Access to Information – Visual Bookmarking

Bookmarking is probably the one of the most useful methods for gathering and storing a huge range of information.  Of course the key is the ease of retrieving that content when needed.  More importantly in a classroom, you know your bookmarks have been vetted – a starting point for research and deep questions.  I’ve been playing with multiple platforms to bookmark content.  My criteria?

  • freely accessible anytime, anywhere  (online);
  • organized so I’m not digging around a treasure box each time (unlike my desk);
  • easily understood by my target audience (eg. students, teachers…).

Symbaloo – Education sits on a visual platform.  The visual nature of the ‘webmixes’ lends itself to an inclusive environment for all students.  It presents a grid of tiles that the student or teacher clicks to launch the weblinks.  It can also support RSS feeds (including class blogs – taking the tool into a whole new realm).  Organization is through colour coded widget tiles, as well as using physical location on the board.  Each ‘webmix’ theme is further grouped by tabs (like tabs that separate subjects in a binder).  Webmixes can be shared online or email and made public/private.   If you haven’t seen it, watch this video.

Here is one of my public symbaloo webmixes on tools I think are great (

I have another one called  Brain Stretches  – focuses on educational activities for the classroom.  Everything from arts – draw, paint, music creation, movies, science, word art, socials, math, puzzles, story creation.  (The bottom row contains tools for interactive projectors.)

Even though Symbaloo takes a bit of time to set up, I think there’s great value in a visual display to support learners.   Imagine a webmix on“animals”, “Ancient Egypt”, “math games”, “writing tools” (no more writing out the web addresses for students!).  Attach the webmix link to your blog and you have  a one-click-stop for your students to launch their investigations.  Challenge students to come up with websites or articles that they feel is powerful learning to add to the webmix.   I can see great conversations on the evaluation of web materials.   If you plan on using this tool, I would suggest signing up for an Education Symbaloo account.

What kind of collection system do you use to store your bookmarks? How do you share your weblinks with your students? Would love to hear your thoughts.


3 thoughts on “Access to Information – Visual Bookmarking

  1. I’m working (as an ethnographer) on a project about ICT for people with mental disabilities. Though some participants do read and write, literacy is clearly one of the core issues with which we have to deal. The project will be using special tools to enable visual communication but one of the key concepts is too use mainstream, “off the shelf” tools, as much as is possible.

    A teacher working on the project came up with a neat idea: using Google’s image recognition to find YouTube videos which may interest a given participant. Each participant could have a USB key with a stack of pictures for use in video search. Very ingenious, but maybe not that flexible, as it relies on Google’s algorithms to display relevant links.

    My own idea was to create a webpage with a set of picture links. Easy enough to do, and it can easily be used on a USB key. Not to mention that it works on any browser since NCSA Mosaic 0.5 (in 1993).

    But it got me thinking about visual bookmarking. Symbaloo (which had been on my radar for a while), does seem to make it relatively simple to create a set of visual bookmarks. With a bit of training, it’s conceivable that someone with very low literacy could be able to create her or his “webmixes” for later use. And the fact that it’s meant for educational purposes may make it easier to integrate with some pedagogical approaches.
    Yet, while the browser extension can work with a portable app, the content isn’t really portable. Getting non-writing participants to log into the Symbaloo service may be a significant challenge. Plus, Symbaloo doesn’t always generate appropriate icons, and it’d be quite difficult to manage webmixes with generic icons.

    There are other solutions, out there. Including some browser-specific ones which may or may not require an account. There’s even one which generates thumbnails from the actual page (as a screenshot), but it doesn’t seem to work well with YouTube (the primary context for use in this project).

    The ideal tool would be one which works this way:
    Collect pages via a simple bookmarklet.
    Generate thumbnails for each of these pages with, say, a logo overlayed on a screenshot.
    Create a webpage with all these thumbnails as links.
    Allow the user to rearrange these thumbnails.
    Export that page as an HTML version with an image folder.

    I’m not a coder but, it seems to me, this should be easy to create. And while its usefulness might sound limited, it’s likely that such a system could be used in unforeseen ways.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Its a great idea. What I do like about Symbaloo is the simplicity of the visual nature especially since I work with K-12. It also allows you to create your own image icons so many times I don’t use the generated icons as I like to use something more catchy. But I do like your idea about a webpage. It’s something for me to ruminate on – thanks.

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