4/15/2011

Academic Flavored Social Networking. . . Edmodo, It's What's For Class!

With facebook becoming a daily routine for many of us it should no longer be a decision for educators whether or not we will choose to include social networking in our classroom but how.  The statistics are staggering.


The citizens of facebook outnumber the citizens of the U.S.  How can we as educators possibly ignore this tech/social trend?  The answer is we can't.  It is our responsibility as educators to not only include it in our classrooms but also to teach responsible use of it.  However, the safety implications of taking our students out into the World Wide Web and exposing them to such public environments are insurmountable. . . that is, until now.  

Edmodo has arrived on the scene and is a safe social network created solely for educators and students.  If you want to incorporate social networking and important 21st century skills into your classroom then Edmodo is the FREE comprehensive web tool for you!  Post announcements, send out alerts, poll your students, assign tasks, monitor progress, provide feedback, insert blog feeds, communicate with parents, and store and share digital documents all in one convenient place!  It’s even a rich resource for your own professional networking and, yes, there is an app for that!   

The good news is that it is safe and designed specifically for educators.  Edmodo is a social network site but it is also so much more than that.  It is slightly complex and not for the faint of heart when it comes to tech.  Think of the first time you used facebook or twitter.  I imagine your first impression was that it was complex and overwhelming but then, after regular use, it became as necessary and as second nature as the use of your own arm.  Your use of Edmodo will likely be the same.  It's layout resembles facebook which is a sigh of relief for users looking for a friendly interface but, because it is designed for education, there are several differences.

Teachers create a FREE account and create groups for their students to join using a group code.  There does not appear to be a limit to groups or student accounts.  Each member, teacher and student alike, has a personal library from which they can choose to share items with other users.  This opens the door for digital portfolios, digital classroom libraries, bookmarked web resources, and more.
All posts are private unless the moderator of the group chooses to make them public.  There are four post options including notes, alerts, polls, or assignments.  These four post options seem simple but make a variety of uses possible.  For example, the poll post option could be used to hook your students' interest at the beginning of a lesson, as a mid-lesson informal assessment tool, or as a simple interest survey.  A note post might be a discussion starter, simple reminder, or posting of a link, video, or item from the library.  An alert could remind students of a due date, an impending test, or of an excellent resource.  Assignment posts are my personal favorite and are just what you think, assignments.  However, these are not simple notifications of an assignment, but a complete good riddance to paper in the grading process.  You can assign, receive completed assignments, view assignments, grade, provide feedback, and more without handling a single physical piece of paper!  Check out the video below for an overview of Edmodo.

 

There is also a calendar feature to help organize you and your students.  Your students will foreseeably be joining more than one class on Edmodo so the calendar feature will enable them to see due dates from all their classes on one calendar as well as add their own events.    

For bloggers out there it's good to know that it's relatively simple to subscribe to your blog posts through Edmodo so that your new posts automatically post on your Edmodo feed.  Glogster is also easy to post in Edmodo among a variety of other educator friendly tools.

Beyond the obvious classroom uses, Edmodo is also an excellent source of professional networking and development.  There are a number of professional Edmodo communities teachers can join including ISTE, Discovery Ed, Glogster, as well as content area communities all of which share libraries and ideas.  The variety of communities is growing daily so if they don't have what you are looking for today, check back next week.   

Don't put Edmodo into a box of purely informative use.  Creativity is possible with Edmodo!  For example, in 6th grade ELA we cover mythology.  I decided to help my students to better understand the Greek gods, goddesses, heroes, and mythological creatures we would create a social network called greekbook.  Each student was assigned a different character and had to conduct research and create a facebook profile for that character.  We used a Microsoft Word template to recreate the facebook profile page.  Then we created postings and facebook convos using http://fakeconvos.com/.  Now that I have discovered Edmodo, next year we will definitely use Edmodo instead.  I intend to have them pretend to be their character for a week and require them to post status and respond to others' posts at least once a day.  I created a sample of what it would look like using the fake convos my students created this past school year.  Check greekbook out for inspiration.  Imagine doing the same for historical figures or ordinary citizens during a historical event or scientific discovery.

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