“Organization is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” ~ A.A. Milne
Organizing information is one of the things librarians do best. And where is it more needed than when designing a webpage? When I first began creating our school’s webpage, my attention was drawn to how I wanted it to look. Visions of colors and fonts and graphics danced in my head. I soon found that while those design elements are important, first I needed to think about making the website easy to navigate, informative and useful. The following organizational tools are easy and free and will give your website the structure it needs to be a successful educational resource.
As my webpage is the launching pad for most of the projects that my students are working on in the library, it is critical that students are able to easily locate the necessary resources. Instead of an endless series of links, the graphical interface of Symbaloo organizes information and makes it easy for students to click and be taken to the source they need. With Symbaloo students do not need to type in web addresses. You can create color-coded blocks and add graphics to organize the information for easy access. As my students would say – “it is easy peasy, lemon squeezy.”
There is a free version of Symbaloo. You can sign up for your account at http://www.symbalooedu.com/
Another way to visually organize information in an interesting way is by using Thinglink. You simply select a central topic then choose an image that represents this subject. For example, I used a bookshelf for my Thinglink on “How to Find a Just Right Book.” Next you add links – the links can be to webpages, videos, images or an interactive page like your library catalog. Once you’ve completed the Thinglink, you can embed it on your webpage. Users then click on the links to go to the different resources on the topic.
There is a free version of Thinglink. You can sign up for your account at https://www.thinglink.com/edu
Organizing to Keep Students Safe Online
Filters can never be 100% effective so I am always concerned about how to keep students safe when they are online. I use the following two tools to increase control over student access.
Safe Search Kids is a custom search engine created by Google. It uses their SafeSearch features but takes it a step further by including additional strict filtering to search more safely.
Although video is a powerful tool to use with students, too often the YouTube videos I want to use start and finish with an ad or links that are seldom what I want students to focus on. SafeShare TV is amazingly easy to use. It strips out these ads and links and leaves only the content you wish to share. Simply go to SafeShare.TV. Paste the link to the YouTube video you want to use and magically you receive a SafeSearch link.
The link to this tool is at http://safeshare.tv/
We tell students all the time to “show, don’t tell.” Here are some ways to show student work not just describe it. Not only is it motivating for students to see their projects online, it is a wonderful opportunity to showcase their great work to their parents, the community and the world!
Create videos of student work and share them using Flowplayer. This video player allows you to embed student videos on your website. The free version is available at https://flowplayer.org/pricing/ – click the button “Sign up for FREE account.”
Another way to show off original student work is by creating a flipbook. It is super simple to do but looks really impressive. First, save your student’s work as a pdf file then upload the file to Youblisher. In a very short time, you will receive a link to the book that you can post or incorporate into your Symbaloo page.
Go to http://www.youblisher.com/register for a free account.
Now that you’ve loaded projects, added links and created videos, how do you know if anyone is using your site? One way to tell is to embed a hit counter. There are many different hit counters you can use. I incorporated the free hit counter from http://www.hit-counts.com/ on my page. So far, we’ve recorded over 150,000 views of the page. A lot of hits for a small town! Using this counter is easy, simply sign up (your email address and URL are required), choose a style and click generate code. You will quickly and easily receive a counter code to use on your site.
Just the beginning
“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” – Bill Gates
Today having a web page is essential. Our site is often the first stop students make when they want to view content. We need to ensure that users don’t get lost as they navigate to and through our sites. Symbaloo, ThingLink, SafeShare TV, Flowplayer and Youblisher are powerful ways to structure web site content. Are there any changes you can make so that users can easily find the information they need?
Geri O’Reilly is the Library Media Specialist at the Dennett Elementary School in Plympton