At the beginning of this year, I was asked by the peeps at edmodo if I would agree to be interviewed by the Huffington Post for an article about edmodo. Um, hello – the Huffington Post? I always see their stuff being retweeted by my Twitter mates (and yes, I even occasionally read the articles which is a big deal for someone like me who skims everything!) – let’s just say I was a little bit stoked at the chance to be quoted in one of their stories! I also was stoked because I really love edmodo and it’s always super cool that they think of little old me down here in Australia – they really are a shining light of loyalty in the ever-increasing corporatisation of education. I really mean that. As you know, I’ve been using edmodo since 2009 and they have always made me feel valued as an educator and a contributor to their growing network of teachers and students.
As is the way with people like me who live in the Southern Hemisphere, being interviewed proved difficult time-wise. To overcome this (and avoid me being up at 3am), the journalist (the very cool C.M. Rubin – woot!) sent me a bunch of questions to answer via email. Of course, I just rambled on and wrote waaaaaay to much and necessarily about three of the things I said were included in the final article. I thought someone out there might be interested in my original responses to the questions … maybe, haha. They were actually really great questions! So, anyway, here they are:
How have you used Edmodo in or out of your classroom to enhance learning?
I’ve been using Edmodo with my students since May, 2009. I discovered it during a video conference on web 2.0 tools for education. It was a chance discovery because at the time my school was looking for an alternative to email and USBs as a means for students to share their work with teachers. I quickly discovered that edmodo is so much more than that!
Can you share any examples of things you have done in your classroom recently or even plan to do in the near future which illustrate the important added value/unique benefits of Edmodo versus other learning platforms/tools?
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences with Edmodo that it is almost impossible to choose between them! I think the there are three experiences that my students and I fondly remember. In March, 2012, I used edmodo to facilitate an online role-playing game with my students which became fondly known as #HG2212. Essentially, I created a Hunger Games narrative where students played the roles of the tributes or citizens of The Capitol. I used Edmodo’s unique features to organise the game – students changed their usernames and avatars to reflect their characters, all students joined a group called ‘Northern Ridges’ (our version on Panem) whilst some students were put in an ‘Arena’ sub-group and others in ‘The Capitol’. Over the course of two weeks, students used blogs, videos and Web 2.0 tools such as Voki (all embedded into the Edmodo group by students) to tell the narrative of their characters as tributes in The Arena. The Capitol residents determined which tributes lived or died and how this occurred. It was truly an amazing experience with students so engaged that they were on Edmodo at all hours of the night – they even downloaded the Edmodo app to their phones so they wouldn’t miss any action. Essentially this was a creative thinking and creative writing activity, but Edmodo allowed it to be immersive, interactive, engaging and fun! You can read more about it here and see student work as well: https://biancahewes.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/hunger-games-2212-my-rejected-iste-presentation/
Another amazing learning experiences was using Edmodo to connect my Year 10 class with a Year 10 class in San Francisco. My class was studying The Catcher in the Rye and I put a post on a couple of the Edmodo communities asking if any teacher had a class he/she who might want to help my students better understand life in America for teens. Within half a day I had lots of people offering to connect and ultimately chose one class – I would have loved to connect with them all and I plan to do so eventually! Our students joined an Edmodo group to chat about their lives and what they find difficult or inspiring. They also made videos and posted them to Edmodo, answering questions the other students had posed. It was such an eye-opening experience for my students! They learnt so much about American culture – especially the danger of stereotypes presented on television and in movies. My 15 years olds really believed that all American teenagers looked like the teenagers in Gossip Girl and were very surprised to find that this is not the case! Edmodo was the best place for this type of connection to occur as it is a teacher-monitored space where young people can develop those much needed collaboration and communication skills with a guide right beside them.
Finally, I’ve used Edmodo to get writing mentors for my students. My class were working on individual research and composition projects and I knew it would be impossible for me to give quality, personal feedback on all of their work. I decided to reach out to my Edmodo professional learning network and asked if anyone would be interested in mentoring a 15 year old. I had so many offers it! Eventually my 30 students had mentors from all over the world, including many states of America, South America and England. All of the mentors were registered teachers with Edmodo, which means that they were safe to work with children – something all teachers need to be aware of when considering these types of activities. Edmodo supported the mentor process perfectly as I could invite the teachers to join our class Edmodo group and then create sub-groups for each mentor and student. All interactions in these groups and sub-groups are visible to me, the teacher. This allowed me to assess the progress of each student and learn a little as well!
The internet is our children’s medium and many believe it is an unparalleled learning tool. How does Edmodo handle the challenge of educating kids to be good digital citizens – can you share examples of what instruction (unique to Edmodo?) you believe Edmodo provides kids to better equip them for the social medial world they now live in?
I always so that Edmodo is the social network with training wheels. It’s a safe platform where young people can learn how to communicate and interact with other young people – and adults – whilst at the same time being guided and supported by an adult they trust, their teacher. By introducing Edmodo to students at a younger age, teachers are helping to develop the habits of mind that are essential for students to be good digital citizens. Students learn the important of a quality avatar that is non-offensive and presents them as a thoughtful and sensible person. They also learn the necessity to use appropriate language, to speak kindly and with compassion, to be supportive rather than critical and to ask thoughtful questions. One of the best lessons that students learn in Edmodo is the impact that a lack of tone can have on written text – they quickly learn how important it is to be clear in what they write! They even just learn the basics of managing a username and password!
Of course, I believe that Edmodo has some unique features that allows students to develop all of these skills. Edmodo has a massive user-base (over 10 million users, I believe) and this means that teacher like me can easily connect their classes with classes from all over the world, simply be requesting a connection in an Edmodo community. Providing students with a safe and facilitated opportunity to connect with students they do not know means that they can put their digital citizenship skills into action whilst being supported by their teacher. Last year I ran a project where my Year 9 students used Edmodo to connect with Year 2 students from a local primary school. The students collaborated on a story-writing project and in doing so developed their ability to ask questions effectively, communicate their ideas clearly and give quality, non-judgmental feedback to young people they previously did not know. Teachers can see all activity in an Edmodo group and this gives them the ability to quickly post a comment and praise great digital citizenship, or to quickly address any potentially inappropriate behaviours.
Why is it about Edmodo that engages students most?
This is a question that I’m always asking my students and myself. I think that initially students are attracted to it because it looked like Facebook! Younger students are really excited about the idea that they can quickly connect with their peers online – something they may not have as much opportunity to do if they are younger than 13. Ultimately, though, my students have told me that what they like the most is the range of learning experiences that it provides them with. They love connecting with other students and teachers, they love using it to role-play and of course it gives them security knowing that their teacher as well as class resources, are accessible online 24/7. My students made a video about their thoughts on Edmodo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgl6kxq2tMQ
If there was one thing you could change about the Edmodo platform what would that be?
That’s a really tough question! It has so many great features that we teacher have already helped them introduce – they really are quite responsive to teacher suggestions and feedback. I think the thing that I’ve asked for the most is an embedded points system so I can gamify my classroom when I choose to. Basically, it means that during role-playing projects my students can be awarded a certain number of points for posts and comments. I think that feature would be awesome. But really, to be honest, Edmodo is such a flexible platform that I can make that happen myself just by being a little creative with the badge system and the reactions feature. I’m really excited to see what they introduce next because it is always based on the idea of a teacher somewhere around the world!