I am so grateful as a public school teacher of technology for all the wonderful resources available on the internet that inspire and motivate my students to learn.  Edmodo is a social networking site that allows my students to practice good digital citizenship while “chatting” with one another while allowing me to publish assignments and instructions in a safe, efficient way. Voki is a program my students use to create talking avatars to extend and cement their learning. Animoto is a wonderfully creative slideshow tool that allows my students to be exposed to mashing together graphics, music, and text. BrainPop is a great source for over 700 quality videos on a wide range of subjects that include activities and quizzes for students age 8 to 14. Facts4Me is a website created by a retired teacher who was frustrated with the lack of resources available to her elementary students for research purposes. Facts4Me contains ninety categories with more than one thousand reports, and more are added continually.

Public school teachers in the United States spent $1.6 billion from their own pockets in educational products in the 2012-13 school year, according to a National School Supply and Equipment Association study. Read more: http://www.dailynewstranscript.com/news/x511626034/Teachers-spend-out-of-pocket-money-to-perk-up-classrooms#ixzz2gKg4SMpJ

That is just what teachers do because school budgets often times do not have the funds to cover everything a teacher might wish to provide her students. From professional development to classroom resources to subscription based websites, teachers all over the world reach in to their own pockets to give their students the best advantage possible and make their job easier to manage. I am very grateful for websites like Animoto, that provide free educational upgrades, but I also understand that the creators of the awesome websites my students and I find very useful have the right to be paid for their hard work and ingenuity.  There are two web services I opted to pay for this year out of my own pocket.

One is Professor Garfield.  I teach a unit on Digital Citizenship to my third through fifth graders using a variety of resources.  One of the resources I depend on is the Professor Garfield videos and activities from Infinite Learning Lab.  I discovered over the summer that their resources now require a subscription.  Their classroom subscription for up to sixty users is $39.00 a year.  I have a computer lab equipped with twenty-eight macbooks, so that is the subscription I purchased.

Symbaloo is another service where I have opted for the premium account, and I am loving it!  Symbaloo has made my job in the computer lab so much more manageable and time efficient.  I thought I had hit pay dirt when I discovered I could set browser preferences to open to the web pages I chose.  I would go to the computer lab over the weekend, turn on all the computers, sit down at each one and open the sites I wanted students to visit that week, set the preference, and then close the browser.  Then I discovered Symbaloo!  From the comfort and convenience of my home, I can create webmixes that contain all the websites I want my students to have access to.  I have the computers in the lab to automatically open the browser when I turn them on, and the browser automatically is set to my Symbaloo site.  The only problem was I had the computers logged in to my Symbaloo, and sometimes the student would log out.  I would have to log them back in.  I also had a problem with students, either accidentally or purposefully, deleting tiles from my webmixes.  I even had a student create a tile on one of my webmixes that went to a very inappropriate site!  Thankfully, our filters blocked the content!

Enter Symbaloo Premium.  For $34.99 a year or $49.99 for two years, a premium user gets a custom URL and up to 50 users on the account.  My premuim account works from a dashboard, which allows me to create as many webmixes as I like, customize a white or black list of websites, turn on and off the visibility of each webmix as I see fit, and gives me the control to determine what a user can do within each webmix.  I have created eighteen webmixes under my account, of which six are currently visible to students.  I can control them all from a single computer anywhere.

Click on the image below to go to my Symbaloo.

I opted to pay for these two subscriptions personally because my district is already doing so much for me and my students.  I am so fortunate to work in a district that always strives to provide what is best for students. My district has already provided my students access to Brain Pop, Facts4Me and Smilebox.

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