Say Hello to My Little Friend

8th February 2011

Edmodo. It’s a funny word. Let’s just get it out of our systems. Edmodo. Edmodo. Edmodo. If you’re a teacher, it could become *your* little friend, too.

What is it?

I describe it (and so does the company) as a free, secure, educational Facebook. A lot of colleges and universities use an online platform called Blackboard. Some use Blackboard for entire online classes; some use it as an extension of the classroom to host hybrid classes. Either way, Blackboard is at the mercy of the tech department of each campus.

Unfortunately, ours seems to go through many updates, losing material and changing functionality. I teach face-to-face classes, so I utilize online platforms simply as a way to continue course discussions and communicate with students outside the classroom. Therefore, the hassles of Blackboard just don’t seem worth it.

I first learned of Edmodo on Twitter, and it just seemed like a great fit. I used it after mid-term in the fall semester, and it worked so well I decided to go live from day one of this semester.

How does it work?

The instructor creates a secure group and receives a code. The students go to www.edmodo.com, click “Sign in as a student” and use the code to access the group. If you teach elementary or secondary school, you can also give parents a separate code to access their students’ progress.

Before classes begin, I go through and add assignment due dates as well as my syllabi. Students are then informed they must view the syllabi and leave a comment indicating they have read and understood the course materials.

What are the benefits?

I can only speak as to the use of Edmodo as a supplement to the class, not a replacement. First of all, (college) students already know how to use Facebook. I have not had a single student who is NOT a member of Facebook. They are familiar with the format, then, and don’t have to learn a whole new system. Second, there is a calendar and gradebook built in to the program. Students also have the option to send messages just to me or the the entire group. It is simple to set up assignments with due dates and to go in and grade. Students enjoy the flexibility of asking other students what they missed in class if they are absent.

Another benefit is taking the discourse out of the classroom. Some students simply do not feel comfortable talking in class. The online writing space provides them a free space to air thoughts, criticisms, or questions. Specifically, for literature courses, Edmodo offers students an opportunity to clarify plots, characters, themes, and other elements. That way, if a students happened to “miss” an important part of the plot, another student can easily point it out. Then the class discussion can focus on more in-depth aspects of the text.

Have I mentioned there is a smart phone app? There is. In fact, the day I introduced it last semester, one of my students had downloaded the free application then and there. So cool. Students and teachers can go into Settings and change notifications to text message, email, etcetera.

What if I want to use it for elementary/secondary school?

I say go for it. As a teacher, you can create small groups within the class and assign work just to those groups. There is also quite a bit of control over what students post.

You can also connect to other schools and classes using Edmodo. You, as the teacher, can connect to other teachers if you want to collaborate or share lesson plans.

If you have a co-teacher, you can assign rights to that person as well.

Students can also choose a photo for their profile. Specifically for lower levels, students learn Internet protocol and appropriateness for an online social environment.

[Image is to give you an idea of what you and students see when you go to post something.]

For anecdotal evidence, last Friday was a snow day. Of course, a snow day in southeast Texas consists of no snow, a little ice on the ground, and over a hundred wrecks. Instead of wasting a class day, I had my students log on to Edmodo during class time and post working outlines to discuss the writing process. Worked perfectly.

If you have any questions, please let me know. I’d love to chat with you about Edmodo or other educational technologies.

jenn aka picky girl

  • I like the prospect of using something that is so familiar to students. We still use Blackboard here (though this is the last semester), and students just don’t get it. It doesn’t help that the user interface is very outdated.

    Another school I work with uses Angel, which is much easier to use and much more familiar to them. The downfall there, though, is that Angel is now owned by Blackboard.

    The school I’m at now is going to be switching to a version of Moodle over the summer. I’m excited to see what it’s like. I try to stay within the confines of what the school offers, even when I’m not teaching a straight DE class because then they have the tech support.

    If something were to go wrong while using another program, I’m afraid that I’d be doing nothing but tech support. Have you had any problems with Edmodo? What sort of support do they offer?

    • pickygirl

      I have heard Angel is easy to use; however, the problem I see with many of these is they are only as good as the school’s tech. And, as you mention, they are now owned by Blackboard.

      I haven’t heard of Moodle but will definitely check it out.

      To be honest, I haven’t had major issues with Edmodo. One day last semester, the site was down for about an hour, but the Twitter rep kept everyone updated. The site was back up with no additional problems. There is support, but as I said, I haven’t had to use it.

      Also, I don’t rely on it so much that it would be a major issue. My students still come to class, and if they had an assignment due but couldn’t upload it, I would accept it through email. Would that work for online classes? Probably not.

  • I teach homeschool classes, high school level, and this sounds like something we could use for our co-op. FREE sounds good since we a re a low budget operation. And I like the idea of creating password protected groups and giving parents’ access, too.

    I’m definitely going to have to play with this site.

    • pickygirl

      Let me know if you have any questions. I like free, and I like easy. I hope it works out for you.