Symbaloo missed the mark with my students

“Symbaloo sir? Its more like Symbaloser!”

Ouch! I had started a project with my students about one-to-one laptop initiatives. Its very relevant to them as our school is moving in that direction. With loads of articles and blog posts about the topic, I figured I would have them test out a service called Symbaloo, an online bookmarking tool with a visual twist.

I thought it would be great for them to share their links and resources  with one another.

The links and resources you add are icons or as they call them tiles. If done well, your “webmix” or collection of links looks pretty darn cool – a matrix of colorful icons. You can also flip through different webmixes you create via tabs.

Its a neat concept but in practice…it, well, FAILED! Dismally I must say.

A tool can be great in theory but if a bunch of users all try and all say it was a failure, then it must not be a good tool for that particular subset.

Problems stated by students:

  • It took too much effort to add your icons. This of course is relative but you cant just click a button to add the site your are on. You need to have symbaloo open, copy the link, go to to add tile, edit the title, select the text color, color of icon and possibly an image or clipart for the tile.
  • My students were signing in to each other’s accounts because we were on the same network.
  • You could share but not there wasnt an easy way to combine your resources.

So there you have it. Its a cool tool if you want a visual representation of your favorite sites. But as a resource sharing site, it did not work as anticipated.

I’m not upset that we tried it and it failed. Its good to try different things. However, it can get overwhelming for students and teachers alike if they are continuously chasing the next cool tool. A standard Wiki would have been so much better for this and many more tasks.

I’ll live you with one tidbit…if something you tries fails in class, scrap it and ask the students for the tool may not have been a good choice. Then blog about it, email the service with the issues so they can maybe improve their service, or move on 🙂

4 thoughts on “Symbaloo missed the mark with my students”

  1. I love Pinterest, but it is limited to pictures and I need a bookmark manager to keep track of articles and other things I find on the web. I was excited when I hear about Symbaloo this summer, but my experience was the same as your students’: it required way too many steps and had other disadvantages. Symbaloo did then add a way to bookmark from your browser’s toolbar, a big improvement but not enough. I’d like something easy and Pinterest-like that doesn’t require pin-able pictures. Have you come across anything?

  2. Thanks Cheryl for the pertinent Pinterest pointer (sorry had to do that). I know many people are starting to experiment with it and I will check it out. I’m a typical late adopter (odd for a techy I know) and will probably shy away from it unless I feel it brings something new to the table other than something gimmicky and will review it here on the site

  3. I would suggest considering Pinterest if you want to visual represent bookmarks. I know that this is treading the fine line between Social Networking and School, but if you have the students create a school-specific account, they can share and collaborate on Pin Boards. I know a lot of students like to use Pinterest on their own time (especially your female students) so there will not be a learning curve. It is easy to manage and you can download a “Pin It” that will be stored in your internet toolbar making it easy to pin. If you have never explored Pinterest, I would say to give it a go!

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