Monday, February 3, 2014

Building Knowledge with Symbaloo

Anyone who follows this blog and/or Little Hands Extended knows that we do a lot of project-based learning in kindergarten. For the past few weeks, we've been involved in yet another exciting collaborative project with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 class--the Olympics! Since my kindergarten students were babies the last time the Winter Games were held, they knew absolutely nothing about this huge event. Although knowledge building is an important part of any learning experience in our classroom, it was even more vital for this project!

Since I became involved with Microsoft's Innovative Teacher program (now Expert Educator program) in 2008, I have used their rubrics to plan and assess instruction and learning. Their latest rubrics, 21st Century Learning Design, include collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, use of ICT for learning, self-regulation, and real-world problem solving and innovation. Although this learning experience targeted descriptors from all rubrics, I chose to really focus on knowledge construction.

One of the areas that my students were really struggling with were the variety of Olympic events. They had some knowledge of hockey and figure skating, but the rest of the events were a complete mystery to them. It was important to me that they guide their own learning of the Olympic events, rather than me just tell them what each event was. So here's what we did....

I used a tool called Symbaloo to create an Olympics 2014 webmix. Symbaloo is a kid-friendly bookmarking tool that helps me make internet content safely and readily available to my kindergarten students. My Olympic webmix contains one video for each event as well as video clips of famous Canadians at the 2010 Olympics. I have published this webmix so feel free to use it with your class too.
I love how I'm able to customize each tile with my own text and images. The ability to add an image makes it very user-friendly for our youngest learners! My next step was to install the SymbalooEDU app on my classroom tablets. Once the app was installed, I logged in with my account and there was my Olympics webmix for all my students to use!

When it was time for the research portion of our learning experience, each student chose one event to study. I modelled using the Symbaloo webmix on our interactive whiteboard, and the students navigated the Olympics webmix on their tablets with no difficulty at all. Each student watched their video, then recorded their understandings on this recording form. Students drew a picture of what happened in the event, then printed words below describing the event. I was super excited to observe how independently they completed their research!

Once our research was complete, we skyped the Hamiota Grade 1s to share what we had learned from researching Olympic sports. Each student was responsible for describing the sport they had researched and answering any questions their peers raised, which added to the learning of the entire group and made their work more interdependent.

Tomorrow each student will select a new sport to research and complete another research recording form. Now that we are more comfortable with using Symbaloo and the research recording form and sharing what we've learned, I want to add another layer to the task that requires them to apply their knowledge in greater depth. 

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