Posts Tagged edmodo

5 ways I’m using Edmodo now

I started this school year excited about using Edmodo, but I all but abandoned it around the end of the first quarter. I was getting less than 50% completion on any online homework assignment, and I always had a few students in each class who said they did not have computers or reliable internet access at home. Much like Jennie Magiera writes about in this great article on EdWeek Teacher, though for different reasons, I decided to stop, reflect, and reassess what I was doing.

So as second semester started, I realized something simple: I was getting less than 50% homework on pen & paper assignments, too. Also, all students have at least one 99-minute study period during which they can go to the computer lab if they need to. I realized that I really wanted to bring the online component back into my instruction, and that merely 10 minutes of homework could accomplish this. My novel units were feeling so much duller than I remember them feeling. Part of this is because of how much actual reading I feel like we have to do in class. Remember that homework problem I mentioned? I don’t know if it’s school culture or what, but assigning reading for homework definitely goes nowhere. Still, there were things I was doing on Moodle back in my 1:1 days that added some richness and continuity to a novel unit.

So I’m having another go at it. I think the online component of the course will only work the way I want it to work if students get in the habit of checking it regularly, and for that to happen I have to be consistent with it. Here are some ways I’ve been using it this week.

1. Exit tickets to find best questions

I’m excited about this idea. I want my students to have some sort of threaded discussion online, but I’ve always had two major problems with it: bad discussions questions and late discussion questions (when students would rotate roles as discussion leader).

After reading a chapter in class together (but without having time to discuss it), I had all students write down their best discussion question on an index card as an exit ticket. I told them I’d pick the three best questions and post them on Edmodo. If I chose your question, your homework is already done and you earn full credit. Everyone else has to respond to one of them. I was able to scan the questions and post the three best ones in less than 10 minutes right after the bell rang.

2. Image searching homework

The opening scene of Of Mice and Men is filled with Steinbeck’s rich and vivid descriptions of the clearing by the Salinas river that proves so pivotal to the story’s ending. I want my students to really picture it (before we see the movie). In this assignment, I asked them to search for an image inspired by a specific phrase from the opening pages. Unfortunately, you can’t embed the actual image in an Edmodo post, but I was able to click on all of these during class and show them what their classmates had found – beautiful images of rivers that are “deep and green” and “sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs.”

3. Getting kids to be more themselves, while also looking closely at the text

That was my intention with this assignment for seniors reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Trust me that the students who wrote these first few comments do not speak this openly (or do not speak at all) in class.

4. Quick Polls

5. Checking in

My hope is that if I stay consistent in using it and keep varying the tasks like this, I’ll start getting more than 50% completion. Updates to come.

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ClassConnect looks neat

I just came across ClassConnect through this list (in Wired Academic) of 10 startups that won seed money from Imagine K12. Wired Academic describes it as “DropBox for education, on steroids.”

Check out the video:

It looks like another exciting and utterly practical tool to me. Audrey Waters (Hack Education) did a great job articulating what’s especially exciting about it in the context of the other Learning Management Systems (LMS) out there. She points to the founder’s motivation – engagement – as the thing that might set this apart.

“The emphasis is instead on a course’s content, rather than on its administration.” Read her whole post here.

She pretty much covers it, and I won’t repeat what she said. But I do think that the feature allowing teacher and student to look at the “Live Lecture” together in real time is very exciting for anyone teaching in a 1:1 school.

For my part, I feel like I have to stick with Edmodo this year. Edmodo does let me upload documents to a library and share them with my class very easily, ClassConnect doesn’t feel like something I need on top of that. But it does get me excited for all the options that are making their way out there for teachers. As I’ve said before, when students see the same thing all the time, it just begins to look like school to them, and they lose that engagement. More importantly, different teachers have different needs…and different tastes. If I didn’t like the way Edmodo looked and felt I wouldn’t want to keep it updated. I’m sure some teachers will love the Dropbox-y feel of ClassConnect.

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A comment on comments

I love giving my students feedback on their writing through Edmodo.

There’s nothing groundbreaking or surprising here, but the factors that make it seem more effective, while obvious, are still significant, I think.

Namely…

1. My handwriting is very messy, so kids give up trying to read it.

2. I type much faster than I write, so I end up typing more feedback.

3. The comments on Edmodo look like replies on Facebook, so kids don’t seem to mind reading them.

I saw this today in the computer lab. I had written comments on each student’s draft (this didn’t take me too long since a small percentage actually submitted drafts through Edmodo by the deadline). I told them to check the comments as soon as they got on their computer. I watched them do it – they really did! They logged on to Edmodo, clicked on the notification they had for new assignment comments, read them, then opened up their drafts and began revising.

Like I said, nothing groundbreaking, but it was still exciting for me to see. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much of the past six years laboring over written feedback to students that I’ve never seen them read. Really, almost never. It’s one of those insidious truths about being an English teacher that makes it feel like the most futile exercise in the world. Like how Lucy (Drew Barrymore) in 50 First Dates repaints her dad’s garage every day only to have him whitewash it each night.

I had a professor at Mills College who attached a half page of typed, single-spaced comments to written assignments when returning them, and I loved reading those. It felt like so much. It felt like a treat, almost. But that was in a graduate education program, where the students were pretty into school and academic things, to say the least. Average high school students are pretty into Facebook, so I wonder if getting comments on their writing in a Facebookish way feels anything like a “treat” to them. It seems so simple, but also meaningful.

And as a general update on yesterday’s post, in which I wondered whether my plan to use the computer lab would be fruitful today, I’d say it was great for my 1st period class and less successful at the end of the day. Again, no surprises. In the morning, the kids were shockingly focused, though. The typing was furious. I was bouncing from student to student, helping them develop their narratives and giving my advice on really specific questions about how to begin or what direction to go. I didn’t get to sit with all 30, of course, but I had good interactions with maybe 10.

In the afternoon, it took them a little longer to get going, and some students never found their focus. I was still able to give serious help to about 10 students.

If no other teachers ever used the computer lab, I could see myself bringing my students down there every other day for half an hour or so. Their work down there strikes me as so much more focused than it was with my students who each had laptops in the 1:1 environment at my previous school.

So, my solution to all education problems is becoming clear: schools should build an entire floor of computer labs underneath each floor of classrooms. There will be one desktop computer for each student. It’s a perfect plan. Wouldn’t it be nice?

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The difference with 9th graders.

Man. I was so excited to see how quickly my seniors ran with Edmodo yesterday, but my frosh brought me back down to earth. They are just so much younger. I should have taken the advice I saw on the Edmodo blog and given them all “read only” status to start. With the ability to post a note to the whole class, many students couldn’t resist merely typing the word “poooooooooooop” over and over again. Sigh.

It is amazing, though, to think of all that growth and maturity that happens in these three short years, for most kids. And that, then, hammers home the sometimes-crushing feeling of responsibility to make sure that said growth really does happen, and that our students grow in a positive direction.

Also, I have a lot of 9th graders who don’t have computers or internet at home, so I won’t be able to make online homework the only option. That’s okay, I think. I’m afraid, though, of those students feeling left out when we might look at work other students have done online (which is so much easier to look at as a class with the projector).

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Introducing Edmodo

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.

 

 

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Excited about Edmodo

I’ve never used Edmodo in the classroom before. At my previous school I used Moodle heavily, but lately it just looks too ugly for me to stomach. That does seem silly to me on some level, since I’m familiar with it, I’ve got a ton of materials already uploaded to it, and my current school is enthusiastically encouraging us to use it as well.

Why is it that when the administration really wants me to do something, I find myself yearning to do something else?

But I also think that the way the site looks plays a huge role in how effective it is. It’ll only be effective if the kids want to use it. And they’ll only want to use it if it’s not ugly. That’s the logic I’m working with. And the logic that Edmodo seems to be working with is: make this thing look like Facebook. I like that idea. And I like knowing that it’s a completely safe community, geared toward classroom use. I know plenty of teachers have facebook groups with separate teacher-identities, but that whole thing makes me nervous. And I don’t even work in Missouri.

I’m also really excited about the ability to create badges to award my students. I hope I follow through with that.

Apparently they’ve got 2.5 million users now. And I’m about to add 120 more.

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