After twenty-five years of teaching English in institutions of higher education, I have learned that anytime you find a product that is economical and effective for your purposes, the manufacturers of that product will inevitably redesign it and make it either too expensive or too ineffective for continued use. That is certainly (and thankfully) not the case with the newly redesigned Symbaloo Learning Path creator tool which enables teachers to create shareable lessons and track students’ progress.
The Symbaloo Learning Path creator tool was not difficult to use in its first incarnation (especially if you were already familiar with Symbaloo visual bookmarking. A new lesson plan began with a window from which you picked a design theme and recorded your title, description, learning objective(s), grade level, subject area, and estimated duration.
You then saw an empty grid to which you added tiles. To add a tile, you simply clicked on a blank space and a side bar menu appeared on the left, where you could add such information as title, instructions, and questions, or designate the type of resource you wished to include and provide a URL or embed code.
You then chose the direction for the tile to link to the next tile by clicking in the navigational wheel in the side bar menu. One disadvantage was that once you placed a tile, you could not move it; you had to delete it and recreate it.
In the redesign, getting started is more straightforward, with just one question to answer prior to the design process.
During the process, the creation tools no longer appear in a side bar menu. Instead, everything is built from the tile itself, which makes for a more user-friendly process.
When you are ready to add an activity, and the visual results of a web search make it easy to determine which site you wish to include.
Once you’ve made your resource choices, instructions or further information can be added, and adjustments can be made quickly and easily if necessary. The design pane is larger than the previously used side bar menu, and the whole “feel” of the process is simplified and streamlined.
To choose direction, you now simply click on the next empty tile you wish to use. I found the redesign to be more usable and more intuitive.
When Symbaloo launched its Learning Paths in mid-2016, the focus was obviously on the K-12 market, though I found that it worked particularly well in higher education for teaching grammar lessons to freshman composition students. By linking to or embedding resources (web sites, videos, Symbaloo tiles, webmixes, etc.), uploading self-created files (documents, graphics, etc.), and/or creating quizzes in Symbaloo Learning Paths’ game-like platform, instructors can develop active learning strategies for what has traditionally been presented via lecture or skills drills, and students can take more responsibility for their own learning by working independently in a distraction-free environment. I’ve used this strategy in a face-to-face class with dual-enrollment students, and I believe that it will be very helpful in an online environment as well. Many thanks to the folks at Symbaloo for continued improvements!