out to me is cooperative learning.  Using cloud technologies, teachers and students can easily collaborate with one another.  Sharing social bookmarks and files using cloud resources truly supports cooperative learning.  Cloud resources also enable us to store and share documents for homework and practice. Learning about Cloud resources supports ISTE Teacher Standard 3 (Model Digital Age Work and Learning).  I look forward to modeling use of the cloud for my co-workers and my students.

A Wordle all about The Cloud :)

A Wordle all about The Cloud 🙂