Took my seniors to the computer lab today to get them on Edmodo, and it seemed like a hit. “Is that Facebook?” I heard from a kid in the back who couldn’t quite see the projector clearly.
And that resemblance to Facebook really does go a long way, at this point, in terms of immediate engagement. For an initial “practice” task, I wrote a note (like a Facebook status) and asked students to reply with what they had for dinner. They all did, and some even had funny, lighthearted conversations with each other throughout the thread.
I then posted another note asking students to post their own note consisting of a good line from their draft of a personal narrative essay, one they might be proud of. I added that everyone must then reply to two or more of their classmates with a comment articulating what they liked about their sentence. I told them we’d get to constructive criticism later, but that they should keep it all positive for now.
Most students rushed right toward their profile page before attacking any of this. Some were able to get pictures of themselves off of their email which they then made their profile pictures. Others found pictures from the internet. One was not even close to appropriate, so I had to have that conversation right away.
In fact, I made what I thought was an adequate speech on how we’ll use it earlier. I tried to be transparent about why I like Edmodo (it looks like Facebook – I hope that means you’ll use it and communicate authentically with each other…I wonder if that was too much “behind the curtain”). But I stressed that it’s not Facebook, it’s actually an extension of our class, so hopefully they’ll realize how they’re supposed to behave.
Once they got to posting those sentences from their narratives and commenting on each other, it was kind of magical. There were periods of quiet, as they looked for their perfect sentence and then read through the others. There were periods of loud, energetic interaction as students saw something funny in someone’s comment and told their friends to look.
I heard one girl say, “Aw, this makes me feel so stupid.” Why? “Because everyone else’s is so good, and mine is gonna like stupid.” I was transparent with her, too. I said, “That’s kind of the point – I want that to motivate you to make sure you do really good work.” Again, too much? Not sure.
One thing I love about online communication in a classroom like this is that you get students who would never speak to each other in the classroom comment on each other’s work online. A quiet boy’s sentence about his grandfather’s influence on him elicited this response from a girl who seems to be in a very different social circle: “that’s wahts up. this is ku.”
As we were leaving the computer lab, I heard one student say, “This is better than Facebook!” That was a little more than I expected. We’ll see if it lasts.
In fact, I got a brand new student today (2 weeks in), who had just moved from Florida. When we went down to the lab with her class, she saw what we were doing and said, with evident displeasure, “Oh, you guys use Edmodo?” We’re starting to, yes, did you use it at your old school? You didn’t like it? Why not?
“I don’t know.” I’m sorry? “That’s ok, I mean, it’s easy to do work from home on it.”
So that’s what will happen, I guess. Right now it’s shiny and new, and I haven’t assigned much work on it yet. We were out of the classroom and we were playing with a new toy. But once I make a habit of assigning schoolwork on it, it will become an extension of school. That is my goal, but, by definition, that will cause students to resent it? I’m not sure how to get around that – how to sustain the degree of fun and authentic communication that we had today once this becomes an integral part of our coursework.