Over the last couple of days I have found myself introducing edmodo to a range of people – from both overseas and within Australia.
As I was running through the features of edmodo yesterday, I realised that it might seem a little overwhelming to the uninitiated – there is so much to see and I am always so keen to show it all. So, to counter my chaotic mind and my accidentally unhelpful zeal for edmodo, I have decided to write down the features of edmodo that I use every day and why I use them. After a two minute pen and paper brainstorm I decided that I use edmodo for six specific purposes: resource sharing, collaboration, lessons, communication, assessments and organisation. I will outline these in more detail below, indicating what specific features of edmodo I use for each purpose and why.
This is the obvious reason why schools invest time and money in an LMS. It is the main reason why I started looking for something like edmodo – Year 9 was going 1-1 and teachers wanted an easy way to share worksheets etc with students that wasn’t via email. This purpose is fulfilled with gusto by edmodo. In fact, one of the things I love most about edmodo is that it can be used in a really basic way – just straight up for resource sharing – or it can be used as a complete and complex 21st century learning space.
Note feature: In edmodo teachers (and students) can attach and share a variety of file types (word doc, PDF, MP3, MP4, .wmv, .mov, PPT, excel, .gif, .jpeg etc) and links to websites as well as embedding flash objects like prezi, games, google forms, YouTube videos etc. You can attach multiple files and links to each note or assignment.
Of course, managing all of these resources can become a little chaotic in a platform that mimics the ‘stream’ style of a social network. Not to worry though, edmodo has provided us with a variety of ways to help teachers (and students) manage the resources being shared. The first is the use of ‘tags’. You can read about how to use tags here. The second is the Library feature. All files, embeds and links that have been shared on edmodo by you or members of your groups are automatically added to your own personal Library. This too can be a bit chaotic – so you can create folders within your library to organise the important resources. Folders can be shared with your class – which is really cool if you want to have a neat selection of resources for your students to repeatedly access. Read about shared folders here. Finally, I have blogged for edmodo about how I would use this feature to create a ‘course’ in edmodo ala moodle, read it here.
Because edmodo is designed to be a social network for education, collaboration (and communication, see below) is facilitated – nay, encouraged – by this tool. Each day I use edmodo to collaborate with educators from my school, within Australia and around the world. How do I do this?
1. Edmodo groups: Within my school I have an edmodo group for my faculty and one for all teaching staff so we can share links, ideas, resources about technology in education. I am also a member of a number of what I call ‘underground edmodo groups’ that allow me to collaborate with teachers in Australia and internationally. You can read about them here.
2. Communities: edmodo has official communities based on KLA as well as published communities for commerical edu peeps and more special interest groups. You can read posts about them here. If you join one or more of these communities, I guarantee you will not regret it. Why would you? A network of wonderful educators sharing resources, experiences, ideas, success and failures. So cool.
My students use edmodo to collaborate with the peers in their class as well as with students in other schools – both in Australia and internationally. Here is how:
1. Edmodo groups – the class group allows students to work together as a team to master the skills and content specific to their subject. They can also be members of groups for a whole year group (e.g. Year 10) for planning larger projects, or for special interest activities like SRC, Baseball etc. Finally, they can be in groups that include students from their own school, and students from one or two other schools with whom they are collaborating on a project or topic.
2. Small group feature: within one class you can create smaller groups. The discussions in these groups can only be viewed by the teacher and the members. This is great for literature circles, differentiation and group-work like PBL. You can read about them here.
As I mentioned earlier, some teachers may just want to use edmodo to share resources and learning objects with the class. These can be accessed during the class to save paper, prevent students searching for inappropriate resources etc. As also mentioned, teachers may want to use edmodo to create a ‘course’ that limits student discussion – even putting all students on ‘read only’.
One of my favourite activities in class with edmodo is the backchannel. I use this when reading novels aloud, during teacher ‘lectures’, during Socratic Circles and whilst watching a film.
Other features that could be incorporated into a class lesson are: polls, quizzes, videos and embedded learning objects like games. I now use edmodo as my presentation tool, embedding all slideshows (Prezis, PPT or Slideshare) and all videos and links that I want to show during my lesson/presentation.
Teachers might enjoy the ‘quiet discussion’ activity that Darcy Moore told me about. You put up a discussion question (or a few) and your students discuss this topic via edmodo – there is NO verbal discussion, it is all written. This is obviously a nice way to keep your kids quiet but really it gives a voice to all students and provides a great hook for discussing register and tone through typed text and even the importance of spelling and punctuation!
I think I have probably covered most of the features that enable communication on edmodo. You should probably just re-read the ‘collaboration’ paragraphs above, lol – I won’t bore you with a repeat! However, there are a few other features that enable communication for more specific purposes that are worth knowing about.
School domain: Edmodo gives you the option to have a personalised edmodo domain for your school (and district too if you like) which is completely free. You can register for one and read about them here. The benefits of a school domain in terms of communication is that an administrator has the ability to send notes/links/polls/alerts etc to the whole school, to all teachers at the school or to all parents of the school. It also allows the administrator to add events/reminders into the whole-school calendar that can be viewed by teachers and students. Oh, and you get some sweet user statistics and the ability to view student data to assist with forgotten passwords etc.
Parent accounts and codes: Edmodo is all about education being about community and because of this, they have ensured that parents can be a part of the education community as well. How? By creating parent accounts that allow parents access to their child’s grades and assignments and teacher-directed communication. This is a great post to read to help you get started using parent accounts, including sample emails to send to parent.
I am an advocate for a combination of formative and summative assessment, with the scales tipping in favour of the former. Edmodo facilitates both of these forms of assessment to satisfy the tastes of both the hipster and traditional teacher.
Assignments: Teachers can set assignments in edmodo and easily attach a file, link, video, image etc to the task description. The due date for assignment is automatically added to the students’ calendars which is super handy for those less organised kids – plus if they have an edmodo group for each subject they will easily be able to see if more than one task is due on one day. The teacher sees the number of assignments submitted in their notifications panel and once the assignment is graded, the grades are automatically added to the class gradebook. These grades can then be exported to an Excel spreadsheet if desired. I have successfully used the assignment feature for class tasks, homework tasks and for major assessment tasks. Currently my Extension English class is entirely paperless thanks to edmodo!
Quizzes: This is a feature that has been in high demand by the edmodo-geek community and luckily for us, edmodo always caters to the needs/requests of us teachers. Edmodo only introduced quizzes a couple of months ago, and from the beginning they were a big hit. There are a variety of quiz types (multiple choice, true/false, short answer and fill in the blank) and these can be as long or short as you like. All quizzes, except for the short answer kind, mark themselves – yay! The students’ scores can be added to the gradebook or not, it’s up to the teacher. I love quizzes for pre and post test of student knowledge – they can also be used for getting some quick formative data at the end of a lesson which will then inform the teacher of content/skills mastered that lesson and what may need to be revised in the following lesson.
Annotation feature: Just this week edmodo has released the annotate feature for assignments turned in on a word doc or PDF. This feature allows the teacher to annotate the students’ work online and then save it as a PDF to be returned to the students. It’s a nice feature that might seem redundant to teachers already confidently using track changes and comments in Word, but could be helpful for teachers not using Microsoft at school or for those using mobile devices like iPads.
Notes to a group or direct to the teacher: I love getting my students to set goals and reflect on their learning, but it can be hard getting around to all students to see what they have written. I have my students do this simply by sending a note to the class group or directly to me that tells me their learning goals for the lesson and then at the end of the lesson they click ‘reply’ and write a brief reflection on what skills and/or content they mastered and what needs revision.
Badges: All of this talk about assessments is so boring! I hate grades and numbers and rankings … but what I don’t hate is an achievement badge! I know there is criticism of gamification and the use of external rewards with students, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the feeling of adding a badge to a student’s profile when he/she has determined (or I have determined) that he/she has mastered some content, skill or habit of mind. Edmodo introduced badges earlier this year and us edmodo-geeks have been all a fluster about them. You might want to award badges for a great piece of writing, for contributing to class discussion, for confident public speaking or for demonstrating great digital literacy. Because the badges are designed by the teacher (or you can share the badges of other teachers) there is really no limit to what you can give a badge for. Read more about badges here.
You probably feel as though you’d never get to the end of the features of edmodo, but you’ve done well soldier – you’re almost there! As I look down at the word count for this blog post I am shocked to see the number 1875 – oh dear, that’s a long post. I’m guessing that by now I’ve probably covered most of the features that I use, so I’ll rush through this section – after all, I’m an habitually disorganised individual so it makes sense that I won’t have much to say under this heading, lol.
Calendar: This is personalised to the teacher and student. You can add personal memos for days, like birthdays and anniversaries, meetings and deadlines. Teachers can also add to the calendar of students in their classes – this is done automatically whenever an alert or assignment is sent to a class group. Pretty neat, huh?
Archive/delete: Once a class has finished, teachers can elect to ‘archive’ or ‘delete’ a group. Archiving means that the group becomes invisible to the teacher’s ‘thread’ but can be revived later if necessary. Deleting a group means the group is gone for good.
Others: I have already covered other great features that will help keep teachers and students organised: tags, folders, library (for students this is called the ‘back-pack’) and notifications.
So that’s it, really … haha. That’s why I love edmodo and use it everyday in my classroom and at home. I highly recommend that you check our edmodo’s Help Centre as it’s got amazing tutorials for most features. I know I’ve probably left stuff out … so tell me, what have you found to be the BEST features of edmodo for you and your students?